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REUNIONS

2nd Riggers' Dining in Night.
RAF Henlow WO & Sgts Mess.
Saturday 29th April 2017.

Those of you who could not make it, missed out on a great evening.

Some 86 guests attended the event which was superbly organised by Darren Smith and his team.
The bar opened promptly at 19-00hrs and everyone sat down to dine at 19-30hrs.

The food was fabulous, the mess catering staff really pulled out all the stops and got the evening off to a flying start.

Everyone had a really great evening, enjoying the FREE bar and meeting up with old friends and comrades.

Hopefully, a full report will be posted in the near future.


9th REUNION 17th OCTOBER 2015.
WO's and Sgts Mess, RAF Digby.

The excellent reunion was organised by Flt Sgt John Summerson assisted by Sgt Rob Hall.

The event commenced at 11-30hrs when everyone who had booked for the afternoon visit to the Aerial Erector School was picked up by the mini-bus for the journey to RAF Digby.

On arrival at RAF Digby we were taken to the Aerial Erector School and after a very warm welcome from Flt Sgt John Summerson we were taken to the Sector Operations Bunker.

In the underground Operations Rooms, now a museum, we were given a good comprehensive history of the building and especially the part it had played during the Battle of Britain. We were then given time to explore the various rooms and exhibits in them with school staff on hand to provide explanations where needed.
It was then back to the school buildings to explore the various classrooms and workshops. Refreshments in the form of tea, coffee and a very tasty selection of biscuits were laid out in the rest room.

Next it was off once again in the mini-bus to Stenigot for our visit to THE tower. The school staff, who had kindly given up some of their off duty time, showed us the latest safety equipment riggers use now and then gave a demonstration of the latest tower rescue methods. They also demonstrated the various tasks that potential trainees now have to undertake to aquire a place on a course.

Those of us who wished to do so were then kitted out with a full safety harness and helmet and then UNOFFICIALLY allowed to climb under strict supervision, up the ladders to the 50/60ft platform.
A new and interesting development since our last visit to Stenigot was a very elaborate safety gate fitted to the bottom section of the first ladder. This had been installed to prevent and/or deter trespassing climbers from accessing the tower. Apparently there had been a number of nocturnal visitors using the tower for dare-devil free climbing exercises which had resulted in the police being called to the site.

There were a lot of very happy smiling old hairys up on that platform including myself. Once all the photographs were taken and everyone had returned safely to the ground we were all de-kitted. Hot drinks were on hand to warm everyone up, the Lincolnshire wind having lived up to its reputation. We were then loaded back into the mini-bus for the return trip to Lincoln. We had had a very enjoyable excursion which had been superbly organised by the school staff. We arrived back in Lincoln and were dropped off at our hotels in plenty of time to prepare for the evening event.

We were all gathered up from our various hotels by a large Double Deck Luxury coach and issued with our security passes on our way to Digby. On arrival our coach was too tall to enter the camp because of the low trees so we were de-bused outside the Guardroom. We were then led to a small gate in the fence and along a short path to the WO AND Sgts Mess.
The mess lounge and dining room had been decorated by the school staff with large photographs of riggers and various overseas places plus a variety of items from the schools collection of memorabilia.

In the dining room the tables were laid out with candelabra, bottles of wine and special place mats depicting riggers and rigging scenes. There was a specially made HAR pin stick and an RAF biro pen for each guest.
In no time at all the bar was in full swing and everyone was busy greeting friends old and new. Lee Hennah had come over from Rozendaal in Holland. John Lunn and Joe Watson came over from the colonies in North America, Ohio and California respectively. It seemed that we had hardly got there when the call came to take our places in the dining room.

The tables were served by the mess staff at the servery two tables at a time. The food was magnificent and I had a helping of something I haven't had since my school dinner days, sweet red cabbage, it was absolutely gorgeous. Thanks very much, it made my day.
A raffle of a number of donated prizes to raise money for the Stamps and Printing Ink Fund was held following the various toasts. I had brought two books of raffle tickets with thinking that would be enough. I was wrong and we ran out of raffle tickets so not everyone was able to try their luck. It raised some 150 which has now been converted into 2nd class stamps.
All too soon it was time to board the bus back to our hotels to sleep it all off. We had an absolutely wonderful evening. The company had been great and the food marvellous.
A brilliantly well organised and superbly presented 9th Reunion. The amount of time and effort put into this reunion by all the school staff was obviously enormous. Everyone at the school seemed to have played a part in making sure everything went off smoothly. even the trainees on the current Further Training Course had, as one of them put it been "voluntold" to assist over the weekend.

