XI SQUADRON ASSOCIATION REUNION
JUNE 10th - 12th 2005,
RAF LEEMING

This year's reunion was held earlier in the year than has been usual, due to the Squadron disbanding in October. I picked Frank Proctor up at Newcastle airport at 8.30 am and, as his plane wasn’t late, we arrived at Leeming in good time. Checking in at the Guardroom, we were met by one of the aircrew and were directed to park on the ’lazy’ runway adjacent to the HAS area. It was nice to see a Gloster Javelin on loan from Elvington parked just behind where we were parked, painted in XI Squadron colours. There were quite a few people already there and a lot of acquaintances were renewed.

After lunch in the 'Feeder,’ there was a cricket match and a game of football between the aircrew and ground crew with the oldest ball boy on the airfield! Frank went to watch the football and ended up running around collecting the ball every time it went out of play! Outside the Pilots crew room there was a tent selling raffle tickets with prizes including a bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, a polished pewter tankard and another tankard. All proceeds from this went to the party on the Saturday evening. The top three prizes eventually being won by Association members!! Gradually we all made our way back to our respective hotels by car. In the past we have had the luxury of being able to use MOD coaches, but it seems we are not insured in them off-base. This caused a major headache for Ted Threapleton with just two weeks to go before the reunion. He had to start hunting around for contract coaches, which he managed to do, but at a cost. To hire the two coaches we used over the weekend cost £800, We were all charged £2.00 per person, but this didn’t go anyway near to paying the bill.

The coaches picked us up at our respective hotels and took us to the Officer's Mess for our annual Association Dinner. With this year being our 90th Anniversary, ladies were invited, bringing some well deserved glamour to the proceedings! The total sitting down to dinner was close to 140, and the Officer's Mess pulled out all the stops to get everyone seated, and as usual laid on a splendid meal and did us proud. It was nice to see so many members attending this year, many we haven’t seen for a long time. After dinner, Wing Commander Tetlow gave his speech (parts of which went down better than the rest!). This was followed by a speech from our President in which he regaled us with a story of the 'Chilli Judge'. After dinner it was into the bar for drinks and chat until the coach arrived to take us back to our hotels.

After a hearty breakfast we drove back to the Squadron on Saturday morning. Again we were parked on the lazy runway, and a good job too. This was also a families day and all around the HAS site there were static aircraft on display, rides for the children and food and drink stalls. Visiting aircraft included a new Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado GR.4, Chinook and a Hurricane to mention just a few. The highlight of the afternoon was to be a Diamond 9 formation flypast by the Squadron. The Boss was taken out to lead the formation in a Trabant brought over by one the Aircrew and re-painted in Squadron markings! There was also a solo display by a 56(R) Squadron Tornado F.3 and the BBMF Hurricane. I must admit the Hurricane sounded a lot ’sweeter’ than the Tornado F.3!

BBMF Hurricane. Photo © Neil Pearson
Gloster Javelin. Photo © Neil Pearson
Wg Cdr Tetlow's new transport!

Watching the flying displays. Photo © Neil Pearson

CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS

After the flying display we held the AGM in the Ante Room in the Officer's Mess. It was decided that we would not, for the time being, introduce annual subscriptions. Next year's reunion venue was discussed (more on that at a later date). I then informed everyone of the members who had passed away since the last reunion. Charles Watson, our oldest member, who flew in Bristol Fighters in WW1, passed away on January1st .On the very same day we lost John ’Taffy’ Richards, who was our oldest WW2 member. We then lost Gordon Palmer, who was our Secretary for over 20 years and did so much for the Association. The following day, Arthur Elmer, who was a Hurricane pilot, passed away. He left XI Squadron at Magwe when they re-equipped with Spitfires, and ended up as a W.O. Pilot.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

After the AGM we went back to our hotels to get ready for the party in the hanger. The coaches duly picked us up and took us to Hanger 1. When we walked in the door we were met with a fantastic sight. The hanger had been decorated in black and yellow drapes, with black Eagles every 20 feet or so! At one end of the hanger was a stage flanked by a Tornado F.3 and a Typhoon (with temporary XI Squadron markings!). A string quartet was playing on the stage, and we were greeted with a glass of Champagne. Along one side of the hanger was a Buffet, and along the other was a Bar (most important!!). A big thank you to all of you who donated prizes for our annual raffle. We had bottles, paintings, mugs and T shirts, DVD player and personal CD player - in total 56 prizes. At the end of the evening we (you) had raised a total of £1250 for the Association funds. Thank you all very much. There were some prizes that were not claimed and these are in storage for next year's reunion! The string quartet was replaced by a band playing more modern music and the dancing started. This went on until the small hours of the morning. Quite a lot of the Association members left on the ’midnight run’, but a few stalwarts stayed the distance and left on the 2am coach back to their respective hotels. This was one of the best reunions I have attended.

Our thanks to all the serving members of XI(F) Squadron for all their hard work and the hospitality shown to us over the weekend.

Thank you,

Ian Coates
July 2005