St Omer Trip – 20 Sept 18

Dear All,

Please see the message below, sent out in an email to all members recently.  It would appear that not everybody had visibility of this so I’m publishing it for you here. If you are interested in attending, please contact Alfie Ferguson or myself.

TABS, Dutch.


Dear Member of the IX Squadron Association
Four years ago when we completed a most enjoyable 3 day trip to St Omer to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the formation of IX(B) Squadron  (there were about 120 Association members involved in support of serving Squadron personnel), I vowed never to take on something of that nature again. At my mature years I should have known better … never say never … so here we go … again … but on a smaller scale.
This year, as we know, the Royal Air Force is celebrating the 100th Anniversary if its formation in 1918, and in recognition of the link with the RFC/RAF in those early days, the St Omer Town Council (with some St Omer Flying Club involvement)  has written to the Chief of Air Staff to formally request RAF involvement in a celebration that acknowledges the 100 years + link.  I have to say at this stage that without a significant “push” from our Nick Hay, Chairman of the IX Sqn Association, this would not be happening. As a serving 1* he has been able to lean on the RAF 100 Programme Team to include this event as part of the wider celebrations. Believe me it was not straightforward, but fortunately Nick has a low key day job and plenty of spare time. As a result, we do now have agreement for some regular RAF involvement, and in particular from the two Squadrons that were formed at St Omer (IX(B) and 16) plus 41 Sqn which flew from St Omer in 1916 and which has the double-armed cross on their crest that also appears on the St Omer town’s arms. 
I mention the three squadron link to make it clear that on this occasion the event is not a dedicated IX(B) Squadron celebration. The main event, which is planned for Thursday 20th September 18, will involve serving personnel from all 3 squadrons (to an extent that has yet to be finalised) and the 3 Squadron Associations. I have yet to speak with 16 and 41 Squadron Association project leads. but I am expecting the  IX(B) Squadron Association’s involvement to be significantly greater than the other two – no surprises there when looked at against our remarkable Association strength and commitment. 
An outline travel and accommodation plan (can I stress outline)  for the IX Squadron Association involvement is as follows:
One coach this time for about 40  Association members rather than the 2 that we arranged in 2014. This can probably be expanded to 50 if needs be.
Leave from the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, at 0900 on Wednesday 19th September 18. Car parking will be made available as per the last occasion.
One pick up point en-route to Folkstone for rail tunnel crossing. Thurrock Services was successfully used last time. Negotiable for best option.
Travel to Folkestone to Calais on the 1220 train. Arrives in France at about 1400 local time.
To hotel (more of that later) to check in at about 1500.
Travel from Calais to Folkestone on Friday 21st September to catch the 1650 train, arriving in Folkestone at about 1630 UK time.
Drive to Duxford via the same stopping off point. 
Friday travel on UK roads not ideal … sorry but not our choice of dates.
In France (again an outline plan but given to us by the St Omer Council):
Wednesday 19th September 18.
Plan for 1800 evening visit to Chapel of the Jesuits, St Omer to see Exhibition entitled: “1918-2018 RAF, born in St Omer”. With English speaking guide.
2000 Dinner in Chateau Tilques. St Omer.
Thursday 20th September 18. the St Omer Town Council plan is as follows (no specific times given):
AM St Omer Cathedral Service of Remembrance 
AM Guided visit to La Coupole, a huge bunker that was built by the Germans as a  V2 launch site. The bunker was bombed successfully  by IX Squadron Lancasters, but despite our best efforts it remains remarkably well preserved! In 1977 it was turned into an impressive history and museum centre.   Lunch on site.
PM St Omer Cemetery: Wreath laying and start of official ceremony.
PM St Omer Airfield: Further ceremony at RAF Memorial at St Omer + displays + flypast planned + local orchestral concert + unveiling of plaque to commemorate the event. Reception.
Dinner in Chateau at 2000. tbc depending on nature and content of “reception” planned by our St Omer hosts.
Friday 21st September 18
0930 Check out of Chateau hotel 
1030 (option 1) Visit Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. In Zonnebeke, Belgium. An hour or so from St Omer, but hugely impressive. 
1000 (option 2) Visit St Omer on a “Douglas Bader Tour”.  Wasn’t aware that he had the privilege of serving on IX … 
Lunch as required
Travel to Calais to catch 1650 train. Stopping at wine cellar en-route … of course …
The cost that I have from Galloway Travel who arranged the 2014 event for 1X Squadron’s 100th Anniversary event :
What you get:
Travel 19th – 21st September 18
Travel in France & Belgium as required
Return Eurotunnel crossing
Two nights in Hotel Chateau Tilques – DINNER + bed & breakfast in a twin or double room is £279 per person.
Single supplement £60 per person.
Because we don’t know the detailed arrangements that our hosts in France have yet to put in place, I can’t confirm the precise additional costs which we might incur. However, please assume that participants in the trip will be required to pay for entry into La Coupole (10 euros pp) and the cost of lunch (10-15 euros pp) on 21st September when we are returning back to Calais to catch the train. Depending on the “reception” arrangements at St Omer on the 20th, we may not need dinner at the Chateau Hotel so there’s potentially a discount of the hotel bill of £279 … tbc …
I have a firm “reservation” for 20 twin/double rooms at Hotel Chateau Tilques until 16th May 18. However, that’s the absolute cut off date, and to sort out the other arrangements for this trip, such as payment, can I ask you to let me know if you would like to join the latest IX(B) Squadron travel extravaganza NOT LATER THAN WEDNESDAY 9th MAY 18 – even sooner if possible? 
Finally, bearing in mind the huge number of email addresses that this message has been sent, please don’t feel the need to “regret” the invitation to join the group. I just need to know who would like to go based on the information that I have gleaned so far – there will be some changes but hopefully not significant – and I will assume “not interested” if nothing hear by 9th May 18.
Can I also apologise for just one coach this year. I know that it’s not ideal for people who live in the north or west of the UK but I am trying to minimise the huge amount of administration that we had in 2014 and I simply don’t yet know how many want to come to St Omer for this shared extravaganza … TABS …
Best regards
Alan (Alfie) Ferguson
Vice-President IX Squadron Association
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