A good result with the report about the RAF Mountain Rescue Service from forty years ago with full pages in the Rabbiter, Kempshott Kourier and Villager (the Villager spread the report over two pages but reduced to fit on A4 for this scan). The Link ran the short version of the report and the Basinga ran it in their Extra web site while the CommunityAd for Bramley & Sherfield ran it as a full A5 page.
The Bramley Magazine did not feature our report and neither (I suspect) did the Loddon Valley Link.
This was a splendid visit to the home of the National Motor Museum along with other attractions at Beaulieu in the New Forest. The lovely weather together with schools’ half term meant that there were many visitors to this attraction including a number of members and spouses from our Probus Club.
It was not necessary to be a petrol head to enjoy the experience. But the place reeks of nostalgia as vehicles stirred our memories, sometimes from the distant past while others were quite recent.
The historic Palace House set by the Beaulieu River is full of character adjacent to which is the Secret Army exhibition developed in WW2. The Beaulieu Abbey ruins are surrounded by attractive gardens. Rides could be had on a vintage bus, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or on the monorail that wends around the park. There were several areas specifically aimed at young visitors.
Most people have heard of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service but know little about its history and how it operates. It was first organised during WW2 to rescue aircrew from the large number of aircraft crashes into high ground due to navigational errors and bad weather. In many cases the crews, although injured, had survived the impact due mainly to slow moving aircraft. However, the remote nature of the terrain coupled with the time taken for the station medical officer to assemble a search party, caused a disproportionate number of fatalities amongst the initial survivors
Today the rescue team is a highly organised professional body whose members, in recent years, also attend civil emergencies. While being regular members of the RAF they are volunteers and attend the equivalent of thirty weekends each year in training. Kempshott resident and Probus member, retired Squadron Leader Chris Perkins MVO, was a member of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service for several years and he recounted his recollections of a significant training exercise that took place four decades ago.
With today’s ease of access to mass travel, many team members may have been fortunate to experience overseas mountaineering in the Alps, Pyrenees or even to the Himalayas. Forty years ago, the situation was very different and the opportunities to mount expeditions to further areas of the globe were extremely limited.
Supported at high level it was agreed that a specialist training exercise would be undertaken to Mt Rainier in Washington State in the northwest of the USA. At 14,410 feet Mt Rainier was a dormant volcano in the Cascade mountains and while on this exercise the expedition members witnessed the eruption of Mount St Helens that caused worldwide disruption to communications and transport.
It was a major project involving a party of 15 personnel, all selected from RAF Mountain Rescue teams in Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire. The majority had alpine snow and ice climbing experience, and many were winter mountaineering instructors.
At that stage in his career, Chris was an Air Traffic Controller based at RAF Valley on Anglesey. During daylight hours it was busy with high intensity jet training for young pilots and provided a 24-hour NATO diversion facility for all manner of aircraft. The long night time hours on readiness in the radar room proved ideal for detailed expedition planning.
In those days before computers and word processers meant that documentation was produced as typed hard copy for signature and dispatched by surface post. Sometimes they were able to use the latest technology of a tele-printer. Frequent telephone liaison with USAF bases accessed their trans-Atlantic military networks and crucial contact with liaison agencies in Washington State. It was necessary to obtain approval for members of the British military to operate within the borders of the United States.
The logistics involved a RAF VC10 aircraft from Brize Norton on a training flight to familiarise several pilots with airfields across the US, transported the team via Ottawa to Washington DC, stopping overnight, then onwards via Dallas, Colorado Springs, Denver and San Francisco finally to Mather USAF base Sacramento. Instead of the planned lengthy Greyhound Bus journey up the west coast an opportune telephone call with a British Army liaison officer at Fort Lewis, revealed that his next-door neighbour commanded a C130 Hercules transport squadron at the adjacent McChord USAF base, and kindly agreed to fly down to pick up the expedition.
Vehicle hire of a Dodge mini-bus and cargo van awaited the arrival of the aircraft necessary for the movement of the team and equipment. During the two-week journey 2,400 miles were driven. Also arranged was base accommodation, purchase of the latest US Army Special Forces Long Range Patrol rations and appropriate National Park Permits for access and travel. And, importantly, connected the expedition with the Department of Emergency Services in Washington State.
