Thorney Island reunion returns, prompting colourful stories of when it was an RAF base

​​An RAF reunion at Thorney Island that was spurred on by the publishing of a memoir and bolstered by a meeting of old friends is now heading for its 11th annual gathering.

John McGregor started it all with his book Fairy Tales of an SAC, a humorous account of his five years at RAF Thorney Island in the late 1960s and early 1970s, written in 2010.

He was living in Spain but came over to Southsea in 2011 for a hectic publicity week, staying with his great friend Martin Shuker, a colleague from those days as a senior aircraftman.

Following an evening in the Lord Raglan pub in Emsworth, reminiscing with Martin and three of their old friends about their exploits, it was unanimously agreed that a full reunion had to take place.

John said: "I did four Waterstones book signings, an interview on BBC Radio Solent and featured in articles in local newspapers along the south coast. As a result, the word was getting round my old colleagues – and a formal reunion was the new order of the day.

"In those days, Martin had become an inspector in Hampshire Police and went to see the CO of the Army, who are now in residence at Thorney Island. After getting permission to access the island, Martin visited the commodore of the sailing club at Thorney and was granted permission to use the club for a full reunion of old friends and colleagues from their time together over 40 years ago. The sailing club is a beautiful spot which was a favourite place for leisure activities back then."

The first reunion was held on May 12, 2012, and it was such a success that it has been held every year since, apart from the two Covid years. It even led to a follow-up book in 2015, Fairy Tales Come True, about everyone unexpectedly meeting up again after all that time.

This year, about 40 people are expected to gather at the reunion on May 11, with members coming from as far as Thailand, America, France and Spain.

John said: "Sadly, Martin passed away in 2019, and so have some other members. Every year, as part of the reunion, a short ceremony is led by evergreen member Pete Cox, who regularly attends all Forces Remembrance Days and British Legion events on behalf of the RAF. He raises the RAF Ensign and creates poppy wreaths that are placed at the foot to remember those members who have lately passed on."

For more information about the reunion, email John at [email protected].

John was delighted that his books and his colourful stories from his time at the base near Emsworth brought him back to so many people he had lost touch with. The setting was perfect and he found Thorney Island was almost just as they left it.

Reunions over the years have brought back many memories of those halcyon days of life and laughter. It also meant the second book could bring people up to date with what had happened to the characters he had written about, male and female, with colour photos from both the old days and the early reunions.

The books, which are available on Amazon, have tales from home and abroad, in uniform and out, all told with great humour and candour.