First & Last, Journal of the Halton 81st Entry

Issue Number 60

Aug 2019

The Journal of the 81st Entry

Edited and uploaded by Brian Spurway

Welcome to the 60th edition of The Journal.


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 Michael (Mike) Robins who passed away on 25 April 2019.

On the day of Mike's funeral, Wednesday 8th of May 2019, the weather where I live in Wiltshire was appalling - distinctly not the sort of conditions for motorway driving - but Mike was a very close friend and torrential rain wasn't going to stop me driving to Rudgwick, just over one hundred miles away via the M4, to pay my respects to his family and my farewells to him. After an uncomfortable hour, or so, on the M4, and a painstaking negotiation of Guildford's late morning traffic, I arrived at Rudgwick's Kings Head pub where, sitting at a table inside, were three more members of the 81st Entry: Peter Perry, Dick Richardson and Errol Johnson. Shortly after I arrived Ken Francis joined us; we all five had light refreshment in the pub and then walked the mere fifty yards to the church. After the funeral service, which was very representative of Mike's firm faith, we accompanied the rest of the congregation to the graveside for his interment - at that very moment the sun broke through the clouds and, quite dramatically I thought, lit up the sad scene; unlike Mike I have no faith, but I have to admit that it made the hair on the back of my neck stand to attention!

Somehow the large number of people who had been in the church made it into the small pub where we met Mike's family - I had met Pat a few times before, the first when she and Mike were visiting his sister, who then - late 1980s I would guess - lived in a small village near us, and they had popped in for a cuppa; other times were when I was in the Dunsfold area and had the opportunity to pop in to see Mike. After some more refreshments we made our separate ways home: in my case back on to the M4 and another drenching as the rain returned with a vengeance.

Thank you Peter, Dick, Errol and Ken for being there to help me represent the 81st, I know that Pat, her family and the many friends who also attended, were very pleased to see us. And a special thank you to Peter, without whose "guidance" my raincoat would probably still be lying in the church's porch!

I remember Mike at Halton from those first few months of ours - before the big 'split' - as he lived in the next room; he was just one of us and not necessarily a particular mate. How and when, in later times, we discovered that we shared a birthday, started sending each other birthday, and Christmas cards, and shared occasional long phone conversations, I just cannot recall. He attended every Entry reunion in their early days, and the RAFHAA Triennials that - at that time - didn't coincide with them; however, in later years, as his health began to deteriorate, he found doing so progressively more and more difficult. Most reading this won't have known Mike well, but even many of those who did will not have known of his health problems, how the dreaded cancer was slowly nibbling away; one thing after another occurred but you wouldn't have known it. He retained his cheerful demeanour and, for a long time, continued taking part in the favourite pastimes of his, that I know about anyway, golf and shooting; he and I never managed the round of golf we'd promised ourselves! What a shame, I would have enjoyed that as much as I always enjoyed his company. I have no idea when he ceased riding around on two-wheeled motorised machinery, a passion of his, along with that of many others, whilst he was at Halton. After leaving Halton he was posted to Duxford, a place he became particularly fond of; he became an active member of the 'Old Dux' Association - sadly another military association that has disappeared because of 'anno domini'!

I do know that had it not been for Mike I would most likely not be writing this, the website and Journal that I run for the 81st would not exist, and the reunions I had the pleasure of arranging, over many years, would never have taken place. Why, you may well ask? Sometime in 1980 I received a totally unexpected call from him - as I mentioned a few words ago, he was just another A/A . . . etc. - asking a favour: he knew I was still in the 'mob' and had somehow got hold of my whereabouts at the CFS. He had been trying to gather the names of ex 81st members with a view to arranging a reunion, but was finding it impossible to find more than just a handful; could I help by locating those still serving? I told him I might be able to do that and so, I guess, we just mutually agreed that I would not only try to locate those still in uniform but also as many others as possible. I'm pretty sure he also mentioned the start of the RAF Halton Apprentice Association that I patently hadn't been aware of; I joined straight away. Over a period of months I managed to contact a sufficient number from both categories and that enabled me to arrange our first 81st Entry reunion: this was held at the UJ Club in London, Saturday 22 March, the 81st day of 1981. A personal thank you Mike, RIP old friend, I will surely miss you - as too will your many friends and colleagues from the 81st Entry.

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