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11 MARCH 2020

“Tracing Army Ancestors”.  Intended for Family Historians, this looks at how the pre-1914 British Army was organised and the difference between the various types of soldier – “Dragoon”, “Hussar” “Dragoon Guard”, “Fusilier” etc.  This talk can also be combined with an identification session for photos, military badges, medals etc.


Despite the risk of COVID-19 Coronavirus, attendance this morning was down but not out. Those attending had a most interesting lecture delivered with authority by Dan Allen.  Dan’s talk was well illustrated with lots of pictures of military uniforms through the past 350 years since the formation of a regular paid army in Great Britain that followed Cromwell and the inauguration/coronation of King Charles the second.

Dan made the interesting point that the naming and numbering of regiments and battalions were peppered with lots of exceptions to the rules; a perhaps surprising fact given that armies are supposed to be renowned for following and obeying regulations.

Most of the uniforms illustrated how they must have appealed to the dandy in men’s aspirations and were used for recruitment, they certainly didn’t show designs that were fit for purpose.  Lots of gunpowder in pouches next to smouldering rope wicks strapped around the soldier’s chest and waist, a safety hazard waiting to happen and more akin to a suicide vest than a protective garment.

Dan identified an old photo of an ancestor / relative of mine from WW1 as a Royal Engineer and motor cyclist for me and I will now try to further investigate the relative’s military background and his waxed moustache!






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Waldorf & Nancy Astor's son David complained that "All people remember about my family are the 'Cliveden Set' and the 'Profumo Affair'. Both actually were ”inventions".

Nigel Smales explored the first of these "inventions" by explaining how, as the UK was confronted by the opposing threats of a global communist revolution and fascist military dictatorships, the so-called 'Set' evolved from a group of youthful and idealistic friends to a supposed elite accused in 1937 of being "a cabal soliciting revolution by dinner party" which met at Cliveden to conspire covertly for 'appeasement' with Nazi Germany.

A brilliant well researched presentation Nigel put into perspective the turbulent times, the roles of various visionaries and the degree to which Nancy was truly "Queen of the Set, the Member for Berlin".

The role of the right and left wing press was evident in those times arguably as much as they are today.  Press barons and editors made the news literally it seems, and so-called fake news was born. A lot of facts and connections between important people were reported in this lecture and the complexity of their interactions made it quite a difficult story to follow and must have been tricky to research.An Authoritative lecturing style and clear presentation slides made this story most interesting.


Art and Design in the Chilterns

Graham Twemlow

12 February 2020

Living in the beautiful Chilterns one takes its beauty for granted perhaps, but as Graham pointed out, many artistic people have recorded and marvelled at its beauty for many years.  John and Paul Nash and the famous Eric Gill are names many of you will have heard of probably through the commercial art sponsored by SHELL and the Metroland Underground train system.  Encouraging people to live in the Chilterns and Metroland were priorities for a rapidly expanding commuter belt and the artists helped popularise and advertise its charms. 

Stylistically art surrealism influenced and art deco influences the art of the 1920s and 30s was used commercially in posters and affected not only the visual images but also the lettering fonts and graphic text styles.

A visually rich presentation that took us through this somewhat golden pioneering age of graphic design focussing on our local environment taking various reference points of the artist’s houses and viewpoints from the Risborough and Whiteleaf areas especially the Whiteleaf cross scraped into the chalk hillside above Princes and Monks Risborough.

I was interested to be told that Paul Nash’s limited colour palette so obvious from his early post-war 1 work was something noted by his brother John whilst attending Paul’s funeral.  I had wondered if the limited colour-scape of the trenches and mud, mud, glorious mud, had had a permanent effect on him as his paintings are dominated by khaki and greys.

One of the points mentioned was that in the period where the petrol companies used visual art to get a message across, they even tried to connect choice of fuels with social status, suggesting that pillars of society and professionals chose SHELL petrol for their cars rather than other oil company’s products.  These days we simply fill up with the cheapest available.  However, we still hear of some supermarket branded products being better than others based on snob values.

A very informative and revealing talk nicely illustrated, well done Graham.

