River Wissey Lovell Fuller


October 2001

Reunion Culture

On August Bank Holiday Monday, I joined up with 35 colleagues at a Reunion to mark the 50th Anniversary of our enlistment as RAF Aircraft Apprentices. My colleagues came from all corners of the United Kingdom and included one all the way from New Zealand. But for a last minute family problem, yet another would have joined us from Australia.

The eagerness with which our old boys rallied round the flag got me thinking about the driving force for any form of reunion. Regimental, Squadron and Ship reunions are commonplace; as are school and nursing events. So just what provides the key to the reunion culture?

Inevitably, it seems that the need for such events is created wherever people endure common hardship, deprivation, strict discipline or some traumatic occurrence. Wherever there is an identified common dislike or a sharing of some form of deprivation, those involved appear to be bonded together in a way, which far exceeds normal friendship. Moreover, the bonding appears to last for life!

I did wonder if tremendous success also generated a need for reunions. I thought of the England 1966 World Cup winning team but then realised that their only reunions were specifically organised by the media and involved a fat attendance fee. It is much more likely that shared experiences, common in the forces or in natural disasters, creates that special cement which makes the bonding so secure. Looking back to my RAF Apprenticeship, I well remember the Spartan conditions, the extreme levels of discipline and, what today would probably be called abuse. I have no doubt these are what bond us all together for life.

This made me wonder just how the younger generations will create such bonding. With the politically correct approach to discipline, the elimination of competitive sports and the almost luxurious standards of living, will future servicemen be so well bonded to the group and the flag? If not, what does the future hold without the esprit de corps that ensured comrade cared for comrade in war and distress?

I feel sure that the survivors of the American events of 11th September will be forever bonded; as will the rescue workers and the families of those who lost their lives in this awful event. The Reverend Jackie Goddard and Nigel Tuffnell provide a more eloquent discourse on this topic in their respective newsletters. For me, I just pray that we never see such violent and dramatic pictures on our TVs again.

Ray Thompson

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