Falmouth 2010


Yes, dear reader, the Singapore Dawn Watchers have gone west – but we don’t mean in the same way that other reunion groups have gone west – we mean that our 2010 reunion was held in Falmouth, courtesy of Trev Luttrell who took on the job of organising this time.

Just in case you thought we had disappeared for ever; in 2006 we crossed the Channel (almost) to Guernsey courtesy of Mick and Kay Roberts, but unfortunately there was no match report. In 2008, we re-invaded the Fatherland for the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Dawn Watchers, and the 20th anniversary of the Dawn Watchers’ reunions, where Nik Collett and Dave Wakelam organised a weekend in Cologne. The match report was disseminated to the membership, but the Rose and Laurel version was hit by DII gremlins and the match report disappeared into cyberspace. So, here we are again!

Despite the proximity of this year’s reunion to the edge of the known world, 82 Dawn Watchers and their wives/partners turned up at the Falmouth Beach resort hotel, including a number attending for the first time. Yes indeed! After all this time, the reputation of the reunion as social event not to miss still exists and old buddies are still coming out of the woodwork, including Phil Llewellyn, who came from South Africa with his partner, Maggie. And thereby hangs a tale......... As Pam and I made the two day drive from Herford, via an overnight stop at Maidstone, the news about the Icelandic volcanic ash disruption to UK airspace broke. I hadn’t seen Phil, apart from a “ships that pass in the night” experience at Euston Station in 1988, and was beginning to worry that I might miss him again. Anyway, Pam and I stopped for a comfort break halfway between Maidstone and Falmouth, and as I left the cafe on the way back to the car, who should be stood outside but Phil! How weird is that? And then, and then; who should come round the corner but Mike and Deanna Ogglesby!! I thought “This must be an omen!”, and so it was; read on dear reader.

Trev and Daphne had done us proud and the hotel was suitably grand, in a terrific seafront location, although the breeze straight off the Atlantic made me feel quite homesick for North West Germany! Even whilst booking in at reception it was a constant round of handshakes and hugs, as we renewed old acquaintances from previous SDWS reunions. Then it was off to the room for a wash and brush up for the first event in the weekend’s calendar – a visit to the local Gurkha restaurant for some typical Far Eastern nosh. 

Over 50 Dawn Watchers and their partners crammed in to the restaurant, but despite the numbers the staff coped very well, and the food was excellent. Several of us sampled the house beer, Gurkha beer brewed in the Himalayan foothills of Horsham, and Pug H and I even managed to blag a few freebies. Pug H used his photos of him with Gurkhas in Borneo, and I was even more sneaky, using my kukri tattoo from Johnny Two-thumbs in Singapore. On a more serious note, Pug H then went on to present a plaque from 99 Gurhka Infantry Brigade to the restaurant manager as a thank you for their hard work, and the manager reciprocated with a glass kukri filled with Gurkha rum, which was immediately given to our property member, Dave Peaks. One of the waitresses had been born and raised in Singapore, and asked if she could have her photograph taken with the Dawn Watchers. It would have been churlish to refuse! And so back to the hotel bar, where we drank Tiger Beer brewed in Edinburgh until the small hours.

Next day, after an extremely hearty breakfast, the Dawn Watchers disappeared to do their own things for the day, such as visiting Land’s End, the Eden Project, and myriad other local attractions. However, everyone was careful to be back in time for the main event, apart from Tony and Linda McClenaghan, who received the unfortunate news that their house had been burgled, and had to return home immediately.

At 1930 hours, (1900 if you were Nik Collett) every body congregated, suited and booted, in the bar for pre-dinner drinks. Appearing for their first reunion were Robert and Lesley Langstaff, David and Margaret Dupre, Bill Helme (the scaleyback) and Irene, Phil and Maggie Llewellyn, and Carol McCrindle. Graham Warburton, resplendent in ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ cardigan, obviously hadn’t read dress regs, but seing as it was his first time, Mick Conway let him off the usual ten quid fine. Old hands returning to the fold after some time were Ali and Cec Barber, Paul and Renate Devoti, John Mole, and Mike and Liz Pilkington, who are the SDWS subject matter experts on cruises. We were also delighted to see two of our most cherished widows, Alison Smith and Muriel Spanholtz. Muriel had flown in from her home in Texas, USA! (Such is the attraction of a Dawn Watchers’ reunion, dear reader.) At 2000 hours the restaurant manager informed us that dinner was served. The function room was laid out in a most excellent manner and decorated once again with our posters and bunting donated by the Tiger Brewery. Mick Conway welcomed the Dawn Watchers, and Dave Wakelam gave the toast to absent friends, particularly our late President, Jim Rousell, who died suddenly not long after Cologne, and Pete Palmer who lost a long battle with illness just a few days before this reunion. On each table was a printed ‘Last Post’ of departed comrades, prepared by Pam Wakelam. 

