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.
It’s a good job we have a decent size garden, the gazebo has come in very handy for this annual event.
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.
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.
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).
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?
Duty chef, S/M Karl Webb starts cooking the food, good job we do have two BBQs on the go.
And cooked to perfection, the food was even complimented upon by our Treasurer’s daughter (apparently, he burns everything!).
Plenty of food to go around, always a worry that some would not be fed, but I don’t think anyone went hungry.
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 one who enjoyed them either.
Time for the Treasurer to pose for the camera (always best to catch him after he has fed the cash-box).
S/Ms Marion Twigden and Rose Dear sold raffle tickets, I think S/M Spike Milligan has his eye on some fine wine.
And so, I waited until everyone had finished pudding…
…before making an announcement that I had arranged a ‘special 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?
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.
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.
But maybe all was not as it seemed. This was a very special aircraft, but would require a very small pilot!
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.
Much to the delight of Graham who has himself piloted one of these magnificent aircraft.
Clearly, this brought back memories, S/M Graham Holt could not resist directing the display…
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.
Pete did the honours and opened it.
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.
Then it was time to see if Spike was going to be lucky and get that bottle of wine!
I may not have won, but my son, David, did…and no, it was not rigged!
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?
S/Ms Roger Bullen and Geoff Twigden think they bought tickets to someone else’s raffle!
But, S/M Marion Twigden was more than happy with her ticket…as we could all see.
Spike did win, although I’m not sure he ended up with the wine.
It wasn’t the Pusser’s Rum T-shirt, one went to S/M Nino Crean (my son had the other), a perfect fit!
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.
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.
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.