The Upper Warden, accompanied by the Clerk attended Ex Joint Caterer at MOD Shrivenham. Despite a number of traffic delays, they met up with Nigel Shepherd, their overall host for an introductory welcome next to a Russian troop carrier. Well what do you expect! Split up into smalller groups our party’s host (with the Worshipful Company of Poulters) was Wg Cmdr (retired) Mark Codgbrook who then took us around the large expo.
In the main hall there were a large number of company stands all of whom contributed in some way to the provision of catering to the services, however the contracting mechanism to the Forces lies under one main procurement avenue so they were there very much at their own expense. The centre stage was an open cooking arena with a large spectator stand as as the day went by, various different competitions went on including the Cooks and Serve competition sponsored by the Company. Under the clock 4 pairs of unsuspecting service personnel were brought up and fed 3 courses in limited time and coffee being served was the cut off time. We didn’t find out who won, but the best result will compete against the best results from the other 2 Services, today being the Army day.
After a brief inspection, as it was very crowded, we went outside to look at the tented village where the Forces displayed their field kitchen skills. The Gurkha tent smelt mouthwatering but we had to contain ourselves for our 1.30 lunch timing, which was very precise. After drooling over the choice of produce outside, the Clerk took the Upper Warden in to have quite an in depth discussion on the various tanks and missile launchers and when the Upper Warden finally woke up we were summoned to lunch. In the distance the diminutive figure of General David Morgan Hewitt could be seen, but sadly we were lunching at different times so a conversation proved impossible.
Lunch was served to 8 tables of 10, with officers from the Royal Logistics Corps and Royal Engineers to the right of the Upper Warden and none other than the venerable Wallace Vincent from the MIs to the Clerk’s left. A delicious John Dorey starter was swiftly replaced by the crisp belly of pork, finished off by a chocolate sponge which had a sharp berry centre. All three courses were of a very high standard, very fresh and well presented. We would have been very happy to pay good restaurant prices for such a meal – a very far cry from the good old days the Clerk was heard to say, misty eyed as he told the Upper Warden another long and boring story of his time in the desert back in the mists of time. Fortunately the Upper Warden managed to slip out and thank Mark Codgbrook who had been an excellent and very entertaining host, before leaping into his covertible and getting away home before the Clerk had finished his incredibly interesting story to an empty table.
It was a very worthwhile event and we were very pleased to see the Company’s contribution being so much appreciated. Next year it may be the event will be held at a different location but will be over 2 days not 3 so the recipe will change but I hope we can attend once again. I thoroughly recommend it!