A fantastic hot and cold buffet was served with a first class selection of puddings, including scones, jam and clotted cream. Some foodies were seen to go round for seconds, and some, no names no pack drill gave the puddings a real hammering. What the hell! It’s only cholesterol!

During dinner, Tony Greenfield announced the election results for our new President, brought on by the untimely death of Jim Rousell, in which Mick Conway was duly elected by a staggering majority, and Nik Collett was elected Secretary in Mick’s place. Willie Lawson has been nominated for President, but having lost his deposit, was drawn to offer everybody who voted for him a drink. That was a cheap round then, Willie! Dave Peaks, recently retired, was voted as SDWS Official Historian, to keep him active in his old age. Nik and Dave then conducted the raffle, for prizes donated by the Dawn Watchers, which raised £330 for the administration funds. The main prize, a free weekend for two was one by Nik, who very kindly donated it to Tony and Linda McClenaghan.

Before we took to the dance floor, we headed out on to the hotel lawn where Trev Luttrell had organised a Chinese fire lantern for each of the names on The Last Post. These were lit and launched into the skies over Falmouth by groups of Dawn Watchers, who then watched as they drifted off into the night in a poignant display of remembrance. Thank you Trev, for a super idea.

The hotel DJ, Craig, was a bit dubious about having to entertain such a venerable group, but like many DJs before him, was gobsmacked at the energy on display from eighty plus over sixties. He was even more gobsmacked when asked to organise an ‘Air Guitar’ contest. A number of ageing rockers took to the floor, and knocked their audience dead by performing to ‘Freebird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Dave Wakelam won, but admitted that knowing the song was a big help, and gratefully accepted his prize of a free pint from the judging committee. The dancing continued including a fine display by the ladies of ‘Dancing Queen’, then interrupted briefly by the usual performance of The Chelsea Pensioners, until 0100 hours. Then, surprise, surprise, is was back to the bar to be entertained by the guitars of Dave Peaks, and Eric ‘Fitzy’ Fitzsimons, accompanied by Pete Pugh on backing vocals and bodron, and Dave Wakelam on backing vocals and tambourine and bodron. Pete Pugh gave his usual outstanding version of 'Water Boy', accompanied by John Norman on snores. The sing song continued, fuelled by various beers, including the by now quite acceptable Edinburgh Tiger, until 0430 hours. Just to indicate how egalitarian we Dawn Watchers are, the last lady left at 0430 with the rest of the hard core - and just in case you’re wondering who that was – we’re quite prepared to bubble Pam Pugh!

Party animals that we are, there was an almost 100% attendance at breakfast, but then, it really was a superb breakfast! Obviously, quite a few of the gang had to drag themselves wearily off home, ready for work on Monday, but there were a few of us who stayed an extra night, and were therefore able to take a therapeutic walk along the stunning coastline to a small pub for lunch, accompanied by a few more beers. Unfortunately, Nik Collett wasn’t able to join us, as Chris dragged him off to the Eden Project. Big ‘Aaahh’ for Nik.

Evening approached and a few hardy souls remained. Off to sample the delights of Rick Stein’s Fish and Chip Shop went the Roberts’s and the Pughs. Bad move! Those of us who decided to have the hotel fish and chips thoroughly enjoyed our real chips and fish in crispy batter, washed down with a cold beer or three, Those who went off to Rick Steins returned disappointed and ripped off. One of the downsides of ordering ‘Catch of the Day’ is that sometimes there isn’t much choice, and at those prices..............

And so to Monday. This really was it – the end of another Dawn Watchers. Pam and I said our farewells and set off on the long trek back to Herford, but we were really lucky because the volcanic dust cloud was still hanging about and some of our fellow European based chums were marooned. They got home eventually, but that’s just another sandbag to pull up, isn’t it?

Where to next in 2012? Well, Jock Cassidy has offered up Stratford-upon-Avon. Ooer! Singapore Dawn Watchers and a bit of culture? That’ll be novel, dear reader. 

See you there (except you won’t unless you’re one of the most exclusive reunion groups still in existence)!

Oh, and by the way, Dave Peaks was Man of the Match! 

[Dave Wakelam]