Reunion & Dedication of the 223 Entry Window at St George’s Church, RAF Halton 

Thirty-three years after forming 223 craft entry at Royal Air Force Halton, 25 of the original members returned to rekindle old friendships gained in the days of ‘glam’ rock, Brut aftershave, Sta-pressed trousers and Crombie coats. The reunion was the brainchild of entry member, ?? Bob Rodham, who managed to find all but two of the original 98 craft apprentices, including those that had failed to pass out. 

The group of middle-aged ex RAF apprentices and their wives started the reunion with an overnight stay at the Bull hotel, Gerrards Cross.  The main reason was the dedication of a window depicting the entry’s crest (a black scorpion on an apprentice wheel, with the motto “small but deadly”) in St George’s church, RAF Halton.  The motto refers to the entry starting with 98 recruits in 1971 and with 46 passing out two years later in 1973. 

Many of the 223 entry have exemplary and dedicated service with the Royal Air Force and two of these 16 year olds that joined in 1971, are still serving with the RAF.  Wing Commander Don Tanner is based at Yeovilton and F/Sgt ‘Geordie’ Fishburn at RAF Odiham. Between the members of 223 entry, they have clocked up over 500 years service in blue. 

The dedication service at St George’s church followed a march up and down the Halton hill to one Wing, with many of them having ‘flashbacks’ of marching up and down the hill to get to the workshops for trade training.  Some could even hear the skirl of the bagpipes wafting on the breeze from a pipe band of over thirty years ago.  The RAF Halton museum was opened for the visit and everyone suddenly lost thirty-one years as we were transported back to our apprenticeships.

The service was outstandingly simple and encapsulating the spirit and friendship of these old friends from a time of innocence and £4 a week apprentice pay.  The window joined the others already in position and stands in pride of place, to the left of Trenchard for those who want to check it out. It had been bought with the generous contributions of the 223 entry and was the first craft entry to conduct a service of dedication.  During the service, two readings were given by two members of the entry.  The first was by Dave Squires, who read a passage from the bible and the other was read by Ian ‘Pompey’ Hovey, who immersed the congregation in waves of nostalgia. 

The final act of the reunion was a chance to talk over a pint at the RAFA club on the airfield, a place that many had spent helping Flt Lt John Potter get his man powered gossamer aircraft “Jupiter” into the air.  

The success of the reunion and dedication is due to the great bond of fellowship that exists between those who drilled, cleaned and studied together, in the true tradition of ‘Trenchard’s Brats’ and the other reason is due to the much appreciated efforts of Bob Rodham (ex Sgt) in bringing so many of the entry together from as far a field as Wales, Scotland, Germany and Canada. 

When this modest man was asked why he had spent so much time, money and effort in bringing old friends back together, he simply said “When you spend two years working, eating and sleeping side by side with strangers who become close friends, you have a feeling of loss when you are no longer together”.  

(Bob Wilson)