18 Feb

The theme for the day was all-round sunshine, smiles and total admiration for the ground and air crews of 28 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.

After informal chats with the officer commanding, Wing Commander Mark Pickford, and other members of the Squadron, we were briefed in the hangar on the capabilities of the star of the show: the Chinook helicopter.

Then it was up to the briefing room for the presentation of the Company award to the Airman of the Year: Acting Sgt Chris Bolt. The citation was eloquently read by Past Master Baroness Sue Garden, as the Master had misplaced her voice. Its contents described someone whose dedication and achievements in any walk of life would be exceptional. A full and enlightening presentation followed from Wg Cdr Pickford on the history and current capabilities of 28 Squadron.

Then came the next of kin forms…………………it was at this point that I decided that, in the event of an accident, I would leave my accumulated wealth to my wife and my “football through the ages” cigarette card collection to my eldest grandson.

After lunch in the Officers mess, we returned to the airfield and collected our helmets and ear plugs for a 90-minute flight on board a Chinook. We were 18 World Traders and guests, flown with exceptional skill by Charlie Young and three equally professional colleagues, from Benson to the Isle of Dogs, across London, mainly following the Thames, over to Heathrow and back to Benson. Stunning. London is a magical place at the best of times, but is unsurpassed from this viewpoint and in glorious sunshine.

In the words of a great journalist, now sadly past, Brian Hanrahan, during the Falklands War, “I counted them all out and I counted them all back”. All 18 World Traders and guests then headed home, wiser and satisfied, after a day very well spent.

Thanks to the skill of Charlie and his 3 colleagues, my wife and eldest grandson will have to wait a little bit longer for their just rewards.

Tony Grimshaw