Audio Visual Photography - Brian Fish

Posted on November 16, 2017             

Our last meeting of 2017,  came in the form of, as the title suggests, an audio, visual, photography presentation.

Starting with a slide show to music, Brian showed off his real photography talents with an exceptional display of ‘Christmas at Westonbirt’.

Another slide show, showing photos of a visit to France followed, again with some stunning shots.

Brian then gave a tutorial on how to easily produce such slide shows. Step by step instructions, demonstrated on the big screen, enabled members to follow the procedure.

The presentation concluded with yet another fine display of ‘illuminated’ trees, accompanied with music.

Also to note, Brian offered his services to assist members should they require any guidance in producing their own slide shows.

Thank you Brian for a very informative talk.

Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe - Terry Merrett-Smith

Posted on November 2, 2017               

Terry decided on a change of programme today as the ladies were invited.

Terry, who has joined us on many other occasions, concentrated on the successful duo of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who produced many of the popular musicals in the 1950s and 1960s. The first piece of music was from ‘Brigadoon’, featuring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, followed by musical items from ‘Paint your Wagon’ and ‘Camelot’. Then there were songs and delightful pictures of the fabulous costumes worn by Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in the all-time favourite film ‘My Fair Lady’, which had also starred Julie Andrews in the stage version of the show.

Terry ended with music and clips from the 1958 musical ‘Gigi’.

On behalf of the members, he was thanked for such good entertainment and bringing back happy memories.

Laurel and Hardy - Steve Derby

Posted on October 19, 2017 

Steve joins us again with a purely vocal account, this time of Laurel and Hardy.

Interspersed with ‘witty’ stories, Steve gave a thoroughly enjoyable talk on these two well loved characters.

Laurel and Hardy were a comedy double act during the early Hollywood era of American cinema. They were an English thin man Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and an American fat man Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s through the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy.

Prior to emerging as a team, both actors had well-established film careers. Laurel had appeared in over 50 films while Hardy had been in more than 250 productions. The two comedians had previously worked together as cast members on the film The Lucky Dog in 1921. However, they were not a comedy team at that time and it was not until 1926 that they appeared in a movie short together, when both separately signed contracts.

After finishing their movie commitments at the end of 1944, they concentrated on performing in stage shows and embarked on a music hall tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

In 1950, before retiring from the screen, they made their last film, a French/Italian co-production called Atoll K.

This is a film that although owned by Steve, he has and will not ever see it. Oliver Hardy was ill at that time and many reviews commented that this could be seen in the film.

Steve’s love of these characters won’t allow him to witness Oliver in this condition.

They appeared as a team in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films.

The Berlin Air Lift - Nigel Turner

Posted on October 5, 2017  

We welcome back Nigel to give yet another interesting presentation on The Berlin Air Lift.

Berlin, 1948 – a divided city in a divided country in a divided Europe. The ruined German capital lay 120 miles inside Soviet-controlled eastern Germany. Stalin wanted the Allies out; the Allies were determined to stay, but had only three narrow air corridors linking the city to the West. Stalin was confident he could crush Berlin’s resolve by cutting off food and fuel.

And so over eleven months from June 1948 to May 1949, British and American aircraft carried out the most ambitious airborne relief operation ever mounted, flying over 2 million tons of supplies on almost 300,000 flights to save a beleaguered Berlin.

Nigel’s presentation was full of the statistical facts that highlighted the vast operation it indeed was.

(Bridge in the Sky – The Story of the Berlin Airlift by Frank Donovan)

More Peninsula War - Colin Yorke

Posted on September 14, 2017           

Another very interesting addition to the talks that Colin has given in the past.

With his detailed account of the everyday men involved in these events, a painted picture could be visualised of the scenes of battle.

A subject very passionate to his heart, the talk was delivered with great passion.

Again the members left the meeting having been well educated in this subject.

Indeed the vote of thanks included the remark, “I wish you had been my History teacher”.

We look forward to the ‘next’ instalment!

