Royal Air Forces Association Belgian Branch

SHAPE BRIT FETE 2017

The annual SHAPE British Summer Fete took place around the newly revamped festival tent at SHAPE on the 17th Jun under unusually (for us Brits) sunny weather. The day was a great success with many stalls and attractions including a Gurkha Military marching band; Morris dancing; bouncy castles and an obstacle course for the children; SAFFA cakes and a grand prize draw. On top of this the RAFA team at SHAPE, led by RAFALO’s FS Matt Bowen and Sgt Richy Phillips ran a RAFA stall raising funds for needy servicemen and women and their families, past and present. The stall sold the traditional aircraft pin badges, RAF soft toys and charming flying RAF ducks as well as running a prize draw for a limited edition single malt Scottish whiskey. In all, over the five hour period, we managed to raise funds of 300 Euros. A big thank you must go to all those who took time out from their own afternoon and volunteered to do a stint on the stall, including Cpl Gordie Wilkie, FS Kim Jarvis and Mrs Lisa Phillips. The team’s next outing should be the SHAPE festival in early September.

This event was the final swansong for FS Bowen as RAFALO at SHAPE, who has officially handed over the reins to FS Kim Jarvis. She will work alongside Sgt Richy Phillips to continue to fly the flag for RAFA, raising funds and carrying out duties on behalf of the Royal Air Forces Association. FS Bowen is soon posted to MOD Corsham to carry out a CIS Project Management role and hopes to continue his association with RAFA in the future. He would personally like to thank all those who supported RAFA during his tenure at SHAPE and wish every success to all those of the RAFA Belgium Branch, especially as they look towards a busy 2018, holding the prestigious 100 year RAF anniversary overseas conference.

FS Matt Bowen

RAFALO, SHAPE

ANGLO-BELGIAN DEDICATION AND REMEMBRANCE AT THE AIR FORCE CHAPEL IN THE NATIONAL BASILICA, KOEKELBERG, 29 APRIL 2014

 An Anglo-Belgian service of Dedication and Remembrance, jointly sponsored by the Belgian Air Component and the Belgian Branch of the RAFA was held in the Air Force Chapel in the National Basilica, Koekelberg on 29th April 2014.  During the service the Shields of 12 additional RAF Squadrons on which Belgians served in World War 2 were dedicated and blessed.  Participants included the Belgian Chief of Defence General Van Caelenberge and Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper RAFA Belgian Branch Co-President.

During the event on 28th September 2013 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the Air Force Chapel, it was noted by General Van Caelenberge that not all RAF Squadrons on which Belgians had served in the War were identified by the presence of their Squadron Shields.  Further research identified that over 700 Belgian personnel escaped to the United Kingdom to serve as aircrew in the RAF on a total of 141 Squadrons.  To ensure that all those Squadrons on which 5 or more Belgians served are commemorated in the Chapel, the Shields of 24, 32, 91, 123, 124, 141, 143, 147, 171, 236, 272, and 525 Sqns were mounted in the Chapel during the service on 29th April 2014.

The Service began with resounding ‘air force’ music provided by the Royal Orchestra of the Belgian Air Force under their conductor Captain Cilissen, and the march-on of the Belgian Branch and Comet Line Standards to the strains of the RAF March.  The Branch Honorary Chaplain Father Peeters gave the RAFA Dedication and the Reverend (Wg Cdr) Jones RAF Padre SHAPE, opened the Service with a Prayer, followed by a Bible Reading by Warrant Officer Warner. 

The Act of Dedication was introduced by RAFA Belgian Branch Chairman Wing Commander Ross McKenzie, who unveiled a new tri-lingual plaque explaining the role of the Air Force Chapel and providing a link to a dedicated associated website.  As the Belgian Branch Vice-Chairman Wg Cdr Smeaton provided background information on each of the additional Squadrons, the Shields were individually mounted on the Chapel wall by officers of the Belgian Air Component, by members of the Belgian Branch Committee and, in the case of 32 (The Royal) Squadron, by a member of the Squadron.  When all Shields were in place, they and the Plaque were blessed by Reverend Jones.

The Act of Remembrance began with wreaths being laid on behalf of the RAF (Wg Cdr McKenzie), the Belgian Air Component (General Major Vansina) and RAFA (Gp Capt Whittingham Ret’d).  The Act of Remembrance was led by RAF veteran and Branch Member Mr Rubin who gave the Exhortation and Kohima Epitaph with the Orchestra sounding the Last Post and the Reveille.

The service ended with a blessing from the Padre, followed by the British and Belgian National Anthems and the march-off of the Standards to the tune of the March of the Belgian Air Force.

The service was followed by a very convivial Reception hosted by the Chief of Defence.

