Warwick 1998


When Mick Conway and I booked the Chesford Grange Hotel near Warwick for Dawn Watchers ’98 it seemed like the ideal venue – close to the River Avon, handy for the shops in Leamington Spa and near to Warwick Castle.  Little did we know that mother nature was about to intervene and send the worst floods this century to the area on our weekend.  Fortunately, the Chesford Grange is situated on the English equivalent of Mount Ararat and two by two (or in Noddy Jones’ case, one by one) the Dawn Watchers struggled through.  Nick Collett and Chris, having driven all the way from Germany, got uneventfully as far as Leamington Spa and then had to take a huge umleitung round the floods.  Malc Bryant flew from the hot and dusty climes of New South Wales to bring his wife Hela to her first Dawn Watchers to see more water than there is in the Tasman Sea (now he knows why he emigrated).

On the initial recce, Kenilworth was discovered to have a Malaysian restaurant, called Raffles no less, and an astonished manager was delighted to take a dinner booking for 23 on the Friday night.  Everyone enjoyed a wonderfully authentic meal washed down with Tiger beer and Singapore  Gin Slings.  On returning to the hotel and meeting up with the late arrivals, a few pints and stories soon brought out the liar dice and the 60s music, then the biennial time warp took place to transport us all back to Ayer Rajah Road.  Needless to say, Dave Peaks retained the liar dice championship.

On Saturday, as usual, people were left to their own devices.  Some went shopping, some visited Warwick Castle or Stratford-upon-Avon, but Dave Mackney had to go to the pictures as he had spent Maureen’s shopping money on Friday night.  

Saturday night commenced with wine, provided courtesy of the hotel management, in the Terrace Bar.  Numbers soon swelled to over sixty with the old hands being joined for the first time by Bill Ward and Joan, Matt Leggatt and Lorraine, Bill partridge and Remedios and Andy Davis.  Making welcome reappearances were John Barnes (recovering from a long illness), Ivan Clark and Brian Fozard, who added a new dimension by making it a family occasion.  As well as his wife Sandra, Brian was accompanied by his daughter who was home from university.  Well done Brian!  Touches like that make Dawn Watchers get-togethers so much more special.

Once again we enjoyed a wonderful carved buffet capable of gracing any Officers' or Sergeants' Mess function.  This year the centrepiece was a montage of photographs, complete with amusing captions, from Eastbourne ’96.  As soon as the meal was finished, we had the usual interval when Mick reminds us all that some, such as Bob McCrindle and Rosemary Brogden, are not in the best of health and the company toasts absent friends.

After a few words from our Gurkha Welfare Rep, Geoff Wightman, and our President, Jim Rousell, we held the customary raffle.

The ’98 duck, named Dizzy and dressed in Chinese costume, was won by Ivan Clark; yours truly won a set of luggage for Dawn Watchers 2000 donated by Mick Roberts and Kay, and the main prize of a weekend for two in any Principal Hotel, kindly donated by the hotel management, was won by an overwhelmed Pete Pugh, who went away muttering ‘But I never win anything!’

There followed music and dancing until midnight when the survivors retired to the Resident’s Bar.  It is encouraging to note that an increasing number are starting to stay for Sunday as well, but next time we meet we will not have to worry about Sunday morning, as Dawn Watchers 2000 will take place in the Far East with Penang as the climax of a two week tour of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula.  Mick and I have already been working to put the memory lane to end all memory lanes' together, so remember – get on List A or List B as soon as you can – WE’RE GOING BACK!

The itinerary will be Heathrow- Singapore – Malacca – Kuala Lumpur – Cameron Highlands – Penang – Heathrow.

[Dave Wakelam]