Welcome to the Birmingham branch

Airborne Engineers Association

Birmingham Branch News

Birminham - December 2020
Steve Brown - Secretary

Branch Meetings. Like all branches, due to the national lockdown, the branch ceased to hold meetings after March of this year. However, the branch was able to re-start our meetings on Wednesday 5th August 2020 while following strict protocols of social distancing and the use of sanitizer stations within the venue. The branch felt that we should hold the meetings as a more social side as there are some members who live alone and the meetings gives a chance to socialise. We have been fortunate enough to continue holding the meetings and will do so until they need to cease. Due to the fact that there was little branch or National business to discuss and being a more social gathering it was suggested that the branch subsidise a supper at the meetings with the result that a Pie and Chip supper was duly supplied with thanks to Roger Howies and Bob Dorrell for sorting this out. The attendance has been fairly good with an average of 20 members attending.
Welfare. The branch has been fortunate not to have any casualties from Covid 19 during these past months. However, some members have been taken ill, a member had to be hospitalised through Pneumonia, one member had cancer of the tongue, the cancer was removed and he is now recovering well, Our Chairman was also rushed into hospital but is
now fit and well, another member is waiting for a Cardiologist appointment, another member has gone into Hospice care and another member has had a serious fall.

Branch members have been encouraged to keep in contact with other members for a chat and a catch up. This proved very successful and the contact worked very well and gave support to members.

Cromwell Lock. This year being the 45th anniversary of this tragic event was due to take place on Sunday 27th September 2020 but unfortunately was cancelled due to restrictions by HM Government. This will now take place in September 2021. Wreaths and flowers were laid by some members and from 131 Commando Squadron RE who should have provided the guard of Honour. Planning that had been undertaken will carry over to 2021.

Branch Social and Organised events. As with everyone else most of our events have had to be cancelled this year.

Some items that should have been in the last issue but the branch did not submit on time but we feel they deserve a mention are,
The Branch Christmas Dinner 2019 on the 7th December 2019 was once again very well attended and quickly sold out, meaning some members missed out on tickets. A big thanks to the organisers of this event went to Roger Howies, Tom and Ann Smith and Maureen Aitken who all made this dinner a great success, again.

The Bunny Brown Memorial Trophy for 2020 was awarded to Eamon Smyth for his hard work and generosity for getting the Plaque on the Bridge at Toscaig in memory of the sappers of 300 Troop who sadly lost their lives at Cromwell Lock replaced. This award is presented to a member who has carried out exceptional work for the branch.

The Branch AGM in April 2020 had to be postponed due to the current Covid-19 emergency but the existing committee remain in post until the AGM can be rearranged.
Chairman. Neville Collins.
Secretary. Steve Brown. (Until the branch AGM)
Treasurer and Vice Chairman: Tom Smith.
Welfare: Tony Higgins.
Membership: Eamon Smyth.
PRA Representative: Neville Collins.

Other matters,
Prior to the entry into last Decembers Journal and too late to be included, it should be reported that
Kevin Lambeth made a donation of £250.00 into the branch funds in exchange for one of his paintings that should have been auctioned but unfortunately was not. Thanks Kevin.

A photo supplied by Roger Howies while on Ex Jockey Club in Aden 1965 during which time the Regiment suffered casualties.


Birminham - December 2019
Steve Brown - Secretary

Unfortunately the Birmingham branch missed the deadline for the June issue. For this reason we will endeavour to bring the Journal up to date the on the important items that the branch has been involved with.
At the Branch AGM in April the Chairman at the time John Phillips reported to the meeting that he had not received any nominations from members for the posts of those committee members who were wishing to stand down. This left the branch having to fill the necessary posts of Chairman and Secretary. These posts, at the close of the AGM and OGM had failed to be filled so members went away to consider the future of the Branch.
The remainder of the committee remained in post Vice Chairman: Neville Collins remains.
Treasurer: Unchanged, Tom Smith.
Welfare: Tony Higgins was happy to stay as welfare.
Membership: Eamon Smyth will continue in membership post.
PRA Representative: Neville Collins was willing to stay on as PRA Rep.

At the May meeting Neville Collins volunteered to stay on permanently as Chairman and Steve Brown stated that he would volunteer to fill the Secretary post until a replacement could be found with a time limit of April 2020.

At the May OGM it was suggested to organise a visit to RAF Brize Norton and the date of this would be 7th August 2019, this being the best choice for members. This meant that the August meeting needed to be cancelled. The visit went ahead with some 35 attending consisting of branch members and Birmingham PRA members. This was a successful visit and we were very well looked after by the PJI’s and station staff. It was an excellent insight into the amount of new equipment that is available to the modern parachutist. Members on return from RAF Brize Norton below.

Bunny Brown: On the 25th May Bunnies wife, Jan with close family and several members from the branch travelled to Netheravon Air­field Camp to witness the scattering of his ashes. The intention was that Mike Coleman ex-131 Sqn would jump with Bunnies ashes and release these while under canopy with the use of a special container.

