Welcome to our Club
David Skillen - The American Civil War
"Very interesting talk we had at our last meeting from David Skillen an expert on the American Civil War. He covered the subject in three main topics, Men, Moments and Myths.
One of the men he mentioned in particular was General "Stonewall" Jackson who did not die at the battle of Chancellorsville, where he was accidentally shot by his own men, but from pneumonia subsequently. Man and Myth!
The American Civil war was not fought initially to abolish slavery but to retain the Union which some states in the south wished to exit. Amerexit!
The Gettysburg Address was originally to be given by Edward Everett who in fact was the first to speak at Gettysburg and his speech went on for two hours. However it is not very much read now and the Gettysburg Address is now associated with Abraham Lincoln and his two minute address to the nation.
The American Civil war is the most documented war of all time with records of the most minor details retained and statues and instances recorder particularly in the area connected with the incident. For example the place where Stonewall Jackson was hit by rifle fire from his own men is recorded by a large stone!
This surprising information and many other anecdotes made David Skillen's talk so interesting and fascinating to our members."
Colin Deverell - Bomber Command
This was a special meeting. Our very own, much loved and highly respected Colin Deverell agreed to talk to us about his experiences in Bomber Command during the Second World War.
Born in 1923, Colin set the scene for us with a short description of his early life as a boy who left school in Croydon at the age of 15 to become an apprentice aircraft fitter.
He joined the RAF in January 1942 to become a flight engineer in Bomber Command.
After his training he was attached to an aircrew flying 'heavy bombers,' namely Stirlings and Lancasters. He was committed to undertake the statutory 30 missions, the likely survival rate for which was well under 50%.
Colin's first trip was relatively uneventful to lay mines; U-boats known to be in the target area were not encountered. It was something of a false dawn for what was to come, with the next mission seeing them under fire but again successful.
Thereafter, and now on Lancaster bombers, the crew undertook a long succession of flights across enemy territory targeting major industrial sites. These operations were fraught with the danger from searchlights, shrapnel, flak and enemy fighters (the latter soon becoming more skilled in their mode of attack) and the bomber pilots had to be very adroit in their corkscrew manoeuvres to avoid disaster and to come home safely.
Colin vividly described such encounters on missions typically lasting over 8 hours; heavy aircraft often loaded to the maximum with bombs and canisters , not forgetting some 2140 gallons of inflammable fuel. Not the best choice of travel companion when under threat from many fronts! All this without a reserve pilot and with the constant need to monitor fuel usage. Travel rations were a bar of chocolate and plenty of chewing gum!
Colin's description of the emotions of the flight crew, simply worded and describing the relationship between courage and ever-present fear, were straight from the heart. We were reminded that for each plane lost 7 men probably perished; on one major mission alone 42 planes came down. The words of the poem which he had written to express his war-time feelings were profound.
AND…. Will we hear more? Colin was to volunteer for further 'low-altitude' flights as the conflict continued and we hope he will tell us about that another time.
The View from the Wings - Brian Freeland
Brian told us about his lifetime in the theatrical world.
He became a Stage Manager and Director at the age of 21, after being in the RAF.
Brian worked in many parts of the UK, mainly with Moss Empires, who own the London Palladium - from London to The Bristol Old Vic and Theatres in Scotland (where Moss Empires originally started).
He gave us many anecdotes, some of which he warned us in advance were 'saucy'.
Brian had obviously had a wonderful and enjoyable career; and that I thought that all young people should be aiming for a life in the Theatre, rather than being Lawyers or Stockbrokers etc.
I concluded by saying his talk had been very interesting, informative, entertaining and full of humour.
Stephen Barbor - ChildAid
Child Aid is a charity set up to provide assistance to children living in difficult circumstances in Africa and parts of eastern Europe.
Stephen focused on the charity's work in eastern Europe in this talk, telling us about their work in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus.
Much of Stephen's talk covered the problems faced by orphans and poor children in these countries, where being an orphan or disabled was regarded as a personal failing by the child or its parents, and therefore carried a major social stigma.
The consequence of this attitude was that orphans were brought up in badly funded orphanages, where they were likely to be abused, before leaving at the age of sixteen.
After leaving, many children were trafficked into the sex trade in their own countries before being transported across Europe to work in brothels in countries like Britain and Germany.
Ending his talk, Stephen told us that it was possible to buy a child in some parts of eastern Europe for $4, demonstrating how cheaply life is held in parts of our continent.
It was an inspiring and moving talk. Stephen closed by urging people to support the charity by making Amazon purchases through their charity portal.
The Amazon portal can be found by following this link.
Fuller details about the charity and ways to help can be found here.
