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ARBORFIELD - Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd July 2007 inclusive.

 

The following report contributed by Trevor STUBBERFIELD (52A)

Photographs are by the contributor, unless otherwise attributed.

 

Friday

 

Sitting in the car, awaiting the arrival of a friend flying down to Luton Airport from Edinburgh, I turned on the radio.A severe weather warning was being broadcast.ďA freak storm has hit Reading and the town is experiencing flash flooding in the centre and surrounding areas.ĒNot a good omen for the reunion at Arborfield, but even that warning didnít convey the full conditions that we were to experience.

Friend duly arrived and it was off home for a few light refreshments, collect the navigator, and then set out on the journey.No use using the motorway network on the start of the school holidays so it was to be a cross-country route.Within a mile we descended a hill to a roundabout which resembled a lake, the kerbs were hidden.Safely negotiated, the route then took us alongside the start of the river Lee.Luckily the river was still within its banks but the road was flooded from the deluge.These were the conditions for the next few miles through the various areas of the town yet, within ten miles, we were enjoying brilliant sunshine, although looking out across the Vale of Aylesbury, menacing banks of black clouds could be seen on the horizon.

We began to make good time, passing through RAF Halton without attracting any rude comments from the school there, the scene of many contests with Arborfield.Towards the end of the journey it all went wrong.The driver opted to finish the last stage on the M4 motorway, after all, it was only one junction to go.Standstill.All the information signs kept flashing up a 40MPH Limit, or perhaps it was meant to be a target speed.It might have been more use if it had flashed up that, a few miles further on, the motorway was flooded and one section had experienced a landslide.Three lanes of traffic inching along and yet still the motorway muppets kept lane hopping in the hope of gaining a yard or two on the other cars.Ninety minutes and we eventually reached our turn off for our first stop at Winnersh.The navigator was to spend the weekend with old friends so, with her settled in, we set off for the last stage.

Winnersh to Arborfield.Fifteen miutes?Not today.Nearing the village we spotted cars going the other way, lights flashing and hands making strange gestures.Then we ran into a long line of stationary traffic.A smart three point turn and we went back to the last roundabout and cut across to Barkham where the reason for the next holdup became apparent.At the hump backed bridge the river Lodden, a normally placid stream, was now a raging torrent, filling the valley it runs through.Traffic was inching through, one lane at a time.It wasnít so much the depth that was worrying, more the pressure of the water flow across the road.So near yet so far.But then the homing pigeon instinct took over, we were determined to reach base at all costs.Up to the door sills we inched through safely and then carried on to enter Biggs Lane for the camp.Barriers were across the road but luckily we could get to the camp gates where water was running out from the camp, down the slope and into the road.

The security guard directed us to the Bailleul Sergeants Mess via a back route through the camp and it soon became obvious why.The ornamental lake now resembled the Black Lagoon and had covered the road and flooded the adjoining grassland.The photos below by Neil Graham, 72, show the level that the lake had risen to.The car in the first photo, up to its bonnet in water, stands by the Sergeants Mess Annex, which was to have been our accommodation block.The second photo is of the lake flowing over the road to the Sergeants Mess.

 

 

 

Reaching the Mess we were allocated our rooms, which had been hastily re-arranged because of the flood, meaning a trip back alongside the lake to one of the blocks.Within the last half an hour the water had started to recede and the centre of the road was now visible.

Clean and refreshed we met in the bar of the Sergeants Mess where numbers were down and there was plenty of room.It became clear that the road conditions had delayed many of the Old Boys.The scarlet tunics of the Chelsea Hospital members brought colour to the surroundings.One very popular figure was CSM Duggie Huxley who had charge of C Company at one time.A Chelsea Pensioner now but with a mind as bright as a button and a great pleasure to talk to.He made a surprising admission that, throughout his long service career, the happiest times for him were the years he spent at Arborfield, training the young lads and preparing them for their future life in the army.Very rewarding.Iím sure that many of his old charges will thank him for his attentions, which will have had an effect on them, long after their Arborfield days.

This photo of Duggie Huxley and friends is contributed by Alan Algy Morton 51B

 

 

The numbers were growing and tales were being told of the problems encountered on the journey to the reunion.One great improvement in the bar atmosphere was the lack of tobacco smoke, many of us normally affected by the usual smog could now sit in comfort and chat to friends without wheezing and spluttering.It must also be a great improvement for the staff working in the bar.

The extended journey had taken its toll and it was time for me to retire.Tomorrow would be a long day, filled with excitement and no doubt a good deal of emotion, so making my excuses, it was off to my bunk.

 

Published:5th August 2007

 


 

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