The 58 Groups 50th Anniversary Reunion
From Nick Winder
At the 2006 reunion I was the only representative from 58A who attended the dinner and realised that unless I did some research I may be celebrating our 50th on my own. Attendance of 58B members was improving thanks to John Phillips who was leading the search for his group.
At this point in time I knew that John Phillips was planning a separate reunion for 58B Group but that he and some of his members would also attend the BOBA dinner. John has written an article of his own so I will concentrate on the 2008 BOBA Weekend and my own thoughts of my time at Beachley.
The ResearchHaving discussed the way forward with John I obtained the 58A pages of the Army Apprentices School Chepstow Roll Books from John Furley. Besides having the roll books my main search tool was our website. John and I picked out all the messages from 58A and 58B personnel; these were retained or forwarded to John or myself. Replies came in and lists were compiled as interested, thanks but no thanks; never want to see the place again.From these contacts I obtained many photographs of the early days of 58A group with the majority taken in our first term. My long term memory is good so I had little problems with 2 Platoon personnel but was glad of some help with 1, 3 and 4. By the time of our 50th we had put many names to faces.Some of the replies were from overseas; Brian Wardle in Spain and Peter Stephenson in Perth, Australia. Brian was very enthusiastic and sent me a number of photographs with names; Peter had been quite ill and although he could not possibly attend was kept informed of progress. I also received photographs from Denis Woodward, Dave Youdle, Spud Taylor Hank Lawrence, Morph Bentley and Bill Killen.Dave Youdle and Brian Wardle were early contacts and having got them on board I felt that I was getting somewhere. The web site continued to provide others, namely, Bill Killen, Spud Taylor, Morph Bentley, Denis Woodward and Leo Howson of 57B; relegated to 58A on change of trade. When I received notification of those attending the reunion weekend I was pleased to see that Vic Langabeer 58A, John Phillips, Mike Heal, Mac Obermieir and Pete Dolphin of 58B were on the list.Looking BackI have noted over the years that 50th Anniversary notes make little mention of the Headquarters Company military staff that was responsible for our welfare and military training during our first six months at Beachley. They made an everlasting impression on me and looking back I have much to thank them for. CSM (Bull) Morgan; the epitome of a Sergeant Major; a firm but fair disciplinarian who often had cause to rein-in over zealous A/T JNCO’s. The team of training Sergeants, their chests adorned with campaign medals; Sgt Dutston, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, a quiet spoken Irishman, Sgt Barrett, Suffolk Regiment another Irishman who during early drill periods was often heard to say “ Bend your knee lad of Ill cut off your Goolies”, Sgt Kinson Sherwood Foresters a big tough man; when he was on duty in the cookhouse nobody pushed to the front of the queue and last but certainly not least Sgt Clamp, Royal Regiment of Artillery equipped with the loudest mouth at Beachley. These fine men without exception guided us through what was, without doubt a daunting six months at Beachley. During our first winter the huts were always cold and nearly everyone suffered from colds and chapped hands. The elixir commonly called “Stim and Gargle” was produced by the gallon in the MRS dispensary and administered by L/Cpl Catney the medical room orderly.A tub of rough coal delivered on a Saturday morning didn’t go far in fact we had burned most of it by Monday. We soon discovered that the River Wye was littered with firewood washed down the river from upstream; the net result was that our room made its first collective purchas; a bow saw from a Chepstow ironmongers shop. Throwing caution to the wind and totally ignoring Standing Order 6(e) (x) we built up a good stock of firewood which we fed to the “Cenotaph Stove” it gave off a good heat, better still if the fire bricks were removed.In the late fifties there were a number of changes which affected 58A Group in particular. The first was the establishment of “J Company” this according to the senior management of the time this was the way forward; try telling that to 58A Group, we finished up having three terms as junior group. Not that it did us too much harm, just made us more street wise. The next was the Pylon that overlooked Joe Monks Island; it was there, presented a challenge and therefore had to be climbed. Many 58 Group lads ventured to the top, an adventure for those who dared but termed foolhardy by the staff. Among the first to the top were Dave Youdle and Brian Wardle; I am sure that their exploits will be told at another time. Then there was the introduction of “Beachley the Pony” where he came from god only knows; I expect that someone thought it a good idea for the school to have a mascot. Ray Field was its first handler; on Gammy’s Saturday morning parades the bloody animal took up his position in front of the champion company, it often crapped on the square and out of boredom raked his right hoof across Ray’s left toe cap. Another god forsaken idea from the top was to form a pipe band; Jock Scot of 58A, who I might add was a fine player was the first A/T Pipe Major. Once the band had got through the revving-up stage it was collectively quite good but when the players were practicing on their chanters the noise was diabolical. A plus point to come out of this time was that the hierarchy replaced the sheep shearers in the barbers shop with Stan Childs who was a decent hairdresser.The Reunion.Two weeks before the reunion Brian Wardle was informed by his doctor that he would not be able to attend. Needless to say Brian was pretty upset; determined to be at Chepstow in spirit he sent a hefty donation to the wine fund which needless to say was much appreciated. Spud Taylor fell foul of the closure of the M48 Bridge and although made Chepstow didn’t stay for the dinner. Never mind spud see you next year.We experienced the same problems as earlier groups in identifying those who had not met for nearly 40 years. This was made even more difficult in the case of Vic Langabeer who hid his face is hidden a “full set”. Eventually we mustered and swapped many stories both ancient and modern.The Reunion Dinner was as always a roaring success. We were again blessed with a dry sunny day for the