VIP passes mean Old Buckenham veterans will watch the airshow in luxury - 60 years on from when they met

Matt Wilkins, airshow manager, presents the VIP tickets to veteran Ray Humberstone.

Matt Wilkins, airshow manager, presents the VIP tickets to veteran Ray Humberstone. - Credit: Archant

In 1954, a group of young RAF men began their careers in Old Buckenham.

Working together in the 94 Maintenance Sub-Unit, they quickly struck up a close friendship.

And 60 years on, distance, family and careers haven't weakened their bond - with the group arranging annual trips back to their old stomping ground to watch the renowned Old Buckenham Airshow.

This year, thanks to an article published in the EDP and the generosity of those at the airfield, the group of 13 will watch the show in luxury with VIP passes.

Ray Humberstone, who lives on Arlington Gardens in Attleborough, moved from north Lincolnshire in 1954 to work in the guard room, checking vehicles and organising the disposal of unusable bombs.


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Just two years later, the team returned home - and it wasn't until 1987 that a chance meeting inspired the first reunion.

Mr Humberstone said: 'One of the boys who stayed in Norfolk went to a dance in Bunwell and he thought he saw another colleague who lived in Carleton Rode. From there, we decided that we should have a reunion and started to get in contact.'

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Six of the men still living in Norfolk met at the Griffin Hotel in Attleborough to begin the search for their comrades - and with men living in Wales, Glasgow and Essex, Mr Humberstone resorted to inventive methods.

'I went on Radio Norfolk and then made contact with all the BBC stations across the country to get people to come forward,' he said.

Later that year, 56 of the team met at Old Buckenham - a tradition which has been continued ever since.

'It's amazing really,' the great-grandfather said. 'You remember all of them and you remember those youthful faces. It gives you the impression you are talking to their fathers.

'Everybody had put on abit of weight, features had altered slightly - it was surreal.'

The group's connection runs deeper than an annual meeting - in 1990, Mr Humberstone's commanding officer Lieutenant Eric Harper moved to the same estate in Attleborough.

'I used to have to let him in and open the barrier for him and he finished up coming to be my neighbour and would buy my grandchildren Christmas presents,' he said.

When Mr Harper died in 1996 , Mr Humberstone and friends carried his coffin to the crematorium.

'That's the beauty of it - how many more RAF stations across the country are meeting up 60 years later and have that level of involvement in each other's lives, ' he said. 'Even the wives who have lost their husbands still come along - we like to take care of everyone.'

Do you have an Old Buckenham story for us? Contact reporter Lauren Cope on Lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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