THANK YOU ALL.


Riggers Dining in Night Saturday 3rd May 2014.
WO & Sgts Mess, RAF Henlow.

This event, organised by WO Darren Smith, was a formal Dining in Night. Invitation had been extended to all Riggers, past and present and their wives/partners.
Dress was formal; ie. No 5's(or No1's) for serving members, Dinner Jacket and black bow tie for civilians and formal evening wear or cocktail dress (below the knee) for ladies.
As it is was a formal dinner medals were worn.The meal was a seven course, silver service affair.

Darren "Smithy" Smith reports that "On Saturday 3rd May 2014, for the first time ever, 113 hairy arsed riggers and their partners, made their way to RAF Henlow WO & Sgts Mess to enjoy the delights of a formal 7 course Dining In Night. Dressed to the nines in their full Mess Uniform or Dinner Jackets, the lads were put to shame by the ladies who looked simply stunning in their flowing dresses and killer heels.
The festivities had started the night before for many, with approximately 30 of us deciding to make a weekend of it and travelling down on the Friday.
The Saturday was free for people to do what they wanted with many choosing to go shopping, some relaxing in their rooms and some enjoying a game of golf. Some things don't change in that regard with George Burrell, not for the first time, proving he is the King of the Sombrero! Some obviously didn't think a bar from 18:00 until 03:00hrs was enough mind, choosing to spend the full afternoon enjoying a few warm up shandy's in the "spit and sawdust" tavern that is the Bird in Hand.
The Dining in Night itself commenced at 18:00hrs, and although many of us hadn't seen each other for numerous years (many never at all) it wasn't long before the banter started and that "family" feeling returned.
The first challenge of the evening was to try and get a group photograph. And what a challenge this proved to be! Never known for our intelligence, trying to get a bunch of riggers to march to the same tune has never been easy, trying to get 113 of them to pick up a chair and congregate outside was nigh impossible. Flt Sgt Jim O'Donnell's leadership skills were put to the test on this one. Well done Jim, I'm sure you will all agree he did a fabulous job.

The photograph above can be seen below where it has been split into 4 sections which slightly overlap and run from left to right.

As our Maitre D for the evening, Mrs Claire Ferrante called us all to the dining room at 19:30hrs, the term "sardines in a tin" immediately sprang to mind. The most the mess had ever squeezed inti the dining room before was 92. I admit, we had plenty of room on the Top Table but it did look extremely cosy down each leg. So cosy in fact that with his bladder full to bursting, the only way Ray Hobbs could go for a comfort break was by crawling under the table, smacking his head on the spool underneath before coming out at the other end. Now Ray is not as supple as once was and by the time he came out the other side, our main course had cooled considerably!
Having to feed 113 people, with approximately 10 inches between chairs proved to be a major challenge for the staff; and at this point a huge gratitude of thanks and congratulations must go their way for meeting that challenge head on and delivering.
The food was absolutely delicous and proved that once again RAF Henlow WO & Sgts Mess staff are second to none. Well done to Claire and her team.
Having done CMC at Leuchars for 9 months and having been CMC at Henlow for 7 months, I have presided over numerous Top Tables and Dining In Nights - however I had never presided over a "Riggers" Dining In Night before.....it proved interesting to say the least. As for Mr Vice (Flt Sgt Phil Major) keeping order down the bottom end, well the phrase "ashtray on a motorbike" springs to mind. However praise must go his way for ditching his 15 year old jokes and unearthing some new material to entertain us with. Well done Phil.
It would have been remiss not to mention our senior member of the evening Mr Raymond Mortenson. Ray was called up into the RAF in the summer of 1953 and following his square bashing arrived at RAF Chigwell as a u/t Aerial Erector on the 28th August 1953. He successfully completed his training on Course 3C and was posted to No3 Ground Radio Servicing Squadron at RAF Norton for the remainder of his National Service. After a brief recital of his career from Ray himself, the whole room stood as one and raised their glass to toast a most remarkable man.
Somehow we managed to get through the meal and finally retired to the bar at approximately 23:30 hrs.
Those sensible, mature individuals decided to have a swift drink before calling it a night---the more foolish amongst us decided that we hadn't had enough to drink and carried on until about 04:00hrs in the morning----with many a sandbag being pulled up and talk of "the good old days" and "back in my day" ringing out.
The weekend still hadsn't finished there, with about 60 of us taking up Claire's extremely kind offer of a full English breakfast at 09:00hrs on Sunday morning.
Considering everyone had looked a million dollars the night before, the transformation was incredible---from lords and ladies to peasants in only 12 hours was no mean feat, but was amazingly achieved by all.
Looking back, an absolutely fantastic evening was enjoyed by everyone; and the most telling aspect of the entire evening was that it doesn't matter how long riggers haven't seen each other for, indeed it doesn't matter if they've never seen each other before; that unique bond that riggers have is still well and as strong as ever.
As everyone went their separate ways and travelled north and south on the A1, each and every person present agreed that it had been a hugely successful event, and one that must be repeated in the future. To those who did not make it this time----be sure to make the next one. Until the next time, take care and stay safe, Smithy.