There were a number of setbacks during the day which delayed timings etc. but around 2000 hrs Mike and his cameraman, Spence, exited the aircraft began freefalling before deploying their chutes at around 2000ft. Mike released the ashes under canopy and with the weather breaking sufficiently for all present to witness the release in glorious detail. All said it was a special event and would live with them always. Massive thanks to Mike Coleman ex 131 and his cameraman Spence. Chris Chambers and his daughter, Kelly attended and thanked Jan and the Family for the invitation to attend this special occasion. Photos will follow once they have been collated.

Toscaig Bridge Plaque. Eamon Smyth has been tireless in getting this plaque replaced which was originally erected by 299 Troop of 131 Commando Squadron RE in memory of the 10 Scottish Sappers killed on the River Trent in 1975. Donations were received from all branches and the total was sent off to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Benevolent fund for the work they carried out. The original, weather beaten, plaque was presented to the OC 299 Squadron. A show of thanks went to Eamon for all his hard work with this.

September, Double Hills Memorial was a success and attended by, Eamon Smyth, Pete Owen & K. Lambeth. The Refurbishment of the site is ongoing and it was reported that a regular attendance is made by Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North Somerset.

Arnhem 75th Parade. Some lucky members attended the commemorations this year, meeting up with members of 299 Association. Some travelled with the Yorkshire Branch for 75th year anniversary event. An excellent time was had by all.

Cromwell Lock. Several members attended Cromwell Lock on the 28th September (on the actual date of the tragic accident) to remember those whose lives were lost some 44 years ago. Newark PRA branch do a fantastic job each

Welfare. Our welfare officer, Tony Higgins keeps the branch up to date with these matters and the deaths of members or members close family. It was reported that Terry Howard a long standing member had passed. Derek Yeo’s son Andrew, 53, died suddenly in the USA, with Derek and Kath flying out immediately on being informed. There were the usual hospital admissions with Tom Dunne being admitted for several months with unknown health problems. The branch President, George Barrett has had few health issues this year but was cheered up by celebrating his 90th Birthday in August.

Other matters, the branch has had a fairly social calendar again with several meetings of the branch Breakfast Club which has been very well attended, although on a standby at present. The branch Dinner Club has also had several evenings out at various restaurants accompanied by wives or partners at the Meal Evenings. These varied from Curries to Fish and Chips to Chinese most have been very well attended and gives the branch a chance for the partners of members involved. These are continuing and are usually well attended.

Birminham - December 2018
John Phillips- Chairman

Birmingham Branch members have not been sitting at home but been out and about meeting others within the Airborne Brotherhood to visit and take part in events near and far and enjoy the company of friends old and new.

During June members supported our regional PRA by attending their Regimental Memorial Day and Service at the National Memorial Arboretum.

August saw some travel with Bedworth PRA to Scarborough and Catterick to be at a Parachute Regimental recruits passing-out parade and a visit to Eden Camp. No details of Scarborough though!

We also joined 301 Tp. 131 Cdo Sqn RE at a leaving and promotion celebration, with an excellent curry in a far smarter bar than when we enjoyed a few temperate beers when it was ours!

September was busy-Double Hills Memorial Service at Paulton, a most moving service in a scenic setting. Arnhem with 299 Association who as usual organised another memorable visit — on return one or two looked like they had just come off a route march. And Cromwell Lock, to remember those of 300 Troop who perished in that tragic accident during Ex.Trent Chase. PRA Newark, which organise the annual memorial service is to be commended for their dedication in keeping their memory to the fore.

We offered our thanks to Am Andrews for his hospitable invitation to all who attended to his home for refreshments again many thanks Am.

Next year (2019) is the 44th anniversary of the tragedy, which Birmingham hopes to organise with Newark.

Cromwell Lock Memorial

And so to Chatham Branch's excellently organised and most enjoyable AGM and Gala Dinner and Novembers annual Remembrance Service and parade at the Cenotaph. John Ferry deserves all the plaudits for his patience in obtaining and distributing those passes allocated to the AEA. We also thank him for his service as Chairman for the past seven years- good luck with the pipe band John.

A couple of names of those who make the difference — Tom Smith for organising a monthly Curry/ Chinese meal attended by family and friends and Roger Howells who initiated our monthly Breakfast Club where the world is put to rights and no business is carried forward. Refer to our scribe Steve Brown's monthly minutes for venue and timings if you are in the area. We also thank Tom and Roger for planning/organising our Christmas dinner for which all seats have been booked.

And lastly we remember those who were so recently with us but sadly no longer so- may it be with a fond smile. Roy Hicks, Capt. Ian Butler, Bunny Brown, Dave Bowron and Ray Sands. Also family members who are such an important cog in the wheel of our Association. May their passing be a reminder to us all — do or say it today; Tomorrow, who knows?

