It was with great sadness that I learned that Harry Irons had passed away. Harry was a remarkable man.He joined the RAF at the age of 16 using his brothers papers. He became a rear gunner serving with both 9 and 158 Squadrons and he flew a total of 60 missions, a remarkable feat for any bomber crew but particularly as a rear gunner. He was awarded a DFC.After the war he became a tailor but recognition of Bomber Command was always a priority for him.He was a Trustee of the Bomber Command Memorial in Piccadilly and when the Government threatened to charge VAT on the build he was told that as a Trustee his personal house was going to be taken to pay the bill. After a campaign, led by the Daily Express, this threat was removed and Harry kept his house.Harry was a great story teller and I well remember on one visit to the Friday 13th Halifax at Elvington Harry started to tell a couple of people about the reality of being a rear gunner, word spread throughout the museum that a veteran was in the building and Harry finished up talking to a huge crowd about his time in Bomber Command. Harry will be sorely missed.
The Reunion this year will be 7th and 8th September 2019.It will follow the traditional format with an AGM and Association Dinner on Saturday 7th and the Memorial Service followed by lunch at the Expanse to follow on Sunday 8th.You will find a booking form with this newsletter. Please return this no later than 1st August.Veterans can be offered refunds after this date but no other refunds will be given. Forms should be returned with a cheque to Alison , her address is on the form. Please don’t forget your gifts for the raffle during Sunday Lunch, this is a key fund raiser for the Association and if you would like to contribute to the raffle but cannot attend why not send a voucher as a prize—any vouchers would be acknowledged and should be sent to Kevin.
Included with this newsletter is a questionnaire. This is as a response to a constructive discussion that we had at the AGM in 2018. The format of the Reunion has been unchanged for a number of years but the number attending is slowly falling, clearly a part of this is that the veterans are less able to make the journey to Bridlington. It is important to remember that 158 is one of the very few WW2 Squadron Associations that still exists. We hold the Memorial Service each year to remember everyone who served with the Squadron. Members of the Association regularly come from Canada and Australia to join the UK based members. We used to organise events around the Reunion but the attendance did not justifly the work. PLEASE complete the qustionaire, even if you don't attend the Reunion. We would like to hear your thoughts and ideas. These results will be presented at the Reunion AGM.
The Association remains strong and now has approaching 300 members. We are probably the last WW2 Association that still exits and this is entirely due to the decision that the veterans took some years ago to open membership to direct relatives of those who served in the squadron. We now have many children (often aged 60+ but they will always be the children !!!), grandchildren and even great grandchildren, in addition there are numerous nephews, nieces etc. Members are spread across the world and we often get members travelling very long distances to attend the memorial service. We are open to any relative or friend of a 158 veterans and joining us only costs £15. If you know of anyone who is not a member please let Kevin know. Financially we are very much a “Not for Profit” organization and we have done well over the years to maintain a break even position. As required by our constitution two members of the committee stand for re-election each year. If you would like to join the Executive Team or if you would like to talk about the roles please telephone Kevin on at any time before 30th June 2019. All of the Committee give their time without any payment, and indeed they only claim major expenses from the Association, many minor expenses simply being paid themselves. No one receives time, mileage or gift payments.
Our Archive has dramatically increased, with computer records building on the file originated by Eddie. This work was initially led by Rolph as the Chief Archivist, aided by Chuck and Alan. Rolph has given up the role for family reasons, and I am delighted to tell you that Chuck and Alan have been promoted to Senior Archivists and they have been joined by Tony and John . The archive is the most important legacy that we can have for the veterans of 158 Squadron. We continue to receive regular reports of events in Europe that recognise crew members who were lost over occupied territory. Many of our graves have a dedicated team that place flowers and remember the crew on an anniversary.
The Memorial Service at the Reunion is always a very moving event. Our Squadron Chaplain, James and his dedicated team at the church in Lissett work so hard to make the service the tribute that it has become. Up to 200 people attend and many people who have no connection with 158 attend and remember the fallen from many conflicts and wars. In recent years a bugler sounds the last post as wreathes are laid on the memorial in the churchyard. Everybody remembers in their own way those who are no longer with us but the 158 Squadron Association ensures that everyone who served in 158 is never forgotten.
We have a range of 158 memorabilia, any profit from this goes directly into Association funds. As usual we will have a full range at the Reunion—where prices are a bit cheaper as we don’t have to pay post and packing. I notice that on the days that I work in London ties are now very much back in fashion (which is good as I have always worn one when I am working !!!). We ran out of lapel badges last year and we now have both large and small sizes in stock. A windscreen car badge has been suggested, if you would like us to make them please let Kevin know.