"Maritime Clevedon" - Peter Gosson

Posted on July 6, 2017             

Peter Gosson is a well-respected maritime historian who specialises in the coastal trade and its ships in the Bristol Channel.

As a member of local shipping societies he has given talks on maritime subjects throughout the South West and South Wales.

He is the author of many maritime articles in both local and national magazines and has previously written on the history of local shipping companies, and the Bristol sand trade.

An engineer by trade, his duties at Avonmouth gave him close links with the sea and ships.

As he lives in Clevedon, it was an appropriate talk today on the maritime aspects of this coastal town.

Peter used many slides to illustrate the subject and as he was so conversed with the subject, needed no notes to guide him through.

An entertaining and interesting subject on our ‘next door’ town.

Peter will be back next year.

"Howard Hughes and the Spruce Goose" - David Addis

Posted on June 1, 2017        

Our Speaker today, David Addis, is a member of the Long Ashton Probus Club in Bristol and a warm welcome was extended.

His presentation was the story of the Hughes H-4 Hercules also known as the “Spruce Goose”.

This was a prototype strategic airlift flying boat designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft Company.

Intended as a transatlantic flight transporter for use during World War II, it was not completed in time to be used in the war. The aircraft made only one brief flight on November 2, 1947 and the project never advanced beyond the single example produced. Built from wood because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum and concerns about weight, it was nicknamed by critics the “Spruce Goose”, although it was made almost entirely of birch.

In 1942, the U.S. War Department needed to transport war materiel and personnel to Britain. Allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to German U-boats, so a requirement was issued for an aircraft that could cross the Atlantic with a large payload. Wartime priorities meant the aircraft could not be made of strategic materials (e.g. aluminium)

The aircraft was the brainchild of Henry J. Kaiser, a leading Liberty ship builder. He teamed with aircraft designer Howard Hughes to create what would become the largest aircraft built at that time.

Due to the time the project was taking and the fact that Hughes had to be personally involved in all aspects of the design and construction, Kaiser left the project.

The Hercules was the largest flying boat ever built and had the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history.

It remains in good condition and is on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, United States.

The Queens Bodyguard of the Yeomen Of The Guard - Shaun Mc. Cormack

Posted on May 18, 2017        

Shaun McCormack of the Queens Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard entertained us with a very descriptive talk on how he became a Yeoman, what it entailed and how the Queens Bodyguard came into existence.

The detail was so much to take in, but the original Yeomen of the Guard was created in 1485 to guard Henry VII.

Nowadays dressed in their distinctive Tudor uniforms of red, white and yellow they have a ceremonial role in many Royal events, including Royal Maundy Service, State Opening of Parliament, Investitures, summer Garden Parties including the soon to be held WI one, Coronations, Lying-in-state and funeral of the Sovereign.

After the death of our Queen, it will then be known as the King’s Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard.

To become a Yeoman of the Guard, you have to have a full military career in the British Services.

Shaun passed around for us to look and marvel at, photographs, Oath of Allegiance, Royal Warrant and his uniform.

How hot they must get in the summer months.

Apparently the uniforms are cleaned twice a year and due to their cost are handed down until they finally wear out.

Yeoman wear the traditional scarlet stockings and suspenders rather than red tights, although some do prefer to wear the latter.

Shaun made us laugh when he described how years ago, an Officer of the Guard slept on a bed outside the King’s Room and his duties as a Yeoman Bed Goer and Bed Hanger.

They now of course are allowed to live in their own homes.

The nickname of Beefeater originated in the 17th century when the Grand Duke of Tuscany referred to them as beefeaters as they were eaters of a considerable amount of beef which they were allowed daily by the Court.

One only had to hear Shaun talk to see how much he loved what he did and how proud too to serve the Queen.

The Labourers Lot - Bonny Sartin

Posted on May 4, 2017          

Bonny Sartin of the ‘Yetties’ folk group fame, entertained members and visitors today with a talk entitled ‘The Labourers Lot’.

The theme revolved around Bonny’s descendants, his family experiences and his home village of Yetminster in Dorset.

A varied programme of songs and poems described the labourer’s lot in the 18th and 19th centuries, between 1750 and 1875 during the time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Swing Riots.

