Some years ago the "Vets" use to hire a river boat for their annual "trip and reunion" and visit a pub/restaurant opposite out club boathouse. Over the following years it was thought that it may be better if they arrived at our club in Dunkirk little ships, so the Association of Dunkirk little ships, and the vets got together with our club and yesterday was yet another of these successfull unions.
At mid day plus, the first of the little ships were spotted "on station" ready for its docking at our landing stage and the disembark of its precious cargo.
With a piper playing in the background, sweetie and "H" ( commodore and lady) were ready to greet them as representatives of our club, along with the secretary and treasurer and a few committee members scouts and sea scouts.
The 1940s re-inactment representatives were resplendant, dressed as the guard of honour in the form of 10 privates and one officer ( also with two "wives" resplendant in fourties style dress) of the surrey regiment (long since disbanded).
Armed with sand bags various machine guns and carrying out their arms drill with "lee enfield mark threes", they presented arms as the first of the "ships " arrived.
The beautifully maintained "ships" docked faultlessly and were tied up by the assistant commodore Francis, a larger than life character in all ways, (who also runs the local sea scouts group, who incedently served the meal and cleared away) accompanied by another comittee member who also runs a scout group taking the bow lines. The first vets to step ashore did so only after they had stood to attention and returned the salute of the" guard of honour" officer. Whilst age had taken away their sprightly bodies, they stood erect and saluted with precision and prde.
Sweety and H recieved them as old friends (which they are) many a tear was forthcoming from both those on the pier recieving them, and the vets.
As the boats arrived and left, discharging the vets to our hospitality the vets were greated by no less than our president (of the club, who is still getting over major surgery) and four local Mayors, and their respective mayoral consorts.
The Ships crews , with their vessels now safetly moored opposite the club, were collected by our ferry the "Len Outrim"and after everybody had recieved their customary greeting, grace was said by our president and we all sat for lunch. An organist played songs from the fourties and after lunch a "sing song" took place with our very own vereran taking the lead with much enthusiasm.
A speech was made toasting our club and its members ( repied to by our Commodore) for the hospitality and a special thanyou given to the ladies who prepared such a scrumptious meal, which was recieved with the words " our pleasure you are all very, very welcome!" coming from Shelia the lead "cook" . I noted that there wasn`t so many vets this year and asked a couple where their friends were from last year (half knowing what their reply would be) and was told, with much sadness, that so and so had died or was in hospital at the moment.
In a moment of reflection I thought about exactly what these old and many infirmed, guys and gals had done for this country and its populace and was so grateful that in a small way I could be part of this celebration of their lives.
All done! it was time to go, and with reluctance, we began prying both ourselves and the vets away from our "celebrations" each of us spending much time saying farewell and shaking hands. The Ships collected their souls from the embarkation pontoon a few at a time, and with great sadness, much waving and promises of a repeat visit next year, they were gone. As the last boat vanished into the distance, once again I reflected with sadness on just how many of these great characters would attend next year?