Chairman Neil Ramshaw opened the meeting advising that seven apologies had been received. Details of the Christmas lunch had been provided by John Taylor with a request that bookings and payments be back to him by Tuesday December 1st. A “Vote of Thanks” person is still required for Tuesday November 17th and the Chairman would appreciate a volunteer coming forward.

Today saw the now annual and increasingly popular Members’ Morning with five Forum members giving a short discourse on a topic of their choosing.

First up was Lou Cosentine who talked about being an “American in Britain”. He talked about having been in the U.K. for fifteen years, his second generation immigrant background and his mid west and Chicago heritage. Lou gave a flavour of the melting pot background to the U.S.A. and its impact on their geographical and world view of politics and social issues with some comparison with the Canadian perspective.

Our second Speaker was Gordon Richardson who spoke of his time in ” R.A.F. Service 1946″. Being stationed under S.E. Asian Command  and in India he shared the serious concerns of R.A.F. servicemen who became agitated over the tardiness of demobilization particularly in comparison to the Army and Navy. Failure of the hierarchy to deal with these concerns led to strikes or withdrawal of labour and a knock on impact on Indian forces at the time independence ambitions were at their height. Changes of senior personnel eventually resolved the issues with 100,000 men demobilized in the spring of 1946 and the process completed in 1947. The seriousness of the action should be considered against the background of it being a capital offence.

The Forum’s Registrar Derek Simpson then took the floor to share some “Railway Memories”. He recalled his time at Gisburn when he found himself the only person available to remedy a lighting problem further down the track which involved him placing a lamp but having to climb 100 feet up a viaduct and a signal which cured his fear of heights!! He informed us about his godfather Rabbit Dick with his poacher sideline alongside his railway employment which resulted in the provision of rabbits and pheasants. Mention was made of a Polish Railway employee with a musical bent who entertained in Morecambe and involved Derek and his sister getting a late, unofficial train home; we also heard about the missing Stationmaster who spent regular time at the Bank buying and selling stocks and shares. Derek told us about his “voluntary ” jobs running the refreshment carriage on holiday trains; his time at Lake Windermere and his missed opportunity of employment in San Francisco!!

The fourth talk was provided by Ian Blyth  who shared some of his experiences as a “Merchant Navy Cadet”. These anecdotes  were prefaced with comments about the poor conditions of the Fleet and the lack of progress and change from the 30’s , 40’s and 50’s which was also exemplified in the management style of some of the Officers he encountered.Examples included Engineering Officers who barely spent anytime in the engineering deck and Ship’s Captains who over indulged and could not be roused to make course direction orders!! Ian also advised of a trip with his wife onboard when during the night she, with a nursing background, was asked to confirm a steward had died. The corpse was then put into frozen storage at too low a temperature which eventually delayed the autopsy on shore!!

The final Speaker Grahame Devonport took as his topic “Forensics” from his background as a forensic scientist . He advised that the first forensic laboratory opened in 1934 in Hendon, London with further locations being added too including Wakefield which eventually moved to Harrogate and Newcastle. These two locations eventually joined up in Wetherby but due to Treasury cut backs the service was privatised and is no longer in the public sector. Early days had seen analysis of blood, semen, instruments, footmarks etc from scenes of crime and improvements were made such as full blood grouping, comparison of handwriting and the significant breakthrough from the discovery of D.N.A. Grahame shared an amusing story that demonstrated the relevance of time and location being pertinent to what is said !! and he also shared a visual foil with the audience.

A number of questions were asked at the conclusion of the talks and the Chairman thanked all the participants for their excellent , entertaining and informative contributions to the morning.Thirty eight attendees benefited from the morning’s programme.


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