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REME open day a fantastic celebration of corps' 70th anniversaryBy Jon Nurse
June 20, 2012
Thousands of people poured into Arborfield Garrison to celebrate the Army engineers’ 70th anniversary at the site in what could be its last open day.
The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) hosted its open day on Saturday, with soldiers fresh from service overseas guiding visitors around some of the Army’s machines from past and present.
Event officer Lieutenant Colonel Pete Smith said: “Today has gone very well, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“It’s been 11 months in the making and the crowds have turned out and had a great time.
“ I reckon we’ve had more than 7,000 people here today.
“It has also been great to get soldiers together from across the UK and Germany and foster esprit de corps.”
The open day could be the site’s last, as plans are in place for the garrison’s School of Electronic and Aeronautical Engineering to move to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire by 2015.
The garrison is earmarked as one of four Strategic Development Locations (SDLs) across Wokingham which will take 13,200 homes to be built by 2026.
Mike and Vanda Bowyer, of Swallowfield Road, were at the open day with their grandsons Sam and Ewan Bennett, nine and seven, who played in a mini assault course.
“There’s lots to do and lots to see,” Mr Bowyer said. “We’ve been several times before and it’s a very good show.
“It’s a great shame that it might not be here again.
“We both grew up in Wokingham so we’ve known about it for a long time. All the residents will miss REME.”
Children took a close look inside tanks and armoured vehicles as families enjoyed a funfair ahead of a musical finale at the main arena.
Emma Nicklen of Hurst enjoyed the displays with her family.
“It’s a wonderful family day,” she said. “The guys have been showing us all the equipment and they’ve been so friendly and helpful.”
A planned historic flypast and REME parachute team skydive were cancelled on a windy afternoon, but an Apache helicopter was able to glide over the main arena and bow to the crowds.
The open day finished a festival of sport in the garrison, with rugby, basketball, hockey, football and indoor rowing finals played on Saturday.
REME Corps Colonel Ian Gibson said: “It’s been a wonderful day for REME and for the community.
“There’s no doubt they get better every year.
“There’s always a warm welcome to the community and they feel part of our family.”
REME recovery mechanic Stephen Gaunt, 21, said: “I’ve come down from the garrison in Catterick for today. I’ve been asked a lot questions about the vehicles we have on display, particularly from people who have served in the army. They are really interested to know about the new kit.
“There are a lot more people here than I expected and people have had a real interest in what we do.”