Hot Washup - RANCBA Reunion, Canberra, 2002

For those of you who were unable to make it, the Canberra 2002 Reunion, held from Tuesday 23rd April to Saturday 27th April 2002, was an outstanding success.

The registration day on Tuesday 23rd set the very high standard that was kept up for the remaining 4 days of the reunion. The registration process went very smoothly and was a credit to the organisational skills of Lance & Chris Sutherland. Delegates picked up their name tags from large pin-boards in the alcove to the National Convention Centre Ballroom, then proceeded into the Ballroom to the registration point where they collected and signed their invoice and picked up any memorabilia items they had ordered. White hats for the Anzac Day march were also issued at this time.

Delegates were then invited to buy raffle tickets for the main raffle prize of a mounted porthole clock with reunion logo underneath. Other raffle prizes (engraved glasses & beer mugs) were also on display – these were raffled at the Yacht Club barbecue on Wednesday. Once registration was completed, delegates were free to mingle in the spacious area of the Ballroom and join up with the large number of Communicators they had not seen for many years. The bar opened at midday, and tea and coffee were on hand throughout the day.

The HARMAN tours on Tuesday/Wednesday ran smoothly and were also a credit to Julie Mitchell, the CO of HARMAN and Peter ‘Pedro’ Franklin, the CO of NAVCAMSAUS and their respective teams. Buses left the National Convention Centre at set times on the Tuesday and Wednesday to ferry people to and from HARMAN. There was much favourable comment from the people who revisited HARMAN, some had not been back since the Second World War. It was a shared experience for both parties, as Julie Mitchell said afterwards in a letter to the Chairman of the Organising Committee, Sam Hughes: “The officers and sailors conducting tours ‘behind the wire’ benefited greatly from and were fascinated to hear the varied reminiscences and ‘waries’ told by the ex-service members in their branch.”

The Welcoming Reception on the Tuesday evening was enjoyed immensely by those lucky delegates chosen to participate, particularly as we found out that the Chief Minister’s brother was a Signalman in the RAN (Tony Stanhope, for those of you who remember him). The World War 2 WRANS attending were given a special mention by the Chief Minister, particularly Judy Saunders (nee Alley) who was one of the original 12 WRANS employed at HARMAN in April 1941.

Most of those attending the Welcoming Reception journeyed back to the Canberra Casino where a ‘happy hour’ was in full swing. The upstairs area was very crowded and drinks were hard to come by at times, but it did not seem to worry many of the delegates who stayed on and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was reminiscent of a busy Sunday night disco at the ‘Junior Rates’ at HARMAN.

On the Wednesday the HARMAN tours continued and we had glorious Autumn weather for the Yacht Club marquee barbecue, which was held in a beautiful setting on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, Treasurer Sam Hughes made the day by finding it in his heart to put on free drinks for most of the afternoon. The organisation was excellent, the Hall Village Brass Band entertained us with some rousing tunes, the ferry was available for lake tours and the photographers were on hand to capture the action. The Southern Cross Yacht Club staff put on an excellent barbecue spread, served from various points around the gathering, so there was never much of a line-up for food. The raffle prizes were won by 6 lucky recipients and a bus was provided to ferry tired delegates back to their motels and hotels. It was a very convivial day, we all enjoyed the atmosphere which was helped by record Autumn temperatures in Canberra.

The perfect weather continued for the Anzac Day march on Thursday, with the Communications Branch contingent stealing the show. All you could see on looking down Anzac Parade was a sea of white hats. We were given good coverage during the march commentary and on ABC TV. Prior to the march, delegates gathered at the Navy Memorial in Anzac Parade, where the Patron of the RANCBA ACT, CDRE Harry Adams RAN Rtd, laid a wreath commemorating our departed colleagues.

After the march, it was a brisk walk (or ride for those fortunate) back to the National Convention Centre for the Anzac Day buffet lunch. The first part of the lunch was very moving – particularly when Dave Jeffrey called the roll of the 58 Communicators who we know have left our ranks in the past 3 years. Colin Slater and his ‘Sing Australia’ choir provided excellent entertainment for us while we served ourselves from the buffet, and the National Convention Centre provided the very professional catering service for which they are renowned. The afternoon was over all too quickly – with over 70 tables to get around many delegates were still looking for old friends at the end of the day. It was then on the the many private parties organised, or to other Canberra Anzac Day gatherings.

The Friday bus tours provided excellent ‘whistle stop’ tours of Canberra attractions, with very informative comment provided by the Keirs Bus-Lines drivers.

While the bus tours were being conducted, a group of 72 delegates gathered at the Federal Golf Club for the inaugural RANCBA Reunion Golf Day. Harry James was the big winner (gross) on the day, with nett prizes going to Kevin Luke (Signalman), Terry Feltham (Sparker) and Sally Kissick (WRAN). All winners were presented with attractive trophies.

The Friday night dance was enjoyed immensely by those attending, although numbers were down somewhat after a busy social calendar during the preceding days. The demonstration dancers organised by Lance & Chris Sutherland were great and Bob Mildren entertained the gathering with an impromptu singing performance which went over very well with those who were present.

Saturday was a recovery day, prior to the Grande Finale Dinner at the National Convention Centre. The Exhibition Hall looked a treat on Saturday night, the Navy band from HMAS CERBERUS were wonderful, DCN (RADM Brian Adams) and Shirley Fenton Huie (author of ‘Ships Belles’) gave excellent short speeches and the Reunion Organising Committee, ably led by Sam Hughes, were given a resounding vote of thanks by all attending. The dance floor was full all evening and the time passed all too quickly. The baton was passed to Sydney for 2005 and delegates partied on into the early hours, not wishing a great 5 days to end.