The Friends visit Bletchley Park

The Friends latest trip in May saw 42 dedicated travellers visit Bletchley Park and enter the Secret World of WW2 ‘codebreakers’.

Arriving on one of Coliseum’s luxury coaches, the group were greeted by their own Guide, who took them through a 60 minute tour of the site.  This included a presentation in the Chauffeurs Hut followed by a brilliant walking tour of the site.

The weather can always be counted upon to make Friends trips varied; this trip did not disappoint.  Thunder, lightning, torrential rain all combined to make a lively ‘sprint’ between the various ‘codebreakers’ Huts!

Bletchley Park was one of Britain’s best kept secrets during WW2, home of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS).

Brilliant mathematicians were recruited from Cambridge and Oxford University as codebreakers, to penetrate the secret communications of the Axis Powers, especially the German Enigma and Lorenz cipher machines.  Ultimately, 10,000 staff were employed at the site as the work grew in importance.

The Friends were able to view much of this activity in the various Huts and the Museum, which contained original Enigma and Lorenz cipher machines.

The afternoon drew to a close with even heavier storms, resulting in a rush to the tea rooms, followed by a fast and comfortable trip home to Romsey.

The trip was led by Friends members John and Julia Slade and a very big thank you to both of them

Friends members commented;

“I met a long lost friend – the paper tape computer I was programming in 1963”

“Brilliant day out, well managed and very interesting, when’s the next one!!”

“Whether one was computer literate or not, an informative and fascinating day was had by all”

Ken Gibson
Friends member

May Day up the belltower

On 1 May – May Day – a select group of us enjoyed a guided tour of the ringing chamber, high above the crossing in Romsey Abbey, led by the virger, Chris Harpham. It was very interesting to visit part of the Abbey that very few people actually see.

The Benedictines

On Friday 4 April, we enjoyed a talk by the Revd Tim Sledge on the Benedictine monastic order, their ethos and importance to Romsey Abbey. It was a very illuminating and thought-provoking evening.

Visit to Brooklands Museum

Woman in fighter plane cockpit
Hilary Gould preparing for take-off at Brooklands

On Tuesday 25th March the Friends of Romsey Abbey visited the Brooklands Motor and Aviation Museum. The group were given an interesting guided tour, showing them the early days of Brooklands, in relation to both its Motoring and Aviation history which set the scene very well, enabling them to concentrate on their areas of special interest.

There was much to see and learn, including the wonderfully presented examples of the cars and motorcycles, especially the monstrous Napier Railton built in 1933 for John Cobb and fitted with a 24 litre aero engine. This car still holds the lap record for the circuit at 143 mph. a truly remarkable feat.

The other highlight of the visit and experienced by most of the group, was the virtual flight aboard Concorde. They took their places in the luxury of the original seating to follow an excellent video recreation of a Mach 2 flight complete with vibrations. A wonderful piece of aviation history indeed and something we can be proud of even today!


Visit to Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport

The fog had lifted by the time a group of 19 led by John Twigg left the Abbey for Gosport via the M27, in two TVBC mini-buses driven by Tim Rogerson and Dick Hewett.

We duly arrived at the  R.N. Submarine Museum at about 10.15 a.m. and made our way tothe reception building. John announced that we were to assemble for a conducted  tour of H.M.S. Alliance at 11.10 so we proceeded to pass the time inspecting the many interesting artefacts on display in the museum. These included stepping  aboard  Holland 1  the Royal Navy’s first submarine built in 1901 and salvaged from the deep a few years ago, peering into X24 the only remaining  midget submarine to have served in WW2 and watching a film on personal  recollections from submariners whom served in the South Atlantic in 1982.

At 11.10 we went aboard Alliance, our tour guide was Jim Hugman who had been a submariner chef. We walked nearly the length of the sub through sleeping quarters, mess rooms, the minute galley that supplied 3 meals a day for 60 crew, the control platform with two periscopes  and then into the engine room . Here there were two 6 cylinder diesel engines in tandem that drove the vessel when on the surface, and also the generator to charge the batteries for the electric motor for underwater propulsion.

One could only imagine the noise and atmosphere from diesel fumes and  I think that  everyone enjoyed Jim’s stories of life in a submarine.

About noon we left Alliance and as we had 45mins. before we caught the water taxi we either  visited the café or continued our tour of the museum.

At 12.45 we embarked on the “Jenny R” water taxi which was to take us to the Explosion Museum with stops at Gunwharf Quay, where we had a good view of the Spinnaker Tower now bathed in glorious sunshine and at H.M.S. Warrior. Finally we arrived at Priddy’s Yard which since 1771 had been the R.N. Armaments Depot.

Here we experienced an audio-visual interactive show, otherwise known as “musical chairs”! After another tea break in the sun we were treated to a real experience when John Coker, a retired armaments technician gave us an in depth history of naval weapons from cannons to Exocet missiles.

A most enjoyable day  ended with a return trip through Stokes Bay and  Stubbington, our thanks to Dick and Tim for the transport and most of all to John for arranging the programme.

Visit to Gosport

Strawberry tea

Our Annual Strawberry Tea was held on Sunday afternoon in the Vicarage Garden, by kind permission of the Rev Tim and Caroline Sledge.  We are very grateful for their hospitality and warm welcome. Over thirty Friends enjoyed local strawberries and homemade shortbread.  Despite initial concerns over the weather, the day developed into a warm and sunny afternoon.  The customary quiz led to some lively discussion about general knowledge and local events.  The tea was followed by a special Friends Evensong in the Abbey, accompanied by a visiting choir from St Mary’s Church Kidlington.

Friends at their Strawberry tea

Three-day trip to Bristol

The trip to Bristol on 18-20 June was a great success; it had been most carefully planned by Tim Rogerson. Highlights included the SS Great Britain, St Mary Redcliffe, Tyntesfield, Clifton and Bristol Cathedral. Nine members enjoyed a great three days.