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|RAF Bridgnorth 2007 Reunion|
Peter Williams and Haydn Smith have kindly written this account of the 2007 reunion
held over the weekend of 18th & 19th August 2007.
My first meeting with Haydn took place in the cafe at Gloucester Railway Station in February 2007. We had previously made our introductions over the telephone and by email. At this meeting we discussed the idea of holding a re-union and some of the problems we were likely to meet along the way. We agreed that Haydn should be the prime mover and that I should be his mentor. We realised that time was short and that August would soon be upon us. In the months between, Haydn had a call from Corporal Michael Briggs at Cosford with offers of help in the organisation of the event - an offer he gladly accepted.
On 17 August, approximately sixty former Bridgnorth Airmen, plus their wives and partners, gathered at RAF Cosford for the long awaited re-union. Over coffee we were greeted by Cpl Briggs who briefed us about the week-end that started with a visit to the old site at Bridgnorth. We took with us detailed maps that showed numbered huts and the various block surrounding them. Along with the maps we had an aerial photograph (in colour) of a site that is now part nature-reserve and part industrial estate.
Equipped with these useful references, a convoy of private cars and two RAF Mini-buses threaded its way along the byways of this part of rural Shropshire. The site visit was to be seen as the focal point of the week-end but only the fool hardy would have wished to explore the site.
Our arrival coincided with heavy rain which lead to abandonment. Instead, a number of people continued their journey to Bridgnorth where they visited the Museum and the Tourist Information Centre, whilst others wandered the Saturday Market.
A cordial atmosphere awaited our return to Cosford, whilst members of the Air Cadet Force prepared the room for the evening session. A Buffet supper preceded the formalities of the evening which began with a request by Cpl Briggs for a moment or two of reflection for those on active service in trouble spots of the world.
The formalities opened with a general introduction by Haydn, in which he welcomed the Guests of Honour. Foremost among them was Sqdn. Ldr, Bowden,(deputising for the C.O. Air Cdr. Gammon) who welcomed us to Cosford. He was followed by the Mayor of Bridgnorth, Councillor, Mrs. Connie Baines who referred to the long association between Civic and Service life that culminated in awarding the Station the highest honour it could bestow, Freedom of the Borough. Our additional Guests were, Mr. Gwynne Chadwick and Corporal Michael Briggs. Each Guest was presented with a commemorative mug that was decorated with the Station Crest and a translation of the Latin inscription beneath it. The mug also had a view of the Main Gate at RAF Bridgnorth. The photograph had been reproduced from a postcard in Haydn's collection presented to him before he completed his basic training.
To conclude the formal session, I had the opportunity to relate the difficulties I had found in my search for the RAF Bridgnorth Drill Cup. I also alluded to the less formal ties between 'Town and Crown' built up between residents of the Town and Airmen. I proposed a toast to absent friends and ended by reading a short poem entitled 'Naming of Parts' by Henry Reed, whose word struck a chord in the minds of many who were present.
To round off the evening, we were able to watch a short (six minutes) DVD that showed recruits during a drill session at the camp. The recording continued with archive material filmed during the ceremony of the Freedom of the Borough. Our attention was then drawn to a showing of approximately five hundred slides that had been compiled by Gwynne Chadwick - a collection he has built up over many years. As the slide show progressed, every now and then someone would break away from a discussion group, to look more closely at those black and white images in the hope of finding an old friend. To supplement the slide show some exhibition stands had been erected by the Air Cadets in order to display enlarged photographs of scenes of life at RAF Bridgnorth.
The farewells were made on Sunday Morning, but not before several guests paid a visit to Cosford's Museum of Aerospace close by.
A happy occasion had taken place despite inclement weather, but it had been an event that received wide acclaim. As they departed already they were talking about the next time they reunite.
Haydn Smith / Peter Williams.
3 September 2007.