CHAIRMAN’S  REPORT FOR 2019

The proceedings of last year’s AGM were reported in the newsletter and I have again attempted to keep members informed of what has been going on during the year although there has not been a newsletter every month.  As well as information about Branch activities, I have included material selected from RHQ updates and news of matters in our area of interest to veterans.

During the year we have lost a number of our members.  Jim Patterson, Maureen Bunce, Walter Cooper, Brenda Bethell and Doug Linford.  Where funeral arrangements were known, members were able to attend and pay their respects and when appropriate, Dusty carried the standard.  I belatedly discovered that Dr John Taylor had died in 2016; he was 95.  Sadly, the family had not informed us of his passing.  We have also attended funerals of several REME and other veterans in the area.  One individual who deserves a special mention is Capt Jamie Stewart, the PSAO of 148 Coy who died suddenly in April.  Jamie had given us excellent support at the Reserve Centre.  May they rest in Peace.

The Branch continues to meet at the Kingsway Reserve Centre. Meetings have reverted to the first Tuesday of the month to coincide with 148 Coy’s new parade night following 104 Bn’s amalgamation with 103 Bn.  There were no meetings in March or December.

Average attendance at branch meetings, has fallen slightly to 15.  Clearly, due to an aging membership who do not like turning out at night or leaving their partners alone, this is unlikely to change significantly unless we attract some new members.  The regular supply of sandwiches, with or without marmite, from Ross has gone down well but we have been reliant on the availability of ASM West, who has been covering the PSAO’s duties, to open the bar.

I will summarise the last 12 months of Branch activities.

  • We held our AGM on 6th Feb 2019. Sadly there were only 12 members present.  The committee was re-elected as before.  The financial report was produced and we agreed the charitable donations that we proposed to make during the year.
  • There was no Branch meeting in March as a number of us helped Nick Everitt to celebrate his 50th birthday party. It was a good night but the disco made conversation difficult.
  • On 1st April several members and friends visited the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby.  We had special treatment by the guides thanks to Don Pringle’s brother who works as an avionics tech on site and learned a great deal about aircraft development during WW2 and the operational history of the individual aircraft and their crews.
  • A number of us attended the Annual REME Reunion at The Royal Court Hotel Coventry on 26th – 29th It was a good get together but the food was rather mediocre and some of the bedroom accommodation was not up to standard.  Many Association members commented at the conference and in the feedback questionnaires which has resulted in a change of venue for the 2020 reunion.
  • Branch members attended the REME Memorial Day at the NMA on Thursday 23rd The  well managed service, which included dedication of stones to recognise the contribution of the Airborne and Commando elements of REME, was followed by a buffet lunch in the new NMA hospitality hall.  The weather was splendid.
  • The Branch BBQ took place on Saturday 8th June at John and Dorothy’s. The weather was inclement so instead of erecting the marquee, we set up in John’s garage and “cowshed”.  Despite the weather, there were 25 in attendance and we had a good time.  The food was good and, of course, there was ample to drink.
  • On Saturday 29th June the Branch had a stand in Derby Market Place for Armed Forces Day. We had a small marquee with a table and display boards provided by Bob Giles from Shropshire Branch which showed activities of Regular REME, REME Association events and a special section for our own branch.  The location, although offering a decent space, was away from the general public in the town centre.  Nevertheless, a steady trickle of passers-by stopped and gave us donations for the miscellaneous goodies that we had left over from previous years.  Although some ex REME and their relatives showed interest, they were not local and did not wish to join the branch.
  • The Branch Cheese and Wine was on Sunday 21st July at John and Dorothy’s. The weather was much better than that for the BBQ so the marquee went up.  There was a good turnout and we had a fine time with good food and of course wine.
  • On 9th July, five of us visited the Gypsum Mine at East Leake. After a briefing on the history, layout and operation of the mine, we travelled about 4 miles underground in all-wheel drive vehicles to one the current working faces.  The mine runs using very few humans due to some very sophisticated equipment and a good management plan.  This was an informative visit.  We followed the visit with a pub lunch.
  • On Tuesday 30th July 12 members visited Nottingham University’s Automated Dairy at Sutton Bonnington.  The site trains students in animal husbandry and acts as a national research centre for establishing optimum ways of rearing dairy cattle.  The cattle are fed on various diets and the health and milk output of each beast is monitored.  We saw comparative methods of management and robots which milk the cattle and clear the poo.  The fascinating visit was followed with a pub lunch.
  • On 2nd August we visited the Erewash Canal Preservation Society at Langley Mill where several canals meet. We saw the results of the restorative efforts of the society on historic infrastructure and the engineering support system they have developed for supporting their activities.  The volunteers use traditional engineering skills, improvising with materials acquired at minimal cost, to achieve success; some jobs taking many years to complete.  Our visit was again followed by a pub lunch.
  • On Wednesday 14th August 13 members including one widow met at the Nottingham Club for a Club Lunch. After a welcome glass of bubbly in the club room we progressed to a private dining room for a lunch of excellent food followed by coffee and port.  We enjoyed a most pleasant afternoon, especially as it was tipping down outside.
  • On Saturday 17th August, the Branch was well represented at the Rotary Club of Long Eaton’s Annual Gala at Trent College. There was live music, sandwiches and cream teas and the weather stayed fine!
  • Our Annual Dinner took place at the Kingsway Reserve Centre on Saturday the 12th After drinks in the bar, 42, including several from the Shropshire Branch, sat down to a splendid meal prepared and served by the reservist chefs.  Our principal guests were Lt Col Paul Rees who holds an SO1 post for Reserves in RHQ and WO1 (ASM) Shane West representing 103 Bn REME.  Paul talked about how the MOD and REME in particular are adapting to meet the threats facing the UK today.  Our president, John, gave a resume of what the Branch had been up to during the previous 12 months and also presented the John Law Award.  Normally, this goes to a branch member who has made a significant contribution to the Branch during the year.  This year, we made an exception and the award was given to Bob Giles of the Shropshire Branch in recognition of his support of our branch for Armed Forces Day.  Bob brought examples of his display to the dinner for all to appreciate.  We finished the evening off in the bar where we had a raffle.
  • On Remembrance Sunday there was a parade in Derby Market Place. Dusty carried the standard and John laid a wreath on behalf of the Branch. Afterwards, members enjoyed a curry lunch with 148 Coy.
  • Members of the committee met at the end of November for a club lunch to celebrate St Eligius Day.
  • We had no formal meeting in December but on Monday the 2nd, the wider membership did get together socially with 170 Engineer Regt LAD to celebrate St Eligius Day. Starting at Chilwell, we had formal photos, a team engineering challenge using less than ideal materials and a church service. We then drove to Wollaton RBL for a quiz evening where our branch covered the cost of the buffet.
  • On 7th December, we had our branch Christmas party at John and Dorothy’s. There was a good turnout and the food that everyone supplied was excellent.  The food was followed by a quiz.
  • On 14th December, a good number of branch members joined 148 Coy for their Christmas Party at the Reserve Centre. The food prepared by Wally was excellent.  There was also some entertainment in the bar but this was rather loud for many of us so we settled in to the games room.

Of course, the programme of activities would not be possible without the major contributions of a few individuals, mainly the committee, their spouses and those who organised the visits.  If you wish these activities and potentially others to continue, please offer to assist.  In particular we need a secretary.