Welcome to our Club
Glyn Evans - Dazzle Painted Ships of World War One
Glyn gave a fascinating talk about the use of Dazzle painting on ships during World War 1. With British ships being sunk by German U-boats at a rapidly increasing rate, the government was keen to reduce losses. Artist Norman Wilkinson put forward a plan to confuse U-boat commanders.
His Dazzle scheme involved painting ships so that the main features of the hull were broken up, making it more difficult for the U-boat to identify the target.
The theory was based on the idea that a U-boat commander only had six or seven seconds to identify his target and fire his torpedo before he needed to withdraw his periscope to avoid detection.
Dazzle Periscope View
It was thought Dazzle painting would confuse the commander sufficiently to disrupt his targeting, and therefore more ships would survive.
Glyn showed us a wide variety of Dazzle designs, and distinguished between the role of Dazzle and camouflage.
There is some debate about how successful the scheme was. German sources did not think Dazzle made any difference to their success rate.
The scheme was abandoned towards the end of the war when the government instituted the convoy system, which continued to be the preferred option for protecting the merchant navy in the Second World War.
Welcome to our Club
Louise Kenward - A Conversation with Annie
Our speaker for January was Louise Kenward, a visual artist based in Bexhill.
Louise spoke of her interest in the life of Bexhill based traveller and artist Annie Brassey.
Annie was married to Hastings MP Thomas Brassey, the son of Thomas Brassey senior, who built many of the world's railways in the 19th century.
The family were wealthy, and travelled the world with their five children aboard their luxury yacht, the Sunbeam.
Annie kept a record of her voyages, which were published in her lifetime.
Many of the artefacts she collected were held in her private museum at her home in Park Lane until her death, when they were passed to museums in Hastings and Bexhill.
Louise took us through the main events of Annie's travels, and explained how she had tried to travel in Annie's footsteps to try to re-experience life in her shoes.
Louise kept a record of her travels, sometimes recording her experiences as letters to send to Annie.
Welcome to our Club
Dr. Sue Turner - The not-so-humble potato
Dr. Turner gave us a most fascinating and informative talk about the origins of the potato in South America.
She explained how the wild potato is poisonous, but was adapted by the indigenous people of South America to form the staple of their diet for hundreds of years.
The coming of the conquistadors led to the export of the potato to Spain, and its spread throughout Europe, where it is now a major contributor to everyone's diet.
Dr. Turner went on to discuss some of the problems that come with potato cultivation, and focused on the reasons for the Great Potato Famine that hit Ireland in the late 1840s.
She identified the importance of both cultural and climatic conditions in the development of blight, and then developed her argument to pose the question about the future of potato cultivation in a period of global warming.
Dr. Turner suggested that there were likely to be two possible consequences for potato growers in the UK. One would be the increased risk of the Colorado Beetle becoming established in the UK. The second problem she identified was that changes in climate might make the country too warm for the successful cultivation of our favourite vegetable.
Following Dr. Turner's talk, we all settled down to enjoy our Christmas lunch, which, of course, featured roast potatoes prominently.
The Christmas lunch was a great success, with over seventy members and friends attending.
Welcome to our Club
Peter Webb - Customs and Excise
Peter took us through the long history of smuggling, especially in this part of the world, and spoke of the Hawkhurst and Goudhurst gangs, which could assemble five hundred men in an hour, without the benefit of the internet or mobile phones.
Peter went on to describe the modern work of the Excise men, and their role in trying to prevent smuggling gangs and human traffikers breaking the law.
Peter was at pains to point out that there was nothing romantic about modern smugglers. Many were unscrupulous men and women who had no regard for the safety of the general public.
He emphasised that it wasn't about the occasional bottle of wine, but the crate of oranges, all injected with cocaine that could kill children if the crate found its way onto a market stall by accident.
As usual, the membership was most grateful for the efforts of the committee over the last year, and thanked them for their work.
Chairman David Walshe agreed to continue in office for a second year and was roundly applauded for his decision.
Gail Pain was confirmed as vice president, with the expectation that she will become president at the end of 2017.
Long serving treasurer Mike Nightingale said that the time had come for him to stand down. He had been treasurer for 17 years, since the club was founded. Chairman David thanked him for all his work over the years.
Colin Saunders was elected to take over the treasurer's role.
Secretary David Walker agreed to continue in office and was confirmed in post.
Speaker Secretary Geoff Croxford agreed to serve another year, and the Chairman paid tribute to his success in arranging a range of good, interesting speakers over the past year.
Committee members Mike Hockley and Peter Whitstone stood down after completing their two year stint in office.
John Burbidge and Tony Pearlman were duly elected as committee members.
Michael Smith - Tom Crean, Artic Explorer
Mike gave us a fascintaing talk about one of the unsung heroes of Antartic exploration.
Crean was a physically strong and invariably cheerful man, and his intelligence and judgement led to his promotion to become Scott's number two.