Thanks Smithy for your report and for organising an absolutely amazing evening. Roll on the next one, Eddie.


PAST REUNIONS.


The 8th Reunion was held on the 20th October 2012 in the Wellington Suite at the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.

The Royal Armouries Museum as seen from the Clarence Docks.

The way into the venue was lit by flaming torches along the corridors and the Reunion commenced at 19-00 hrs with a drinks reception on the Wellington Suite balcony. The serving of the excellent Buffet Dinner started at 20-00hrs on the balcony of the Wellington Suite. Tables were called forward two at a time thus avoiding congestion at the two servery's. Everyone then returned to beautifully arranged tables to eat. A free bar funded by several generous donations and all the money left over once the bills were paid lasted longer than expected.

Dinner was followed by a surprise presentation ceremony as this reunion was the last one I was organising. I was given a 1950's riggers kit by ex-rigger Jimmy Henderson which contained an adjustable spanner, a tooth brush, tube of tooth paste and four bottles of Tiger beer in a RAF small pack. I was then presented with a clock mounted with the association badge by ex-rigger Bob Eaton and finally ex-rigger Tug Wilson presented me a special cheque for 2425 which had been given in donations from all the members of the association. I was told I was not to use the money on anything to do with the association. I was totally lost for words and spent the rest of the evening in a daze.
A raffle of a number of donated prizes raised 336 for the (Update) newsletter stamps and ink fund.

THANK YOU ALL.

Ex- rigger Paul Johnston filmed the reunion and his excellent coverage of the event can be seen by clicking Google and inserting "RAF Aerial Erectors Reunion 2012 Leeds". Enjoy.

The Association wishes to thank the staff of the Royal Armouries Museum who were on duty for the excellent and professional way in which they carried out their duties thus adding to our enjoyment of the evening.


7th Reunion 17th October 2009
Silver Maple Club, RAF Digby.


Aerial Erector School.
50th Anniversary at RAF Digby.

1959 - 2009.

The Aerial Erector School moved from RAF Norton in Sheffield to RAF Digby on Thursday 10th September 1959. The course then under instruction, 9C had commenced training on Wednesday 29th July at RAF Norton and completed their training at RAF Digby on 26th October 1959. Course 9D which commenced training on Wednesday 11th November 1959 was the first course to do all their training at RAF Digby.

The reunion commenced with an afternoon visit to the Aerial Erector School at RAF Digby. A coach was arranged to take members to RAF Digby departing from Brayford Pool Wharf in Lincoln at 12-30hrs and some members used their own private transport. We were met at the main gate by Aerial Erector School staff and quickly processed through the security arrangements. We were greeted at the school with tea, coffee and biscuits in the rest room and made welcome. Members of the school staff showed us around all the workshops and classrooms and explained their various uses. A number of instructional videos were also set up for us to view. After about 3/4 of an hour of exploring in the school we moved on to the Lima Sector Operations Room Museum.

One of the Museum volunteers gave us an excellent brief history of RAF Digby. He then went on to show how the Lima Sector Operations Room operated in 1939-40 and carefully explained all the duties of the various personnel who worked in the room. Everyone then had a few minutes to look at all the exhibits on display including an Enigma machine which is on loan from Bletchley Park.

