Below is a list of dates for your diary on what's happening in the Mayfield, Five Ashes and Hadlow Branch of The Royal British Legion for 2018.
Please note that all Branch meetings will be held in the Mayfield Cricket Pavillion, which will open at 6.30pm. It would be appreciated if you could bring a bottle or an item to be included in the raffle. The business of the Branch will commence at 7pm, followed by fish and chips at 7.30pm.
Highlights of Recent Events
Wednesday 11th October 2017. Simon Bellamy, chairman of Sussex Military History Society, gave an energised talk on "Operation Chariot" the famous 1942 St. Nazaire raid, which involved all three services and resulted in the award of 5 Victoria Cross medals, 2 posthumously. During the raid HMS Campbeltown, a former US navy ship, was heavily disguised to look like a German ship and was smashed into the dock gate! The events that Simon shared was an epic story of British courage.
Tuesday 13th June 2017. The speaker was Richard Atkins, who gave an interesting talk all about the very brave group of ladies who delivered all types of aeroplanes from the production factories to the front line airfields and also flew damaged planes back to the workshops for repairs. These ladies were vital, given the shortage of pilots, and were mainly well-to-do independent spirits who had learnt to fly as a hobby which they had been able to afford to do because of their wealthy status. They were flying solo and had to navigate by railway lines and other landmarks such as church towers. After the planes had been delivered, the ladies would be picked up in another plane to be returned back to the factory ready to start the delivery process all over again. Sometimes they would deliver two or three planes in a single day, such was the speed at which they were rolling off the production lines.
Initially the RAF would not allow ladies to perform these duties, but as pilot resources got more and more stretched as the war progressed the RAF relented and allowed the ladies to join the Air Auxillary to join the men who were delivering the planes. Only 9 ladies lost their lives in the course of their duties.
Wednesday 29th March 2017 7pm Branch meeting at which Rod MacArthur gave a talk on his experiences in Beihan, 200 miles from Aden. He gave an interesting talk, during which he talked about his work clearing mines, building a new cook house and most cheekily borrowing the political officer's Alfa Romeo Spider Sprint to visit the nurses' ball!! He also talked about the secret mission he had been involved with to investigate local small islands for potential airstrips. Rod is President of the Aden Veteran's Association South East Branch.
Wednesday 16th November 2016 7pm Branch meeting at which Brian Oldfield and Carole Stilwell gave a talk about Mayfield and the Somme. The talk covered particular military aspects of the Somme, the Day that Sussex Died, together with focusing on the lives of three of the eighteen Mayfield men who lost their lives in the various battles of the Somme. There was also some focus on what life would have been like for Mayfield villagers during that time. The evening was interspersed with video clips and moving poetry readings by branch members. Members gave very positive feedback about the talk.
Friday 21st October, Trafalgar Day Concert with the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, the Shorncliffe Military Wives Choir and special guests Jim Radford and Pipe Major Donald Brown. A fabulous evening of music and patriotism was had by all; Major Smallwood conducted and compered the evening with energy and humour. Thank you to all the many volunteers who helped the evening progress so smoothly. The proceeds of over £4,500 will be shared between The Poppy Appeal and Hospice In The Weald.
Wednesday 5th October 2016, 7pm Branch meeting at which Trevor Green gave an interesting talk about his time in Kosovo as a volunteer with Operation Florian. Operation Florian is a charity that was set up by British Firefighters to provide fire engines, equipment and training to the world's poorest regions. Trevor first went out in 2003, when he spent 6 weeks out there, and then went again every year until 2015. The fire appliances were donated by the British Fire Service. Trevor shared many photos and anecdotes from his times there, including the metal fire helmet he was given from one of the museums, and the photo of Trevor wearing his MBE medal for "Exceptional Service".
Wednesday 8th June 2016, 7pm Branch meeting at which Ian Everest gave a fascinating talk about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The CWGC was started by Fabian Ware, who volunteered in 1914 to help with the war effort, picking up the stragglers of teh war. The casualties of WW1 were so high, and the graves were so close to England that he realised the graves were ikely to be visited by family members. Eventually in 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was created. The cemetaries were laid out facing east, because that's where the enemy was.
Wednesday 23rd March 2016, 7pm Branch meeting at which Peter Griffiths gave an interesting and amusing talk about his time involved in aviation. For many years Peter was a pilot with Cathay Pacific and recounted many amusing anecdotes from his career, from scary landings at Hong Kong airport to "undercover" flying during the Iraq war. Particular thanks to Peter for giving such an interesting talk when he was feeling very unwell that evening and was struggling to find his voice.
Friday 26th February at 12.30pm - A "Beat the Winter Blues" Lunch was held at the Mayfield cricket pavillion. It was hosted by the Ladies Group and raised funds for the RBL and The Ripple Pond, the forces charity supported by the Ladies Group.
Saturday 5th December 2015
The branch entered the St Dunstan's Christmas Tree Festival, with an entry coordinated by the Ladies Group. It was a simple but beutiful design of poppies and stars and won first prize in the Adult section. Well done all!!!! The £20 prize money will be donated to the Poppy Appeal.
Wednesday 7th October 2015, 7pm - Branch AGM and Meeting at which Rod MacArthur gave a detailed talk about the Battle of Waterloo. Interstingly, despite Wellington's army having 29,000 British troops there were more people who spoke German in his army than English! Surprisingly, we learned that although there were about 40,000 casualties in total, the battlefield itself was just 3 miles across. Rod's talk was well illustrated throughout with many art works which helped listeneers visualise the scene.
