Monthly Lunch Reports

Wednesday 3rd May 2023

Over 30 members of the Probus Club of St Austell gathered at The Britannia Hotel for lunch on 3rd May followed by a talk by retired Detective Chief Inspector Steve de Burgh on the Background to the Millennium Dome Diamond Heist.

Steve was a DCI in the Met. Flying Squad when, on 7th November 2000, a JCB crashed through the Millennium Dome to the room holding the De Beers millennium diamond valued at some £250 million. The robbers were met and arrested by 20 armed SO19 police who emerged from behind a specially erected wall.

The main part of the story revolves around how the police were able to execute the arrest. On 11th February 2000 an attempt was made to steal cash from a Securicor van in Nine Elms. A specially adapted lorry apparently carrying discarded Christmas trees but, in reality, equipped with a massive spike and weighed down with concrete was intended to batter through the security vehicle. It was parked blocking in a Ford Fiesta owned by the manager of an adjacent site who, unable to move his car, removed the lorry’s keys from its ignition. When the Securicor van emerged it was attacked and immobilised but the robber charged with moving the lorry was thwarted. Lorries had been parked across both ends of the road to block police vehicles. The robbers halted  operations and fled in a high-speed rib towards Chelsea. CCTV coverage provided information on rehearsals for the robbery including identification of the rib.

On 7th July a not dissimilar armed robbery was attempted in Medway but spoiled by arrival of police. The thieves escaped in a boat on the River Medway. A connection

with a local farm was established and kept under surveillance with suspects identified and observed. Members of the gang were seen paying particular attention to the Millennium Dome and arrangements put in place including substitution of the Millennium Diamond with a fake.

The gang made failed attempts at the robbery foiled by the JCB not starting, traffic jams and the boat not starting.  

So, that is a brief summary of Steve’s much more detailed talk on the events leading up to 7th November 2000 which resulted in seven arrests.

Wednesday 5th April 2023

On 5th April 2023 The Probus Club of St Austell continued to celebrate a diversity in after lunch speakers’ subjects.

This time it welcomed Mick Stevens talking about War Graves of Cornwall. Mick volunteers for the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission. His contribution is best summed up in the citation which appears with a 2022 CWGC award.

“When the Commonwealth War Graves Commission established the Eyes On Hands On project to help care for military graves across the United Kingdom, Mick Stevens was one of the very first to volunteer in West Cornwall. He has meticulously surveyed all of the war graves in the Falmouth area, where he has added much detail to the existing CWGC records to ensure that commemorations are accurate, whilst also devoting much personal time to continually inspecting graves and cleaning them where necessary.

In the wider context of the project, he has leaned heavily into the West Cornwall Team’s group activities, where his historical knowledge and passion for preserving the memory of our war dead has been an example for all other volunteers.”

Mick explained how the commemoration of fallen troops had evolved. 200 years ago they were buried without ceremony, the dead being identified only by a roll call. The privileged might be recognised by an individual plaque and the remainder by a regimental memorial. No system for recording existed until 1915 when an organisation was created to record those who had fallen behind the enemy front line. Bodies were not repatriated. Only those who had fallen within the dates of the world wars qualify for a headstone maintained by the CWGC others get a memorial outside of its care remit.

There are 290 plots in Cornwall holding 2000 war dead. Since public outcry at the TV filming of The Falklands War, bodies have been repatriated.

Mick volunteers to look after ten graveyards including 31 registered war graves in St. Austell.

Wednesday 1st March 2023

Another excellent and sociable lunch on 1st. March 2023 at the Britannia Inn was followed by a long-awaited talk by Tim Shaw entitled “3 Generations of TT and still alive”. Tim had been due to give a talk on two previous occasions thwarted by, amongst other things Covid.

Tim was assisted by his wife Helen in charge of video technology.

Tim is the last of three generations to attempt the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy). He showed a gripping video of the race illustrating the high speeds and, regrettably, spectacular spills. The event takes place between the last week in May and the first in June. The course covers 37 miles with 219 corners and 55 manhole covers. Since its introduction in 1907 when the average speed was 37mph there have been 265 fatalities.

The first of the Shaws to compete was Uncle William on a 2.75 hp Twin Douglas in 1921 when the average speed had increased to 54 mph. He was followed by Tim’s father, Major Norman Shaw, who, whilst commissioned in the Royal Signals, found ample opportunity to indulge his love of motor cycling including a 2000-mile trip in 8 days from Kathmandu. In 1959 Norman gathered a support group from his unit to enter his 500 Manx Norton in the TT. Unfortunately, he crashed badly.