We then boarded the coach and set off for RAF Stenigot and the CH tower. Everyone was feeling a bit sad as we had been told that we would not be able to climb up to the 50ft platform as they had not received clearance from the Health and Safety people. However on arrival at Stenigot we were told that provided we filled in and signed a waiver form and wore a hard hat we could, after all, climb up the ladders to the 50ft platform. Staff members with rescue and safety equipment were stationed at a number of places "just in case" but they were not needed. There was a lot of happy smiling ex-riggers up there. Once everyone who wanted to climb had done so and photographs taken it was back down to hot drinks of tea and coffee to warm us up as the Lincolnshire wind had lived up to its reputation. It was freezing up there. Then it was back to Lincoln to prepare for the evening.

A view of some of the members from the 50ft Platform.

Two coaches departed from Lincoln at 18-30hrs and arrived at RAF Digby and everyone was processed through the security by 19-00hrs when the Free Bar opened in the Silver Maple Club. It was announced that due to lack of space in the club the buffet would be served in the Airmen's Mess next door. At 20-00hrs everyone was invited into the Airmen's Mess to a superb buffet. The tables had been beautifully laid out in the bright cheerful mess, decorated with Menu cards (which the school had produced complete with a Rigger's Toast), wine etc. It was hard to believe that there were only two Chefs on duty as everything ran so smoothly. Matt and Jo did us proud. And no-one had to wash their mug and irons afterwards.

The evening then progressed onwards with an imprompu raffle of donated prizes in aid of the Help for Heroes charity which raised 220. It might well have been more but we ran out of raffle tickets. Our Help for Heroes fund will remain open until the 31st December in case there are any more members wishing to make donations.

Five riggers from No. 10 Radio Fitting Party who were last together in Aden 1962/63.
Left to right - back row - Geoff Gard - Geoff Sowerby - Roy Woodman.
Front row - Phil McCristall and Terry Eckersley.

There were buckets of sand and lamps swinging all over the room and the noise near the bar was deafening. Everyone was enjoying themselves. Cheerful Charlie Morrison did look a bit miserable as he had failed to win the crate of Tiger beer but as he commented to me in a letter shortly after the reunion. "If it seemed to a few people that I wasn't enjoying myself because I only moved from my seat to the bar and back, I can assure them nothing could be further from the truth. I had made a conscious decision that unlike the last 'Doo' I was at in 2005, this year I was going to be on my best behaviour. I, perhaps succeeded more than I had intended to do, as seen by the relay team of serving riggers wives who came over to my table to cheer me up when to be honest I was quite content to sit there and soak up the ambience, respect and affection riggers have for one another. This is not to say I didn't enjoy the attention I got from the young ladies and would like them to know that for a wee while they made an old man very happy. Charlie".

A new innovation for a riggers' reunion was a Karaoke machine!!!! This wonderous bit of modern technology, supervised by Wayne Eves to ensure it was not damaged or mis-used, was very popular with some of the younger riggers. The quiet area became very popular and somewhat crowded with old hairys seeking sanctuary!!! Everyone was enjoying themselves and it was great to have so many younger riggers with us. The Free bar, funded by a number of donations and all the money left over after the bills were paid, lasted out for most of the evening.


Phil Pranes and Bob Eaton.


Wez Carlile, Wayne Eves and Darren "Boris" Hoyle.

All too soon it was 01-00hrs and time for the coaches to return to Lincoln. A great night out in excellent company. The Aerial Erector School staff did a fantastic job in setting it all up and making sure us old Hairys had a good time.
Our grateful thanks go to John Summerson, Wayne Eves and all the staff at the School for really making our day.

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6th Reunion   13th October  2007.   Sergeant's Mess,  RAF Henlow.