parade prior to the Church Service. Ray Field drove up from Andover to join us for the service and after forming up on our square the 58 Groups proudly led the march past; Nick Winder carried the Headquarters Branch Standard joining Syd Thomas and Ray Armstrong to form the Presidents Colour Party. The church service is a very important part of the weekend and should not be missed. During our time at Beachley the reporting of names at the beginning of all services was a reminder of those apprentices who had made the ultimate sacrifice for Queen and Country. It is therefore right and proper that this should be continued at the Founders Day service; this year a selection of names from the memorial book was delivered, with reverence, by Malcolm Hay. In true form Padre Joe gave the never to be missed address; serious in subject but delivered in true Army Apprentice School style. After the service we managed to get enough of our Groups together for the mandatory photograph.After the service Dave Youdle and I toured the barracks and identified many of our old haunts. During the redevelopment of the camp most of the buildings known to us were demolished but many of the trees that feature in our HQ Company photographs remain; it was from these that we were able to locate the HQ lines. The old Blacksmiths shop has gone but the building survives; this pleased Dave as he was one of the last blacksmiths to be trained at Beachley. The School Headquarters has been extended but is instantly recognisable, as is the old MRS, lighthouse and gas decontamination centre (photography club).BOBA. Weekend 2008 by Vic Langabeer 58A GroupIt was my first reunion since leaving Chepstow in December 1960, when I left I vowed I would never return. But here I am 50 years later attending my first reunion accompanied by my wife. For both of us it was quite a daunting prospect especially for my wife when I informed her that on Saturday night we would be dining separately. But our fears and worries soon disappeared when on the Friday evening on arrival at the hotel we started meeting members from the two group namely Morph Bentley and Peter Dolphin, so by the time the reunion dinner started my wife Christine was fully at ease and had made new friends with other wives attending.The "Highs" of the weekend was just meeting others from 58A-B and naturally reminiscing, plus seeing others from 56A-57B our Senior Groups, also the reunion Dinner and the Sunday Church Parade. That famous parade square holds a lot of memories. I did return to Beachley a few years ago but only viewed the camp from the outside so what a privilege it was to be able to drive into the camp via the AAS main gate, instant reminder of CSM Bull Morgan who escorted us, the new Apprentices from the Main Gate to the highly bulled Library lavishly furnished, situated close to the Guardroom, in April 1958. As I recall there were a couple of Parents accompanying their sons that day. What a lovely impression it must have left on the Parents!! The only "Low" was there were not more from the 58 Groups.So if anybody reading this is from these Groups who has never thought of attending a Reunion for what ever reason, may I put you at ease by saying although it is a little daunting at first, its well worth the effort, I shall (accompanied by my wife) definitely attend future reunions and look forward to meeting as many as possible from the 58 Groups.Remembrance DayTo pay our respects to the members of our Groups who have fallen Dave and Nick paraded with the BOBA contingent at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Those who have been fortunate enough to attend this solemn occasion will understand why it was particularly relevant that we attended during our anniversary year.SummaryOur anniversary year has been a success; I am sure that John Phillips will join me in saying that the hours spent tracing members of 58A and 58B Groups was totally worthwhile. Often information came through a third party and we thank them all for taking time out to pass on contact details. For those who have not yet joined BOBA I recommend that you do so and if possible encourage others to do the same. Rest assured that as in all ex service organisations you will certainly get more out of BOBA than you put in, but at the end of the day it’s down to you.
Please spend a few minutes reading the following: Alf Robbins and I have undertaken the organisation of a Grand Dinner Dance to celebrate Veterans Day on Saturday, the 27th June 09, which will be held in the main hall of the superb Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. The hotel, with all its opulence, was built about 1840 with magnificent rooms and architecture. We will be seating and dining 500 guests, (yes, you can bring your wives or someone else’s) followed by dancing to a band that is able to play music compatible with our eras. For a number of years 55A have had enjoyable mini reunions within the City; 2009 will be no different. We will hold our minimeet on the night before the above (26th June). We are aware that other groups also have mini reunions. Should you wish to organise them around the above, then we can suggest locations, restaurants, hotels etc. Both of us have considerable knowledge of the City and hotels with more than 600 rooms near the Albert Dock complex. Liverpool is bidding along with other cities for the 2009 Veterans Event, so you can expect things to happen regardless of which city/town wins it. The winner won’t be announced until the end of January 09, leaving little time for any organising. This is why we have decided to press ahead with our plans. The City is currently celebrating its Capital of Culture. There are over 2,500 listed buildings, lots of sightseeing and things to do, many of them free of charge. Gentlemen, because of our Beachley connections, you are being given first option to book for this fabulous occasion. Tickets will be £32.00 a head. What remains after expenses are deducted will be donated to Military Charities. We already know from local sources that it will be a sellout, but due to our loyalty we would rather see it sold out to BOBA members and their friends. Seating will be in groups of eight on round tables. It would be preferable if you could organise your own group of eight, but if this is not possible we will still deal with individual bookings. Register your interests NOW at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org We do not want your money at this stage, just your interest, or speak to me at BOBA in September at Chep.,