AN EVENING WITH STEVE MORGAN
On Tuesday 14th April at the Crown & Cushion some 70 members and guests enjoyed a social evening featuring Steve Morgan, a veteran of the 2nd Parachute Battalion and Operation Market Garden, who fought on the bridge at Arnhem. We were especially pleased to welcome Steve’s niece Debbie Betts, who has collated Steve’s memories which can be found on www.paradata.org.uk, and his friends and family. We were honoured that Group Captain Simon Edwards, Station Commander of RAF Brize Norton was able to join us and delighted that an old friend of the branch, Bernard Rumbold came over from Worcestershire with 6 of his ATC members.
The evening opened with an introduction by branch President Neville Edwards and the ode from Chairman Steve Kingsford. Vice Chairman Trevor Hodkinson then gave an overview of the campaign which culminated in the action at Arnhem, “A bridge too far” and of Steve’s part in it, before handing over to the man himself.
Prompted by questions from the audience, Steve gave a thoroughly enthralling account of his experiences which were in turn moving and inspiring, funny and sad. He talked about his training, the fighting and his time as a prisoner of war and some of the characters he encountered along the way, keeping his audience spell bound throughout.
After his account Trevor read out a letter from the equerry of Prince Charles, who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, branch member John Grantham read a hand written letter from David Cameron and Group Captain Edwards a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Ollie Kingsbury OBE.
We then had a photo opportunity with four generations of holders of the red beret together.
The evening closed with an excellent buffet and a chance for guests to chat with Steve and each other, and to view the photos and documents Steve had brought along with him.
As a follow on to the evening, Steve met with Brigadier Johnny Rickett, CO of the Welsh Guards in the Falklands Campaign. Johnny could not make the evening, so Steve recounted his stories of Operation Market Garden to him. The Branch Chairman and Vice-Chairman were also present, and used the occasion to present Steve with his membership badge, the Branch members sponsoring this.
70th ANNIVERSARY OF VE DAY
On Friday 8th May, on the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the Branch held a short commemorative service to remember those who died in the Second World War. We also used the occasion to charge our Standard into the care of our new bearer Tjark Andrews, and thank Malcolm Holland for his 7 years service in the role.
After the hand over ceremony the Reverend James Kennedy blessed the Standard and said prayers before a wreath was laid by the Mayor, Councillor Mike Tysoe on behalf of the town.
Branch Chairman Steve Kingsford then read out the names of the 25 men who died in the service of this country followed by the ode. Les Taylor on the bugle sounded "The Last Post" followed by a minutes silence and Reveille.
The Ceremony ended with the exhortation "The Legion of the living salute the Legion of the dead-we shall not break faith with you"
THE UNVEILING OF A STAINED GLASS WINDOW AT CHIPPING NORTON SCHOOL
On Friday 5th June 2015 guests, including the Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire David Astor, attended a ceremony to unveil a stained glass window to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War. Based on a design by Branch Chairman Steve Kingsford it incorporated work from three students Zoe Foster, Beth Coombes and Georgia Juckes, and from other work by students inspired by the First World War. The result was turned into a beautiful work by stained glass arist Grham Brant. The outstanding stained glass windows are a very fitting memorial to the Great War and a celebration of community collaboration. Headteacher Simon Duffy welcomed guests before the Mayor, Mike Tysoe talked about the background of the project before Legion branch Chairman Steve Kingsford, assisted by Zoe Foster, who designed the centre poppy, unveiled the window. Neville Edwards, President of Chipping Norton RBL then said a few words praising the efforts of the students and the school before reciting the ode, “They shall not grow old….” and James Kennedy. Vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church blessed the window. The Mayor presented the three girls with book tokens before Simon Duffy brought the proceedings to a close.
Stained glass artist Graham Brant with the Mayor, Mike Tysoe.
Beth Coombes, Zoe Foster and Georgia Juckes.
In 2015 we extended our fundraising for the Poppy Appeal into the summer with stalls at the Town Festival, Emma's Trust Festival and with youth member Annalise Kingsford undertaking a 5K mud run, raising £100. 136 Squadron Chipping Norton Air Training Corp also weighed in with £250 from a sponsored walk.
70th ANNIVERSARY OF VJ DAY
On Saturday 15th August at 1930 we gathered at the Town War Memorial to mark 70 years since the end of the war against the Japanese. Called the "forgotten army", those who served in the Far East are not forgotten by the Royal British Legion. Nor are they forgotten by their surviving comrades. We were honoured to have at the service branch member Pete Williers and the family of the late Arthur Edginton (below), both Burma Star men.
The service opened with an introduction by the branch President, Neville Edwards, and then Canon Robin Howard recalled his time in the Far east after the war and said prayers to those who have died in conflict. Pete Williers then laid a wreath on behalf of the town (below).
