Reunion 2017
by Jem Tugwood
October 7/8

Hi Dickie,

Obviously something important prevented you attending this year's Reunion and we (many of us, missed you) I hope everything is well with you and your family.

Now where do I start, well, I guess much the same as last time I s'pose, this year we (Pam and I) brought my son Stephen and, his fiancée Claire with us because they know what I was, but have never seen what I used to do, so, what better than a live performance by some fine musicians belonging to the best military band in the world to show them.

We arrived in Portsmouth at about 1430 on Saturday afternoon and booked into our rooms at that venerable sanctuary of drinking and solace for Sailors and Marines for many many years, the Home Club. (it's called something else now but we all know it as the Home Club) Having completed our usual shopping trip to Gunwharf we repaired to the Home Club for preliminary drinks prior to the commencement of the reunion.

We were a little surprised because we didn't meet up with the usual crew who we always looked forward to meeting but no show, (I feel another hostelry might have grabbed their attention!) however we did meet up with John Cockwill and a friend whose name escapes me for now (apologies)

At 1930 we arrived at HMS Nelson and were welcomed at the mess with an extremely good tot of Rum and Bucks Fizz for the ladies (the Rum was extremely attractive so I sampled at least 3!!) Once inside the mess we met up with lots and lots of friends and acquaintances from all those years ago, now, let me attempt to remember a few names and I sincerely apologise to all those that I had the privilege of meeting up with, but have forgotten your names already but, your faces are still in the grey matter somewhere so you are not forgotten.

Let's get going then, Dave Stockham and his lovely wife Linda, Mike Thompson (Tommo 2), Olly, Pat Hill, Tom Scade who I haven't seen once 1983, Laurie Lovelace, Roger Hollingworth, Barrie Pettitt, Mick Hickman and Jim Rider (another whom I haven't seen since 1980) Mike Hutton and my old friend Hookey Walker to name but a few, for those whose names I forget at this moment in time, I blame "old timer's!!!" Now where was I?

Oh yes, we next got the instructions to go to the Gym to witness the Beat Retreat by the Junior band (I think that was who they were because there were only 3 instructors in it). The performance was superb, the marching and drill were second to none, the display was slightly different this year inasmuch they marched on in slow time breaking into quick march once they were central in the gym, interesting but well performed, the music was brilliant, unfortunately we were not given a programme of music and although the band broke into a march we've all played a hundred times I'm damned if I can remember the name of it now. However once the usual quick/slow routine was completed the band then formed up facing the audience in a wide formation rather than long i.e. front to back.

An arrangement of Lord of the Dance was played beautifully and, coupled with a brilliant display of drumming and stick drill by the Corps of Drums made it terrifically complete, thank you very much all the members of the band and drums and I'm not forgetting the immaculate Drum Major who, like all his former colleagues was a credit to the Corps. Following the display Col Nick Grace spoke informing us that this was his last weekend in the band service before retiring after 35 years and, conducting the orchestra at the Cathedral tomorrow for the Memorial Service would be his very last "gig" (my words not his), 8 MFM's, Edinburgh Tattoos etc etc I guess we all have similar memories but not as a PDM!

Col Grace also introduced us to the next PDM a Col Ridley I believe.

It was back to the mess for much lamp swinging and quaffing of ale. An excellent curry was also prepared for us and much better than last year so a big thank you to the chef. After breakfast on Sunday morning we made our way to Portsmouth Cathedral to be part of the Memorial Day Service, the music selected for this occasion was a really nice choice the orchestra were seated and ready to go, the first piece was March Militaire by Franz Schubert and a joy to listen to. Second up was Schubert's Unfinished Symphony 2nd movement and last but not least we heard Mendelssohn's Scottish symphony 3rd movement. I have to say the orchestra played all three pieces absolutely beautifully, I heard some lovely Oboe and Clarinet playing, it was obvious the Brass were having a whale of a time and the strings were the proverbial cherry on top. I congratulate the orchestra on their exceptional playing on Col Grace's last engagement you made his and our day.

The Choir were again tremendous but I did take exception when they were singing The Anthem (words: Te Deum Laudamus) when twice we experienced a dreadful noise coming from 22 horns situated up high in the nave above the orchestra (hope I've got that right) they are called Trompete de Maris sea trumpets and they were made by Nicholson & co. They are connected to the organ but to me they sounded like that loud fog horn heard off the Deal coast when we were band boys. Can't quite understand what they added to the sound of a beautiful Choir, and it certainly didn't do much for anyone I spoke to afterwards.

Well enough of this, I've gone on long enough other than to say to the Band and Orchestra, you did your former boss and us, proud and, to Col Grace, Good luck in whatever new venture you take up.

Best wishes Dickie


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