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Last updated on 29 August, 2018 at 4:32 PM
84th Entry Reunion
The Three Ways Hotel, Mickleton
26 and 27 July 2009
by Tony Mooney
The first major reunion of the 84th Entry of Aircraft Apprentices took place at The Three Ways Hotel, Mickleton, the home of the world-famous Pudding Club. The event marked the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Entry’s graduation from No 1 Radio School at RAF Locking on 28th July 1959.
The reunion was a resounding success thanks to the hard work of the informal steering committee made up of Harvey Morton, Tony Beard, Chris Armes, Tony Mooney and David Rodgers. Twenty-four members of the Entry were able to attend, together with 16 of their wives and partners. They came from far and wide with two travelling all the way from Canada, another from Spain and the rest from all over the UK including the Isle of Arran, Inverness, Brighton, Cumbria, Bedford, Bournemouth, Weston super Mare, Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
The reunion extended over two days starting on Sunday the 26th with everyone departing on the 28th, our anniversary. The venue was superb and the arrangements for the reunion faultless. Here’s what some of those who attended wrote:
“A great event with fantastic memories and terrific people.”
“We would like to add our thanks to the fabulous five for their organisation of our reunion; it was a wonderful occasion. Our thanks also to everyone who attended; they made our stay at Mickleton a joy. It was gratifying to receive, and return, the affection given to us by friends that I had not seen for such a long time.”
“If I felt proud to belong to the 84th before I read the profiles, I feel even prouder now. My grateful thanks to all the organisers”
“The reunion at Mickleton was just brilliant! Perfect setting, perfect organisation, and outstanding to see so many of the original Entry again after 50 years. We loved every minute of it - and particularly nice to say that because I'm sure the wives enjoyed it just as much as we old fogies!. Those 3 years were important and influential to all of us, and to have a chance to re-live a little of it was just amazing.”
“A massive thank you to the A team who made it all happen - to Harvey & Chris & Tony & Tony & David - and your lovely ladies (we all know where the real credit lies!) - thank you. I can't tell you how much all your planning and hard work is appreciated - the whole thing was just .... brilliant!”
“What a marvellous 48 hr pass! Grateful thanks to the 'steering committee' - it was a very well chosen venue and the behind the scenes work hardly showed, but the end result was I'm sure worth it - you can be proud of your achievement. Lovely to see so many bods still fit and happy, mostly still recognisable from the old photos! I hope the remainder of the entry, untraced or unable to come, are in as good condition, just a few rusty joints and wrinkled fabric. Thank you all for a great weekend.”
“The reunion was simply the best, as our motto says 'Nulli Secundus', made so by all who attended. I came away having re-kindled old friendships and made new friends. Thanks to you all.”
“I must say that I found the whole experience quite emotional as well as extremely enjoyable.”
Throughout the Reunion a sprinkling of apprentice badges and ties appeared. Three or four Apprentice Association ties were to be seen along with a Roundel lapel badge in full colour. A number of Veterans lapel badges were also seen. But the most memorable was an Apprentice tie from 1959 bought by Nick Parker in Weston to mark his graduation.
Apprentice tie 1959 RAFLAA tie
The reunion started about 11 a.m. on Sunday with the arrival of Tony Mooney and Judith, Tony Beard and Pam, and David Rodgers and Judy. Between them they prepared the Hidcote Room and set up the display which Tony Mooney had brought along. There were photographs galore of our time together at Locking and a host of memorabilia including an Entry badge, exam papers, boot brushes and a kit bag handle. After that they had a spot of lunch and waited for others to arrive. People soon began to gather and by 3 p.m., when the Meet and Greet was due to start, there was a growing crowd in the Hidcote Room all enjoying each other’s company for the first time in 50 years. The wives and partners were made welcome too and joined in. As each member of the 84th arrived he was presented with a book of profiles thoughtfully put together by David Rodgers from submissions by the members themselves.
Missing from our company were Chris Armes and his wife Kathy who phoned to say they couldn’t come because of illness. Chris had been one of the instigators of the reunion and a stalwart member of the steering group. He, together with Tony Beard and Harvey Morton had located everyone who attended. We were all especially sad to hear that he and Kathy wouldn’t be present to enjoy the Reunion.
