The weekend of 27/28th October 2006 saw another gathering of the 96th and partners at the Holiday Inn, Aston Clinton. It was good to see some faces that had eluded capture for several decades. Following a hearty breakfast those who had elected to arrive overnight on Friday 26th began to lay out the memorabilia, when the hotel was evacuated due to a fire alarm.
Obviously this would have been of no major significance but for the fact that it was a reminder of the past for the 96th. We arrived at Halton in 1960 just after fire had destroyed the old St George’s Church and it fell to us as Senior Entry in 1963 to provide the ceremonials for the Consecration of today’s building. This event is commemorated in our window and is more fullt reported elsewhere on this site. The 96th was the first Entry to hold its Graduation Dedication service in the new Church. So there is a close bond of association between the 96th and St George’s.
As the fire engine arrived groups of 96th could be heard planning an offer of similar ceremonial services should the hotel succumb to the flames. Luckily it was a false alarm.
Part of the display this year saw the arrival of the “Bratgonk” in full parade formation (see photo). These little creatures come with the following Citation:
96th Entry of Bratgonks (as seen in the last picture in the photo album).
Can you give a good home to a Bratgonk? They only require 3 square meals per day, an unlimited supply of Tizer and the occasional shout of “get yer bl***y ‘aircut!”
If you can sometimes play back the Halton Bear, they may act with surprising agility and even react in unison in the appropriate places.
There again, they might just remain lethargic. Under no circumstances should the following words be uttered in their hearing - “cross country run; Snoops; SWO” - as any of these could cause a complete shutdown of their physical processes.
A Bratgonk is a variety of Trenchard Brat that has developed certain features with age. He retains a fondness for alcohol and the finer things in life, although his wish to turn public fountains into blushing waters have now diminished along with his hairline and teeth.
His legs have receded due to repeated drill parades and his arms have all but disappeared because of the weight of the Lee Enfield rifle that he carried on those parades.
At the sound of a Pipe Band his eyes will become misty. At the sound of a Tin Band he will actually burst into tears, especially if he is a music lover.
When offered cash he will spring to attention and shout out “Sir - 123”, will step forward smartly (not easy with no legs but then Brats are accustomed to being legless) and will throw up a smart salute (not easy with no arms but then Brats are quite ‘armless creatures by nature).
I am glad to report that they all found homes to go to.
The evening’s entertainment kicked off with our very own piper, Stan John, in full regalia, who piped us into Dinner. The swirl of the pipes echoing around the Reception area was a superb way to start proceedings, and it drew looks of amazement from the “civilians” in the lounge. Our thanks to Stan for a really magnificent performance.
Yours truly took on the role of Master of Ceremonies for the evening, and wore a forage cap in the colours of 1 (A) Wing to complement Stan’s full ceremonial garb. A talk on the lighter side of parades was followed by a Quiz made up of 20 questions in 2 sections of 10. Some questions had more than one part and by a contrived effort of weighting, a total possible score of 96 was attainable.
Section A covered life at Halton 1960-1963, and Section B covered the less important events worldwide during the same period. The little grey cells were certainly well exercised, but they were kept well lubricated.
Every participant was supplied with a sticky label bearing an image of the wheel disc and those elected at each table to captain each team wore a Snag’s badge. All of those present received a very attractive ballpoint pen with which to write down their answers, and also to fill in application forms to join the RAFHAAA. These pens were generously donated by Thales Training and Simulation, for which the 96th give their thanks.
All too soon the evening drew to a close. The entertainment was concluded with a ceremonial, synchronised winding back of watches to bring us into winter time. Subsequent appeals to the hotel staff that we still had an hour of bar opening time remaining fell on deaf ears and we departed to our pits.
Sunday morning dawned warm and bright – after all, it was now officially winter. First was a visit to Halton House where Min Larkin gave us a conducted tour, and hopefully sold a few more copies of “The Story of Halton House”. This book is well worth owning and is a very good account of the magnificent building.
A service in St George’s was followed by an excellent Sunday lunch in Henderson Mess. How that has changed since our last breakfast there on 31/7/1963. “Irons” are supplied at the servery and diners are no longer required to swill out knife, fork, spoon and mug in a tank full of tepid water with a layer of grease floating on top. Oh dear, whatever happened to the good old days?
A short stroll on the hallowed ground of the Parade Square took us all to the Trenchard Museum where we admired the copper kettle that was the final practical test piece for A/A Vincent F (1st Entry) who was the father of A/A Vincent, Andy (96th Entry).
All too soon the farewells began and we started our journeys home. Our thanks to Min Larkin for laying on the events on Sunday, and to Stan John for his evocative pipe playing. Particular thanks to Merv & Pat, Gordon & Anne and Robbie & Judith for organising another tremendous Reunion. Merv and Gordon have asked for volunteers to take over the organisation of future events, so please form an orderly queue.
Gerry (Johnny) Law