Tim, not having previously been attracted to motor cycling, was introduced to it by his father with a surprise entry into a race at Brands Hatch. He quickly became enthused and, whilst on business in USA, studied the TT course on Play Station and managed to gain an entry against stiff competition.  He was well satisfied with coming 23rd out of 110 on his Grande Prix Honda which required virtually a daily engine change. Tim’s last attempt was in 2010 on a Suzuki which he now keeps in his house.

Tim rounded off by stating the current average speed of 135 mph and by quoting Stirling Moss “To achieve anything in this game you must be prepared to dabble on the brink of disaster”.

Wednesday 1st February 2023.

After the usual excellent meal at the Britannia Inn, members of the Club were entertained with a talk by Wing Commander Colin Hamilton RAF Retd.

After graduating in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics, Colin was commissioned in the RAF in which he served for 35 years. He held a number of appointments but concentrated in his talk on his time as Officer Commanding an engineering squadron based at Binbrook in Lincolnshire aged only 33 and responsible for 300 men. The aircraft being operated was the English Electric Lightning interceptor, the first  and only UK independent and truly supersonic aircraft to enter service. It presented many challenges including doubts about the safety of supersonic flight and whether missiles would supersede manned aircraft.

Design innovations included a 60 degree wing sweep, airborne radar, an integrated weapon system and a datalink with ground stations capable of vectoring the aircraft to intercepts. The design minimised frontal area to achieve maximum speed with two central engines one above the other around which were located controls, pipework and fuel systems and behind which were reheat pipes. A major problem was that the temperatures in the engine bays exceeded those for spontaneous combustion of fuel, oil and hydraulic fluids resulting in frequent uncontained fires and loss of aircraft.

Primary weapons comprised 2 Firestreak and 2 Red Top missiles augmented on the Mk 6 by 2 x 30mm Aden cannons.

The last RAF Lightning flight was on 30th June 1988 by which time Colin had joined the Ordnance Board in London. Three Lightnings were operated by a private company, Thunder City, in South Africa one crashing during a display with loss of aircraft and pilot. Thunder City closed in 2016.

Colin’s last RAF appointment was as Head of Aircraft and Weapon Testing and Evaluation at Boscombe Down. After retirement he did over 9 years as a consultant mainly advising MOD on future aircraft and weapons’ programmes.

Member Reg Pears thanked Colin for his fascinating talk and Chairman Mark Bardsley presented him with a donation to The Royal British Legion.

Wednesday 4th January 2023

Undeterred by Christmas and New Year feasting, members enjoyed a hearty lunch and listened to a most informative talk by Ian Penhaligon of Age UK Cornwall.

The aim of Age UK is to support those who live independently to live well. It is an independent charity which derives its income from donations and from paid commissioning of services for The Council and NHS. Services are predominantly provided by trained volunteers and include gardening and chores. A chargeable transport service is available using electric vehicles with some 1,000 journeys a year.

A hospital to home service provides counselling on a patient’s needs for a return home followed by practical assistance for six to eight weeks following discharge.

Age UK works closely with other charities and support groups and, through its Community Gateway, can signpost the most appropriate sources of assistance. Various initiatives to encourage socialisation include a digital café. Particularly in Cornwall with a substantial older population, residents are disadvantaged without basic IT skills. A fairly recent innovation is embedding social prescribers into GP practices who support patients with social needs.

Ian stressed that no one should suffer in silence because help is always available.

Graham Bulkeley thanked Ian for his insight into Age UK and giving members a much clearer appreciation of its work. Vice Chairman Gary Truscott handed Ian a cheque.

Wednesday 7th December 2022

Following an excellent pre-Christmas lunch, members were entertained by a most informative talk by Helen Jane Operations Manager of Turn to Starboard.

Turn to Starboard is a charity based in Falmouth which provides sailing experience to military veterans helping them to make good choices. Its focus is on resettlement, reintegration and reinforcing a sense of value and belonging.

Its flagship, a tall ship Spirit of Falmouth, is supported by two smaller vessels. Participants’ activities range from developing sailing and social skills through to achieving qualifications right up to yacht master.

Having had to cease operations during the Covid shutdown, the operation is now fully functional and viable supported by a number of forces charities and income from private charters.

Shaun Pascoe founded the charity following his medical discharge from the RAF after service as a squadron leader in Afghanistan. He is supported by a small team including four paid skippers and volunteers.

Chairman Mark Bardsley thanked Helen on behalf of members and presented her with a donation to Turn to Starboard.

