Huntingdon & District, Annual BBQ 2013

On Sunday 28th July 2013, shipmates from Huntingdon & District Branch met up for their annual BBQ hosted by S/Ms Karl Webb and Hilary Meers. On a warm summer’s day, the gazebo was erected to allow shade for those sun-dodgers, and chairs outside for us sun-worshipers! At the main gate, two RN Ensigns signaled where the BBQ would take place – but it wouldn’t be hard to find us, the smell of the burning coals and the sound of dits being spun meant that nobody would be in any doubt that they had got the right place.

Easy to spot where the RNA BBQ is being held
Easy to spot where the RNA BBQ is being held

It’s a good job we have a decent size garden, the gazebo has come in very handy for this annual event.

The gazebo and tables are set up for the BBQ
The gazebo and tables are set up for the BBQ

We didn’t do a raffle last year, but with prizes built up over the past few months, and some generous donations from S/M Hilary Meers’ place of work (Boots), and Pusser’s Rum ‘gizits’ acquired by our Treasurer, Pete Aston, we thought it would be a good way to raise some cash for the Branch.

Prizes for the raffle
Prizes for the raffle

Of course, being the family home, we also had the company of the ‘ships cat’, who decided she wanted to join in on the BBQ.

Shipmates meet the Ship's Cat!
Shipmates meet the Ship’s Cat!

As our shipmates started to arrive, some armed with comfy chairs, we fired up the main BBQ (the coals had been lit earlier on No 2 BBQ stove).

Our Vice President arrives
Our Vice President arrives

Quite surprising just how many people can sit around the garden, although Geoff did decide he wanted to sit in the middle – always seeking attention, hey shipmate?

Looks like S/M Geoff Twigden is in the chair!
Looks like S/M Geoff Twigden is in the chair!

Duty chef, S/M Karl Webb starts cooking the food, good job we do have two BBQs on the go.

S/M Karl Webb becomes a chef for the day!
S/M Karl Webb becomes a chef for the day!

And cooked to perfection, the food was even complimented upon by our Treasurer’s daughter (apparently, he burns everything!).

Doesn't look like I've done too bad!
Doesn’t look like I’ve done too bad!

Plenty of food to go around, always a worry that some would not be fed, but I don’t think anyone went hungry.

...no complaints, so far
…no complaints, so far
Plenty to go around
Plenty to go around

For afters, we had a special treat, some RNA cakes baked by our Treasurer’s wife, S/M Clare Aston…thank you Clare, they were great (and the label was edible…info to those who took it off).

I wasn't the only cook...RNA cakes by S/M Clare Aston
I wasn’t the only cook…RNA cakes by S/M Clare Aston

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed them either.

Marion and Rose are impressed with the RNA cakes
Marion and Rose are impressed with the RNA cakes

Time for the Treasurer to pose for the camera (always best to catch him after he has fed the cash-box).

Our Treasurer is happy, his cash-box is filling up!
Our Treasurer is happy, his cash-box is filling up!

S/Ms Marion Twigden and Rose Dear sold raffle tickets, I think S/M Spike Milligan has his eye on some fine wine.

Raffle tickets for S/M Spike Milligan please
Raffle tickets for S/M Spike Milligan please

And so, I waited until everyone had finished pudding…

Pudding went down well
Pudding went down well

…before making an announcement that I had arranged a ‘special surprise’ for our shipmates.

S/M Karl Webb announces a surprise for our shipmates
S/M Karl Webb announces a surprise for our shipmates

Everyone gathered outside, this was going to be something to remember for a long time. Shipmates were full of anticipation, but you can see, they were really starting to enjoy this…but what was it? Can you see?

Can you see what it is yet?
Can you see what it is yet?
Looks like all the shipmates like the surprise
Looks like all the shipmates like the surprise

And so, all is revealed, I had arranged for a special flying display by a WWII Spitfire, but this was no ordinary flying display, it was exclusive to the RNA.

Our very own Spitfire display
Our very own Spitfire display

The Spitfire ‘flew’ down the line, a low pass between our shipmates before soaring up into the air…thanks to the piloting skills of S/M Pete Aston — he was Fleet Air Arm after all.

Daphne and Monica are really impressed
Daphne and Monica are really impressed

But maybe all was not as it seemed. This was a very special aircraft, but would require a very small pilot!

A low pass, had to get special permission for that
A low pass, had to get special permission for that

Our President, Graham Holt arrived after the display (he wasn’t going to attend due to his health, but braved the day to meet up with us all — it was great to see him there), so we ‘arranged’ for the Spitfire to turn around and perform a second display.

The President arrives for the second display
The President arrives for the second display

Much to the delight of Graham who has himself piloted one of these magnificent aircraft.

...and immediately takes control
…and immediately takes control

Clearly, this brought back memories, S/M Graham Holt could not resist directing the display…

He will find it harder to fly this one though!
He will find it harder to fly this one though!

The annual BBQ also has a serious element to it, in order to remember our absent friends, including the recent loss of our shipmate, Dick Knowles, we hold a traditional ‘silent tribute’ to those who have ‘Crossed the Bar’. As Hon. Secretary, I provided a bottle of Pusser’s rum for the occasion.

We know what is coming next!
We know what is coming next!

Pete did the honours and opened it.

Treasurer is happy again...S/M Karl Webb bought this one
Treasurer is happy again…S/M Karl Webb bought this one

Whilst our President provided some words of thanks for our lost shipmates. After the Silent Tribute, we also remembered our service to the Crown, with the Loyal Toast.

After the Silent Tribute, the Loyal Toast and some words from our President
After the Silent Tribute, the Loyal Toast and some words from our President

Then it was time to see if Spike was going to be lucky and get that bottle of wine!

Then it was time to start the raffle
Then it was time to start the raffle

I may not have won, but my son, David, did…and no, it was not rigged!

This could take some time!
This could take some time!

With plenty of prizes, we knew that most of our shipmates would win something, but I think our Treasurer beat all…well he would, wouldn’t he?

The Treasurer's daughter wins a new bag
The Treasurer’s daughter wins a new bag

S/Ms Roger Bullen and Geoff Twigden think they bought tickets to someone else’s raffle!

I think Geoff had his eyes on that one
I think Geoff had his eyes on that one

But, S/M Marion Twigden was more than happy with her ticket…as we could all see.

...still, it looks like Marion has been lucky!
…still, it looks like Marion has been lucky!

Spike did win, although I’m not sure he ended up with the wine.

Spike wins, and picks the next ticket
Spike wins, and picks the next ticket

It wasn’t the Pusser’s Rum T-shirt, one went to S/M Nino Crean (my son had the other), a perfect fit!

Guess what Nino won?
Guess what Nino won?

Our Arctic Convoy veteran, S/M Grove Dove won a very fetching bag (reminds me of my Radar Plotting days), but I’m sure he handed it over to S/M Doris Dove once he sat down.

Grove also wins a new bag, well he needs it for his new medals of course!
Grove also wins a new bag, well he needs it for his new medals of course!

And so, as the afternoon drew to an end, a number of shipmates slipped their moorings to return to their home ports, a few die-hards remained to spin more dits and to soak up the remains of the sun.

As the day draws to an end, Ben spins a dit to S/M Karl Webb's son, David
As the day draws to an end, Ben spins a dit to S/M Karl Webb’s son, David

Another successful event for our Branch, I’m sure all shipmates enjoyed themselves. I know S/M Hilary Meers (including me) appreciated the help from our Treasurer and his family, but most of all, we enjoyed everyone’s company. For those who could not make it, you were missed; hopefully we will see you at our next gathering…Trafalgar Night.

Cheers shipmates, it was great fun.