|City Barge brought two elegant gondolas and the 'Royal Thamesis' shallop, a replica of the ornate six-oared Royal Barge built for Queen May in 1689. Unfortunately, following launching problems at Windsor, it arrived too late to take centre-stage in the sail-past but it still provided a spectacular sight on the river. The Fleet Air Arm, together with its 'Fly Navy' Heritage Trust which exists to keep its historic aircraft in operation, is always keen to support our events, and brought an impressive display including a very large model aircraft carrier which was electrically-powered to pitch and roll as if in a gale. Children (and not a few adults as well!) were invited to assemble a variety of balsa wood model aircraft and fly them, with the aid of a rubber catapult, off the deck into a distant net. Those who succeeded got to keep their aircraft while those who did not kept trying until they did while everyone, it seemed, was totally absorbed in the fun of it all!
Many others supported the day including innumerable Dragon Boats, launches and skiffs of several local clubs, while the Surrey Police and Surrey Fire Brigade turned up with a mixture of historic and modern vehicles plus seemingly countless but very helpful and enthusiastic officers. Unfortunately our planned flypasts, by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and by the Swordfish and Seafire of the FAA, came to nothing through the intransigence of Heathrow Air Traffic Control.
One of the undoubted successes of the day was the charter of the 1898 coal-fired steam launch SL Nuneham to run trips every hour from the rally field upstream through one of the prettiest reaches of the Thames. This elegant and sleek 90ft teak-and-brass vessel with its almost silent triple-expansion engine proved so popular it was filled to capacity on the later trips and it was necessary (pleasantly so) to extend the charter to meet the demand.
WH Bence Coachworks Ltd, a Bristol firm which produces massive custom-built vehicles for all manner of purposes, generously provided us with a vast marquee (which, along with other displays, housed the Club Shop) and a huge pantechnicon with a luxury reception area, a verandah for speeches and announcements and an elegant awning where morning coffee and, later, lengthy and very fulfilling lunches were served. Many, however, opted for a traditional picnic beside their cars or on the river bank where the weather suited such arrangements and since then, many members have proposed we come back to this pleasant venue in the future, even suggesting it is one of the best we have ever had.
And I must not forget to mention the raffle, which was a record thanks to so many generous donors (and equally generous subscribers), nor the Egham Brass Band who, with their sterling music, helped turn the whole day into a very delightful and special occasion.
Others, whom I have simply forgotten to thank, may deservedly berate me later.
Andy Courtney - Secretary of the Meeting