Wednesday 2nd November 2022

The Probus Club of St. Austell held its 51st Annual General Meeting at The Britannia Inn on 2nd November 2022.

After approving the minutes of the 50th Annual Meeting, officers presented their reports. Amongst items covered were the success of the delayed 50th Anniversary celebration in July, the high standard of speakers and the excellent catering provided by The Britannia Inn. The Treasurer reported a healthy financial position albeit a little depleted following the Anniversary lunch and a slight fall off in membership.

It was reported that Mark Bardsley was to be reappointed as Chairman with Gary Truscott as Vice Chairman in addition to his duties as Treasurer. Other officers appointed by the meeting were Hon. Treasurer Gary Truscott, Hon. Secretary John Dearing, Lunch Secretary Hugh Walker, Membership Secretary Mark Bardsley, Press Secretary Mike Hackney, Raffle Secretary Geoff Burt with George Miller and Phil Simpson as additional committee members. Jonathan Church whilst standing down from the committee, retains his duties as Almoner. The meeting recorded its appreciation of Jonathan Church and Alan Grigg who had served the Committee well before now retiring.

Gary Truscott welcomed as Vice Chairman

Wednesday 5th October 2022

After enjoying an excellent lunch at the Britannia Inn, members thought that they would sit back to a talk by Jay Dorman from Canoe Cornwall. However, Jay had other thoughts and got all on their feet for a standing ovation comprising one pose with arms outstretched and one with hands together. Not surprisingly all fell for it.

Canoe Cornwall offers a range of activities including adventure camps at its Pill Farm summer camp, bushcraft, archery, canoeing and paintball. Guided kayak tours take place out of Mevagissey and there are canoe trips on The Fal.

Jay had been a paddle coach and white rafter and had worked with Ray Mears and Bear Grills and had been involved with some TV work.

He explained that canoeing is something to be enjoyed by anyone and recommended that anyone interested join a club. Canoes and kayaks (he explained the difference) range from very affordable to very expensive.

Chairman Mark Bardsley thanked Jay on behalf of members and presented him with a donation to his chosen charity.

Wednesday 7th September 2022

The Probus Club of St Austell met at its normal venue, The Britannia Inn, on 7th September for an excellent lunch after which thirty-five members were treated to a fascinating insight into beekeeping by Colin Rees from the Roseland Beekeeping Group.

Colin explained the main differences between honeybees (apis mellifore), bumble bees, solitary bees and wasps.

Honeybees are non-aggressive, except when they or their colony is threatened, live all year round and store food for winter. They are the first insects to emerge in spring to pollinate. In 1851 one Lorenzo Langstroth identified that in nests the honey carrying cones were all the same distance apart and from this he developed the forerunner of the removable frame hive. Honeybees eat nectar and pollen from which honey is produced.

A colony comprises the queen, 50 to 80 thousand female workers and hundreds of drones. The queen lays eggs and leaves the colony only to fly up to 5 kilometers to mate meeting up with congregations of drones who pursue her and, after mating, die.

The queen may make 15 to 20 mating sorties.

Colin stressed that swarming of colonies is a natural means of colony reproduction and, whilst possible alarming to see, does not represent a threat since they have filled with food before setting off.

Pollination, led by honeybees, is responsible for the quality of most of our foods. Einstein maintained that should the honeybee die out mankind would survive for only four years.

Chairman Mark Bardsley thanked Colin on behalf of members and presented him with a donation to his chosen charity.

Wednesday 3rd August 2022

Our August Meeting was held at the Britannia Inn, St Austell and after a very nice Lunch our Chairman, Mr Mark Bardsley, introduced Mr John Shaw, who spoke to us about his time in Cambodia. At the time John was a serving Warrant Officer in the Royal Navy during a career of some thirty-five years in the Senior Service. He was there as a team leader within the R.N. Special Forces, but there were many Nations involved, and a U.N presence as well.

This was at a time when the Country was recovering from the Leadership of Cambodian Revolutionary Dictator Pol Pot. There was a lot to do getting the Country back to some sort of normality including General and Police Elections, all in a time of much Corruption, Stealing, Gun Running and Land Mines everywhere that had to be dealt with as soon as possible. Cambodia was the most mined Country in the World.

The Country and the World remembers the Killing Fields and the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives in such terrible atrocities.

John spoke of these and told us of the meticulous detail that the Pol Pot regime kept of this genocide.

John was awarded the M.B.E. for his Work and Leadership over many years.

Club Chairman Mark Bardsley thanked John for his talk following an interesting question time and presented John with a cheque for £50 for his chosen charity which was the Helston & Lizard Food Bank.

