A “GRAND DAY OUT” at the National Memorial Arboretum on Saturday 12th May 2007 by Steve Brisk.
A dedicated five; Aussie Graves, Frank Conlan, Colin Svenson, Bobby Taylor and Steve Brisk set out from the hustle and bustle of Liverpool in a leisurely two vehicle convoy. We were headed south to join the Air Formation Signals Association in support; for the Blessing and Dedication of their Standard and the Planting and Blessing of a tree, Dedicated to the memory of those who served in the Air Support Signal Units.
There was a short pit stop at the Stafford services for a spot of Earl Grey or a cup of instant with the habitual buns kindly provided by Frank Conlan. The weather; we noted at this time was becoming blustery and colder as was pointed out by a number of passers-by. Arriving at the National Memorial Arboretum just in time for the rehearsal (we thought it was the real thing). There followed the expected get off the bus get on the bus for a few minutes until we discovered a programme.
The Service was lead by Rev Jim McManus Chaplain to the Air Formation Signals Association. We were encouraged to have a practice of a few lines of the Hymn “Brother, Sister, let me serve you.” We were all of sound voice and sang along merrily. Not quite as loud or the same as the “KOP” as Bobby Taylor would vouch for.
Lieutenant Colonel Pat Soward Historical Officer, Air Formation Signals Association gave the Address and enlightened us all into the history of Colours and Standards along with a brief résumé of the history of Air Formation Signals.
Mrs Pam Morgan, Almoner of the Air Formation Signals Association turned a page in the Association’s Book of Remembrance. The poem “A Soldier died today” was read by Mrs Morgan, it was well received and proved to be a very moving and emotive moment; resulting in a spontaneous round of applause.
The Last Post and Reveille was perfectly and aptly played by a member of the Royal Marines Association. The Standard Bearers were of smart turn out and performed admirably in a somewhat confined area.
The entire congregation was then lead by a lone Piper of 248 (Gurkha) Signal Squadron, 22nd Signal Regiment to the AFSA crescent where a tree was formally planted by Major Ian Blower, Officer Commanding 244 Signal Squadron and Major (Retired) Bernard Strange, late Officer Commanding 638 Signal Troop, Air Formation. During the blessing by Rev Jim McManus the wind had picked up somewhat and a few muscles of the Standard Bearers became noticeably strained.
Most of the congregation then retired to the visitors centre for a buffet lunch. As we (Liverpool Branch Dedicated 5) had our own provisions and were not staying overnight; we sadly declined an offer from Lieutenant Colonel Pat Soward to join the gathering for the buffet lunch, but to spend the rest of the time touring the gardens. One was a most impressive tour of the Burma Star Memorial Garden, with our very own Burma Star Veteran Aussie Graves.
It has to be said that although the weather was becoming worse by the minute we had a most enjoyable “GRAND DAY OUT”. Our thanks go to the Members of the AFSA, Rev Jim McManus and not forgetting the Staff and Guides of the National Memorial Arboretum.
Once again a good day was had by all.