Anniversary events kicked off on Thursday 8th December with a ‘Return to Araluen’ excursion to revisit the venue for our 100 Days to Go celebrations in 1972. This trip was organised as a side activity by Pat Cullinan and was attended by Pat and Sharon, Tom Cobley and Margo Simmons and John and Vivienne Price. Tom noted that there were a ‘few’ classmates missing. Perhaps we didn’t want to be reminded of the hangovers which followed the celebrations.
Friday evening saw us gather at Olims Bar in the old Ainslie Rex for drinks and a general get-together. While it was generally thought it would be an old boy’s night, it was pleasing to see several partners attend as well. For the first couple of hours the ladies sat at a table and chatted while we worked out who it was that we were talking to and stood around in small groups telling stories about rugby, what we have been doing for the past 50 years and generally checking who had what joints replaced etc. Later in the evening the weather cooled, and we migrated inside in search of food and welcomed the ladies back into the conversations. The Araluen and Olims photos are here – Photos – Araluen and Olims Drinks
Saturday night was a more formal Welcome Drinks evening at the Canberra Rex, accompanied by loads of food throughout the evening. Well done to the committee and the hotel for a magnificent spread. There is no truth to the rumour that the two fire alarms and subsequent evacuation was a ploy by the Artists to get the Engineers away from the “Toc”. In between this ‘entertainment’ we continued our conversations from the previous evening and caught up with classmates and partners who were unable to make it to Olims.
Sunday morning saw many of us attend a memorial service at General Bridges’ grave to remember the 15 classmates who unfortunately are no longer with us. Click to see the Order of Service. This was a very moving ceremony conducted by our very own Rev. Brian Chalmers, ably assisted by Rowan Tracey and Mike Swan. During the ceremony a wreath was laid by representatives from each of our cadet Companies (Bob Blue, Peter Jenke, Mike Swan and Maurie Meecham). Following this service there was an opportunity to attend church services at the RMC chapel. Click here for – Photos – Memorial Service.
These activities were followed by a lunch at the Canberra Southern Cross Yacht Club at Yarralumla. This was well attended and was an opportunity for relaxed, informal chats.
On Monday morning we woke to heavy rain and an 0830 start for a tour of the College and a visit to the RMC museum. We dutifully assembled, umbrellas in hand at Duntroon House to be met by our guides for the morning, one of whom was Bob Crawshaw (Class of 1970) who we remember as a member of Second Class in 1969. After a short briefing by one of the current Company Commanders who outlined the current training program, we headed off to see what had changed and what had not. For those who had not seen it previously, the biggest change is the Cadets’ Mess where the old gym as we knew it has gone and has been replaced by a new dining hall. The old Mess building is now a bar and ante rooms. The walls contain historical memorabilia of RMC, OCS Portsea, WRAAC OCS George’s Heights and OTU Scheyville. Follow this link for – Photos – Duntroon Tour.
Monday evening was our formal dinner at the Canberra Rex, 50 years to the day from our graduation on 12th December 1972. What a magnificent night! We were also joined on zoom by a couple of classmates who were unable to attend any of the previous events. The program is here and a number of general photos from the evening are located here – Photos – Anniversary Dinner.
The evening was managed by John McNamara as Master of Ceremonies who welcomed us all and said the longest Grace in the history of mankind. It was ostensibly a “Chopper” Grace to offset all those days of the Protestant version at the College but was pertinent to the occasion. The hotel once again provided us with excellent fare and between courses we were entertained by a series of interviews. Brian Chalmers proposed a moving toast to the 15 members of our class who have died. Have a look at the video here.
After we had finished the main course, John McNamara held a ‘Tell Us Your Story” session where he interviewed a cross-section of the audience: a “short-timer” (Jon Mander-Jones), a member of the “standard, no-frills” cohort and a Kiwi (Tony McLeod), a “long-haul” member (Geoff Hay), and a partner (Brenda Elliott). All those interviewed offered interesting and amusing anecdotes and insights into what RMC meant to them. John did such an impressive job that Duncan McInnes observed later that he thought he was seeing Bert Newton reincarnated (perhaps it was the hairstyle). Click here to see the video.
After dessert it was Paddy Ryan’s turn to interview a number of the class “Characters” – Tom Cobley, Pat Cullinan, Don Muirhead and a partner, Jan Loughrey. Paddy’s dry humour and quick wit, together with the interviewees’ responses provided us with a hilarious interlude. To quote Duncan again – “entertaining and thoughtful insights. Move over Parkinson!” See Paddy’s interviews here.
The formalities ended with a series of toasts (Rowan Tracey to the Class, Peter Teys to the women and Maurie Meecham the loyal toast) – with Trish Thomas inserting an unscripted toast to the men – followed by Auld Lang Syne, led by John Price. View a video of the toasts here.
Tuesday 13th December saw the last of our activities, the Graduation Parade at RMC followed by morning tea in the grounds of Duntroon House. The heavy rain of the previous day had gone, and we were bathed in bright sunshine as the Corps paraded to farewell 183 graduates. There were many differences after 50 years mainly due to the change in rifles and that the graduating class now all carry swords. Take a look – Photos – The Parade
Morning tea was our final event and brought the reunion to a close. Apart from saying our farewells we were also able to catch up with several members of the Class of 1971 who were having a belated 50-year reunion as COVID restrictions prevented them from having it in 2021.
A book was funded and compiled by Tony McKenna as a momento of the class members and their journeys through to 2022. A high percentage of class members contributed. Many thanks to Tony for his kind donation and efforts. The book can be viewed by clicking on this link.
David Cran, Warwick Elliot, Steve Jones, Kym MacMillan