Branch Chairman Steve Kingsford next told the story of one men on the war memorial, Gunner Leslie Gilbert. He had been taken prisoner by the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore, been put to work building railway bridges in Thailand before being transported on a Japanese Hell ship, where he died on 21st September 1944 when the ship was sunk by American carrier planes. The Chairman then recited the ode, last post was sounded followed by a minutes silence as, if on cue the sun set behind us. After Reveille the President closed the ceremony with the Kohima Epitaph:
"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"
Our annual Remembrance Parade started as usual from outside Sainsbury's, after steady rain the previous day the weather cleared and the march to the church started under grey leaden skies.
Once again our parade was swelled by serving and veterans of 2624 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment as well as all the normal suspects. The church was packed as we laid over 30 wreaths and observed a two minutes silence. After the service we paused to lay a wreath at the plaque marking the Wellington crash of 1942. The parade then marched through the town passing the war memorial where the RAF contingent formed a guard of honour, and onto the Town Hall, where the Mayor took the salute.
We were delighted to see so many people turn out to watch the parade which formed up by the Town Hall, shrouded by scaffolding unfortunately, to be addressed by our President, Neville Edwards and Mayor Mike Tysoe in the presence of Mr David Astor, Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire. A mention here for our Standard Bearer Tjark Andrews on his first parade in the role. The previous day Tjark had been at the Royal Festival Hall with his Standard for the two performances of the Festival of Remembrance, travelling up on Friday night and not getting home to the wee small hours of Sunday morning. We were quite expecting to hear him snoring in church, but as ever he gave it his all and we are very proud of him! Refreshments were taken in the Town Hall, with the additional benefit of a firkin of Hook Norton Bitter, kindly donated by the brewery, which cheered our President (and others) muchly.
On Wednesday 11th November we were again honoured to have a good turn out for our Armistice Day service, and were pleased to welcome a large contingent from 136 (Chipping Norton) Air Training Cadets and prefects from the Holy Trinity Primary School. The Reverend James Kennedy stood in at short notice to say prayers and the Last Post was delivered by Les Taylor as usual. This year 130 crosses were laid to represent the 116 names on the war memorial and 24 not included, an omission we are hoping to rectify next year. Air Cadets laid the last three crosses, one from each branch of our Armed Forces.
After the service at the war memorial a party headed off to Over Norton whilst the rest of us, after a spot of refreshment in the Crown & Cushion, made our annual pilgrimage to Little Rissington Churchyard. There we met with The Rissington's vicar, Christopher Etherton for a short service to remember the aircrew who died in training accidents in and arond Chipping Norton. The air cadets laid crosses on the graves of 9 airman who died in crashes in the town and the airfield. They also honoured one of their own, Air Cadet Kenny Stone, who died aged 16 in 1943, when the Airspeed Oxford he was in crashed after a mid-air collision.
CONCERT WITH THE ACCIDENTALS BRASS ENSEMBLE
On Friday 13th November some 50 members and guests enjoyed a concert given by the Accidental Brass Ensemble under their leader Les Taylor. After “The ode” and the Loyal Toast, the band began very aptly with “The British Legion March”. A varied programme followed with music ranging from the Classics to West Side Story via Neil Diamond and Fleetwood Mac. The band, no stranger to us as they play on Remembrance Sunday in the church, were extremely accomplished and versatile. In the interval we enjoyed the Crown & Cushion’s excellent buffet and had a raffle. The second half continued in the same vein and included a sing-along section. Our President, Neville Edwards brought the evening to a close and youth member Annalise presented our Patron at the Crown & Cushion, Linda, with a bouquet of flowers. Without her support we would not be able to put on great evenings like this. Thanks to Les and all in the band for their superb playing, we hope to repeat the event next year. Thanks to Phil and John for selling the raffle tickets and collecting ticket money and of course to all the staff at the C & C. The event raised £300 for this year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, thank you everyone.
The audience waits in anticipation.
Buy a raffle ticket or else!
Phil Nicks sells the Chairman a ticket
The President accuses the Chairman of pinching his beer
The Loyal Toast
Ready for the Loyal Toast
Linda in party mood
The British Legion March
Les Taylor in full flow
One of the brilliant soloists
On Wednesday 25th November 24 members and guests of Chipping Norton branch had the privilege of visiting RAF Brize Norton. Parking in the overflow car park we were met by our host for the day Squadron Leader Mark Robinson of the Air Delivery Wing. We were taken into the base by coach, skillfully piloted by driver Dave, and decamped into the Officer's Mess where we were given an overview of the operations on the base by Mark assisted by Senior Aircraftman Tom. After coffee we were introduced to Warrant Officer Yvonne Conway, who is the Senior Community Support Officer at the base. She told us of the extensive measures taken to ensure the welfare of the personnel on the base, including housing, respite breaks and working with the local community. We then boarded the coach for a tour of the base with Yvonne doubling as tour guide and giving us a running commentary. We passed the Air Despatcher Douglas DC3 Dakota (below), which stands as a memorial to Despatchers who lost their lives in the service of their country.