Chris Bevan Speaker secretary


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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed non-violent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India's independence from British Rule, and in turn inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was his full birth name although he was referred to as mahatma Gandhi as this was his title not his name.

Mahātmā is Sanskrit for "Great Soul Mahātmā is similar in usage to the modern English term saint and can be translated to "ascended master".

Bernard gave a fact filled talk eloquently, based on his trip to the Gandhi museum in India.

Some of Gandhi’s famous quotations are listed below and really offer the reader a textual snapshot of the man and his beliefs.  I have added my own somewhat cynical additions to lighten up the mood.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.  TRUMP MUST BE VERY UNHAPPY THEN!

An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind. BUT IT REDUCES POPULATIONS AND CONSERVES THE PLANET.

Where there is love there is life. EVEN IN THE WORLD OF BACTERIA?

In a gentle way, you can shake the world. BUT IT DOESN’T VIBRATE VERY MUCH.

The future depends on what we do in the present. ESPECIALLY WITH CLIMATE CHANGE

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed. MORE CLIMATE CHANGE WISDOM.

We hope to get Bernard back again to offer more of his well-researched talks.


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Whisky: from field to glass

Christopher “Billy” Abbott




Figure 1:Andy gestures to Billy what size of glass he prefers.

Billy opened our New Year’s programme with a very informative lecture on whisky. 

From the derivation of the name Whisky (Usquebaugh, 13th century Gaelic) to the manner in which many countries are now making the amber liquid, Billy explained how various cereal crops are converted to what many people would class as the King of alcoholic drinks.

Man’s ability to extract and synthesise alcohol from materials as humble as porridge oats always amazes me.  Basically, if it is a fermentable cereal then one can make whisky from it.  Once the province of the Scots and Irish we now find most of the “civilised” world are making whisky.

The various flavours and nuances within the whisky drinking experience are due to various things, such as the casks used for the storage.  Sherry casks are used as a source of sweet notes and bitter tannins and oils from the wood to alter the basic raw alcohol’s flavour.  The ethanol extracts these molecules from the cask over various periods of time.  Billy asked the audience whether they preferred to drink their whisky neat or diluted and found quite a variety of tastes and opinions.

Of an audience of 50 about 10% said they didn’t like whisky and for many the taste of smokey peat was perhaps the reason they didn’t like the flavour of Scottish west coast varieties.  Personally, I find the peat smoke very palatable and also like it used for smoked salmon, trout and other fish.

Discussion of the lecture afterwards centred around sampling a whisky made synthetically in a lab in San Francisco.  It was, in my opinion, quite a drinkable obvious whisky, but not as complex as many I have tried.


Figure 2:  Firing a potential cask or barrel for whisky

A great way to start the year.


Chris Bevan: Speaker Secretary Probus OB.



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Our Objectives



  • Fight over-development and in filling
  • Fight single character properties replaced with multi-occupancy dwellings
  • Fight property design out of character with the area.
  • Highlight where the Council's own policies are being contravened
  • Promote the Wilton Park development as a win-win for the town
  • Lobby SBDC on their 2016-36 Local plan to prevent the release of excessive or inappropriate Green belt land

Pride in Beaconsfield

  • Encourage Local councils to maintain the town to a high level and set the precept accordingly
  • Highlight illegal fly posting, grafitti and litter and seek to remedy it promptly
  • Highlight when our open spaces, street furniture, footpaths are not well maintained
  • Highlight when our roads are full of potholes
  • Encourag Councils to replace ageing trees not remove them


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Looking back over his 30+ year career in acoustics Peter brought us into his world of initially field testing scientist, R&D Researcher and finally as a senior academic administrator.

He has been fortunate to have worked on some very challenging projects using acoustical knowledge to solve pressing practical problems.  His development of noise cancelling head phones for application to battle situations in the RAF and army has now cascaded down to their domestic use in HiFi headphones.