Our raffle raised £59 for Club Funds.

The Meeting was closed as normal with a toast to all Probus Clubs & Members.



Our chairman Mr Mark Bardsley welcomed sixty people (Members & Guests Wives & Partners) to the lunch.

He then read the Grace, before we all enjoyed a lovely lunch.

All the ladies were presented with a white silk flower, and there was a floral centre piece on every table.

The principal speaker for the day was our own secretary Mr John Dearing. He explained that the Probus Club Movement was started by the Rotary Club as somewhere for their retired members to visit.

This all began in 1965 and gradually, it was taken on by a lot of rotary clubs.

The St. Austell Probus Club was formed in 1970, primarily with the help of Rotarian Mr John Morgan and his colleagues.

The first meeting and lunch was held in The Clifden Hotel St. Austell during July 1970, twenty four members attended.  The three course lunch cost Fourteen Shillings. Gradually the membership increased and now there are up to sixty members.

This Golden Anniversary event was due to be held in 2020, but the Covid Pandemic meant it had to be delayed until now.

At this time in 1970 Edward Heath was the Prime Minister, Concorde flew for the first time,    A new Ford Cortina cost £880 and Petrol was equivalent to 33 pence per gallon.

John continued by thanking all the members and Committee who had worked hard keeping everyone informed and cared for during the Lockdown when the club was unable to meet.

He asked everyone to remember departed members and those who were unable to to attend this Celebration Lunch.

Today, there are some Two Thousand Probus Clubs throughout the world.

There was a memory book circulating containing many interesting writings and photographs covering the history of the club.

A speaker is invited each month to give a talk on a wide range of topics of their own choice, and a donation of £50 is then given to them for their own chosen charity.

The main guests at this celebratory lunch was The Mayor of St Austell Councillor Andrea Lanxon  who was accompanied by her deputy, Councillor Crystal Pearce.

Councillor Lanxon replied to the welcome, she thanked everyone for the fine lunch and wished The St Austell Probus Club well for the future.

Chairman Mark Bardsley gave thanks to all the committee who had worked very hard for such a  special day.

This was followed by a raffle which in turn was followed by an auction of all the table floral centre pieces, Club Treasurer Gary Truscott acting as the Auctioneer. The total raised was £90 which was given to The Mayor for her chosen charity St Johns Ambulance.

The afternoon finished as always with The Chairman giving The Probus Toast

Wednesday 1st June 2022

The speaker at our June lunch at The Britannia was Tim Boulton, Director of The Cornwall Youth Orchestra.

CYO is celebrating its 52nd anniversary since its founding by James Sargent. Like our club marking its gold jubilee was thwarted by covid.

Members of the orchestra come together for one full day a month travelling from all points in Cornwall and participate in a three-day residential at Easter.

Tim played a couple of videos demonstrating how much of their repertoire is based upon musical interpretation of storytelling.

Encouraging us to stay awake, Tim led us in clapping under the instruction of his baton. One of three means for a conductor to communicate the others being body and verbal language.

The young musicians are encouraged to take lead roles and achieve their personal best.

Performances have included Music for Schools Proms at The Royal Albert Hall, MFY National Festival at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and appearances at Hall for Cornwall.

Secretary John Dearing proposed a vote of thanks and Chairman Mark Bardsley presented Tim with a contribution to CYO funds.

Wednesday 4th May 2022

Today’s speaker Barrie Galley from Cornwall Air Ambulance. He presented an overview of the history of the charity and gave examples of the life saving work the service provides the people of Cornwall. Formed in 1987 it was the first air ambulance to operate in the UK, leading the way for the current 19 now in service across the country. Their work is entirely funded from charitable donations and fundraising events. Chairman Mark Bardsley presented a cheque on behalf of Probus. 

Wednesday 2nd March 2022

Our March Meeting was held at the Britannia Inn, St Austell, where  Mr Richard Spencer Breeze, who is the founder of the Cornwall Aviation Trust gave us a very interesting talk. There is an Aerospace Museum at the St Mawgan, Newquay airport where they take up in the region of three acres for their aircraft displays. This is open to the public a full 5 days per week. Their aim is to provide entertainment and education to all ages and they have several aircraft on site which visitors can view onboard in an interactive and hands on manner.

They have some 19 aircraft on site including airliners, fighters and  trainers. There is also displays of engines and aircraft parts. Guided Tours are available with a full explanation of all displays. They have a Tornado, BAC111 airliner, a VC10 refueler, an Avro Shackleton, and the cockpit display of a Nimrod aircraft.

