Friday 25th January 2019 was an historic day for the charity in that it saw the Inaugural Annual Lunch of the Friends of The Secret WW2 Learning Network. Hosted by one of our members, Ray Windmill, at a prestigious and highly-relevant Knightsbridge venue, the dining area was filled to capacity with our 23 places, snapped up by Friends and Volunteers.
An 'advance reconnaissance party' of 17 met at St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge for a pre-lunch photo opportunity in front of the FANY plaque on the church's exterior, commemorating those FANYs who died or were killed on active service in WW1 and WW2. Among the names listed for the latter conflict are the 13 FANYs who became agents of French Section SOE and who did not return.
After a short walk to the venue, the remainder of the party (travelling from places as far-flung as Warrington, Cardiff and Hastings) joined at 1 pm for a superb lunch, with drinks and wine kindly sponsored by our host Ray.
The food, service and company were excellent and the historic and convivial surroundings encouraged a sizeable proportion of attendees to remain until 9 p.m., somewhat beyond the planned finishing time of 7 pm, but indicative of the amicable conversation that continued to flow freely. It is likely, as membership of the Friends' group grows, that we will not fit into this venue again in future, but there was no better place to launch the occasion.
Louisa Russell, Chair of the charity, thanked Paul McCue and Ray for organising the event and Ray for his generous support and talked of the Network's aims. Paul, (Trustee and self-appointed President of the Mess Committee!) proposed the Loyal Toast and then outlined the 2019 draft programme of events which, after a little more work, will shortly be published online and via our email list.
Paul then gave a short, light-hearted, presentation that might best be entitled 'Luck and Love in SOE' before the group retired to the bar.
The attendees at the FANY memorial at St Luke’s Church at Knightsbridge were from L to R: Paul McCue, Brian Spencer, Mark Brown, Anna Menzies Caldwell, Ray Windmill, Laurie Black, Donna Black, Louisa Russell, Ann Palmer, Ian Titman, Barbara Cronk, Simon Rymills,
Carol Brown, Magda Thomas, Mike Rennie, Geoff Moody & Trevor Butterworth
Those who went straight to The Club for the Inaugural Annual Luncheon were:
Peter Robinson, Jim Allan, Suzanne Hodgart, Debbey Clitheroe & Guy Audibert
Feedback from attendees included:
'I thought that it was an excellent event at a great venue and I enjoyed it very much.'
'Thank you for organising yesterday’s fantastic day......I met some amazing people and it was a very special day.'
'Just a note to thank you, Louisa and the other members who helped to organise such an enjoyable lunch yesterday - most prestigious venue, excellent wines and cuisine and, most importantly, first class company. The environment contributed to a memorable lunch and your organisational efforts are greatly appreciated. Looking forward to seeing you and other members of The Secret WW2 Learning Network again soon.'
'I was so pleased to be present at what promises to be the first of many interesting and engaging events. Thank you so much! So many other people I wanted to talk to, but as so often, time ran out.'
'Congratulations on a smooth operation to you and a thanks to generous Ray. I had great pleasure in meeting you and your team again. What a pleasant memory.'
'What a splendid afternoon you organised, in your inimitable way, everyone had a great time … good to re see some friendly faces and meet some new people … and I hope your projects all come to pass. Please can you also thank Louisa and all the others that made it happen…lunch was plentiful and tasty as was the wine! In fact a very good first luncheon and I look forward to many more!
Membership of the Friends' group
At just £25 a year, this enables priority booking for 2019 events and reduced prices where a cost is involved. More information and an application form to join the Friends, can be found HERE.
If you would instead just like to join our email list, contact us HERE.
It is planned to repeat the Friends' lunch early each calendar year and suggestions for hosting/sponsorship etc will be gratefully received by email to Paul by emailing him via our CONTACTpage: