RAF Thorney Island reunion will be in fond memory of Martin

Thorney reunion Mac (left) & Martin in 2011
Thorney reunion Mac (left) & Martin in 2011

A reunion at the former RAF Thorney Island will go ahead in memory of one of the event’s organisers.

In 2010 John McGregor wrote a book called Fairy Tales of an SAC, a humorous account of his five years at RAF Thorney Island in the late 60s and early 70s. During this period he made many friends and wrote about some of them in the book.

In 2011 Mac came over to the UK from Spain where he lives and stayed with his oldest friend from those great days, Martin Shuker, by then a senior policeman living in Southsea.

One night the two met up in a pub with three of their old friends from those days, where with “much frivolity” they recalled their exploits at home and abroad, in uniform and out.

As Mac recalls: “There could only be one outcome – a full reunion. Then came some necessary hard work: Martin went to see the CO of the army who are now resident at Thorney Island, and then the Commodore of The Sailing Cub there at Thorney, a beautiful place with sea views across Chichester harbour. Permissions from both parties, the army and the sailing club were granted to hold the reunion back where it all happened. Game on!

“We then tried to contact all our old mates from over 40 years ago and surprisingly we were very successful.”

Sixty-five friends turned up in May 2012, much to Mac and Martin’s amazement – and that figure has now held over the last six years.

“The old lads were maybe a bit older, some greyer and whiter (if they still had hair), perhaps thicker round the waist but as one observant lady who was also around at the time quipped ‘all with that same twinkle in their eyes’. The years were rolling back as the reunions continued every year - and this year will be the eighth.

“But sadly, tragically Martin contracted pancreatic and liver cancer two years ago. This tough, strong popular man who had gone from the Royal Air Force to another highly successful career in the police couldn’t beat this harrowing illness, although typically he put up a terrific fight. Martin passed away aged 71 on January 23 2019 with a huge turnout in Worthing from the RAF, the police and a whole host of family and friends to mark his passing.”

Mac said: “We are determined not to let this year’s reunion pass without recognising Martin’s immense contribution towards the whole thing. It will be a special tribute to the man. We want to remember how he always was: funny, friendly, confident, positive – a man for all seasons. We will miss our friend Martin very much.”

The eighth RAF Thorney Island will be held on May 11 and if anyone has RAF connections they are welcome to attend by connecting John McGregor on 0034 600088341 or email mcgregorjaw@hotmail.co.uk.