Ken Batstone writes….

On December 12th, 2012, the 10th Hawker Association annual Christmas Lunch was held at the YMCA Hawker Centre, formerly the Hawker Athletic & Social Club. Was it really ten years ago that the first Christmas Lunch was held? They say time flies when you are having fun. You may say that; I couldn't possibly comment - to quote a now famous TV line.

Over the years, the number of attendees dropped from the mid sixties in the early years to bottom out at 48 in 2009. However, this decline seems to have halted with attendees this time numbering 57. This I believe is been due to the superb food, service and ambience provided by the YMCA Staff, particularly after 2009.

During 2012 the Hawker Centre underwent a substantial facelift. This was done once it became clear that the building would not be demolished to make way for a new school. With the future of the Centre now assured, the Main Hall, the Bar Room and the Cafeteria were redecorated and new floors were laid. The Bar Room became The Studio with a mirrored wall, the Main Hall was fitted with a child-safe climbing frame and the Cafeteria became the only eating area. All had new interior doors and the Cafeteria windows were fitted with etched glass showing and explaining the aviation history of the site; a very pleasing development. The YMCA have always supported the Hawker Association and been pleased to advertise the links of the Centre to Kingston's aviation history.

Christmas Lunch


However, back to the Christmas Lunch. The refurbishment of the Centre meant that the Lunch had to be held in the new Cafeteria. This did not affect the usual seating arrangement of a top table with three "legs". As the diners arrived, they were greeted with a glass of wine and were able to meet and chat with old friends and colleagues.

This year for the first time our President (Sir Colin Chandler) was unable to attend, as also, unfortunately, was our ex-President (John Glasscock). The top table welcomed guests from Kingston Council (Councillor Cunningham), the London South West YMCA Region CEO (Richard James) and the Area Manager (Angela Garrett).

Before lunch, Les Palmer, on behalf of the Kingston Aviation Heritage Trust, presented to the YMCA a cast bronze relief wall plaque commemorating 100 years of aviation history in Kingston, to be mounted in the Hawker Centre entrance foyer. This large plaque, sculpted by Ambrose Barber, showed the profiles of Thomas Sopwith, Fred Sigrist, Harry Hawker and Sydney Camm, and a selection of aeroplanes produced at Kingston. The plaque was accepted by Richard James.

Short seasonal addresses were then given by Ambrose Barber and Ralph Hooper before the traditional three course lunch was served. The food was to its usual high standard accompanied by the cracking of crackers and the donning of silly hats (compulsory). The meal was followed by coffee and mince pies and finally the Christmas Raffle. The prizes included not only the usual alcohol and chocolates, but also a large plastic model kit of the wrong aircraft--- a Spitfire!! This was kindly donated by Ralph

The Lunch was enjoyed by all present; many of whom, on leaving, expressed their pleasure. The Association passed on these comments to the YMCA management and thanked the staff for their service and assistance during the afternoon. A more tangible expression of thanks was also presented.