The material was sourced from the Dorset Villages and brilliantly put together.

The talk concluded with a self written song about his childhood memories of eating various guises of rabbit for just about every meal. Bonny even managed to persuade the ‘audience’ to join in at the appropriate moments!

The Restoration of Hestercombe Gardens - David Usher

Posted on April 20, 2017         

Today we not only welcomed David Usher, but also ladies as our guests.

Head Gardener for a number of years, David Usher gave us a unique insight, aided by photographs, into the acclaimed gardens at Hestercombe, near Taunton, Somerset. He helped restore them.

His illustrated talk included the history of the garden, house and owners, the Bampfyldes in the 18th century, Portmans in the 19th, and the local authority from 1951 when the estate was taken over by the Somerset Fire Brigade.

Using old drawings as guides for the restoration, work started on identifying original features – buildings and garden plants. The lake was cleared – 17,000 tons of silt was excavated – and water flowed down the Great Cascade once again.

Derelict classical temples and urns were restored to their former glory and paths made accessible.

A replica of the large Victorian terrace in front of the house was built, overlooking The Great Plat, a great sunken parterre, resplendent with the bright colours specified by garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.

The famous Lutyens and Jeckyll garden, commissioned by Mrs Portman in 1903, was completely overgrown and few of the original plants had survived. Fortunately, the plans had been saved and enabled the restoration to be true to the original Edwardian garden.

A number of our members who had previously visited Hestercombe expressed interest in returning.

A truely remarkable site.

Bits of Silk - Brian Marr

Posted on April 6, 2017           

Our talk today was given by member Brian Marr.

Aided with slides and projector, Brian proceeded to enlighten us on the ‘Silk Road’ route that he and his wife took ten years ago.

Starting in Moscow, the route continued to China, some six thousand miles, although today, Brian only covered the first half which amounted to three thousand miles!

His journey, accompanied with his wife, was part of an organised group travel party.

The journey was travelled by train and fortunately for the party, new rolling stock was being tested for the first time, so luxury was included at no extra cost.

As the journey continued, slides were shown of the ‘stop off’ points along the way, depicting some glorious architecture along with some very unusual building construction and materials.

The talk ended when the party reached the China border.

We would like to presume there will be a Part Two at some point.

Raid on Peenemunde - Arthur Spencer

Posted on March 16, 2017     

Arthur Spencer, a navigator with Bomber Command, gave a vivid first-hand account of the operation to destroy Peenemunde, the location of the German development of the deadly V1 and V2 rockets. Very few people knew of its existence, despite an anonymous letter in 1939 giving a detailed account, which was passed to the intelligence service in London. They decided that it was a hoax, and although there were rumours about rockets being tested, they were discounted until two captured German officers were overheard discussing them in 1943. Finally the threat was understood, and Bomber Command was tasked with neutralising it.

Just under 600 planes took part. A diversionary raid was carried out on Berlin, which succeeded in delaying the enemy’s discovery of their real target. Later waves of attack on Peenemunde suffered heavier losses than the early ones, but they managed to destroy the plant. The Germans moved the production of V1&2 rockets further east, to Poland. Although they later used V2s to attack allied targets, they were unable to manufacture the huge quantities they had originally planned. Arthur Spencer’s eye-witness account gave a real sense of what it was like to be part of Bomber Command.

After receiving a direct order to destroy the Peenemünde facility, an operation was launched, combining precision and area bombing: the entire area was to be bombed, with the experimental centre, the V2 production works and the accommodation areas singled out for special attention.

On 17 August, 560 aircraft dropped 1,800 tons of bombs on the area, effectively destroying the facility.

Unknown to the Allies, in 1942 an initially sceptical Hitler had become a rocket enthusiast and demanded the immediate production of  V2s. Peenemünde was duly rebuilt, but the bombing had delayed the programme by an estimated three months.

A captivating talk by a real hero, Arthur was given a standing ovation from the members.