For full sets of event photographs by Norbert Niels Branch and VTB Member and Daniel Orban from the Belgian Military Staffs go to the Branch Flickr site


 BRANCH CHRISTMAS LUNCH - 18 DECEMBER 2013

 The Branch Christmas Lunch took place at the NATO Staff Centre, Evere on Wednesday 18 December 2013.  43 members and friends joined together for an excellent meal in a very convivial atmosphere.  In his address, the Chairman particularly welcomed a number of new members, especially the families of Andrée de Norman and Mary Laden who sadly passed away during the year.  He also noted with pleasure the presence of serving RAF colleagues from Brussels and from SHAPE.  Air Marshal Sir Christopher Harper provide an illuminating update on the current RAF and its challenges and opportunities, and warmly thanked the Committee for its hard work in 2013.  Photographs were taken by new member Norbert Niels:  a selection are below and the full set can be accessed in the new Branch Photo Repository

ANGLO-BELGIAN REMEMBRANCE SERVICE HELD AT THE NATIONAL BASILICA, KOEKELBERG ON 28 SEPTEMBER 2013

See report in separate tab 

 CHAIRMAN'S REPORT ON BARRY HORTON MEMORIAL GOLF TOURNAMENT - 28 JUNE 2013

Dear Friends, 

To all those who were involved in the Royal Air Forces Association tournament at Duisburg Military Golf Club on 28 June 2013. 

First and foremost, thank you all, despite some slightly ‘British’ weather, for helping to make it a super day for the RAFA Belgian Branch.  Thanks to your generosity we raised significant funds which will enable us to continue to make a real difference providing welfare and comradeship support to veterans of the RAF in Belgium and to their families.  On behalf of our members, thank you.

My very special thanks to the Committee of the DMGC for allowing us to use the Club once again – I seem to recall an invitation to come next year for which, many thanks!  Special thanks too to Patrick Vandewyngaert and his team from the Military Sports Centre without whose active assistance and support we would have been severely challenged.  Very many thanks also to Ian Youd and Ed Cutting of Fulcra Management for so kindly providing the stock of golf balls – could it be that just a few were left as mementos out on the course?!

 The golf event involved 55 players, and, as ever, the competition was tight, with some prizes being decided on count-back over the last 6 holes.   We were honoured that Katrina Johnson the Deputy to the British Ambassador to Belgium could be with us and to present the prizes on behalf of our Branch Patron His Excellency Jonathan Brenton.  Once again this year we were able to offer, courtesy of the family of the late Tom and Ghislaine Hennessey, special RAF Association Pewter Goblets to all the main prize-winners in addition to prizes most generously provided by participants.  

 This year, for the first time, we awarded a new prize for the highest score by a RAFA member.  The prize is designed to encourage RAFA members to participate (and do well!), and, this year, is linked to the memory of Belgian Branch members Flt Lt Stanley Robins, Coastal Command pilot throughout the Second World War, and wartime WAAF Josette Demey-Bens whose family kindly donated this year’s prize.  

In the Ladies competition, Caroline Jonker repeated her 2012 win by coming first with a magnificent score of 25 points:  for the Gentlemen, first place went to Gaston Vintevogel on 19 points.  The Barry Horton Memorial Trophy is for the best net score of the day, and hence the 2013 winner was Caroline Jonker:  the engraved trophy donated by Terry Maddern was, in accordance with our tradition, presented by Brigitte Horton.  Other prize winners were:  Gentlemen – Mich Mandl and Kris Hofmans;  Ladies – Lucy Mason and Nadine Rouvois; Nearest the Pin – Ladies Brigitte Horton, Gentlemen Jacques Van Belle;  Longest Drive – Ladies Marion Tomkins, Gentlemen Alex Nielsen.  The winner of the RAFA prize was Peter Bedford.  Many congratulations to all.

The social event was, I think, outstanding, with over 60 people enjoying the fun of an evening where the weather was not exactly perfect.  May I particularly thank our magnificent chef David Ryder who despite the many and varied challenges, did a magnificent job, with his supporter Bob Jenkins, to ensure a steady flow of wonderful  sausages and hamburgers supplemented by the special mushrooms, peppers and halloumi which maybe will turn us all into vegetarians in time.  Special thanks too to all those who provided the most marvellous salads and puddings which were exactly right for the day.  Also, may I thank those who supported the Tombola both by donating prizes and by buying lots of tickets: your generosity led to an extra 590 Euro (a record?) being made available to support our RAFA Belgium members in need.  Richie Atha and his family ‘team’ deserve a special mention for tombola ticket selling and folding, and I would be derelict if I did not also highlight the double act of Peter Bedford and our past-Chairman Mike Connor for being our Tombola 'Master of Ceremonies' team. 

 On behalf of the RAF Association Belgium Branch thank you all for making it such a super day and one which has done so much to help those in need.

Best regards

Dick Whittingham

Chairman RAFA Belgian Branch


Photos below - courtesy of Peter Bedford