In the enormous hanger the aircraft undergo heavy maintenance, such as engine changes. The RAF work in tandem with engineers from Marshalls of Cambridge in keeping these aircraft in the air, and it was three such gentlemen that showed us around.
After we left the hanger we were able to witness one of these magnificent machines take to the air.
We returned to the Officer's mess for a very nice and reasonably priced lunch before rejoining the coach for a trip out to the runway (it is 10,007 feet long) where Boeing C-17A Globemaster III No ZZ176 waited patiently. We had viewed these mighty aircraft on our last visit to Brize, but were unable to get aboard. 99 Squadron operates 8 of these behemoths of the sky, providing the Royal Air Force with a long-range, strategic, heavy-lift capability, which enables us to project and sustain an effective force close to a potential area of operations for combat, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions worldwide. A Pilot, Loadmaster and Ground Engineer were most kindly on hand to show us around and answer our questions.
The C-17A is capable of rapid, strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases anywhere in the world, or directly to more temporary forward operating bases owing to its short field capability. The design of the aircraft allows it to carry out high-angle, steep approaches at relatively slow speeds, thus allowing it to operate into small, austere, airfields and onto runways as short as 3,500 feet long and only 90 feet wide. The aircraft can operate into and out of problematic sites such as those surrounded by inhospitable terrain or made difficult by adverse weather conditions. The fully-integrated, electronic flight-deck and the advanced cargo-handling systems allow a basic crew of only two pilots and one Air Loadmaster to operate the aircraft. On the ground, the aircraft can be turned in a very small radius and its four engines are fully reversible, giving it the ability to manoeuvre into and out of restricted parking or freight-offload areas at undeveloped strips. This enables the C-17 to deliver cargo to small airfields with limited parking space in a shorter time, so increasing throughput where time on the ground is kept to a minimum. The C-17 can transport 45,360 kilograms of freight over 4,500 nautical miles whilst flying at heights in excess of 30,000 feet.
Cargo is loaded on to the C-17 through a large rear door that can accommodate military vehicles and palletised cargo. It can carry almost all of the Army’s air-transportable, outsize combat equipment, from three Warrior armoured vehicles or 13 Land Rovers, to a Chinook helicopter or three Apache-sized helicopters. It carries all its own role-equipment and can fit centre-line seating, which increases the seating capacity from 54 side-wall seats to 102 seats. The aircraft can also be configured in the Aeromedical Evacuation role to carry a full stretcher fit. The C-17 needs little or no ground support equipment and if none is available it can perform a combat off-load where pallets are dropped from the aircraft ramp on to the taxiway or hard-standing.
Where the Herc looked smaller inside than it did on the outside, the C17 was tardis like, a vast metal cavern of pipes, wires and tubes, high tech and industrial revolution at the same time.
Leaving the C17 behind we boarded the bus and were able to view the two other aircraft operated by RAF Brize Norton, the Airbus A330 Voyager (below left)and the Airbus 400M Atlas (right).
The RAF Voyager is based on the modern Airbus A330-200 passenger aircraft and, in conjunction with th Boeing C-17A Globemaster III fleet, provides the RAF with Strategic Air Transport and Aeromedical capability. In addition, Voyager is an extremely effective Air-to-Air Refuelling asset, which is utilised to enable a variety of RAF aircraft to operate for extended periods. The RAF took delivery of the first Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft on 17 November 2014. The arrival heralds the staged delivery of a further 21 aircraft, in a schedule expected to be complete by 2019. Although the RAF will employ the A400M's strategic reach and impressive payload capacity by initially operating it in the strategic air transport role, Atlas is primarily a tactical airlifter. Its tactical capabilities will be developed over the next 8 years as it assumes the roles performed by the Hercules prior to the C-130’s planned retirement from RAF service in 2022.
The last visit of the day was to the Airborne Delivery Wing. The Airborne Delivery Wing (ADW) was officially established on the 1st November 2009 and brings together all the military elements that deliver troops and resources by parachute to both land and sea and remains at the forefront of current Operations. The Wing is made up of 3 squadrons and 1 training school: ADW Head Quarters Squadron, Special Forces Parachute Support Sqn, Parachute Engineering Squadron and the Parachute Training School working in unison to support the ADW Mission. It remains focussed on delivering high quality basic and advanced training, specialist advice and operational support to all 3 Services in order to enable the viable theatre entry capability of UK airborne troops and their equipment, utilising a number of parachute types.
We must thank Squadron Leader Mark Robinson for arranging this most excellent visit, and to everybody who looked after us during the tour. We were delighted and honoured that the hard working men and women of RAF Brize Norton took time out from their busy and vital work to show us around, talk to us about their roles and answer our questions. As a small measure of our gratitude we made a collection during lunch of some £40, which we will donate to the base's welfare housing project along with £160 from our community fund.