He related to us an amusing story of a poor lady who had inadvertently walked into a Ministry of Defence field test of the so called SKYSHOUT aerial megaphone. She thought she had been told by GOD that she should walk to the end of the road for her safety.  The police eventually intervened and reassured the lady that it wasn’t GOD but the MoD shouting down at her above the clouds from several thousand feet.   Not sure which I would have liked shouting down at me, but it reminded me of the old TV advert for winning the Lottery....”It could be you”!

Peter has been fortunate to have met some well known celebrities and royalty as part of his work and showed us photos of Princess Diana wearing his noise cancelling headphones whilst seated in a pilot’s seat.  There must have been a lot of noise to cancel out at Buckingham palace back in those days.

HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh was featured looking at the plans for the new BBC Television centre at Salford where Peter was Pro Vice Chancellor.

Peter completed his career tour back home in Penn as a Parish councillor with a delightful slide of him driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, (the noisy car from the famous film).

An irony of the talk was that the projector and audiovisual system at Fitzwilliam decided to play up; perhaps it knew that an acoustician was driving it!


Chris Bevan  Speaker secretary  11  October 2017 


Roger Askew    

Windsor castle from medieval fortress to royal palace

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest continuously occupied castle in the world, and has been the home of English monarchs for over 900 years.  Rogers lecture traces the development of the Castle from an 11th century fortress into a magnificent palace, and illustrates how it has been enlarged and rebuilt, focussing in particular on the four monarchs whose reigns have been seminal periods in the Castle’s development: Edward III, Charles II, George IV and Queen Elizabeth II.


Lots of questions for Roger afterwards, which is always a sign of a good lecture which interested everyone.


Chris Bevan Speaker secretary


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An unusual view of the economics, physics and human behaviours that govern and influence the way in which people use and abuse the world’s energy and resources.

Ian showed lists of the world’s richest countries as judged by capital resources such as oil, coal etc and also their economies scaled by their intellectual contributions as measured by number of Nobel prize winners, which essentially measures their scientific innovation.  Surprisingly perhaps, the UK comes out highest on the Nobel laureate scale but is way down when it comes to capital resources.  Luxembourg came out second for what I would call “loads of money” per capita but it was unclear how they actually make their money.  Venuzuela seems to be top in oil reserves but very low on most other measures

Ian predicts that our children’s futures will be poorer than ours lives were, with less travel, less meat, less power per person available and more fighting for resources amongst competing countries and sub groups.  He left us with hope that the kindness and spirituality are two human traits that could educate and persuade people away from wars, but I must say that in the past this hasn’t worked.

Ian suggests that money itself (i.e.  the promise to pay the bearer a pounds worth of gold for a pound coin for example) should be based on an energy standard unit scale such as kiloWatt hours per transaction rather than on a gold based standard as it is the amount of energy available that determines wealth and the consequent ability to do and make things with that energy.  An interesting thought and one that prompted many questions and discussion.


Dr. Chris Bevan:  Speaker Secretary Probus Old Beaconsfield   22 November 2017




 Mike entertained us with his various tales of humorous antics in the RAF .

His talk should be used as a recruiting exercise for the services to ensure we have the right stuff for the future.   The talk was illustrated with some scary photos of aeroplanes doing lots of oddball things.   Just the right mood was generated to celebrate our pre-Christmas lecture meeting and topped off afterwards with mince pies and mulled wine.  Mike didn’t fly home and stayed to answer questions, share experiences and help us finish the grub.

Even the Canberra jet bomber (Mike’s favourite aeroplane) was smiling!

Chris Bevan

 Speaker secretary Probus OB

13 December 2017


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Dogs are said to be man's best friend. Proof of this relationship is exemplified by the latest findings from the labs of Medical Detection Digs according to Geoffrey in his intriguing lecture.

The dogs ability to smell volatile organic compounds in the breath and urine of subjects with various ailments and illnesses is quite simply, astounding.
Early detection of tumours and of a diabetic's hypoglycaemia is changing and saving the lives of people many of whom wouldn't be alive were it not for early prompt detection.
This charity should be supported and its claims fully investigated and utilised to detect diseases early on.  A great lecture.


