I was delighted to be invited to this dinner on Tuesday 30 January held in the unfamiliar, at least to me as an ex-RN officer, surroundings of the RAF Club on Piccadilly. Originally gifted as the Royal Air Force Club in 1918 by Lord Cowdray, it was finally opened to all RAF (and Royal Flying Corp) officers in 1922.
On entering the club one was ‘greeted’ by busts of two of the more well known Second World War Officers, Lord Dowding and Sir Keith Park. Then on the first floor corridor are the emblems of all RAF squadrons past & present. Not only was the venue fascinating and full of memorabilia of the RAF, the company too was enchanting.
There were some 30 of us, plus the Master and Clerk. We first had pre-dinner drinks in the Victoria bar of the main stairway and then promptly at 20:00 were ushered through by Jeremy Bedford, Chair of the Livery Committee and acting MC, into the President’s room. This room is so-called as it houses portraits of past Presidents of the club, all of whom it appeared to me were Air Marshals and thus had obtained the highest rank open to them.
Somehow the efficient staff had managed to get all of us around the one table. This was excellent for discourse of course but I did feel for the serving staff who started at one end and progressed either side of this long table, serving until they met at the other end, trying to ensure all food stayed hot, let alone fresh.
One of the key elements of such Company dinners is the variety of experience within our Livery. The conversations I heard, or was part of, ranged from 17th century steam engines, the benefits of one helicopter over its predecessor, the architecture of Kazakhstan and of St Petersburg to running marathons and fitness regimes, or lack of them.
Toward the end Jeremy asked the Master to speak “a few words”, which the Master did, literally. He then went on to talk about the Company’s history and some thoughts the Court is discussing regarding the future of the Company. Like most of the newer Liverymen I assume, having read the history of the Company, it was nice to put additional colour and context on my understanding. It was also very agreeable to be made aware of the Court’s thoughts and deliberations about the sustainable future of the Company.
Personally I would urge all Liverymen who have joined in the last five years or so, and who have not attended one of these less formal Livery dinners, to do so. For me it was not only enjoyable and entertaining, it was enlightening and uplifting.