5th Reunion - 16 Signal Regiment - Rheindahlen - Garrison - September 2000
L to R
Taff Powell - John Turvey - Sue Harper - Gorden Harper - Audrey Grainge - Dickie Grainge - Noreen Dixon - Pete Weedon - John Dixon - Roger Sparks - Gordon Park - Anne Ferrier - Bill Higgs - Jim Brookes - Trev Davies - Teri Crowe - Dennis Gunn - Jean Drew - David Parker - Ray Drew - Tom Watta - Diane Green - Chris Abbott - Hazel Hebden - Rae White - Ted Hebden - Chris Cottam
The 2000 Reunion
By Hazel Hebden
The first of the intrepid travellers arrive at Rheindahlen to be greeted by S/Sgt. Dave Coleman and Jim Brooks. As there had been a problem with the booking – the regiment with very little notice had sorted out alternative accommodation. (Dave Coleman working well under pressure!). We were shown to the accommodation by Dave and looking around it brought back memories of how we used to live in those long off days when we were all single and serving members of the regiment. A quick tour around the block and horror of horrors, we had to share the loos and showers!!!! During the next few days shouts could be heard down the corridor "Toilets are empty – you can go in ladies, or OK gents it's your turn.
We were left to settle in then Ted and I decided on a walk to the camp centre. Having never been posted to Rheindahlen the scale of it is comparison with Bradbury Barracks is quite overwhelming and very impersonal. We were back in time to go to the JR restaurant for tea where we totally confused the cook as he thought that we were a visiting cricket team!!
Informed by Dave that we were welcome to go to the mess for a drink after the mess meeting we took turns in the shower and the loos and got ready for our first
sojourn to the mess. Little did the seniors know what was in store for them? I'm sure they were expecting a load of old fogies that drank half pints of stout and glasses of sweet sherry but as usual we were about to prove them wrong. RSM John Fradley said hr would have a couple of drinks with us and get off home. Gone midnight and we was still in the mess with John sorting out transport for us although we had said we would walk back to the accommodation.
Friday 1st September.
Midmorning and more arrivals, Chris Bartlett being one of them. With a few hours free Hazel, Ted, Sue, & Gordon decided on a trip into Moenchengladbach. A quick tour of the shops and back for our visit to the Regt lines. We were divided into three groups and I think the overwhelming feeling was that the time spent in the OC's office drinking port was really the the best part especially when served by a very handsome young captain.
In the evening the address by the CO took place at the Sgts Mess and this was when we had a chance to catch up on news with friends and to get to know the members of the mess who made us feel very welcome. Of course it was very late again when we left the mess and the drivers were about to find out that the bar may close at 11pm but time means nothing to us and early nights are unheard of. As they sat outside with the transport wondering whether any of us would actually stop drinking and call it a night, they must have been awash with soft drinks that people took out to them, but the drivers were good fun, very polite and very tolerant! being like that throughout our visit.
Saturday 2nd September.
This was the day that no one would ever forget. As I ventured out into the corridor at 0730hrs wondering why there were policemen there I was told the sad news about Chris. I think it would be fair to say that everyone was stunned. The regiment quickly took charge and called our drivers to take us all to breakfast so that the police could do their work and give us a chance to gather our thoughts.
We were whisked off to the mess after breakfast where with tea and coffee on tap he RSM gave us ime to all decide what we would like to do. Do we carry on the itinery as planned by Chris or do we call it a day and go home? The decision didn't take long, unanimously we decided to carry on, that is what Chris would have wanted.
Off we went for a visit to 7 Sigs, Bradbury Barracks where they had laid on lunch for us. The regiment offered their condolences and we were left to use the afternoon as we wanted and most opted for a walk around the camp which has not really changed since we were all stationed there.
Back at 16 Sigs it was a games and quiz night and I think we were all a little bit unsure whether or not it would actually work with such a mixture of feelings going through everyone's mind. The RSM passed on condolences and asked for a minute's silence. This I think gave everyone that quiet moment to really decide that the weekend had to be a success and we owed it to Chris to have a good time. and boy did we do that. With Dennis singing 60's songs, Terry's team winning the quiz and the men going back to their childhood and playing with scaletrix. The play station drew a big crowd and when I went to see why it was so popular - lo and behold - football! (England was playing). I don't really remember what time it all finished but needless to say we were last again.
Sunday 3rd September.
Photo call and along to the Regimental wall for the official photo before we all attended church. During the service prayers were said for Chris and his family and whatever your beliefs may be I think everyone found it comforting. After lunch (we seem to spend a lot of time on these visits eating & drinking) we had a visit to the exercise area. That dishy young captain was there to greet us and introduce us to other members of the regiment. A pretty young female det commander made the fells take note.
The Brigadier was inspecting the area and stopped to have a few words with us, which cukminated in him telling the CO that we should be invited to the march out of Bradbury Barracks. Back to the regiment for our AGM where it was decided to run the club by committee and spread the load ( see minutes of meeting). A present for the Sgt's mess was decided on and and also that we bought a tankard and have it engraved in the memory of Chris and that at each reunion it could be passed around.
And so the Wall and Willow in the evening. Young soldiers had been told to come and meet us and who were probably wishing they were somewhere else. Dave Coleman informed them that they might be in for a shock as we had drunk the members of the mess under the table 3 nights running. Taff had planned a musical quiz and the teams were made up of young and "old". One young soldier was quoted as saying, " I'm on extra duties and that's why I'm here but if extra duties are always like this I'd volunteer for them". She had a great night and thought that her friends who weren't there had missed out on a very enjoyable time. The youngsters were good fun after the initial few minutes when they all looked quite dubious as to whether they would have a good time or not. During the course of the evening we all got together to decide how we could say thank you to the regiment. We wanted to present the mess with a decanter but to do so in the mess meant that we would have to invite ourselves, which was a bit tricky. John Fradley came up with the suggestion that we went out for a meal to a Greek restaurant which seemed a good idea and so it was proposed that we dined out the RSM, Rob Hood, Dave Coleman + wives.
Monday 4th September.
Decanter and tankard bought we had a trip to MG for shopping. Sue and I had a quiet afternoon walking round Rheindahlen while Gordon and Ted had a meeting with the RSM. We visited the PX where we where beginning to think things were unbelievably cheap until it was pointed out to us by Bill Higgs that the prices were in US dollars! (why do the Americans do that when they are in Germany?).
We arrived at the restaurant with the feeling that at last we could say thank you properly for everything the seniors had done for us. We ate and drank our fill and Gordon gave a speech on behalf of all of us and presented the decanter to the mess, which was accepted by John & Rob. We presented a tankard to Dave for all his wonderful work in organising us and flowers were presented to the long suffering wives.
The tankard we bought in memory of Chris was duly filled and passed around everyone, a serious moment in an otherwise light hearted and enjoyable evening.
As all the wine had not been drunk I managed to salvage a container that had the wine in, filled it up and carefully carried it onto the bus, where it was passed around with great gusto and we did not spill a drop.
Tuesday 5th September.
Time for goodbyes, promises to keep in touch and looking forward to next year. The RSM arrived for a final goodbye and Gordon with his experience as a drill instructor mustered us in three ranks and at attention ready for inspection. But as John pointed out the army is much more laid back now and they did not do that "kind of thing". They would be more likely to go and sit down and have a coffee and discuss things. Reprobates no longer can be humiliated by having to march without berets on, no more being charged with being drunk and disorderly, it is left to your friends to get you back to bed. How things have change!!
A final Goodbye and everyone set off for home with Chris(Bud) Abbott taking Chris Bartlett's car back home. A final wave and we set off heading towards Rotterdam and home.