The concept of replacing the original plain glass windows in St. George’s Church at RAF Halton with stained glass panels is attributed to a former Padre of St. George’s Church, the Rev Richard Lee. Padre Lee had ‘seen the light’ and mused that there were sufficient window panels (approx. 140) to accommodate a stain glass window for each entry and that it would make a truly colourful display and tell a little of the history of the RAF Halton Apprenticeship scheme. It would also be an appropriate and lasting tribute to all the “Trenchard Brats” that had passed through Halton.
And so it was, in 1997, that Padre Lee formally invited the RAFHAAA to encourage Aircraft Apprentice Entry’s to have stained glass windows produced and installed in the church to commemorate their time at RAF Halton.
The Entry Window Project
At the 1998 annual entry reunion in Sheringham, Norfolk members of the 83rd were first appraised by Ivor John our Entry Secretary about having an entry window and we all agreed it should be done. There followed a year or so of debate and assessment of designs and finally at the 2000 reunion it was decided to make it happen rather than keep talking about it. John and Janet Burt offered to project manage the task and things got underway.
Julie Cuthbert, an artist and stained glass window maker from Aylesbury had already been commissioned by Ivor to do the window artwork and this had been prepared in 1999. Members agreed the final design at the 2000 reunion.
The final design was also circulated to our members far and wide by ‘e’ mail for their information and comment. Just as well because we immediately had a bit of a ‘flap’ with the design when Phil Pile contacted us from overseas and advised us that we had used the wrong version of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force badge. With speedy help from Phil and Errol Hovelmeier we were soon able to ensure we had the correct badge. It was vital to get that detail right.
Features of the window are the entry badge that was originally designed by A (Tony) J Gassner of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force. The cap badges show our proud links with the Royal New Zealand and Royal Rhodesian Air Forces, as well as the Royal Air Force. And the bagpipes remind us of a significant feature of our daily life at RAF Halton, marching to schools and workshops to the stirring sound of the pipes and drums.
Julie Cuthbert is one of a few people that have been formally trained in the original art and craft of stained glass window manufacture and when making the window she used the traditional techniques that are well over 900 years old. Various pieces of special ‘mouth blown’ coloured antique glass were used in the process. The detailed cap badges and bagpipes were first painted onto the glass using special glass paints before firing. Similarly, the red dragon has been acid etched onto the red glass and subsequently fired. These processes have produced the cameo effect and vibrant colours.
Bernard Seaton installed the window in its chosen place at the end of December 2000. It is located in Bay 99 – centre section, lower right facing the door.
We believe our window will be a long lasting and fitting memorial to every one of the “Trenchard Brats” who were members of the 83rd Entry.
The Window Dedication Service
At the same time as having the window made and installed it was also necessary to plan for the “Dedication Service”.
The date was set to coincide with our Annual Reunion planned for March 2001 in Sheringham. With much help from Min Larkin and the Padre’s office we worked out an Itinerary (click link for .pdf version) for the event to take place on Friday, March 30th 2001.
We also put together an Order of Service (click link for .pdf version of the text) and had it printed and bound (in opalescent white card) with a small photo panel on the front showing the window. Very smart - a copy is in the Apprentices Museum.
After “booking in” at the Guardroom we assembled at the museum where we received a briefing from Min Larkin. It was nice to have over 40 people attending the Dedication Service including members, their ladies, families and friends. It was also an excellent opportunity to renew old acquaintances and catch up with each other after so many years.
Following the briefing we had time to visit the museum to look at all the exhibits depicting apprentice life. It was a great experience and enjoyed by everyone. We certainly appreciated the monumental effort and dedication of the ex. Brats that run the museum and keep the Halton Apprentice legacy alive. Then we made our way to St George’s Church.
Assembling on the pathway leading to the church our members, families and guests marched into the church led by Johnny Walker playing traditional Halton marches on his bagpipes.
As we entered the church we were welcomed by Padre Andrew Jolly. In his introduction Padre initially entertained us with several of his thoughts and tales about Halton. The service then started and followed the Order of Service.
Immediately after the window dedication we were treated to a recital on the church organ by Mark, the son of Steve Bishop (3 Wing). In a word, “Superb”.
Quality time was then spent by everyone gazing at our Entry Window set alongside the many other windows that had already been installed by other entries. A great sense of pride was felt by all.
After the Dedication Service
Then it was on to the Halton Tribute to mark the occasion with a photograph of all those who were able to attend. Click on the image to enlarge and see names list.
After the group photograph, members and guests travelled to “Airfields” to enjoy a buffet lunch and drinks at the RAFA Club. A surprise awaited members and guests when they arrived because centre stage was a Dedication Cake specially baked for the occasion by Roy Pierre (Andy) Andipatin and decorated with much attention to detail (see below). Andy is a retired Army chef and a close friend of Janet and John Burt.
The cake measured approximately 30” x 12” x 4” and it was mounted on ½ “melamine board. We never weighed it but two men struggled to carry it from the car into the club. Not only did the cake look good it also tasted good, having been made to the chef’s special fruit cake recipe.
John Burt concluded the proceedings with a short speech to the assembled members and guests thanking them for making this a special day. He also took the opportunity to identify all the individuals and companies that had contributed toward the successful window project and dedication service. On behalf of the 83rd Entry he expressed sincere thanks to all for a job extremely well done.
Members and guests then dispersed early afternoon with many making the journey North and East to Sheringham in Norfolk for the Reunion weekend. Tony and Estelle Preston, our hosts for many years at Southlands Hotel in Sheringham, left shortly after the Tribute photo session so they would be at the hotel to greet the reunion crowd as they arrived. Good planning!!
Postscript – the remainder of the Dedication Cake (about 2/3 rds) was taken to Sheringham to share with members who were unable to attend the Window Dedication. Half of the cake was later given to a retirement home close to Southlands Hotel.
To view the full display of entry windows in St. Georges Church and to see a complete set of images of the individual windows 'click on' the following links to the RAF website to see the 83rd Entry window in the middle of a top banner of 7 and the Old Haltonians website to see all the window panels. Equally, there is an excellent display of the windows on the 75th Entry website.
Old Haltonians Website Entry
The following explanatory text accompanies the image of the 83rd Entry window on the Old Haltonians website.
Features of the window are the Entry badge at the top which was designed by Tony Gassner of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force.
The motto “We Their Wings” refers to the Apprenticeship given at No1 School of Technical Training which made us highly trained aircraft technicians.
Next is an array of Cap Badges depicting the makeup of the 83rd Entry. The main contingent was the Royal Air Force but members also came from the Royal Rhodesian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Finally there is the feature of the bagpipes. Part of the daily routine at RAF Halton for all “Trenchard Brats” would be to march to the sound of the pipes and drums when going to their training at schools and workshops.
Julie Cuthbert, a stained glass window specialist from Aylesbury was commissioned to make the window using traditional techniques.
It is a fitting memorial to the “Trenchard Brats” who were members of the 83rd Entry.
The window is located in Bay 99 and was dedicated on Friday March 3oth 2001