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Prof. Martin Parsons                    “Photographic abuse”         24th January 2018

             Martin gave us in my opinion his best lecture yet. 

He explained how most people look at photographs and pictures and simply accept them  rather than critically analysing them.  In the “Trump world” of so-called fake news we were warned to be on our guard to spot falsification and other hidden propaganda messages or hidden implications. 

A great interaction exercise with our audience to spot the fake or interpret the message made the talk very interesting.

Martin’s talk has made looking at photos more pleasurable for me as I will now wonder about  what is behind the photo, just as I would do naturally if it were a piece of historical text. 

I recalled seeing a London transport Routemaster bus featured in an edition of TV’s “Call the Midwife” supposedly set in 1953 in Poplar.  I went to school in Poplar and know full well that Routemasters were introduced in 1958 on routes #5 and #8.   Chris.... Get a life you all  might say!

Chris Bevan Speaker Secretary Probus OB


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“The Sky at Night”

Serious astronomy from the Crendon Observatory - with a laugh – by Gordon Rogers


Gordon showed us how he built a magnificent observatory on top of his house in Long Crendon.

His aim was to observe and record deep sky objects with the best amateur equipment available.

He showed us dozens of exquisite stellar photographs/images of stellar quality.  He explained his early astronomy of the moon when he saw a dust cloud created by an impact of a meteor, something very rare to see from Earth despite the Moon being bomarded by rocks and having no atmosphere to protect its surface.

A lifetime of astronomical observing was squeezed into the talk and showed just how much can be achieved by one man with determination, good equipment and an understanding wife, despite the inclement weather of southern Britain.

Dr. Chris Bevan   


Simon Williams informed and entertained us with his magic tricks and histories of classic and modern dupsters and con artists. He even managed to con our chairman out of a fake ten quid in an elaborate version of the find the lady card trick.

One of the most bizarre but amusing contricks (if you are not the person being conned) was his tale of the man who sold the Eiffel Tower for scrap iron....not once but twice!
Lots of praise and laughter from our audience;  we will get Simon back to con us again.
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Figure 1 Chris displays his hat and silk scarf from his Himalayan travels.

Kashmir: Paradise on Earth
Paradise on Earth-Beautiful Flowers of Kashmir by Chris Chadwell
An Illustrated talk by Chris Chadwell who is an entertaining speaker with a passion for horticulture. Chris showed us some amazing images as well as delighting us with information about the flowers that are found in the Kashmir Valley.

Figure 2: Chris discusses Kashmir with one of our members

Known as the 'Switzerland of the Himalaya', Kashmir was considered by conquering Moghul Emperors to be a 'Paradise on Earth', boasting as it does, lakes adorned with fabulous lotuses, luxuriant pine forests and colourful alpine meadows, set amongst snowy peaks - to which they added wonderful gardens and handicrafts of the finest quality. Chris has visited Kashmir several times in the 1980s. He returned in 2012, after an absence of 23 years (due to serious unrest and high risk of kidnap by militants) securing his best ever set of images, enabling a fresh look into this beautiful but troubled land.
An informed personal account with insight into a very foreign land of great beauty and culture.
I think that, in the comfort of the centrally heated lecture theatre, Chris convinced us that we should go there and meet his Kashmiri friends and plant hunters who it seems offered him a genuine personal hospitality that is becoming rarer to find in the overcrowded cities of the west.
To think that this is a land of milk and honey would be false however, as Chris told us of several near-miss incidents and crimes that would separate the genuine dedicated explorer from the casual holidaymaker sightseer. The Himalayan mountain roads twist and turn and often collapse and fall down in avalanches for many hundreds of metres. Our Bucks road potholes are a microcosm by comparison. The people are just as gritty as the roads and his photos of their field kitchen and under canvas accommodation stood out in stark contrast to the opulence and dignity of the splendid Kashmir palaces.

Chris Bevan Speaker secretary Probus OB 28 03 18

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Climate Change:  Does it Really Matter?

The evidence and causes of climate change were discussed. The main reason for climate change is global warming which is caused by the accumulation of so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases are continuing to accumulate at an ever increasing rate. This produces not only increased temperatures but changes in our climates worldwide.

