05 Mar

The lifting of Covid restrictions meant that this year’s visit was on, having missed the previous two years, and as soon as Clerk’s Notes advertising it went out, fastest finger on the keyboard got a reserved place. Twenty of us had a great day out in the Oxfordshire countryside  – Journeymen, Freemen, Liverymen Past Masters and a couple of guests meant that we had a broad spread of members and as the Master said, we bonded!

After a great welcome from 28 Squadron and their CO, Wing Commander Hannah Bishop, we were split into two groups, and visited a hangar where the equipment was showcased – including helicopters, kit, and the life raft, before we had a demonstration of how to put on our helmets for the flight. After that amusing interlude (and what happens at Benson stays at Benson) we boarded a Chinook, paid attention to the safety demonstration, buckled ourselves in (another amusing interlude) and away we went. Those who had not been on a Chinook before looked a little concerned when the rear door was only partially closed as we took off but perhaps the fresh air helped. We had a fantastic hour’s flight – we ended up not being allowed by Heathrow air traffic control to follow the Thames down to Tower Bridge because of the low cloud, but our flight over Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire more than made up for it. We flew over some glorious countryside following the path of the Thames, and seeing some flooded fields, motorways and pretty villages before descending and landing on the marked spot. We rather liked the idea of commuting into London by helicopter on the day of a tube strike.

After a delicious lunch in the Officers’ Mess, we then had a slide presentation from W.Cdr Bishop and two of her colleagues on recent developments at Benson, followed by a presentation by The Master about what we in World Traders are doing. Past Master Sue Garden then presented the silver salver (which she first presented in 2009) to the member of the squadron who has made the greatest contribution to the squadron over the year. Unfortunately, the winner ‘Yoda’ Powell was unable to be with us – he sounds to be the sort of person that any organisation becomes totally reliant on for volunteering for all those necessary tasks. Congratulations from us all.

It was then farewell, and the drive back home, rather wishing we could have had a lift by helicopter to avoid the traffic.

On behalf of all of us, I’d like to thank the aviators of the squadron for giving up time in their working day to talk to us and to be a part of all our activities. It was good to meet you all. Thanks to W.Cdr Bishop for inviting us and for putting on such an informative and enjoyable day – and the good news is that she has already told me that they would be delighted to see us again next year – and we can bring a larger party. So look out for those Clerk’s Notes.

Michael Shapiro