A sunny lunchtime greeted over 100 people arriving to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of The Royal British Legion Milford on Sea Branch at South Lawn Hotel.
The majority of gentlemen were resplendent in blazers adorned with service medals and the ladies in their finery.
Embarrassingly, not only were we last to arrive, but having not considered the dress code, I immediately knew I was the most casually and inappropriately dressed person in the room. Too late to change, I had to live with my lack of foresight.
As lunch commenced we had entered a bygone era of formality and comradeship. Everyone was warm and friendly as people chatted and introduced themselves to each other.
The lunch was opened by chairman Peter Gibbs who said that the afternoon was also commemorating the 100th Anniversary of WW1 and the 70th Anniversary of D.Day, he also delivered some amusingly lines to get everyone in the mood for a good time.
Peter then recited The Exhortation (They shall grow not 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.) Vice Chairman, Mike Reed then read The Kohima Epitaph. (When you go home, Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today)
Reverend Cannon Raymond Hubble QHC said Grace, and the tables then started chatting as they tucked into a three course lunch.
After lunch Sally Read (who had organised this excellent event) read a message from H.M. The Queen. Having taken the trouble to write The Queen, Sally had received a personal response thanking everyone for their good wishes and support, and wishing all an enjoyable celebration. The letter was a formal as you can imagine, and we could have been in any British outpost in the world.
The programme for the day showed that after the Loyal Toast, there was to be 'Pop Speakers'. this turned out to be the highlight of an already excellent day. Unknown to us, each of the ten table had an 'old solider' ready to stand and give a short outline of their service lives.
As each stood, we heard first hand experiences from a range of ranks and military services, including memories of D.Day, Churchill crossing The Rhine, outdoor sports with British Intelligence, life in the WRAF at Duxford, experiences in far flung corners of the world, and so much more. The oldest speaker, Bill at 100, was sprightly and sharp, just like his stories. Humour was in massive supply all around, as stories of high-jinks and misdemeanour's abounded. The dreadful time of war had bonded people forever, and out of hardship had come the true 'British Bulldog spirit'.
At times like this you wish you had recorded a very special moment on film.
The lunch was closed with an interesting and amusing speech from the Branch President, Colonel Gordon Barnett MBE, recalling his service days in Oman and the Middle East.
Finally, everyone went into the sunshine outside to watch The Sunset Ceremony. As the buglers played, the four standard bearers paraded and the Union Jack was lowered from the flagpole.
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The only disappointment was that the room could not also have been filled with young people to witness the colourful experiences of a special generation. Long may the Royal British Legion keep traditions and memories alive.
-------------------------------------------------------------------The Royal British Legion Milford on Sea Branch have another event this weekend, and everyone can come along and join in:
The Armed Forces Day Fair is on Village Green this Saturday 28th June. Come and enjoy a variety of stalls and displays of militaria. Everyone is welcome, so bring the family! Opens at 10am until the closing 'Sunset Ceremony' at 4pm.