Climatic conditions throughout the expedition were ideal. Daytime temperatures rarely fell below 30 degrees Celsius, and the nights remained clear but cold at height. Such conditions aided the night time ascent of Mt Rainier, however they caused numerous dangers on the descent from opening crevasses, collapsing ice bridges and rock falls.
At the end of the expedition period the party was offered USAF air passage back to the UK. However, it was decided to revisit the Greyhound Bus option to experience air-conditioned comfort overnight from Tacoma via Vancouver to Calgary. Again, RAF Command came up trumps, providing VC10 aircraft space to Brize Norton via Germany.
The Mt Rainier expedition, four decades ago, gave all expedition members valuable experience of mountaineering, backpacking at altitude, glacier travel plus proficiency of journeying into vast wilderness areas. It provided the team with improved practices for future emergencies in extremely difficult terrain.
This was a journey of a lifetime only made possible with invaluable military and civilian assistance. Evidence, perhaps, of the special relationship so often talked about between our two nations.
For the past two years we have been unable to hold our annual Golf Day due to COVID until this year when Richard Stettner arranged a Golf Day at Sherfield Oaks Golf Club at Sherfield on Loddon in September.
On the day we managed to arrange two Teams of three as there were some last-minute cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances.
1 – Jeff Grover, Richard Stettner & Geoff Twine
2 – Derek Roberts, Bryan Nagle and David Wickens.
It was good Bryan could join us as he had not been to our meetings since COVID started.
As we were playing 18 holes some of the less mobile of us hired golf carts. The weather was fine and having enjoyed refreshments we started at 11.30am.
We soon lost site of Team 1 as they disappeared into the distance. In Team 2 we were having a mixed game to say the least and going ‘off-piste’ on several occasions. Other delays were due to the golf carts having a safety feature that did not allow them to move forward if they were too near a hazard – it took a while to work this out, but they would only go in reverse!
The rest of the afternoon proved just as eventful with each of us having a combination of very good shots, bad shots and some golf balls never to be seen again! I even managed to leave my 8 iron somewhere on the golf course but a following golfer retrieved it and we were reunited.
Towards the end of the round we noticed Bryan was no longer following us only to find that he and the golf cart were in a ditch! Despite our best efforts it was well and truly stuck and with the weather closing in not sure what we would do. Luckily there was a ‘four ball’ behind us so when they saw our predicament, and with a great deal of effort, we managed to get it back onto the path. By now it was getting late so we decided to retreat to the clubhouse before a search party was sent out to find us!
Following a much-needed drink and bacon sandwiches the scores were totalled and the winner was announced – Jeff Grover with 33 points won the Shield.
Thanks go to Richard for arranging the Golf Day and everyone who participated on what proved to be very enjoyable and eventful day.
A good result for our publicity in the October publications with six magazines and the Basingstoke Gazette giving coverage to the report on Life on the Magistrates’ Bench. Perhaps the upright standing of the various editors encouraged their interest about the goings on in the local magistrates’ court.
The likes of sayings “You’re nicked!” and “Caught banged to rights” are not usually what a magistrate hears when dealing with the deeds of accused miscreants at the first level of the British legal system. Guest speaker at the latest meeting of the Probus Club of Basingstoke was Tony Hersh JP, who gave an insight into a day in the life of a Justice of the Peace.
He has been a magistrate in Basingstoke for about 5 years having spent a career in clinical research. He spoke about the history of magistrates, how long they have been in existence and the changes in their powers over time.
All cases start in this first tier of court justice which has a bench of usually three magistrates and work without a jury. They are limited to dealing with what are known as “summary offences” which include most motoring offences, minor criminal damage and common assault. Sometime burglary and drug offences. More serious cases, known as “indictable offences”, are sent to the Crown Court.