On the last, fatal trip, Crean was sent to manage the food bases for the return journey, rather than join Scott on the final stage to reach the pole. This action saved Crean's life, and his return to the base camp was an adventure of its own. Despite poor health, Crean insisted on being part of a rescue mission to find out what had happened to Scott, and was a member of the party that found the bodies and erected an ice memorial over them.
Undaunted by the trauma of his voyages with Scott, Crean signed up with Shackleton for his expedition, as his second in command. He was part of the group that made the epic voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, and crossed the unexplored central mountains of the interior to reach the whaling station on the north coast. From there, Crean was involved in the rescue of the other members of the expedition left on Elephant Island.
At the end of these adventures, when most people would be retiring and putting their feet up, Crean rejoined the navy and served from 1916 to the end of the war.
The South Pole Inn
Crean opened a pub, called the South Pole Inn and spoke very little about his adventures to anyone, including his own family, perhaps because the beginnings of Irish nationalism in 1916 exposed anyone with links to the British military to the danger of summary execution. Indeed, Crean's brother, a policeman, was killed by Irish nationalists.
Mike's talk was fascinating and enthralling, holding everyone's attention and showing how apparently ordinary men from simple backgrounds could become players on the world stage and accomplish great things
Click here to visit Mike's website.
Hypo Hounds - Jane Pearman
It was the first presentation Jane has given, though she spoke with such confidence, no one would have realised.
Jane gave a brief history of the health problems that her daughter, Sophie, has with Type 1 diabetes, and how they found a puppy, Scooby, who they hoped would be able to alert them when Sophie's sugar levels dropped. Scooby was only eight weeks old when this first happened.
Now fully grown, Scooby has been trained as an Alert dog and has already alerted Sophie's parents to a sudden dip in Sophie's blood sugar levels that meant she was on the edge of dipping into a life threatening diabetic coma.
Sophie and Scoobie
Following Sophie and Scooby's story becoming public knowledge at Crufts, Jane set up Hypo Hounds after overwhelming pleas for help from the parents of other Diabetic Children that had no one to turn to for support and training.
Hypo Hounds now have 6 dogs in training, all residing in Kent and all alerting their owners to diabetic episodes in their children. Even the newest recruit, Rosie, who is 13 weeks old is alerting.
Click here to find out more about Hypo Hounds.
Our speaker on August 4th was retired Tenterden councillor Jill Hutchinson.
Jill described the highlights of thirty years of public service, as a councillor, first in Tonbridge, and subsequently in Ashford.
In Tonbridge, Jill was Mayor from 1987-88
Jill described the way she fell into local government, almost by chance, and found herself elected very shortly after expressing an interest in local politics.
She listed a number of activities that had engaged her during her time in local government. The education of children, especially those with educational disabilities, were especially dear to her.
After a number of years on Tonbridge council, Jill and her husband relocated to Tenterden, and Jill thought she had finished her local authority career. However, she was soon buttonholed by the local conservative party, and served as Ashford Borough Councillor for the Tenterden South ward.
Jill stood down from the council in 2015.
Bob Ogley - The Ghosts of Biggin Hill
Bob proved to be an excellent speaker. He told us about the wartime exploits of individual pilots of the squadron, the operations they flew out of the airfield and the individuals who became known as "The Few".
Here are the pilots of 32 Squadron who were stationed at Biggin Hill for eight years and easily the longest serving. The 32 Squadron diary survives in the Biggin Hill archives.
Bob told us many anecdotes about the pilots, the squadron, and their wartimne adventures.
Click here to find out more about Bob and his books
The 17th of June saw many members of Probus, with wives and partners attend the Annual Dinner at Chart Hills Golf Club.
Besides an excellent meal, the guests were kept on their toes by a most demanding quiz compiled by Debbie Greaves, which had everyone scratching their heads from starter to dessert.
President David Walshe welcomed the guests, especially Ginnie Dixon, and entertained everyone with a most amusing speech.
As usual, the event was brilliantly catered by the Chart Hills and thanks go to Mark and his team for all their efforts.
Peter Knott - A Life in Jewellery
Well known local businessman Peter Knott was our speaker at our June meeting. Peter was the founder of the club.
Peter spoke to the club about his lifetime experience in the jewellery trade. He spent his formative years working in jewellers in the London suburbs learning his trade. he gained experience as a clock and watch maker, as well as a gemmologist, and spent some time as a representative of a jewellery firm travelling the south of England
One such trip brought him to White's the Jewellers in Tenterden.
Later, when Peter decided it was time to open his own shop, he remembered Tenterden and his visit to White's. As the previous owner was retiring he took over the shop in 1981, and the rest is history.
Peter has been an active member of the Tenterden community since his arrival in the town.
His very amusing talk was well received by his audience.
If you would like more information about Tenterden Probus,
contact us by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.