Some of our veterans and committee members made a rather long journey down to the Chalke Valley History Festival in Wiltshire on Saturday 27 June 2015 to support our veteran singing star Danny McCrudden, who was singing with The London Swing Orchestra at the Victory Ball in the evening.
The veterans were picked up by our taxi drivers - who as usual volunteered their services - thanks again lads! We left London at 10:00am, headed for the Victoria & Albert pub in Netherhampton, Wiltshire, where we were due to have our lunch. It was a long old journey and the traffic en route was pretty bad.
By the time we all arrived at the pub it was 1:45pm. We all enjoyed a nice lunch and coffee and then in convoy, we then made our way to the festival in Chalke Valley, some 10 miles further on, arriving there at 4:30pm.
Not long after we got there, there was a fly past by the RAF display team, and then the vets set about looking around the festival site.
There were many exhibits and various attractions for the visitors. There really was something of interest to everybody, from a re-enactment of conditions in a WWI trench in battle, to another exhibit showing the scale of the Battle of Waterloo. Another exhibit depicted the Battle of Agincourt, and there was also a graphic WWII section. Another section showed life in the dark and iron ages, and a sword school.
Most appreciated was the NAAFI tent where we could get refreshments!
Myself and a couple of the vets - Bill Parr (Black Watch, ex-Korean vet) and Tommy Schaffer (ex-PARA, the Rhine Crossing) - made a circuit of the grounds. Everywhere we went, people wanted to talk to the vets, take their photos and buy them drinks. We never made it halfway round the attractions! What a lovely afternoon enjoyed by everybody and well supported by the local residents.
At 6pm we made our way to the victory tent for an evening of musical entertainment and a few drinks. A female group of three singers sang a selection of wartime favourites with everybody joining in.
The second act was a guy doing a George Formby tribute show. He not only sang like Formby, he looked like Formby! He was really good, singing the Formby classics: “Oh Mr Woo” and “Leaning on a Lamp-post” and a lot of the Formby repertoire. The vets thought he was great. We will have to try to get him to Worthing next year.
Following this, the London Swing Orchestra began their spot in the programme, playing various numbers from the wartime hit parade, which went down very well. At last, long awaited, the band leader introduced Danny McCrudden as the next turn, to the delight of our veterans.
I don’t really know what the band leader was expecting. He sort of apologised in advance, saying there had been no rehearsal! He asked Danny what he was going to sing and Danny replied: “Come fly with me”, the Sinatra classic. The band got going and Danny, singing from the floor not the stage, launched into his number.
The audience - all two hundred of them - loved it. The applause was deafening. The look on the band leader’s face was a picture to behold - he was totally gobsmacked! He asked the audience if they wanted to hear more and the gathering roared their approval.
Danny sang two more songs, then finished off with a great rendition of “The Impossible Dream” which brought the house down. Well done, Danny! A great performance supported by our veterans. And remember this, Danny, who is one of our collectors, was at this time only 3 hours away from his 91st birthday!
The rest of the evening was filled with music and dancing. A few of our veterans, including yours truly, got the local ladies up to dance, and they were amazed by our energy and would not let us leave the dance floor!
Eventually it was time to leave for our hotel (we were running late). We journeyed to the Holiday Inn at Salisbury. Everyone was feeling a little peckish so we got some pizzas in, fed the troops and sent them off to bed. It had been a long and lovely day.
The following morning we were all up early for breakfast and on the road for about 10:00am. It really was a great day out for our veterans...
To check out our antics on the dance floor and to see more photos of Danny wowing the audience, please check out our photo album on Flickr.
You can also find some additional photos on Janet Hodgson's wonderful blog.