The Eastern Branch was formed in 2002 by David and Patricia Clark who realised that there was a need for members who could not, for one reason or another, attend the AGM. To form the branch, David obtained the Association members’ list and sent out personal invitations to all members who lived in East London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Suffolk. Having got a positive response from 26 members, David found a suitable venue and a caterer to provide a buffet lunch. The first reunion was held in October 2002 and has been held annually ever since. The branch is financially independent of the Association as it would not be viable for the Association to support extraneous groups. Funds are raised by charging a small percentage over the cost of lunch, drinks, the venue, and running a raffle. Our current surplus is around £200. This enables the branch to donate to RAF charities, such as the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park and the RAF Benevolent Fund. Wives, partners and friends are always welcome as are any ex-RAF of ex-WAAF who would like to spend the day reminiscing about their time back in the Mob.
The current venue is the Downham Village Hall a couple of miles north of Billericay, Essex, just off the A12. The format of the day is arrival at 12 noon, then drinks (included) and chat until lunch at 1300. A very popular buffet lunch is provided by Gina of Food for Thought. There is always more than enough even after two or three trips to the table. So Patricia provides doggie bags to take the leftovers home.
After lunch, two or three volunteers talk about their experiences in the RAF. These talks are always entertaining. Our wives especially find it very amusing to hear what their spouses got up to in their misspent youth! We have heard of a Canberra crew who nipped over the Iron Curtain and ‘accidentally’ blew down a few East German radio aerials; a trainee pilot who failed his aircrew test by landing a Tiger Moth upside-down! And one speaker was telling of the time during the freeze of 1947 when most training camps were sending trainees home because of frozen pipes. Not so Yatesbury. Orders were that all doors and windows in ablutions blocks were to be kept firmly shut to avoid freezing. Our speaker and an oppo went round the camp one night opening all the doors and windows ensuring that the water was well and truly frozen by the morning and the all trainees were sent home. At this point one of the audience said, “So it was you, was it? I was Orderly Sergeant that day and I spent a long time trying to find out who did it. Now I know!”‘. Much laughter ensued.