First & Last, Journal of the Halton 81st Entry

Issue Number 38

Feb 2014

The Journal of the 81st Entry

Edited and uploaded by Brian Spurway

Welcome to the 38th edition of The Journal.

Last Post:

The loss of any member of the 81st Entry diminishes us all.

The 81st Entry extends its sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of yet two more of our colleagues who have passed away since the last edition of the Journal was uploaded.

Tony Birchenough, Airframes, passed away peacefully in his sleep on the 27th of December 2013 at the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice where he had been extremely well cared for during his last few weeks.

A work colleague of my wife at a MOD establishment in Bath, sometime round about 2004, happened to let slip in a conversation with her that his brother in law had been an apprentice at Halton and, of all things, had been in the 81st Entry; after that it didn't take Tony very long at all to contact me. He was very excited about the opportunity to meet his 'long lost' mates and so he attended all three reunions that we held at Cirencester; those who bought them from him will remember the 81st Entry badges, monogrammed mugs, T shirts and polo shirts that he had made for us. It was obvious at his second reunion in 2008 that all was not right with his throat and it was not long afterwards that he was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. A laryngectomy left him with no voice box so he was fitted with a valve in his throat through which he learnt to both breathe and talk; it was with these difficulties that he bravely attended the 2011 reunion and left a lasting impression on those he spoke to. Other than at the reunions, I was privileged to be able to meet up with him three more times during this difficult period, in the summers of 2010, 2011 and 2012, whilst he was nearby visiting his sister Sheila and his brother in law Alan; we met each time at the same local hostelry for 'a pie & a pint' and it was on the last of these occasions that I took my wife and he brought Sheila and Alan, insisting that it was 'his treat' - generous to a fault.

There are a number of articles written by him in back editions of this journal, the last few openly, and stoically, telling of his life after surgery; sadly some four years after that surgery he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told that he had only months to live, a prognosis that was sadly only too accurate.

Four of us, John Catley, John Melville, Peter Perry and I had the honour of representing the 81st Entry at Tony's funeral which was held at the Eltham Crematorium on the 24th of January; another member of the 81st, Maurice (Bam) Bambrick, a very close and long-time friend of Tony's, and his wife Pam were also present having driven down to Eltham from their home in Norfolk. It came out during the very family oriented Humanist Service that Tony had stayed in the RAF to complete his twelve years and had then moved back into his parents' home in Erith, he never married choosing to remain with his parents and ultimately looking after his elderly mother once his father had passed away; it was also very apparent just how close he had been to Sheila and her extended family.

After the Service we all made our way through the Friday evening traffic to Barnehurst Golf Club, some three or four miles away, to join Tony's family and friends at a reception. A very sad occasion for us but rewarding to see such support from Entry members; my thanks to all for their attendance.

Ossie Osborn, Airframes, passed away at his Wiltshire home on the 17th of January this year. Having received this sad news from Ossie's daughter Tracy I emailed her on behalf of the Entry to offer our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends; I also sent a condolence card on behalf of us all and for which I have received Tracy's, and her mother's, appreciation. As I go to press with this edition of the Journal I have no information on details regarding Ossie's funeral but should I receive any I will pass them on by email

My request for articles about life with the V Bomber fleets failed utterly, but thanks to several armourers (what would I do without them?) who went straight from Halton to 2TAF we now know a lot about Sylt - and the thread carries on with three more related articles in this edition of the Journal; one of them is from a new contributor, Kevin Hutchinson, whose writings on the subject amounted to thirteen pages of A4 that he has been kind enough to split into three parts for us. For what it's worth, 2TAF disbanded in November 1958 making the 81st the last Halton entry to be posted there - yet another 'Last' to add to Mike Stanley's reason for naming the Journal 'First & Last'! RAF Germany was then formed on the 1st of January 1959 - presumably nameless for a few weeks then!

I still think there's bags of scope for articles relating to our first (or indeed at any time) 'hands-on' aircraft experiences , so come on now help me to continue running this website - and, as a by- product, keep my grey-cells from addling along with my ever increasing aches and pains.

A much longer than usual first page but if you've made it this far then I would ask you to join me in welcoming the two new-comers, Kevin Hutchinson and Wally Butters, and in thanking them and the four other more-seasoned contributors for the articles that are listed below.


If you have any comments on the articles, or just want to say 'Hi!' to old friends please CONTACT BRIAN.

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