Reunion 2002 - Photo Gallery This USED to be a parade ground
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The Cathedral Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury Old Portsmouth.
The Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury Old Portsmouth
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This USED to be a parade ground

[note] I wish to apologise unreservedly because of the great delay in posting this account of such a memorable weekend for me and I am sure for many others. My excuse (if it could be regarded as such) is that I have been, and presently am, preoccupied by family matters that I never imagined could happen. Not wishing to divulge more, I would like to thank you for understanding and I hope that my personal observation of a truly remarkable weekend will make the wait worth while.
Sincerely - Richard Valentine.

For those of us who have a vested interest in not just the past, but the present and the future of the Royal Marines band service, a select few attended a celebration of a family that is as unique today as it ever was. It is heart warming to see the diverse age group from the relatively recently retired to the very senior level, but non the less all having so much in common with one another.

Traveling from New York, my flight arrived early at London's Heathrow airport where I then took the shuttle to Alamo for the collection of my car rental for the couple of days that I had planned in Portsmouth. I was to drive to the Royal Sailor's Home Club, park, and not to touch the car until a couple of days later. My plan was carried through, thanks to my companions who were staying with me at the Home Club.

So, after the formalities at the car hire base I proceeded to find the M25 and then the M3 on my way to our meeting in Portsmouth. Tony Oliver and I had chatted several weeks earlier with a view to meet at about 0900 and then spring a surprise on one of our old colleagues before we went on to a wedding ceremony for someone whom I last saw in the flesh in 1976. Lynn James (the groom) better known as "Jamie" was a percussionist during his time in the service.

Part way through my drive down the M3 I stopped for a sandwich and a soft drink and to buy an "orange" card for my GSM phone. Marvelous technology which allows me to use a mobile phone on a pay-as-you-go basis and besides calls in and around the UK, I can make calls to any other country too. I called Tony Oliver who was at that time sitting in the Home Club with Jamie and Jackie Semple awaiting my arrival. Jamie didn't have a clue as to who they were waiting for.

Lynn James "Jamie" with children

Finding my way to the home club, I parked just past the building a short distance away from HM Dockyard. I gathered up my bags and walked towards the home club and as I walked through the front doors, saw directly in front of me a party of three individuals in deep conversation. As I approached, I saw Jamie look up and recognize me with that immaculate smile beaming forward to greet me. After a period of in-depth conversation we decided to disperse to our rooms to freshen up and prepare for the wedding. Meeting back in the reception area we took one or two photographs before we left for Fareham registry office. This is when I first set eyes on Jamie's sons. Immaculate young lads and a credit to their mom and dad.

We arrived at the registry office in ample time and after parking the cars we met up in the front yard of the building before entering at the appointed time. A pleasant enough day albeit a little windy but no rain I'm glad to say. We were summoned inside and Jamie and Beverly went into the room where a short while later we all would congregate for the short ceremony. Tony Oliver and I sat opposite each other and our looks and expressions were a curious combination. I think it was written all over our foreheads, "What are we doing here?" or, "Surely Jamie is NOT doing this again?" Our perplexed feelings have since been vanquished I'm happy to report. Besides Tony and I, there was a mix of family from Jamie's first marriage and of course his two youngsters.

To our surprise the clerk entered the room and asked Mr. Oliver and Mr. Valentine to follow her into the room where a briefing was taking place for the bride and groom. We had been chosen to be witnesses. The surprise that I had sprung on Jamie was one thing, but now he had topped it by springing one on me. I of course was pleased to be signatory on this special occasion, the story of how all this became to be will stay as Jamie and Bev's tale to tell and is not for me to divulge on this report. Suffice to say it's a very intriguing one and like many fairy tales, this has the happy ending.

Click on photo to see

After the short ceremony, during which Jamie stooped on bended knee to recount a poem that he had prepared for Bev. He delivered it to perfection and surely it brought a tear to the eye. I have to say that this is probably the most unusual wedding that I have ever attended. Tony and I duly signed the marriage certificate and then we took some photographs before dispersing through the rear exit of the building to a patio for more photos. Shortly after the completion of photos we all discussed the next move, which was to be the reception. We would meet up back at "The Three Crowns" just a couple of blocks away from the Home Club. Just as we were walking down the side alley of the registry office towards the street, by pure coincidence and a curious one at that, we met Rodney Preston who was attending the wedding following Jamie's. Ironic that I had been in touch with Rodney and Gill some weeks prior to ask Rodney if he was attending the reunion this year and due to his calendar for musical engagements informed me that he would not be able to attend. If it were not for my attending Jamie's wedding I would not have seen Rodney but fate had once again called the tune. Rodney, Jamie, Tony and myself served together at Eastney and were fellow "Yachties".

We left Fareham to return to Portsmouth. Tony and I had secured our room for the two nights stay and then we found a parking spot near the pub where our vehicles stayed up until the time we left to pursue either other business or for the return journey in my case on Monday morning. We entered the quiet pub with only a small group of people sitting at the end of the bar. Tony got the drinks in for us whilst we waited for the rest of the wedding party. We chatted with the waitress casually in between our own conversation and she asked where the wedding reception was being held. "Here!" was the abrupt reply. Indeed, it was an afternoon full of pleasant surprises as faces new and old showed up during the course of a long and tiring escapade, which of course culminated with the superb evenings events. Eventually Jamie and Bev, along with their families showed up and then followed many others making the afternoon a truly great event and enhanced even more by the immense wit of Jackie Semple who had flown over from Northern Ireland.

Time was creeping further toward the hour when we needed to get transportation to Whale Island for the reunion. We had been back to our accommodation to freshen up and change and ordered taxis. On arrival just over the bridge at HMS Excellent, I had noted the new guard house and my memory scanned back to the days when it was a very busy and active Naval base with a much stricter regime in place. We then drove up the hill towards the Warrant Officers and Senior Rates Mess past the area where the "in-liers" block used to be…I couldn't recall if it was still there or whether a new building had replaced it. I might have been a little tired at this point. Tiredness became quite the issue later on as you shall find if you are inclined to read further.