Army reunion lays wreath at local soldier’s grave 37 years on – 6th September 2011
On Friday 16th September 2011, a wreath was laid on the grave of an old comrade who is laid to rest in Lincoln. The comrade was Driver Norman William McKenzie. He was killed whilst on patrol in Ulster on the 11th April 1974, whilst serving with 54 Engineer Support & Ambulance Squadron, Royal Corps of Transport who were based in Minden in Germany. Driver McKenzie was known as “Mac” to his mates. One of his mates from those army days is Willie Mitchell (from Perth, Scotland) who never forgot his old army pal. So Willie organised a wreath and travelled from Perth to Lincoln, to visit Driver McKenzie’s grave. Willie had tried, without success, to contact Driver McKenzie’s family to let them know that he was going to visit the grave and he had wanted to invite them to a special memorial service that had been organised.
Formerly 54 Company Royal Army Service Corps, the unit was based in Minden, Germany until 1982, when they relocated to nearby Lubbecke. The squardron was disbanded in the early 1990s, not long after the unit had returned from the first Gulf War. 54 Engineer Support & Ambulance Squadron, Royal Corps of Transport have been holding their annual reunions in Lincoln for the past 11 years. It all started, when Andy Kellett (ex-54 Sqn member) who lived in Lincoln suggested that it would be a good location to hold a reunion. Jane Larcombe had organised three 54 Sqn reunions between 1989 and 1996, but had then got divorced from her ex-54 Sqn husband. Andy and another ex-54 Sqn member Baz Buckle, convinced Jane Larcombe to continue to organise the reunions and so, the very first 54 Sqn reunion in Lincoln was born in 2001. The recent reunion saw 90 people gathered together with some travelling from as far away as Devon, Ireland, Spain, Germany and France to be there. Four of this year’s attendees had not seen one another since 1968, until they met again in Lincoln for their reunion on 16-18th September 2011.
This year was the first time a Memorial Service had been introduced. It had been inspired by Willie Mitchell posting a photograph on the 54 Sqn Facebook group of Driver McKenzie’s funeral in Lincoln in 1974, together with the recent untimely deaths of a number of ex-54 Sqn members, all in their 40s and early 50s. Jane Larcombe contacted Rev’d Jeremy Cullimore, who assisted in organising the service. It was held on Friday 16th September 2011 at 4.30pm at St. Botolph’s Church, High Street, Lincoln. Rev’d Mike Rose conducted the service, with readings by Dean “Deano” Williams and Jane Larcombe and Dean “Mez” Merriman laying a wreath at the altar.
The Lincoln reunion weekend is also an opportunity for the group to raise money for the forces charity “Help for Heroes”. Prizes were kindly donated by the following Lincoln businesses – The County Assembly Rooms, Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn. Jane Larcombe is pleased to announce that the 2011 reunion raised £725. Together with Gift Aid, this will take the total donation amount to £906.25 for “Help for Heroes”.
54 Sqn’s 2012 Lincoln Reunion is already being planned.