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  Last Update 03 June 2001
Caversham  AGM
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BBC Monitoring Service - Caversham Park
Saturday 25th November 2000

An account of another milestone event in our Branch history follows the pictures shown below.  To view a larger shot, click on any picture.  To return to this page use your browser's 'back' button.

Caversham House (25 Kb)    Main Operations Room and Technical Area (49 Kb)    Bob Harrison briefs Maisie and Erika (40 Kb)       An atmospheric Caversham (photo by 'Skip' Skipper)(18 Kb)

Tech talk from Bob Harrison (33 Kb)    Tam Frize briefs Rod and Sean Maunder (29 Kb)     The duty operator monitors activity (32 Kb)    Dennis and Bob confer before the meeting (33 Kb)       

An attentive audience for a technical brief (42 Kb)    A younger member - Mark Horne (24 Kb)

Caversham Park

The estate that is now home to BBC Monitoring was registered in the Domesday Book.  The entry describes a property of 2,400 acres worth 20.  Property prices have risen a little since!  Historical highlights include use of a former house on the site to hold King Charles the First, a visit in 1783 by the future president of America, Thomas Jefferson and occupation of the present house by the Oratory School from 1923 - 1941.  A memorial chapel built to commemorate former pupils who gave their lives in the Great War remains a feature of the present property and close by the entrance are the graves of some who fell. 

BBC Monitoring, which had been created shortly before the Second World War to provide an insight into the information being given to their populations by the German government and others, moved to Caversham in the Spring of 943.

Bob Harrison, himself a former 'Y' man, was kind enough to give members a fascinating insight into the way that Caversham and BBC Monitoring have grown and evolved since those early days.  It was plain that the Centre has a vital role to play in providing information from a wide range of public broadcasting media to British diplomats, policy makers and other customers in a palatable, authoritative and invariably impartial and objective manner. 

The scope and nature of the operation was described in some detail, supported by an excellent video.  It was quite clear that an enormous challenge in identifying, prioritizing, recording and reporting a staggering  range of source material is accomplished daily by BBC Monitoring without fuss or fanfare.  Good planning, technical excellence and a highly professional staff combine to make the task seem effortless.  It was clear though that it would be anything but to anyone faced with replicating the service that is now provided and sustained day in and day out by Caversham staff and colleagues elsewhere year round.

Tam Frize and Danny Keyes, two more 'Y' veterans who also serve on the Technical Support staff, cheerfully assisted with guided tours of the operations area, exhibiting tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm while doing so.  The privilege of seeing into a unique area of nationally important work was greatly appreciated.  Members will appreciate the time and trouble taken to make us welcome for a long time to come. 

Annual General Meeting

The Meeting followed the prescribed order of events and contained no particular surprises.  Eighteen members of the Branch were present.  A good number for a wet and windy Saturday in November.  It's an unfortunate fact that constitutional conditions dictate the timing, but that's life.

During the Act of Remembrance members were asked particularly to remember Ellen Whittles, our Chairman's mother and a wartime member of the ATS, who had passed away recently; John (Guy) Underwood, beloved son of Derek and Betty Underwood and Anne Staveley, a Branch member known to many  who served long and well with the WRVS in both Birgelen and at Chicksands

In the main body of the meeting Our Chairman managed proceedings very well, particularly in keeping the session down to just over one hour.  It comes as no surprise therefore to reveal that he was re-elected.  This was the case for the other Branch officers too.  It was remarked that two committee members, Steve Miller and Ian Copeland had been obliged to resign because their professional commitments had become too great.  An offer to join the committee from Pete Derrick was approved unanimously.

There was some discussion of the various issues that currently confront the Royal British Legion.  These include reviews of the arrangements for Annual Conference and the Royal Charter.  On the subject of Annual Conference, our Chairman, Terry Whittles was approved as the Branch delegate to Conference 2001, which will be held in Bournemouth.  On the same subject, members approved submission of a draft Motion to national organisers suggesting that the government drop plans to cut the period for which expatriates retain British voting rights from 20 years to 10.  We will see if it is approved to go into the Conference agenda proper in due course. 

In his report our Chairman explained that he had recently attended the first meeting of members of the new Association of National Branches (St James's, BEWSA, Garats HaY and the Gulf War Veterans).  (Webmaster's Comment:  He didn't mention that his tremendous energy and commitment to Legion work had been recognised in his appointment to chair the Group - but our Vice Chairman John Clark did!). 

Other officers' reports produced no surprises and it was confirmed, importantly, that the Branch accounts had been passed by auditors and certified correct as at 30th September.  As had the Chairman, several officers made the point that it was important to maintain recruiting momentum.  Membership continued to rise steadily, standing at 307 on the day of this AGM, but more members would be welcome and the pool of eligible folk had hardly been tapped. 

It was confirmed that next year's AGM will take place in Loughborough on the Saturday of Remembrance Weekend and be part of a now familiar package of events surrounding the annual Service of Remembrance at St Mary in the Elms, Woodhouse.

The date of the next Branch meeting will be Saturday, July the 7th.  Various venues were being considered.  They included Duxford, Cosford, Shenley, Kedleston Hall and London, where research was being done to locate the Royal Navy's famous 'Room 40'. 

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