National Chairman’s Report, May 2015 – May 2016
National Chairman’s report – May 2015 – May 2016
The past year has again, seen us involved with services and parades. Our website receives a fair number of viewings and enquiries seeking help to find veterans’ records or historic details. We try to encourage enquirers to join the Association and have been successful on a few occasions.
The annual reunion in May 2015 was a “landmark” event in that it would be last time the Association would hold a service in Chichester Cathedral or parade in that city. South Downs Holiday Village looked after us well as in previous years. The weather too, was kind for the whole weekend. At the parade on Sunday – our veterans did us proud, the march past and salute at the dais in front of the Town Hall was very emotive. Evening entertainment was a mix of cabaret, dance time and final night sing-a-long. A raffle raised £248 toward the renewal of our memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.
On 27th June (Armed Forces Day), I represented and laid a wreath on behalf of our Association in Plymouth, for the RAF and Allied Forces Monument Service. One of our veterans (95 year old) Ken Reed and his wife were also in attendance. The service, addressed by Air Vice Marshal Parker, OBE, culminated in a parade of veterans and present day RAF cadets along the Hoe.
Our annual service of dedication and remembrance was held on 10th July at the Association’s national memorial in West Gate Gardens, Canterbury. The weather was very good, turn-out being even more than last year, plus a good display of standards. Afterwards our East Kent Branch hosted a wonderful lunch. Our grateful thanks go to Frank Horn for making all the arrangements, which enabled the day to run smoothly and enjoyably. Coverage of the event made the local newspaper.
November saw the Association represented at Westminster Abbey for the Field of Remembrance service. This year, Colonel David Blum, our “front line man” and Tom Gatford were the veterans in our party of 14, for what is a very short service. Time is taken with the Royal party’s walk-about and this year The Duke of Edinburgh accompanied Prince Harry. We were delighted when Prince Philip stopped to talk to Colonel Blum. On Sunday we fielded three veterans: David Blum, Jack Andrew and Tony Roper (it was Tony’s first time at the Cenotaph parade). Our contingent of 27 proudly marched the route, with Prince William taking the salute on Horse Guards Parade. We were blessed with fine weather for both events and as a bonus, the BBC gave us coverage during the Cenotaph parade.
I am happy to report that the Association’s appeal has exceeded its target figure of £6000 to enable a new memorial to be erected at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire. The stonemasons now have the granite block in their workshops and will begin work very soon. 11am on 9th September 2016 is booked at the NMA to hold a re-dedication service for our new memorial. We hope to organise transport from the south of the country for those wishing to attend.
In October 2015, the National Committee met to discuss the crisis being caused by the catastrophic fall in our membership and therefore, our income. After much deliberation a unanimous decision was made to wind down the Association. When membership falls to 150 we will close the books completely. Until that time Maureen, Sheila and I will act in a caretaker capacity. Reaching this decision has been particularly hard for me, feeling that I am letting down the founders of our Association, my late father and uncle, but the gravity of the situation must come before personal thoughts.
Also at that meeting Colonel Blum asked to step down from his role as our President; Maureen too, asked to be released from her role as magazine editor. We also discussed the fact that our Patron Lord Inge, had not been active during the last four years and we will write to him, informing him of our decision to wind down the Association and release him from his role.
Membership as of January 2016 has halved on last year, which is a huge blow. The knock-on effect due to reduced receipts of subscriptions, impacts on our existence. We must be totally realistic as to the future and sadly, this will mean there will be no further reunions after this year, nor the need for AGMs. Having agreed at our October meeting, to issue only four magazines this year, to make printing savings, we must now look to issuing a reduced size on-line magazine in 2017. We realise that our veterans may not have access to the internet; in those instances a printed magazine will be posted to them. So there is a more controlled operation of the website, we are hugely grateful to Robin Hollamby for stepping forward to take on the role of magazine and website manager.
As the association winds down, arrangements will need to be made for the laying-up of our National Standard. To this end, I have made an initial approach to Chichester Cathedral and await their reply.