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I do not know where this year has gone. It seams like only yesterday that we were putting together a selection of what we have in the collection, to show at the open day. As in previous years both Paul and myself take the Friday as leave from work and start to sort out what we have decided as our theme for this year, and the first job is to get the room prepared. We are joined by Phil Chapman who came down to lend a hand and sort out his part of the display, which as those of you who come to the open day is concentrated on aircraft.
After Fridays initial sort, Saturday is when we make the final selection and get the collection arranged in a presentable form ready for Sunday. The weather on both days has been very good so far with plenty of sunshine. It looks good for tomorrow we thought. Finally everything is ready after a few final touches making up some signs and notices and checking that the Video/TV is working. Tonight we decide to go back and sample the beer and food in the local hostelry.
Sunday morning and what’s happened to the weather? Would you believe rain and thunderstorms, well it could have waited another 24hours. Undeterred we set off once again for Newhaven this time accompanied by the ladies.
We arrive to find Jeff Payne already there. Many of you will remember Jeff who has his own collection of memorabilia, but of a different sort. His includes a fine collection of vintage bicycles, and his wife who collects prams. We open up the display and wait for the crowds to arrive. A highlight of this years meeting, is that the fort has put together a collection of items that has been in storage, some of which I guess since the fort opened, and there has not been room to put it on display. It was also prompted by the mice, which found one of the uniforms in store and thought ah! dinner! It ranges from military badges to radio equipment, uniforms to armaments.
It’s Eleven thirty and Paul goes off to meet Terry Giles and his wife who have been asked by the fort to officially open the new display. Terry is the deputy chairman and secretary of the Royal Observer benevolent fund, and kindly agreed to carry out this duty, in the absence of Norman Grieg who unfortunately was unable to attend this year. More ex ROC persons have arrived including Roy McDowell who kindly sent me a cd of the ROC website so I could show to those visitors who are not on the internet, what it contained and hopefully promote some additional interest.
Our semi-official meeting of the day started at 14.00 when I introduce Derek Bunker to update us with the latest developments at the fort, which include installing a water proof membrane over the rest of the rooms, which will help greatly in keeping all the artefacts free from damp. There are also plans to open up part of the fort, which have not been accessible to the general public for some years.
Paul Norris and Phil Chapman gave an update on what we the managing trustees have been doing this last twelve months, and our future plans, which include some additional lighting, and the development of a database to document all the items we have in the collection. Terry Giles addressed the meeting summarising the work of the fort and the trustees of the ROC collection, which we manage on behalf of the benevolent fund.
Finally, Derrick Ballington spoke briefly on the life and work of Derek Wood who passed away recently aged 73. Derek gave so much to the corps during his service, culminating in the writing of “Attack Warning Red” a history of the Royal Observer Corps.
With the meeting over the next event is the opening of the” Fort Collection” as it has been named, by Terry Giles. With the formal part of the day over, it is left to the visitors to explore the rest of the fort.
Two days to set it up and ½ hour to break down. Pack it all away and start to plan next year’s event. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the managing trustees, Phil Chapman and Steve Ashdown for their work during the last year, and to the other members of the team who meet every other Tuesday to help keep the collection together. Special thanks to Alan Voice for renovating the model of the underground post. Derek and Simon and the rest of the fort staff for their continued support and help. And Paul Norris my other fellow trustee who together with myself arrange a working day every six weeks or so, (or when work will allow), to enhance the various displays. And finally a big thanks to those that come and visit every year and give your support.
See you next year on Sunday 6th June 2004? I hope so because it happens to be the 60th anniversary of D-Day. There are plans afoot to make the day special next year and the managers of Newhaven Fort have approached us if we wish to be part of the day. We always hold our open day on the first Sunday in June as most of you know. So we have decided to put on an exhibition of Seaborne. Observer Corps members who volunteered for those duties, and were stationed on board ships, took part in the D-day invasion. So if any one out there has any Seaborne items they would like to lend us, or maybe donate to the collection please contact myself or any one of the managing trustees.