A Massed Band "Last Night of the Proms" Concert was held on Saturday 4th July 2015 at St Dunstan's Church, Mayfield. The Mayfield Silver Band and the Warbleton Brass Band, together with the Mayfield WI Centenary Choir, performed a concert at the church.
A Branch Battlefield Tour took place just for our Branch on Monday 29th June to Thursday 2nd July. It was based in Ypres, but also visited various sites in the Somme and Ypres Salient areas.
Wednesday 17th June 2015, 7pm - Branch Meeting at which Ian Everest gave a talk entitled “Sussex during the First World War”.
Thursday 14th May 2015, Branch visit to the Imperial War Museum. 13 members alighted the minibus from Mayfield, we were sorry that one of our members had fallen and was unable to attend. An enjoyable day was spent browsing the informative new galleries at the refurbished museum, punctuated by stops in the cafe for cake and lunch!
Wednesday 18th March 2015, 7pm - Ian Verchere gave an interesting talk on Hong Kong, filled with facts and images depicting its rise from a Crown Colony. He talked about the involvement of the British in trade with China and how the Opium Wars eventually led to Hong Kong being ceded to Britain "in perpetuity". He showed a photo of a young looking Margaret Thatcher, as she participated in the negotaiations with Deng Xiaoping for the handover of Hong Kong back to China and its creation into its present-day city state.
Ian Verchere - speaker at the March Branch meeting
Friday 27th February 2015 - “Beat the Winter Blues” Lunch. A fun fish and chip lunch was followed by a groaning table of delicious desserts, generously made and donated by the Ladies Group. Quizes, raffles and guess the gorgeous baby photos made for a fun lunch, raising funds for the Branch and The Ripple Pond.
Saturday 20th December 2014 - The Christmas Truce Concert, sponsored in memory of Shirley Parry, presented by the Wateryard Group and incorporating the Mayfield Silver Band, was an excellent and also moving evening. The audience was treated to pipe music from Pipe Major Donald Brown and then moving excerpts from soldiers letters home and poetry readings, including "Bell Ringers", written about some of the Mayfield bellringers by local poet Patricia McCarthy. Mayfield Silver Band provided excellent musical accompaniment and there were many wartime songs and Christmas carols that the audience were invited to join in with singing. About 190 people attended the concert, so the Branch benefitted from half of the ticket proceeds and all the profits from the bar. Thanks to all who particpated and supported this event. The proceeds from this event have covered all the costs of the school trip for all three local schools to visit the Imperial War Museum this year.
Thursday 4th December 2014 - Colonel Rod MacArthur gave an excellent talk to the Branch about Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal, from its formation in 1940 until the present day. The Branch was treated to a dazzling array of facts and photos, not least of which was that the 350,000 mines left on UK beaches from WW2 were not officially clear until as late as 1972! Between 1960 and 2010 some 400,000 unexploded objects were picked up, including 5 bombs on the centre line of the M25 as they were building it! The work of bomb disposal was not just in the UK, but also thousands of bombs were cleared in the Far East after WW2 and many minefields were cleared in the Falklands.
Colonel Rod MacArthur at the December Branch meeting
Tuesday 21st October 2014 - The village was treated to a fantastic Trafalgar Day Concert by the Royal Marines Association Concert Band and the Portsmouth Military Wives Choir in St Dunstan's Church. The audience joined in with WW1 songs and delighted at the range of music performed by both the band and the choir. There was definitely no problem hearing the band from the back of the church!! Thanks to all who attended and so generously donated money - the proceeds from the concert were over £5,100 which will all be donated to the Royal British Legion.
Captain Cole conducting the Royal Marines Association Concert Band
Wednesday 1st October 2014 - After the AGM, the Branch were treated to a fascinating talk by Gilly Halcrow, speaking about the Special Operations Executive (SOE) - "Churchill's Secret Army". There were tales of many brave acts by both men and women, who undertook incredibly dangerous missions going behind enemy lines, and who provided much inspiration for the stories of James Bond. The audience was fascinated to learn of the special "gadgets" invented for their use, including explosive rats and smelly spray!
Gilly Halcrow at the October Branch meeting
Wednesday 2nd July 2014 - The second meeting of the year was held with Wing Commander Jack Harris, who talked about his experiences as a bomber pilot in 550 squadron when he flew an amazing 37 operations in Lancaster bombers. The audience, young and old, was captivated by his talk and the extreme difficulty of escaping from a Lancaster wearing a parachute. Warwick Child gave the vote of thanks.
Jack Harris speaking at the Branch meeting
Wednesday 2nd April 2014 - The first meeting of the year was held with Mrs. Nus Ghani, Wealden Conservative Parliamentary candidate for the 2015 general election, who came to talk to us about her career, particularly in Afghanistan. She spoke extremely well and explained about her terrifying brush with the Taliban and how her involvement with the BBC's radio programme "New Home, New Life" saved her own life. Her presentation was enjoyed by everyone present and a vote of thanks was given by Warwick Child.
From left to right: Alan Parry, Mrs. Nus Ghani, John Macdonald, Brian Stilwell (behind), Warwick Child, John Neal
Friday 25th October 2013 - A delicious evening dinner was enjoyed by members with an entertaining and informative guest speaker, Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown, RN, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS. He is a former British Royal Navy officer and test pilot who has flown more types of aircraft than anyone else in history, piloting 487 different aircraft types. He is also the Fleet Air Arm's most decorated living pilot and holds the world record for aircraft carrier landings – 2,407.
Captain Eric Brown with Tim Boughton from Fly Navy