RREC Central Southern Section
Past Events

Sunday 11 May 2008

Windsor Castle from The Brocas

The planning for this rally started at the end of May 2007 just after the 2007 Golden Jubilee SoE Rally was conceived and put in place. The Section Secretaries of Central Southern (TM) and Surrey (AC) met with Donald Longmore (DLB, a Surrey member of the RREC) to consider a larger than usual SoE Rally in 2008. With the theme in mind of celebrating the 'Events which contributed to our freedom', and to include the Dunkirk Little Ships, they surveyed a number of waterside venues including two Marinas, the Dorney Wood Lake and the Brocas at Eton. The Brocas was the most suitable, was available and permission was given by the owners, Eton College. It was agreed at a further meeting of members of Central Southern, SouthEastern and Surrey Section that the event would be called the ‘South of England Rally Riverside Charity Spectacular’ and that any financial surplus from the rally would be divided between the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Fund, CORDA (preventing heart disease and stroke) and the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation.

During the next eleven months countless contacts were made by telephone, email and by personal visits to dignitaries, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Associations, Trusts, the Royal Yacht Squadron, the armed forces, companies (both within and outside the RREC network), national and local authorities, contractors and other clubs. These included approaches to Buckingham Palace, the clergy, the local Mayor, Vera Lynn, Robin Knox-Johnson, Lord Montagu, Bletchley Park and numerous members of the House of Lords.   River Thames

During this time there were inevitable complications, setbacks and solutions. The CAA were sceptical about the BBMF flying so close to Heathrow (but relented by putting the airport ‘on hold’ for several minutes!) and flatly refused to have a WWII Fleet Air Arm Swordfish fly past at only 120 mph! Numerous members of the Royal Family declined an invitation (The Windsor Horse Show was on at the same weekend). The Brocas being open to the public (both on foot and on water) at all times, congestion and security (especially overnight) were quite a consideration on the ground and with regard to the proposed Sail Past embarkation and disembarkation of the VIP’s.

A recce of the Brocas made a week before the event found the grass extremely long, the remains of numerous bonfires and BBQ’s and all the rubbish bins overflowing. Fortunately on the Tuesday the grass was being ‘topped’ and the contractor had arranged frequent visits to empty the bins. The first elements of the rally began arriving on the Thursday and our overnight security guards came on duty. Apart from the usual bonfires and BBQ’s they also observed a drugs raid by the local police! On Friday the principal organisers were on site early to make preparations setting out the ground, positioning the hospitality vehicle, the marquee, auction lots, three toilet trailers (two with mains water and electricity) and lots of grass mowing. Friday night saw lots more ‘nightlife’ on the Brocas (English understatement!). Saturday dawned with lots more arrivals, P&A Wood with many splendid motor cars and the static Merlin engine, further auction lots, the Thames Valley Police exhibition trailer as well as ‘Trundling’ Trevor with the white lining machine. The field format was to park the Club motor cars in wide arcs and to this end the ride-on mower was used to close cut the grass in the arcs which were then followed by the white line machine.It must be mentioned here that the Chief Marshal,

Entrance   Trevor Yates, worked tirelessly all day in very hot conditions to complete this task - well done and thank you Trevor. The morning also saw the holding of the Silver Ghost Register AGM in the marquee. In the afternoon a telephone call was received from the Bentley (Crewe) hospitality vehicle to say that due to cars parked opposite overhanging trees in South Meadow Lane it was unable to enter the Brocas. The word soon went round and around twenty members and helpers went to see the problem. The problem was solved by the use of two trolley jacks (no, not raffle prizes) and a little manpower (the last 800 yards of the lorry's journey from Crewe had taken three hours!) When our security guards arrived in the evening it was beginning to look like a showground and there was much more for them to look after overnight.
The day dawned early on the Sunday (as it usually does in May) and from 7.30am there was great activity on the field, the field marshals arriving early, toilets commissioned, entry lanes set up with the Gate Marshals ‘office’, lots more exhibitors arriving and setting up including the Egham Brass Band. Before long, members and VIP’s began arriving (Royal Protection Squad et al), the Brocas quickly began to fill. The invited guests and dignitaries assembled at the Eton Boathouse and began to embark onto various Dunkirk Little Ships, MTB 102 and numerous other ships and boats. After disembarking from Gay Adventure (a Dunkirk Little Ship) Prince Michael of Kent was welcomed to the rally by Donald Longmore and Andy Courtney following the RYS cannon salute. Dame Vera Lynn was presented with a bouquet of flowers. Prince Michael then boarded an open vintage Bentley supplied by Haynes Motor Museum. Dame Vera Lynn and Lord Montagu boarded his Silver Ghost.

The rally was then officially opened by the Mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead followed by a blessing from the Reverend Jeff Wattley and a brief introduction to the three charities.

  Prince Michael of Kent

Lord Montague's Silver Ghost   Dame Vera Lynn and Lor Montague   Fly past

Egham Brass Band   At 11.25 the Brass Band struck up with the Dambusters March and at 11.26 the Lancaster and a Spitfire flew slowly ‘down the river’ at three hundred feet, banked left to avoid Windsor Castle and then right, around the Castle and off to other duties. A truly wonderful and moving sight and sound of those five Merlin engines.

Over five hundred Club motor cars (plus many non-Club cars) were on display and were visited by our intrepid raffle ticket sellers, particularly Jean Taylor, who sold over £1,000.00 worth.

At just after 2.30 Rupert Banner, from Bonham’s, started the auction. One of the boats sold but unfortunately none of the motor cars on offer. Other lots did sell including donated items and some where the rally benefited from an agreed commission.

Following the auction the presentation of the annual trophies took place. Each year a different judge makes his or her own subjective choice in one of the classes. Richard and Hilary Erskine (from Australia) judged Mr David Lees-Jones’ 1932 Rolls-Royce close-coupled four door Phantom II Continental by Thrupp and Maberley to be the best Pre WWII Club motor car. Mr Darren Collins judged the best post WWII Club motor car class and made the innovative choice of a matching pair of motor cars owned by Mr LJ Barber, they were a 1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow owned by him since new and an absolutely matching 1971 Bentley T type purchased by him in 2007. The Trophy of Elegance was judged by Mr James Strugnell and awarded to Dr Robert Hollamby's 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II DHC by HJM. The Best Club motor car of the Day was perceptively judged by Fred Fruth, ex Rolls-Royce and visiting from Austria, because the motor car was totally original and a credible choice being driven by young men (the grandsons of the owner) and the award was intended to be an encouragement to younger members. The motor car was a 1926 Rolls-Royce 20hp Doctor's Coupe by Cockshoot and owned by Mr D Crossley-Cooke. The trophies were presented to the winners by Club Chairman Suzanne Finch who was then presented with a bouquet of flowers.

It should also be said, perhaps at this point, that Fred was on a week's holiday to England and gave up more than three days of this time working extremely hard (especially) before, during and after the rally and considerably contributed to its success - thank you very much indeed Fred.

The raffle was then drawn for eleven high value prizes including a scale model of a Bentley Continental GTC kindly donated by Bentley Pangbourne. Total ticket sales exceeded £2,400.00, a record for any SoE - thank you to everyone who bought so generously.

It may take a few weeks to finalise the rally accounts but providing there are no nasty shocks there should be a worthwhile financial surplus to distribute to the three worthy charities. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this day such a success, to all the un-sung heroes who did their bit, sometimes without being asked. Thank you very much.

Ted Meachem - Clerk of the Course and Treasurer

Photos: Ted Meachem and Ian Burt.