ACA Woking News by Paul Holden, PRO

12 December 2003


ACA Woking Chairman Eric Smith GM
made the opening speech
Eric Smith
Jimmy James (left) about to be presented
with his silver salver by Eric Smith
with Jim Sherwood assisting
Presentation to Jimmy James

134 Aircrew Association Woking Branch members, wives and guests sat down to a splendid Lunch at the Chobham Golf Club, which did them proud with a traditional Christmas menu. The Chairman, Eric Smith GM, reviewed all the successful activities of the year, and presented his predecessor, Squadron Leader Jimmy James AFC & Bar, DFM, with an engraved silver salver to commemorate his very successful three years as Branch Chairman, in which he showed outstanding leadership.

Principal Guest Piers Gardiner
responded on behalf of the guests
Principal Guest Wing Commander Piers Gardiner, in responding to the Toast to the Ladies and Guests, remarked that he had been retired from the RAF now for ten years, and the thing that he most missed were the people - and how nice it was to be back among people who spoke the same language! His audience, he said, was not the youngest in the world, but demonstrated the qualities of Tradition, Loyalty, Comradeship, Mutual Support, and Principles, which represent the best of all that had made Britain "Great".

Wing Commander Tony Houghton, proposing the Toast to the Woking Branch and the Aircrew Association, extended a special welcome to his one-time Squadron Commander, who had recently remarried at the age of 74, and who had returned from his second honeymoon on a cruise with his wife, Barbara, at Southampton only that morning, just in time to be on parade for this Xmas lunch! He noted that the current issue of the ACA Magazine, Intercom, had a chart of the route to Peenemunde used by Bomber Command Lancasters and Halifaxes on the raid on 17th August 1943 which successfully disrupted V-1 and V-2 production by some months; and remarked that similar charts were used 30 years later by the V-Force in planning nuclear strike attacks, and are still in use today, a further 30 years later! The planning procedures haven't changed - and the Branch makes a meeting point for aircrew serving the country in all three time frames . It was up to the 'youngsters' in the Branch like himself - 3 years off 70 - to persuade those leaving the RAF that the ACA offered a friendly and welcoming place to compare notes on these Standard Operating Procedures over the years.

IIn replying, Wing Commander Stuart Holmes pointed out that the founding generation had their comradeship forged in the heat of wartime operations. He, like many others who had joined the RAF after the war, had been spared the risks of combat but had not been spared the very real risks of death from flying accidents which were the result of operating what were still rather primitive aircraft and systems. He recalled the story of an early astronaut, who when asked what thoughts ran through his mind whilst he was waiting for lift-off, replied "That I am sitting on top of 30,000 critical components, every one of which has been supplied by a contractor who submitted the cheapest tender!"

He pointed out that, as the average ages of the earlier members are rising into the higher figures, the Branch will wither on the vine unless we continue to recruit new members from the current generation of Aircrew; and concluded by expressing the real thanks of Branch Members for the dedicated work put in by the Committee to make things happen; to Alan Milton and all his colleagues at Mann Aviation, the Instructors and Pilots, both for making available the premises in which we meet, and providing the annual and unique flying night; to Christine, producer of the post-flying evening buffet; and to Gale Harvey, for regularly serving up our liquid refreshments on Branch Meeting nights.

Drawing the raffle (left to right) Jimmy James,
Jim Sherwood, John Thorburn, Doug Hudgell
Draw raffle

The occasion concluded with a very successful raffle, which raised 515 for service charities, and a toast to Absent Friends, by Vice Chairman Laurie Taylor, OBE, FRAeS.

Photographs by the Webmaster
except for Piers Gardiner by the Chairman

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