On a bright but bitterly cold March day several members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke paid a visit to RAF Odiham. They were part of a privileged small group of people, the others being a helicopter enthusiasts club from the Midlands, who were allowed on the base to get close to one of the Chinook helicopters that fly in the local area.
The trip had been arranged some months ago when one of the Probus Club members, who is a retired RAF Group Captain, contacted the base to see if some of his fellow members could make this visit.
Gerry Anslow the current President of the Probus Club was delighted to go.
“We firstly went to a briefing room where we had a PowerPoint presentation by one of the pilots who showed how the Chinooks were used not only in theatres of war but also in civilian crisis like earthquakes and flooding.”
“The cycle of events leading to posting to Afghanistan was explained and we were amazed to learn that Camp Bastian is the size of Reading. Then we were taken out on to the pan to get a really good look at one of these wonderful machines”
Following an introduction by another pilot of the physical properties of the Mk2 version the visitors were allowed on board where they heard more details of the capabilities of this versatile helicopter. There are upgrades underway to bring all the Chinooks up to the same capability of the latest Mk 4.
One of the club’s members was on a voyage of remembrance. Geoff Twine of Bramley was stationed at RAF Odiham fifty eight years ago when two squadrons of Hawker Hunters were based there.
“It was wonderful to renew my relationship with this base but so much has changed in the intervening half century. It has grown out of all recognition and of course there has been the shift from being a fixed wing jet fighter base to being one of the main Chinook bases in the RAF. And to be able to sit in the cockpit of the Chinook was a great experience.”
The visit concluded with lunch in the Junior Ranks mess with the general opinion that things on the culinary front had also improved significantly since some of the members were in Her Majesty’s forces.
At last month’s evening meeting of the Probus Club of Basingstoke their guest speaker was Commodore Ian Gibb MBE whose talk was entitled “From Cadet to Commodore and Beyond”
Having spent 43 years at sea with the P&O group, and retiring in 1996, Commodore Gibb covered some of the interesting aspects of his career. He told the audience of retired professional and business men that having graduated from the School of Navigation in Southampton he entered the merchant marine as a cadet officer. Initially he was on cargo vessels but through a stroke of good fortune moved into the passenger ships side of P&O just as the market for passenger liners was changing.
The days of carrying mail and emigrants to Australia came to a close but with an eye on changing market conditions P&O recognised that there was growth potential in the holiday cruise market. A different style of vessel was needed so new ships were built. This expansion gave opportunities for advancement and Commodore Gibb became the captain of several well known cruise liners in the company’s fleet. The last one he captained was the Oriana which he had been closely involved in its build having been seconded to the ship yard during construction.
There were amusing anecdotes about life with cruise passengers, with most eating and drinking too much while on board. There was even an amusing side to death at sea when a deceased passenger was given a burial at sea and things went slightly awry. Fortunately the grieving widow was none the wiser.
The following 15 years were spent with the charity Trinity House, which is the organisation responsible for the buoys and light houses around the coast of England and Wales. He graduated to the position of being one of 32 elder brethren, some being members of the royal family, and sitting in its court of judgement to establish blame for maritime collisions.
The Probus Club of Basingstoke has an interesting programme of speakers and events and prospective members can gain more information about the scheduled activities by looking at their web site http://www.probusbasingstoke.wordpress.com or having a chat with their secretary Bryan Harvey on 01256 321473.