Current State of R.N.L.I., W-S-M - Glyn Hayes

Posted on March 2, 2017        

The Club welcomed Glyn Hayes today, who spoke about the RNLI and the situation that it finds itself in at Weston.

Glyn commenced his talk with a brief synopsis of the organisation:

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 237 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

The current situation at Weston is difficult for the operation due to the fact that the Station has had to relocate to a temporary site on the promenade. The previous location on ‘The Old Pier’ became too dangerous for the volunteers.

Glyn documented his talk with slides and films, some showing the heroic rescues that have been undertaken.

It is worthy to note that the Lifeboat operation at Weston has saved the most lives of the whole country including Ireland. A remarkable achievement.

A collection was taken among the members and presented to Glyn.

The Creation of Georgian Bath - Amy Frost

Posted on February 16, 2017

 Today we were honoured to welcome architectural historian Dr Amy Frost.

Amy, with assistance of slides, began with historical architecture in London and how, depending on ones ‘status’, would determine the type of property the Aristocrats would live in.

Bath was considered a place where ‘one’ would spend the Autumn months. Latterly after mammoth house and hotel building, Bath became a place to spend shorter periods of time.

John Wood the Elder, was the man who’s vision created the city we know today. The career of John Wood is a balance between what was an incredibly esoteric vision for Bath and a speculative, entrepreneurial business venture. This combination of imagination and moneymaking schemes must always be remembered when considering Wood’s achievements in Bath. John Wood was a man of great vision, with grand schemes and big ideas all working towards celebrating the glory of what he believed to be a magnificent ancient British city.

According to Wood, this city was originally built by King Bladud and triangular in shape, which stretched from Stonehenge, to Stanton Drew and right down to Wookey Hole! An enormous city that could rival any of its counterparts from Classical antiquity, it was the magnificence of this ancient Bath that Wood sought to restore. He set about achieving this by embarking on a vision for Bath that he supposedly had in 1725.

One aspect of the ‘famous’ buildings in Bath that Amy touched upon, was that although the facades were expensively elegant, at the rear of the buildings, it was a different scene altogether.

Bath will be seen in a very different perspective when we visit now!

The Odd Couple - David Kingsbury and Dean Harris

Posted on February 2, 2017  

An unusual title to todays Speakers, however they were far from odd!

David Kingsbury and Dean Harris from Weston have been TV and film extras for 10 and 15 years apiece.

For a TV or film extra, an entire day can be spent in a series of unusual situations and positions, including lying on the floor in fake rain, or turning the same page in a book over and over again.

The hit BBC show Doctor Who is well-known for its unusual aliens and creatures – an experience Dean had firsthand when he joined the show as an extra. “We spent a whole evening running down flights of stairs and screaming and turning back in horror at the monster. But we didn’t know what the monster was, and there was just a green background behind us. It’s always interesting when you see these things on TV for the first time.”

Dean’s first experience as an extra came on Casualty where he played a nurse for five years.

David’s first time on set was a small role in Midsomer Murders, when he played a passer-by, but since then he has been a body double for a famous actor on Merlin and spent a day lying in bed as a patient on Casualty.

He said: “You play a lot of passers-by as an extra. All you had to do was a walk by. Wel II did that probably 10-15 times.

They then gave accounts of other productions they had been involved with, such as, The Duchess, Midsomer Murders, Merlin, TheDuchess and Jam And Jerusalem to name but a few.

An enjoyable insight to ‘behind the scenes’.

Books, Their Lives & Owners - Colin Yorke

Posted on January 19, 2017  

For our first meeting in 2017, member Colin Yorke gave a talk entitled, “Books, Their Lives & Owners”.

Colin has spoken to us before and always presents a thoroughly interesting topic, todays being no exception.

A keen collector of historic books, some in excess of one hundred years old and equally expensive, all had a hidden story to tell.

Many of the books Colin has collected bore additional information relating to their ‘history’.

For example, usually written on the inside cover, details of the book being a gift or presentation. These details had been investigated with the power of the Internet and a fascinating story could usually be unravelled.

An unusual subject, but the passionate delivery kept us all very interested.