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Dame Vera Lynn remembered
Richard Anderson (M. 67-71) recalls a memorable meeting with Dame Vera Lynn
I was fortunate to meet Dame Vera in 1977 at Woolwich , East London. I was a serving Gunner Officer with the Depot Regiment which was stationed at the historic barracks that was ‘home’ of the Royal Artillery.
In late summer 1977 it was decided to hold a pageant on the front parade and the highlight of the event was an appearance of Dame Vera. Prior to this we would show off some of our equipment and a few battle scenes and then there was to be a beating of the retreat and sunset ceremony.
I had been detailed off to look after Dame Vera and her husband Harry for the event. I was to meet them at the guard room and accompany them and to follow a detailed programme for the afternoon and evening.
They arrived on time in a silver Rolls- Royce, driven by Harry. The first thing that struck me was how small he was. He could hardly see over the dashboard of the Rolls! Dame Vera was exactly as I expected. She was very sociable but Harry, as her manager, wanted all the exact details of the rehearsal and the event and was very persistent! In fact, he was a total pain!
After a cup of tea in the mess we went straight out to the rehearsal to practice her part on the front parade. The idea was that Dame Vera would sing while seated in the cupola of a Quad which was towing a limber and 25 pounder gun. This wonderful piece of World War 2 history was owned by the Royal Artillery wing of the Driving and Maintenance School at Bovingdon and was in beautiful condition. The idea was that Dame Vera would get into the Quad inside the barracks and it would then drive under the Grand Arch and onto the front parade.
We went and examined the Quad and the first problem was how to get her seated on the roof with her legs dangling through the cupola. Dame Vera was all for it but Harry declared that this was not going to happen!
The second problem, which we had been assured was not a problem ,was the microphone system. The Quad was to drive onto the square with Dame Vera singing and this would be piped through the main speaker system. The Royal Artillery Band would provide the music and they were static in front of the main building.
Having got Dame Vera through the cupola we then had to rig up the microphone and get her connected to the radio system, to play over the main speakers. We were expecting large crowds for the performance and stands ran along the grass facing the front parade. The speaker system extended along the whole front parade, so we wanted everyone to be able to hear her performance. We also wanted everyone to see her so the quad would drive up and down the square. Nothing worked during the rehearsal, but we were promised that it would all be fine by the performance. Dame Vera took it all in her stride, but Harry was not happy, and everyone knew it!
The pageant all went well and when the time came to get Dame Vera into the Quad it was now dusk and had turned quite cold. Dame Vera asked for a rug but I suggested that I get my Mess kit dress cape which was black with a red silk lining as it would look great with her wearing it in the spotlight. We got her into position and the cape was a big success and she was handed her radio microphone. At the given moment the band started up with her signature tune ‘We’ll meet Again’ and the Quad started up and revved to get going up the slope leading to the Grand Arch. The noise was so great that Dame Vera was unable to hear the band so there was total confusion! The quad appeared and the singing commenced but as she headed down the square the time lapse grew greater and so the singing was not in time with the music. This was not such a disaster as it sounds because the radio microphone was now too far away and was not transmitting Dame Vera’s singing anyway! Also, the crowd roared with approval, so nobody realised that the system was not working! Dame Vera pulled it off like a true professional and as she came back nearer the centre the time lapse disappeared and she was back in range of the radio mic. she could also hear the band. The Quad revved away happily and everyone was overcome with a wave of emotion at Dame Vera ,sitting in the spotlight , won the crowd over and did a medley of songs that ended a very special evening. I remember thinking how great she was, and I would always remember that enchanting night of her sitting on a piece of Gunner history in my striking cape. Sadly, I never saw it again!
Dame Vera must have had many such events during her many years of support to the Armed Services and she would probably never remember a single performance at Woolwich as being any different from the thousands of others. I, however, have always remembered it and from then on took a great interest in her life and all that she had achieved.
Dame Vera was a real ‘trooper’ and she made a huge impact during her long life.
Richard Anderson (M.67-71)
Sorry to hear news
Eddie Channon (Sh. 68-72) has been in contact to say how sorry he was to hear of the death of Graham Jones. He writes: "He taught me Maths when I came to Allhallows for the Sixth form (1968-70). I'm sure his enthusiasm helped me to get a place at Oxford, particularly because the Oxford entrance exam focussed on traditional school mathematics (whereas we were learning modern Maths). I believe that he introduced computer programming into the school. At the time we had to punch cards (by hand), post them off to Imperial College and wait a week to receive the computer output (usually full of mistakes). It was great to be involved with computing at the beginning - I still have the now useless knowledge of codes for punched cards. I think Graham also helped me to get work at Shell Centre in London where I did programing on an oil pipeline project in my 8 month gap before uni."
Lyme Regis Theatre in good hands
Nigel Clegg (M. 62-65: email@example.com) has written to say that he has been Chairman of the Trustees of the Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis for the past three years and has really enjoyed his part in ensuring this lovely old seaside theatre survives for the long term.
Driving past the school entrance
Simon Gibbons (St.79-83: firstname.lastname@example.org) has made contact with Aunt Agatha after recently driving pass the old school entrance gates. He writes: "The skill set learnt at Allhallows has allowed me to run a company for 27 years (a few false starts with working for other people), taught me how to negotiate and work with people you like and sometimes don't like. How to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission. How to work in the real world and not from a text book ideal scenario. I look back fondly on my time there, it was dull and boring sometimes, but mostly fascinating and exciting. With my company I have held the Wallace and Gromit licence for pin badges....don't laugh, we made over 1.5 million of them. Created products for Peroni, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls Royce, British Airways to name but a few. I have had to deal with people from the broadest range of society and had a great deal of fun doing it. Would I be where I am to-day without the skillset learnt at Allhallows, I am not sure. One thing I am sure about, it was a great education and I don't just mean academic (growing, brewing, selling etc added to the academia). I have been fortunate in business to allow me to send my son to Clayesmore whereas I would have sent him to Allhallows if it was still around. It continues to be a blast & thanks in part to my 4 years at HMP Allhallows every cloud most definitely has a silver lining and my glass is half full."
Steve Bath (Chud 66-71) replied to a request from his old Housemaster DJB for some news, with a huge package about what he has been doing recently. He says the family sold the 90 year old business of Bath Travel to John Hayes in 2013. John has since been propelled into stardom when he bought the retail arm of Thomas Cook in October 2019 thereby saving 3,500 jobs. Steve continues to publish the Christchurch River book, although this has been shelved until 2021. Steve invested in an aircraft - a Cessna 421C Golden Eagle, which he operates as an Air Ambulance that carries human organs all over the UK for transplant. Steve has had a pilot's licence since 1979. He says his flying was inspired by joining the RAF CCF section in 1967 when they were taken to Exeter Airport for a flight in a Chipmunk which gave him confidence. He recently met up with many of the class of 66-71 when they met for a reunion in November 2019 at the Grand Hotel in Exmouth the same weekend that the Rugby World Cup Final was being held. A great weekend, but sadly a disappointing result on the playing field!
Mark Beckenham (Middy 69-74) bumped into AA in the carpark of a giant emporium in Seaton in March and said he is engaging in the development of a major residential property in Seaton. He was delighted to hear that the school's long term Bursar, Paul Dallimore (73-94), is now in a flat in Seaton near his daughter Katie and her husband David Mason, a former estate agent. Mark was his normal cheerful self and asked after several members of staff and former pupils.