Nineteen sixty five, does not seem that long ago, when so many young lads or more correctly, young men, assembled from all corners of the UK, and in some cases other parts of the world, at an old military camp known as Arborfield in Berkshire.
For those lads it would be that Marmite moment, they would either love it or hate it. For those who got to like it, or even enjoy it, it would be life changing, giving them a foundation and a grounding in life, in most cases in a good trade, and financial security for the rest of their lives.
And so it came to pass, that on the 18th July 2015, thirty four of the original 1965’ers assembled at Hinckley Island Hotel, in Leicestershire, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the moment that they became members of that elite establishment, The Army Apprentices School Arborfield.
A lot of those attending, arrived early, a habit drummed into them since those far off Arborfield days.
We waited patiently, some quenching their thirsts, for their rooms to be ready. In my case Anne and I having moved in to our room and unpacked, suits, gowns and anything else that might crease if we left them packed for too long, went and had a sauna, steam and swim before I headed back to form part of the reception committee, to meet other friends as they arrived. As ever the booking in with the welcoming committee, was seamless, name badges issued and checked off the attendees register and we went off for a welcoming beer and caught up with friends and looked for other 65’ers we had not seen for many a year
As usual the evening curry with all the trimmings was consumed with, in some cases, copious amounts of ale, wines and spirits. The Hinckley staff at the hotel does a brilliant job and produces a great curry evening every year.
Catching up with old friends, faces remembered, but changed by the passing of years, sometimes beyond obvious recognition, makes time fly by until the bar becomes deserted as those who must recharge themselves for the early breakfast and coach ride to the NMA, disappear to their beds.
We got up and consumed breakfast with lots of juices, tea and coffee, for what promised to be a hot day ahead, and to assist with the hangovers.
The coaches, loaded up without problems, left Hinckley and were taken to the NMA where we were set free to find much needed loos and refreshments, until the appointed hour when we were required to form up for the parade.
This year our parade was under the control of SSgt Scott Brash and SSgt Danny Field both REME of course.
David (Tich) Schofield 65A led the parade, just ahead of Ian Tilson 62A our standard bearer and considering it was David’s first year leading the march past, he did a sterling job of it.
The West Midland Fire Service Pipe Band, provided the stirring music and the beat for the feet of the Old Boys march past led by the senior division for the year, 65’ers.
Everyone did look good, according to the reviewing officer and those watching the parade, from the side lines.
This year’s reviewing officer was Col. Ron Medley of 65A and A/T RSM. After taking the salute he inspected those on parade, having a brief word with some, before moving on. Shortly, after the parade, the drum head service was held at the Apprentices’ memorial.
The service was conducted by Rev Bev 66A, who must have had a word upstairs, as the weather this year was outstanding unless one hates the heat, but for most, a very welcome change from the very wet weather that we had in 2014.
Following the drumhead service most made their way to the lunch venue where we had our preselected choice of food, main course, dessert and hot drink served to us.
Then those who wished to see some of the memorials at the arboretum, took time out to stroll around the pathways, meadows and woodland walks, reflecting at some of the memorials and taking photographs of their favourites. It was good to see that the REME memorial has now been refurbished and is befitting of the Corps of REME.
All too soon we were ushered back to our coaches to make the return journey to our hotel in time to attend the AGM, and to ready ourselves for our evening’s festivities.
The evening event started with a gathering for drinks in the atrium, before all the “Old Boys” were piped into dinner by Alex Burt 62A, followed soon after by those 65’er celebrants, who formed up and were led in with Alex piping and leading from the front.
Our dinner on the evening was, as usual, well presented, cooked and delivered without any delay. Our celebration tables were decorated with skill and artistry, and looked really good.
We had an excellent choice of red and white wines at the table which were enjoyed by those who attended. As the level of wine went down the volume of the celebrants increased, until this year’s speaker Lt Col. Gorge Henderson MBE 65C, entertained us with reminiscent thoughts of yesteryear and a few quips.
Our Vice Chairman Lt. Col. Bill Cleasby 61C presented a silver salver to our retiring Chairman, Col. Brian Hutchins 61B – but not before taking the opportunity of thanking Brian for the years of support and leadership he has given the Association. He stated that without Brian’s leadership and dedication the Association would not be in the strong position it is today.
Bill Cleasby also presented a Whiskey decanter set to our retiring Web Master John (Herbie) Coles, who had managed the website so very well for the last 4 years and seen the site develop to its popularity it enjoys today.
Late into the night, after the bar had closed, and after all the wine and port had been mine swept away, we said our farewells to all those friends, regularly seen and those not seen for many a year.
We made our way back to our rooms, some by longer routes than necessary, to sleep and to gather again for a farewell breakfast in the morning.
Breakfast was a relatively quiet meal, due to the amount of hungover bodies, that appeared quietly and said there farewells to fellow ex-apprentices and their partners, before dispersing from Hinckley.
I am sure that we will all look forward to returning to the reunion again in July next year.
As we say we will see you, in the usual place at the usual time
– God willing!
David Brock 65B