6, 7 and 8 October 2001
The 40th Anniversary Reunion, celebrating our graduation from RAF Halton in 1961, was held on the weekend of 6th and 7th of October 2001.
Those who arrived early on the Saturday met for lunch at the Red Lion in Wendover. This was not a pub that I recall from my apprentice days but the beer and food were good and we did not have to furtively look over our shoulders to keep an eye out for ‘snoops’ as we did when we went drinking 40 years ago.
After lunch we returned to the hotel, the Holiday Inn near Aston Clinton, and watched the England-Greece game on the TV in the bar as we waited to greet other members arriving in the afternoon. The fact that Beckham scored the equaliser in the (89th + 4) minute kept the spirits up for the afternoon.
The main event on the Saturday, attended by over 50 members and their partners, was the Reunion Dinner in the evening. We assembled in the private bar for pre-drinks and soon the place was full of old friends (well we are all getting on a bit). After a couple of warm-up drinks we then moved to the dining room for dinner.
I was delighted to welcome a number of members and their partners who we had not seen for two or more years and particularly Steve Carr who I had last seen at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. I was particularly pleased to welcome John and Joyce Boyack who were attending one of our Reunions for the first time. There were newly weds too – Dick and Iris Mustoe had been married for only 100 days, though they had known each other considerably longer than that.
The safari format (moving after every course) ensured that everyone was able to chat with all those who attended the Reunion during the consumption of an excellent meal. After dinner we returned to the private bar until it closed and then we made our way to the hotel public bar to chat (and yes drink) until the early hours of the morning. There was still a good-sized crowd at 3 am!!
… and then Day Two
We checked out of the hotel and made our way to Halton House (the Officer’s Mess) to take a guided tour of Rothchild’s stately home. Min Larkin, a stalwart of the Halton Aircraft Apprentice Association, told us a little about the history of the building. We then had a few minutes to meander around the rooms to admire the grand scale of the architectural features of the building before moving on to St George’s Church for the 89th Entry stained glass window dedication ceremony.
The dedication of our window was held separately from the main service and so we had the church to ourselves. Padre Lee Spicer officiated at the dedication. After an introduction by Padre Spicer and a hearty chorus of Fight the Good Fight, Peter Ayee read from Isaiah Verse 40.28-31. I was then invited to give a talk before the formal dedication of the window by Padre Spicer. I have reproduced below my address to the members who attended the ceremony so that those members who were not there will know what was said.
The window is an excellent, lasting tribute to the 89th Entry.
Dedication Address by Ken Coburn
“A young lad, 15 years old, said good-bye to his mother and climbed on board a train at Newcastle station which was bound for London. He was travelling to No 1 School of Technical Training, Royal Air Force Halton – somewhere near Aylesbury. It was the first time he had travelled through London and so he was apprehensive about getting to Wendover station and even more apprehensive about leaving home to spend 3 years at Halton as an aircraft apprentice.
The first few weeks for this young lad were pretty hectic. He was marched off to the barbers for a scalping and then marched to stores to be kitted out with a hairy uniform, boots, and shirts with stiff collars to be worn as instruments of torture. He spent hours ‘spitting and polishing’ his boots to make the toe-caps shine like a mirror. He learned how to make bed-packs and to lay out his kit with geometric precision on his bed for inspection. From dawn to dusk he was subjected to a daily routine of inspections, drill and physical training (with the odd break for meals) until it was time for bed. During this time he was confined to camp.
Fortunately, this did not last too long and things eventually settled into a less manic routine. For the remainder of his time at Halton he marched up and down the hill most week days to schools and workshops, paraded on the square on Saturdays and marched to and from church on Sundays. After 3 years training he qualified as an aircraft technician and was posted to his first operational station.
He did not realise at the time what a tremendous influence that 3-years period at Halton was going to have on him. The military discipline and the technical skills gained at Halton were a major factor in shaping his career and, importantly, the way he conducted the rest of his life. Of course the 15 year old lad I am talking about is me. However, I am sure that a similar tale could be told by literally thousands of apprentices over the years, including those members of the 89th Entry who have come here today.
It is the powerful influence that Royal Air Force Halton has had on us that draws ex-apprentices back to this place in their thousands for various anniversary and reunion events. It is also the reason why we of the 89th Apprentice Entry, who left here 40 years ago, decided to install a stained glass window in St George’s Church as a lasting symbol of our ties to Halton. The window design includes our Entry badge and also shows the countries of origin and the air forces of the members of the 89th Entry. They were the Burmese Air Force, New Zealand Air Force, the Venezuela Air Force and of course the Royal Air Force.
I would like to thank all the members of the 89th Entry Apprentice Association who contributed to the development of the window design and to Terry Luckhurst in particular for being instrumental in finalising the design. We also are grateful to Roger Bradley who organised the manufacture and installation of the window. I would also like to thank Padre Lee Spicer for officiating at today’s ceremony.
Our window has now taken its place next to the many other apprentice windows in St George’s Church. Thank you for being here today to witness the dedication lasting symbol of the influence that Royal Air Force Halton has had on our lives.”
After the dedication ceremony, photographs were taken in the church and at the Apprentice Tribute to mark this occasion We then proceeded to the RAFA Club on the airfield where we had lunch, followed by our annual general meeting. Those that were able to then visited the Apprentice Museum before leaving for home.