Chichester Reunion, May 2013
For those members and friends of the Association who were not able to join us, I thought I would write briefly about the weekend’s events from my viewpoint.
Grahame and I travelled from Devon toward West Sussex early on Friday morning with anxious and expectant hearts – after months of planning and paperwork, the Association reunion weekend was about to start! Having picked up Brenda, chair of East Hants branch, together with the flag which was to fly over the Council house in Chichester, we arrived at Bracklesham Bay to unpack and greet those members who had already arrived. The trickle of arrivals steadily increased so that by dinner time there was a goodly number to enjoy an excellent meal from the menu. Social time afterwards saw knots of members catching up with one another and new attendees getting acquainted.
Saturday morning’s AGM was for me, not a completely new experience… except in terms of my role. My career as personal and executive assistant had required minute taking, preparation and organisation of meetings, but never chairing one! I shouldn’t have been concerned, because with the other national committee members’ support, it went off smoothly – the minutes were kindly taken by Sheila Vickers on Roy’s behalf and will be circulated very soon. Roy was not able to participate in the meeting so fully as in the past, but here I’d like to record mine and Maureen’s heartfelt thanks to him for the vital behind-the-scenes work he puts in consistently, to ensure the membership roll is as up-to-date as possible, and that no stone is left unturned in maximizing our annual subscription income, so crucial to the running of the Association.
Members enjoyed free time in the afternoon to shop, walk to the beach or relax on site, or even watch the FA cup final! Attendees were still arriving, so swelling numbers again by dinner time to enjoy another lovely meal, then taking a seat in the ballroom for the evening’s entertainment and socialising.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny! After brunch, and dressing in our finery, the national committee headed into the city for the Mayor’s brief welcoming reception for the Association, the Defence and Military attaches’ representatives, civic dignitaries of the County and guest of honour, Sir Michael Howard, who would later take the salute on the march past. In due time we walked round to the cathedral to see our standard bearers, Irish Guards RSM and Drill Sergeant, gracing the entrance ready for inspection by the High Sheriff, Lord Lieutenant and Sir Michael. I would like to include here, my thanks to all the standard bearers who carried out their duty so well – it makes me feel so proud to see you all, and performing what is a tricky and exacting task. As ever, the Very Reverend Nicholas Frayling, led a wonderful and meaningful dedication service, which included wreath-laying. It being so dear to my heart – that we link the past to the future – I asked my grand-daughter, Holly, to lay the wreath in memory of her great grandpa and great-great uncle, Eric and Maurice Cheadle.
Following on from the service came the parade. Our RSM and DS marshalled us into place behind the Rose and Thistle Pipe and Drum band, to march through the city centre past the saluting stand at the Council House. Once parade was dismissed, we headed, via different modes of transport, back to South Downs Holiday Village for the gala dinner. With distinguished guests we numbered 130! The menu offered a lovely choice – all of which proved superb. All feed-back received has been very high praise for the quality and speed of service for such a large number of guests. Dinner was followed by toasts and speeches – once again dogged by microphone problems. It quite unnerved me but, eventually, the problem was resolved and I felt very relieved and quite emotional when it was over. (For those who weren’t able to attend, I believe a copy of the speech will appear in this magazine).
As some of the distinguished guests were saying their goodbyes, members, families and friends took their seats in the ballroom for, entertainment, raffle and relaxation time, (the raffle netted funds of £259) and of course, dancing. Thanks to all who were kind enough to donate prizes, the range of which offered such good variety. At the end of the evening the band struck up the tune Lili Marlene, which was the sign for all to join in singing the now well-known song “D-day dodgers” – everyone was in good voice! The song was also a sign that another re-union was drawing to a close and so it was that a good night’s sleep beckoned for all.
After breakfast on Monday morning, camp was broken, with suitcases being wheeled to coaches, taxis and cars; hugs and kisses to friends and acquaintances, and cries of, “see you again next year, God willing!”.