Report on the 2018 reunion by John Hill and the report published in The Wire by Pat Soward.
When it is value for money you are looking for, it would be difficult to beat the prices and facilities offered for a reunion by the Warwick Hilton. To this end, once again, the 19 Signal Regiment reunion was held on September 8 and 9 at the Warwick Hilton.
For some, the weekend started on Thursday, when we were offered the same facilities and prices as the weekend special deal. This included a superb buffet 3 course evening meal. By afternoon on Friday, most of the other members had found their way there and we all met for an informal buffet meal on Friday evening. Thanks to our reunion organisers, Pam Craven and Pat Soward, our Saturday outing was to the Black Country Museum near Dudley. Even though rain threatened and occasionally did more than threaten, all the members enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon.
The evening meal was attended by over 40 members and their guests and it turned out to be a very special evening for two people in particular. For those who have followed the saga on Facebook, when one of the garrison churches in Germany was being demolished, John Hill had been sent a large brass plaque dedicated to Major Gerry Funnell who had died in 1987. Gerry had been the Seletar Troop commander in 1966 and John decided he would try and trace Gerry’s family through Facebook, BT and other media to try and find the family to return the plaque to the rightful owners. After about six months, he discovered that Gerry’s wife, Sue, had had two sons but that she had remarried and was now Sue Townsend. Eventually an address was found for her and John wrote to her with the story. When Sue heard that the plaque had been saved, both her and her sons were delighted and it was decided to invite Sue, her husband, Ian, and Ben her son, to be our guests of honour at the reunion and the plaque would be returned. For Sue and Ben, and indeed Ian, it was a very eventful evening when the plaque was presented to them. Sue had already taken part in the evening’s events reading a very poignant poem and Ian had presented the 50 years citation and certificate to John Horne for 50 years service to the Corps. After the meal and coffee, members and guests mingled to remember old times. New guests this year were John Goodfellow and his wife and it was wonderful to see Chris and Julia Mills returning for the second year. There was, as usual, a very warm welcome to a number of family members who have joined us and appear to be returning annually, especially the family of Ray Cank, and Bernard Strange. A special mention must be given to those who travel from Scotland, Bill Naismith, Frank Smith and Martin Oliver. It was further hoped that Ian and Sue Townsend and Ben Funnell will be joining the Association.
At the committee meting on Sunday, we decided that once again, the facilities offered to us were unbeatable elsewhere and we decided that next year we would use the same venue. The date of the next meeting is scheduled for the weekend 7 September 2019. See you all again there. Put it in your Diaries. 7 September 2019
And Pat Soward’s report to The Wire
With three anniversaries to celebrate and three Guests-of-Honour to meet, members of 19th Signal Regiment Association started to assemble at the Warwick Hilton Hotel on Thursday, September 6th. The main party, together with two of our Guests-of-Honour, Brigadier Ian Townsend and his wife Sue, arrived on Friday afternoon and we enjoyed a buffet dinner – with the obligatory curry option!
As usual one of Mr Johnson’s smart and comfortable coaches arrived on Saturday morning to take us on a return visit to the Black Country Living Museum. Since our first visit in 2005 a ‘dockside’ area by the Dudley canal had been developed with the opportunity to take trips in canal barges through the tunnels joining the various canals. Other members donned miners’ helmets and explored the limestone mine on the site. It was heartening to see the museum taking on a life of its own with various eating places and small businesses as well as museum gift shops.
Dinner was taken in the ‘Barford Suite’ with its own bar. The Chairman welcomed our Guests-of-Honour, now including Sue’s son. Mr Ben Funnell, and members recalling that our Regiment had been formed 75 years previously in November 1943. Members had met for the first time in reunion for lunch in the Victory Services Club 25 years ago and this was our 15th reunion at Warwick.
As the year was also the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War the Chairman asked Sue Townsend to read May Wedderburn Cannon’s moving poem Paris, November 11, 1918 which describes the two diametrically opposed reactions of joy because the war was ended and the sadness at the loss of so many lives. The Chairman then read out the names of eight members of 19th Signal Regiment whose death had been reported in the last twelve months. Among these was Major Gerald Funnell, Sue’s first husband. Gerald served in Seletar troop 1964-67 but tragically died whilst serving in BAOR in 1987. After a short silence and grace, dinner was served.
After loyal toasts Brigadier Townsend presented John Horne with his 50 year badge noting that during his time in the regiment John had served in a one-man detachment on Car Nicobar Island, an RAF staging post in the Indian Ocean. Here he had joined the RAF ground crew in re-fuelling. loading and un-loading aircraft. In a lighter vein he noted that the local dusky maidens wore grass skirts. Brigadier Townsend then presented Joyce Horne with a bouquet of flowers as “behind every good man is a good woman”!
Attention then turned to Sue Townsend. When her first husband, (Major Gerald Funnel), died in Germany in 1987 a plaque in his memory was placed in St Christopher’s Church in Dempsey Barracks. With the withdrawal of British troops from Germany scheduled for next year, the church is to be closed and the plaque, and other memorabilia, returned if possible to next-of-kin. Mrs Jules Robinson at Chaplain’s Branch, BFG. “Googled” Gerald’s name into her computer and came up with our Association web site as he had served in Seletar Troop. She contacted John Hill, our webmaster and it was agreed that we would accept the plaque and that he would endeavour to locate Gerald’s next-of-kin. After several months, John located Sue and it was instantly agreed that she. her husband and son, should be invited as Guests-of-Honour to our reunion and that the plaque should be formally returned to her then. This John did and the Chairman then presented a bouquet of flowers to Sue and Association ties to Brigadier Townsend and to Ben Funnell.
The Chairman made swift work of the formal AGM Agenda Items and members and their guests continued to talk and mingle into the small hours. Your scribe is delighted to report that Brigadier & Mrs Townsend and Mr Ben Funnell enjoyed their time with us so much that they have joined our association and we hope to welcome them to our next reunion in 2019.
The committee meeting the following (Sunday) morning spent time considering our response to the requirements of the new Data Protection Regulations and a way forward was agreed. Finally it was agreed to return to the Warwick Hilton over the weekend 6th-8th September 2019 and that Pam Craven would investigate a Saturday outing to the National Memorial Arboretum and the nearby Museum of Brewing at Burton-on-Trent.