We wish one and all a Very Happy Christmas and a New Year full of good health, peace and laughter.

Birminham - June 2018
Steve Brown - Secretary

The Christmas Branch dinner was held on the first Saturday of December 2017 which was once again very well attended and was a very pleasant evening. The food was very good and the wine better although the drinks prices were a little high even with a discount on the beers. There was a good turnout from other associations within the Birmingham area and also further a field in return of the branch supporting other associations within the area. The evening's entertainment was a very good all round singer who sang songs from different eras and got the dance floor bouncing, this was supplemented by the usual heads and tails and a raffle which raised a decent sum for the branch funds. A resounding success and even better that the cost was negotiated to be less than previous years. A vote of thanks went to Tom and Ann Smith with Roger Howells for organising the event. The 2018 Christmas dinner will be held on the 8th December 2018.

January, February and March. Was a fairly quiet period except for a branch Curry evening on the 21st March 2018 and attended by 23 members and partners. This was a successful evening with the purpose of getting the branch members and partners together for a sociable evening and seems to work rather well. Hopefully more to follow.

In April we held our branch AGM/OGM at which there was a new committee voted in. The current Chair John Phillips said that he would stay in post for another year so long as this was agreeable with the branch. Neville Collins volunteered to stand in as Vice Chair and this was accepted. Tom Smith has taken up the post of Treasurer after Elsie Barrett decided to step aside for personal reasons. Mike Holdsworth was standing down as Secretary due to him taking up a post with a local Rotary Club. No nominations for Secretary were forthcoming.

Steve Brown volunteered, again, for the post on a basis of one year appointment to keep the branch ticking over. The post of Welfare officer was put on hold until this post can be resolved as the current member; Tony Higgins was unable to attend. Eamon Smyth volunteered to take up the post of Membership officer. Tom Smith and Roger Howells stay on as entertainments officers. The remainder of the committee remained mostly the same.

Photo courtesy of Maureen Aitken

Onto welfare matters, Bunny Brown has been diagnosed with a lymphoma brain tumour for over 12 months now and is receiving support from Macmillan Nurses along with his wife Jan,(who works tirelessly) family and friends. Dave Bowron has you may know has had both legs amputated above the knee due to an ongoing medical problem. Mike Holdsworth had an appeal out for a collection to furnish Dave with a lightweight wheelchair and this was achieved by generous donations from the Birmingham branch and 299 Association especially. Alan Brough continues to make steady, but slow progress after his surgery for cancer. George Barrett is making steady progress also after a skin problem.

The branch has donated to Cancer Research and SSAFA charities along with donations collected at Kath Parks funeral
and also included was the collections from a Christmas carol gathering at Tom and Ann Smiths house before Christmas.

Looking Forward:
The branch is looking at organising a weekend trip to Duxford this year.
June - Members attending the PRA Commemorative Memorial at the NMA, Alrewas.
July - Airborne Forces days North and South September - Double Hills Anniversary and Arnhem October - AGM & Reunion, Chatham
November - Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph and local events.
December - Christmas Dinner 8th December.

Birmingham - December 2017
John Phillips - Chairman

The recent months have been busy for those who wanted to be a part of tours and social events organised by other Associations and our own members. Members visited Normandy during July with Bedworth PRA and Arnhem with 299 Association. Both were well organised and enjoyed by those who went and new friends made.

Steve Brown organised two Indian curry nights which were a great success especially one for Bunny to meet his friends outside hospital environs.

A small group of AEA members, with those from Newark PRA, attended the commemoration at the monument erected to the memory of our fellow Sappers lost at Cromwell Lock. Matters are now in hand to plan for the 2019 commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the tragedy with AEA Scotland and families and Newark PRA.

Cromwell Lock Commemoration

We supported and enjoyed the company of members of The Parachute Regimental Association and later with Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at their annual dinners and some intend to attend our Christmas Dinner on 2nd December.

The recent AGM and Dinner in Hull organised by 299 was faultless in its planning and execution. The Saturday recce led by pathfinder Gaz Coe, of numerous city centre ale houses was a fitting start to a very enjoyable Dinner. Well done to all at 299 who had any part in a good weekend.

Sorry to report that the Boot and Beer tabbers have not been out and about since Bunny has had to pack his boots away whilst he's been poorly. Must try harder despite the weather!

After many years (16?) our Treasurer, Elsie Barrett has resigned for personal reasons. We wish both Elsie and George, our President, well and hope to see them soon at our meetings.

At the AGM Birmingham Branch had the good news that Steve Brown had been presented with our President's Commendation for his many years' service as Secretary and organiser of many social events. Thanks and well done Steve.

We send our best wishes to all our AEA long term sick, which recently we seem to have had more than usual, a speedy recovery back to good health.

Birmingham Branch wish all members, wives and partners a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year.



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