Aldbourne and The Gathering of Eagles

Aldbourne was a very new and different event for the Garrison; the weekend itself was "The Gathering of Eagles" an event to commemorate the US 101st Airborne Division which was based around Aldbourne in 1943 - 44 prior to D-Day. This weekend was very much an event of two half’s, the Saturday was a vehicle run in the morning our living history display in the afternoon, followed in the evening by a talk from one of the original veterans of 101st the real band of brothers. This was followed by the finally, a spectacular Searchlight display by the searchlights of the Garrison. The Sunday was all about 101st and the rain.

For Gary Mason and me the Aldbourne event started on the Wednesday night when Gary arrived at my home to spend a few days and help sort out the searchlight and equipment. Thursday I was working and Gary was looking through the Royal Artillery Library and ammunition collection. Later in the afternoon we drove over to Mike & Julie’s to pick up the trailer they had kindly offered to lend us. The Advance party of Gary, Don, James, Andy Davis and I all arrived on the Friday to set up the tentage, more importantly we did the reconnaissance of the pub, the very local pub 10 meters away from the tents. It was a difficult and lengthy recce which started at 18.00hrs and finished at midnight, but it was thorough and every element of the pub was checked.

Saturday was our day, with The Garrison being the only display on the village green and it being a dry, it was a good day. The evening however was something special with us again taking centre stage with our first ever duel searchlight display with both lights. It was a great display every one was talking about it all day on Sunday. There was a few interesting moments when 10 minutes before the display the 90 cm searchlight generator packed up and while trying to sort it out, it caught fire. Thanks to a fine fire fighting performance from Ian Hager a disaster was diverted and then with a quick bit of line laying to a near by house by Phil Rowe we where able to get the 90cm up and running.

Just as we packed up and when to bed it started to rain and it rained all night and nearly all day Sunday. All the 101st Airborne re-enactors arrived on the village green and started setting up their display, they where half way through it when the heavens opened again and this time it did not stop until 16.30hrs. During the day we stayed in the kitchen area making tea with the rain water, Mike Snelling took on the tea making roll while Don and I collected the water it was a successful partnership that must have made over 100 cups of tea and the odd coffee for Andy Dawson. The rain cleared up just long enough to pack some of the tentage and clear the site. The Village green may never look the same but all those who attended felt it was a great event despite the rain, and we look forward to coming back.