With regard to the education element they undertake full Cabin Crew Training and  Engineering training both with full qualifications available. This is done in conjunction with Cornwall College.

There are some 50 Volunteers who give their time at the Trust including some who are ex military personnel and are experts in their fields. Historical Aircraft need a large amount of looking after and care as well as maintenance and restoration, which is all undertaken at the Trust.

The Trust receive no money as grants and therefore its only income is through ticket sales and gifts. Currently the Trust is in negotiation with Cornwall Council regarding renewal of its lease to continue being on the site and developing the Trust in future.  A vote of thanks was given by our member Mr Reg Pears, who himself was a career R.A.F. Air Crew, and flew on some of the planes mentioned. Our Chairman, Mr Mark Bardsley, also thanked the speaker for his very interesting talk and presented him with a cheque for his chosen cause.

Wednesday 2nd February 2022

Our guest speaker this month was Brendan Hale from Cornwall Blood Bikes, who gave an informative talk about this local volunteer service.

Cornwall Blood Bikes are a team of volunteer members, dedicated to providing a weekday ‘out of hours’ service supporting the NHS.   They are not a ‘blue lights’ service, but have formal agreements to deliver essential Human Blood, Pathology Samples, Medication, Medical Equipment, Medical Notes and occasionally Donor Breast Milk to the NHS hospitals and hospices throughout Cornwall and beyond.

Cornwall Blood Bikes (Charity No. 1140165) was founded at an inaugural meeting of seven volunteers held in Pensilva, Cornwall on 27 January 2011 and received ‘Registered Charity Status’ on 2 February 2011, becoming fully operational in July 2012.  They are members of the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes (NABB) whose membership of blood bike groups is countrywide, and they often link up with other regional blood bike services for deliveries farther afield. 

Their mission is to relieve sickness and protect health by the provision of transport or urgently needed blood, drugs, human tissues and other medical requirements between hospitals, clinics, laboratories, doctors, or other such places as the trustee’s deem fit.

Their riders deliver and collect from the hospitals and hospices throughout Cornwall and sometimes beyond.  The volunteer riders are required to be qualified advanced motorcyclists (IAM, RoSPA or equivalent) and have undergone an assessment of their riding skills as well as bespoke training in relation to sample handling and the procedures required for working with our NHS partners.  Volunteers freely give up their time to serve the community, but will almost certainly never meet the patients that they are helping: in turn the patients will probably never know of the existence of the Cornwall Blood Bike service or that it played any part in their recovery.

Blood Bikes have approximately 55 volunteer riders who fulfilled 5,853 trips in 2020, covering nearly 230,000 delivery miles.  Riders are provided with the necessary kit (satchels, spill kits, etc) to meet the requirements for carrying goods as specified by our NHS partners whether using one of our liveried Blood Bikes or sometimes their own private motorcycle. Identity Cards are carried by our volunteer members which are worn and visible at all times when on duty.

Wednesday 5th January 2022

The Meeting was held at the Britannia Inn for lunch. Our speaker for the day was unable to attend owing to Covid so our Vice Chairman, Mr Mark Bardsley, spoke instead about The Royal British Legion, (R.B.L) Mark is a member of this organisation, now retired, but having spent a career in the Royal Navy.

Mark told us that the R.B.L. was formed in 1921, a few years after the first world war, owing to so many men & families still suffering from the conflict.

 A Lancastrian, Lance Bombardier Tom Lister, was the instigator of the movement owing to a government unable to anything to improve the situation of millions of people, so on the 15th May 1921, at 9am at the Cenotaph in London the British Legion was born.

Its purpose is to care for those who have suffered as a result of Service in the British Armed Forces, whether through their own Service or that of an immediate family member.

The two minute silence had already been adopted as a token of remembrance and in 1921 the first Poppy was sold to raise funds for the injured and their families, and thus the Poppy Appeal was born. We recognise so well the Red Poppy that is its emblem.

On the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1971 by Royal Decree, the Legion became The Royal British Legion that we know so well today. The Poppy Appeal today raises an average in the region of £43million every year, and with other monies being raised, totalling in the region of £150million, much needed funds to support the R.B.L. annually for all the welfare they undertake.

 This was originally inspired by a Canadian, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea, who saw so many Poppies growing in a war torn countryside that he wrote the well known poem, “In Flanders Field”, & then by an Amercan, Miss Moina Michael, where the Poppy was adopted by the American Legion in 1920. it was adopted by the British in 1921.

We thank Mark for standing in at short notice & for such an interesting talk.

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