- 19th June - 8:00pm : ‘Curator of Leeds Castle’ - By Annie Kemkaran-Smith.
- 23rd June - 5:00pm : W.I. Mid Summer Picnic in the Meadows.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Excellent speakers - as usual at West Kent W! AGM

There were queues outside the Assembly Halls Tunbridge Wells yesterday -
and although the adverts outside were for 'The Full Monty' and 'Sex and Suburbia'  we were in for a much better show.

We started with the usual details of the last year's events and interesting new ones,  and plans to celebrate 100 years of the National Institute of Womens Institutes.
Before lunch our singers were the Farleigh Ladies choir, who  had won the County Federation choir competition and sang light and enjoyable songs ably conducted by their pianist 

We then were in for a treat - or a double treat come to that. 

 Our first speaker was Julie Summers an author.  - sound boring ? definitely  not.
For a start her Grandfather was the Officer whose was in charge of the soldiers who  built the Bridge on the River Kwai.  Her great Uncle was Sandy Irvine who was lost on Everest with George Mallory in 1924 - and her Grandma was a member of the WI.

 She has written several books, some of which are based around WW2.  She deals with subjects not so far thought about.  - WHEN THE CHILDREN CAME HOME is about the evacuees and what happened when they came home, and JAMBUSTERS covers the life of women at home during WW2.  The resilience, independence and practicality that they had.  It also covers the WI and how it supported the whole country following directives from the War office to make Jam, can fruit, knot string gloves, collect herbs to be used for medicines and many other initiatives.  She also dealt with the difficult time when men who had been away for up to 6 years came home - to a wife and children who hardly knew their husband or father. It seems that while attempts were made to help the men to adjust, nothing was done for the women.

NEWS - Jambusters is being made into a 6 part  ITV series called HOME FIRES and will be on TV in a few weeks time at 9.00 pm - a prime time slot.   The writer of Lewis, and the producer of Foyle are involved so look forward to a good programme (For a change)

Our afternoon speaker was Mandy Hickson. Ex RAF Tornado Pilot

Seen here in the front of her aircraft.

She told us of goals when she was in school, and when she started in the ATC women were not allowed to become fighter pilots.   Of her difficulties in moving on in her career.  - She was certainly able to fly fast jets, but not all the exams were passed first time (apparently later found to be because women's answers to questions were different to men's )

She also told us the time when she and  her colleagues rode bicycles in a Hanger to learn the various moves required in a jet. - with excellent results.

She flew missions in Afghanistan having to carry bombs and do in-flight refuelling, and finally of the time when leading a formation of 4 Tornados a missile was launched against her plane.   Luckily the navigator's eagle eyes saw it launched and immediately advised her,  so she could fire flares, and take avoiding action - seeing the missile hit the flares and explode.  Finally two  of team bombed the base that the missile had been directed from. A good job well done that day!

Then she was made redundant! - It happens to the best, especially when the Defence Budget is tightened.   She retrained as an airline pilot, but realised it wasn't for her and became a Motivational Speaker - and I can tell you, we were all motivated - however I don't think the RAF is looking  for several hundred over 65 year old fighter pilots.

A Great day.