By about 6 p.m. everyone else had arrived, bringing with them much memorabilia to add to the display, and Harvey Morton took the moment to give a short welcoming speech and ended by thanking Tony Mooney for creating the 84th Entry of Aircraft Apprentices RAF Locking website and forum and for producing the wonderful display. He presented Tony with a unique bottle of single malt whisky inscribed:
“84th Entry RAF Locking
50th Anniversary Reunion
Mickleton 28th July 2009”
As we chose our places for the evening meal it was clear that everyone was still in good heart and enjoying themselves. Dinner was everything we had expected from The Three Ways Hotel and even more. A special menu had been prepared for us and there were choices for all three courses, including one of the famous puddings, and even coffee and home-made fudge.
The buzz from the tables was electrifying and non-stop as memories, half forgotten stories and reminiscences abounded. Again no-one wanted it to end and after dinner we all grabbed drinks at the bar and retired to our room – the Hidcote Room. The conversations continued until jet-lag, tiredness and excitement took their toll and sleep beckoned.
Next morning saw us all enjoying a full English breakfast together and the mood continued with old friendships resurrected the day before now cemented. Breakfast seemed to last a long time but eventually it ended with people going their various ways to spend a free day as they wanted. And many wanted to do very little and lingered in the hotel and the Hidcote Room continuing the reminiscences, looking at all the memorabilia and identifying people in the many photographs and of course immersing themselves in the book of Profiles.
As well as the items mentioned earlier we had on display an actual superhet belonging to Peter Moore, webbing brasses belonging to Mike Barnes, an 84th Entry car badge brought by Tony Beard and an actual Thesis owned by Les James. There was much more as well including Wing Colours, Apprentice wheel badges, photo albums, a Passing Out Parade programme, and a Passing Out Dinner menu. It seemed there was no end to what we had produced.
Towards the end of the afternoon we broke up so that we could all prepare for our anniversary dinner. During the day we had been joined by more members of the Entry who couldn’t come earlier and by 6.30 we were all gathered on the lawn for some group photographs in the evening sun.
At 7 o’clock we took our places for our Reunion Dinner together. Tony Beard started the celebration by calling for a few moments’ silence to remember those of the 84th Entry we knew to have passed on, Smudge Smith, Dick Cheeseman and Tony Burton.
After the dinner the day before we all knew what to expect… or so we thought. We were delighted that The Three Ways Hotel had provided a special 84th Entry Reunion menu which included a selection of four of their famous puddings. Peter, one of the owners, gave an all too brief history of the Pudding Club and told us about the puddings we would taste that night. He tested us to see if we had been listening by asking a question which was immediately answered by Roy O’Connell, who received the gift of a Pudding Club Recipe Book for providing the correct answer. This was followed by a parade of the puddings through our dining room. Then we were served with the puddings themselves; we could make our choice or have a serving of each of them. Most of us succumbed to temptation and sampled each of the puddings. None of this distracted us from the spirit of the occasion. We shared good time together and remembered good times together and many a vow was taken to continue our re-formed friendships and have more reunions.
Reunion menu Passing Out Menu
To mark the end of our celebration Tony Beard gave a short speech which was followed by an impromptu address by Mike Barnes who thanked the members of the steering group and proposed a toast in their honour for creating such a wonderful tribute to the 84th Entry of Aircraft Apprentices.
After dinner we again repaired to the Hidcote Room, with a brief stop at the bar for refreshments, and continued swapping stories about our time at Locking. It went on long into the night but eventually we had to say goodnight and get some sleep for our journeys home the next day.
The atmosphere at breakfast was not diminished by our imminent departure. Rather, our mood was enhanced as promises of visits to each other were given and plans made for local meetings all over the UK. We were expected to vacate our rooms by 11 a.m. and there was a constant stream of 84th members passed through reception paying their bills and saying their goodbyes. Those members who had stayed elsewhere in Mickleton joined us and it was a happy and delightful parting of our ways. But, Chris and Kathy weren't forgotten. An impromptu gathering sent their best wishes to them on two postcards of the hotel.
Tony and Judith, who had been the first to arrive were also, by chance, the last to leave, bringing to an end the first 84th Entry Reunion. It won’t be the last.