He illustrated the types of punishment open to magistrates using the Sentencing Guidelines which provide a boundary on magistrates’ judgements. They can impose fines, community service, driving bans and imprisonment up to 12 months. They can remand someone to prison to await trial at Crown Court which is one of the most difficult decisions magistrates have to make. Many months can pass before trial and if the defendant is then found not guilty, they receive no compensation for having spent time in prison.
Of particular interest, he demonstrated a series of actual cases ranging from shoplifting to fraud and assault among others. He presented the evidence and the stance of the prosecution and defence, and the various sentencing options open to the magistrates. The audience was asked what they thought was appropriate before he disclosed the actual sentence imposed and the reasons behind it.
Anyone can apply to become a magistrate and the court service desire such volunteers to represent society at large. Naturally checks are made about applicants and references are sought but people can apply from aged 18 upwards. Considerable training is undertaken but retirement comes at the age of seventy five. However, the ability of retaining the honorific of JP after your name can be used until your demise.
We featured in five local magazines and one local newspaper since the last report. Two magazines do not publish in August (Rabbiter and the Bramley Mag) and the Basingstoke Observer report is from their 21 July edition (they publish fortnightly).
This report is late, yet again, as I only received the Kempshott Kourier this morning and it is not possible to blame the lateness on a local deliverer as we are the distributers around our retirement complex.
All the publications ran with the report about the mayor’s official visit.
A repeat of hostelry choice this year with the Longbridge Mill on the A33 at Sherfield-on-Loddon for the annual Summer Pub Lunch. A few eager beavers arrived a little before the appointed time and had to wait in the baking sun until the door was opened spot on noon.
A special area had been arranged for our party of twenty-nine, including the young granddaughter of Alan & Liliane May and we settled down across six different sized tables. Then came the usual problem of deciding on what to drink and eat from the extensive choices available. Some managed three courses and coffee while others had to settle with two courses and no coffee, but a very pleasant time was had by all.
And it was good to see Paul & Sandra Miller with friends, away from their mayoral duties. Also grateful thanks to the photographer of the day, Jeff Grover.
It has become a custom over many years that at the first meeting following their AGM the Probus Club of Basingstoke have a guest of honour in the form of the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC. This year was a unique occasion as the Mayor, Cllr Paul Miller, is himself a member of the Probus Club of Basingstoke.
For once, at this meeting, he did not have to pay for his lunch. But Cllr Miller was able to address his fellow members about his experiences of meeting so many people and organisations around Basingstoke, often accompanied by the Lady Mayoress, his wife Sandra. His visit to the Probus Club was the 48th such occasion since his mayor making ceremony in May.
The club presented him with a cheque as a contribution to the mayor’s charity appeal.
The speaker was Dr Brantley Nicholson, an American university professor working in England for a year, whose subject starkly illustrated how the Latin American drug trade was dramatically affecting society. Today the cocaine trade has a value only second to world tourism.
While we are aware that Colombia is the centre of cocaine production, history shows that through the centuries the indigenous Incas in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia cultivated the coca plant to chew its leaves and make a type of tea. The drink Coca Cola, initially made with coca leaves, was sold as a cure all medicinal concoction and was banned from production for a time.
The Colombian connection to the drug trade is due to a series of events including four civil wars between 1876 – 1902 following independence from Spain. There followed a series of economic boom and bust. Rubber and tobacco became the prime source of income, followed by bananas and coffee with at one stage Colombian coffee holding 10% share of the world’s consumption. But the Great Depression saw coffee prices fall resulting in mass financial failures. The emergence of artificial drugs like LSD for recreational use in the US during 1960-70 then moved towards harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.
With large areas of Colombia largely ungovernable due to historical squabbles over land ownership resulting in constant attrition between guerrillas and para militaries there was a switch from coffee to growing the coca plant. Coca leaves are soaked in large vats of water for several days to which are added salt, cement powder, acid and gasoline with a final dose of ammonia. With cocaine having a cost of production around $1,500 per kilo and an end price at least $50,000 per kilo there was an instant attraction of easy money. But it has brought over 500,000 deaths in Colombia in narco trafficking. It is estimated that in the city of Medellin over a third of people are armed, most being boys. It has been known that in this Catholic country that priests are asked to bless a bullet to ensure it will meet its target.
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