The Reunion started at the RAF Signals Museum, the Curator Alf Fisher and a number of volunteers who run the museum gave up their Saturday afternoon to open up the building and welcome us in.
About 45 people paid a visit to view the exhibits on display and to exchange information about the various items of equipment. There was a lot of lamp swinging going on all afternoon as people's memories were kicked into play by the sight of the static displays.Sadly the museum does not have very much by way of aerials etc. It would be nice to see a couple of aerials and masts etc erected on the grass outside the museum. Alf and his merry men have done a superb job with the limited funds at their disposal.
When one stood outside the museum and looked around it was amazing to see how much of the Henlow which we had all known had disappeared under the attentions of the bulldozers and the scrap merchants. The railway lines have gone, all the wooden huts we knew so well have disappeared, the large hangars are no longer there and many of the other temporarily permanent buildings have finally vanished. But I have to admit it does look a lot nicer now, even the grass seems greener.
The evening got started with the free bar opening at 18-30hrs and everyone poured in. The mess was beautifully laid out, with tables set ready for the buffet and we had full use of the function room as well as the bar and the dining room.
The buffet was, in my opinion, the best buffet we have ever had at any of the reunions held so far. Everyone I spoke to was full of praise for the food. The mess catering staff really did us proud.
Unfortunately the music man was unable to attend due to another engagement but he had left the equipment out for us to use. Eddie Bellamy set it up with some background music for us and I don't think anyone missed the exercise period. They were all too busy talking and lamp swinging to do any dancing.

Ex-Riggers  Jack Holman,  Baz White,  Paul Bennett  and   Dave Faulkner enjoying a quiet chat.

The bar staff were very fast, efficient and pleasant. At one of the earlier reunions which shall be nameless,the bar staff all looked as though they were doing community service, rather than serving customers.
The Free bar worked well and with Sergeant's mess prices the free beer fund lasted all evening and the small amount left over when the bar closed at 01-00hrs was donated to mess charities.
I have written to Noel Jones the mess manager passing on our thanks for the superbly organised function he and all his staff laid on for us.
A highly successful and nostalgic reunion, Roll on 2009.

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5th Reunion September 2005, Lincoln University.

The reunion took place at The Atrium in Lincoln University on the 3rd September 2005. The number of members attending was not recorded.

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4th Reunion September 2003.

Held at the University of Lincoln and included visits to the Aerial Erector School at RAF Digby and Stenigot tower. Some 145 sat down to the dinner.

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3rd Reunion November 2001

Held at the Royal Armouries Museum Leeds where 160 people had a lively evening.

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2nd Reunion November 1999

Held in the Halifax Room at the Yorkshire Air Museum where 149 attended.

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1st Reunion November 1997

This was the first Re-union held by the association and took place in the Halifax Room, Yorkshire Air Museum near York (Ex R.A.F. Elvington).


Chris Cook and Matt Harper.


Bar conversations.


Some of the congregation.


Still more of the congregation.

123 riggers plus wives, girlfriends, live-in lovers etc. had a fantastic evening.

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GOLF

2017 RIGGERS OPEN GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP.
Friday 4th August.
Rutland County Golf Club.

The day was attended by 25 serving and ex-serving Riggers, all eager to display their prowess on the golf course.

The morning round was a fun team Texas scramble game plated on the 6 hole course. Names were drawn out of a hat so the groups were different to the afternoon event.
Once lunch was finished and people had had the opportunity to justify their Bandit high handicaps it was onto the main Stableford competition.
The weather was bright and dry with a stiff breeze which made for a good days golf.
The feedback I have received was very positive with everyone saying they'd enjoyed the day

This years winner of the Riggers Open was Cpl Gary Hobbs.
Gary seen above being presented with the Winners Cup and Green Jacket.
Gary had an excellent round of golf coming in with a score of 42 points.

2nd place went to Archie Stoddard with 37 points beating Chris Salmon on count back placing Chris 3rd also with 37 points.
Longest drive went to Paul Worrell and nearest the pin was won by Dion Sutherns.

Sgt John (Mitch) Mitchell won, not for the first time, the prize for most golf, scoring just 6 points over 18 holes. This may be a personal best. His trophy was kindly made by Sgt Paul Topping and looked really good.
Neil Pinner who works for SpanSet Ltd kindly provided many of the prizes as in previous years. A big THANK YOU to Neil and SpanSet for their continued support.
After the presentations had been made and much banter had been given, most people made their way home to reflect on how good/bad their round was.

There was however a small group who stayed over at RAF Wittering on Friday night and enjoyed the generous hospitality of Mick Purvis in the Golden Fleece, Stamford. The evening followed the usual rigger route with many a pintv sunk and tall tales told and Chris can personally testify that a most enjoyable evening was had by all.


2016 RIGGERS OPEN GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP.
Friday 8th July.
Rutland County Golf Club.

The Event was once again organised by WO Doc Foster and this year he was being assisted by Dave Crooks.

The 2016 Riggers' Open Golf Champion is Phil Hughes.

I have been unable to obtain the Full Results of this Event.


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