This is my final annual report as Branch President after 31/2 years in the post, and although I can honestly say I have enjoyed the experience, I am definitely returning to the back benches today. During my period of office, we all in the Branch have enjoyed the great benefit of a stable support team guiding our activities; Richard Emsley has persuaded most of you to pay your subs; Andrew Derrick has lined up splendid visits over the period and organised last year’s Mini-Convention here; and the secretariat, John Wright and Steve Lewis, together with the excellent website they control which provides information about all our meetings and functions to the whole wide world, has ensured that the Branch is now widely admired throughout the medal fraternity and has become known to an ever-widening group of associated organisations interested in ‘the Military’. So well done to all, and I look forward shortly to hearing their reports for the year past and the year ahead.


We shall be getting details from each of our officers in their reports, and I will here only focus on those aspects of our activities which touch the wider community. So who are we and what have we done in the last year? In summary, we have had a 4-day overseas visit to Ypres and the surrounding area, hosted a Mini-Convention, enjoyed 3 other outside visits and held 11 meetings here at Swindon Village Hall. This has been a formidable programme and we have often been supported by guests who have added their own specialised knowledge to our discussions, for example members of the SAS, the Police and the Fire Service. I want here to add comments on just the visit to Ypres and the Mini-Convention.

I didn’t go on the trip to Ypres because I had already enjoyed earlier opportunities to visit the area during my three-year-tour with the RAF at SHAPE, near Mons, but I know it was excellently managed by tour organisers, Bill and Carol Bratty, Bill having taken similar parties on previous occasions. On this occasion, ex-Military nurse Carol, and the Ypres branch of the Royal British Legion were all of great help to our valued member Mike Kippin, who had fallen ill on the first day whilst supping with the Legion shortly after attending the evening Menin Gate Ceremony. He was not released from hospitalisation until the third day of the tour so I suspect he will be one of the first to put his name down for any future tour, to catch up on what he missed. It’s good to see you fully participating in our meetings Mick, so keep taking the pills or whatever might be needed.

Concerning last year’s Mini-Convention, a number of our visitors got back in touch with us to say how much they had enjoyed their day. The numbers attending were good and visitors came from the Birmingham Medal Society and the Northern, Wiltshire, South Wales and London branches of the OMRS. Exhibitor numbers were good, 15 of us and 3 put on by guests, and the talks given by our own members and the visitors were good. We need to thank all who contributed to the day in any way, especially Andrew Derrick for his overall organisation of the event but also including Clive Harmson for his running of the bar and negotiating the use of the rooms, his wife Angela for her ever-efficient catering for the lunch, and David and Tom Kyle for their part in controlling entry to the Hall.


And speaking of David and Tom Lyle, I would like to finish this report by once again congratulating them on becoming Chelsea Pensioners, and saying how pleased we are that they are planning to man the door here for this year’s Mini-Convention and that they also hope to be able to give us a guided tour of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea during our planned visit there in May.

John Barker