The consequences for the planet and detrimental effects on communities in both the developed and developing world make action to reduce climate change very urgent. The current international response was discussed. 



Henry Hutchinson showed us the scientific evidence for climate change and discussed the consequences to mankind living in various parts of the world.  Some areas could benefit but others certainly will not.  The global responsibilities and the moralistic arguments to protect future generations as well as our neighbours wherever they live on the planet were explained and debated.  Coping with the unprecedented effects of global warming and oceanic acidification is probably the biggest long term challenge faced by mankind.  If we want the world of tomorrow to be more habitable than today we need to act very quickly and reduce CO2, N2O & CH4 emissions.  Unfortunately some leaders of major emitting countries are in scientific evidential denial for political reasons.  One of the best lectures I have heard on this topic and the audience thought so too by the depth and numbers of questions in the debate afterwards.







Chris Bevan   Probus OB Speaker secretary 11 April 2018


The Work of the National Film and TV School - Beaconsfield.


Stuart Harris

began his career at Elstree studios. He worked on many TV productions before working on films including Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, Ken Russell’s The Boyfriend and Peter Hall’s Three into Two Won’t Go. He became an award winning cinematographer photographing David Hare’s Wetherby  which won him the coveted Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

Stuart then went on to win many awards for his creative work on commercials and music videos throughout the world. He is particularly proud of his work with the late legendary Storm Thorgerson.

Stuart is currently the co-head of cinematography at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) as well as the head of a new NFTS D&AD sponsored course Directing Commercials. He continues to be an active cinematographer.


There was an irony to this talk in that our brand new projection and sound system just installed at FWC was reluctant to show Stuart’s movie files from his Apple I-pad despite it all being the latest technology.   My 10 year old lap top PC was also flummoxed by the file format and refused to run his movie clips despite recognising them as movie files.   In true movie hero spirit Stuart reverted to good old fashioned let’s  talk to the audience and regaled us with a fascinating story of how he served his “apprenticeship” in the industry.  Initially as a mail delivery boy then promoted to a clapper boy then focus puller and finally a cinematographer , all without a GCE to his name!

A lovely talk that embraced the evolution of the industry and the changes it has undergone over the past 50 years.  Making movies is still big business in the UK and we apparently are very good at it and yet reluctant to admit it.  The National Film and TV school in Beaconsfield is teaching leading edge techniques and even embraces 3D Holography and sophisticated digital techniques to educate and train tomorrow’s film makers.  Stuart also said that the 16mm, 35mm and 65mm “celluloid” film is making a comeback as students are keen to work with the traditional materials.  The old crafts are being kept alive it seems and haven’t been delivered a digital death blow.

An entertaining and informative talk with an invitation to visit the school sometime soon, thank you Stuart.

Chris Bevan     Speaker Secretary Probus OB     25 April 2018


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 27th June 2018


Dredged up by fisherm27 en over a century ago off the Greek island of Antikythera (an Ionian island south of Kithera in the Aegean sea), this lump of heavily corroded bronze could have been mistaken for some naval junk.  Careful analysis and imaging using the most modern of techniques shows it to be anything but jetsam junk.  This ancient instrument estimated to be over 2000 years old is probably the most sophisticated and advanced astronomical analogue computer of not only its age but over any age up to the time of Copernicus some 1500 years later.

Detailed intensive investigation showed it to be used for calculating lunar orbital periods, phases, eclipses, lunar months and even the motion of the 5 known planets.  Perhaps most surprising is the instruments predictive accuracy and advanced engineering tolerances despite it being based on a flawed model of an earth centred solar system.


Prof. David Perrett

11 July 2018

Henry Ford's Holiday


In Dearborn, Michigan, USA is a museum that makes London's Science Museum look small.

It was established by Henry Ford in 1929 to commemorate his great friend Thomas Edison.

He planned to fill his museum with a complete History of Technology and to do that he and his wife visited England in secret in 1928 with a shopping list. Using archive research this talk tells how he spent 10 million dollars to acquire historical artefacts including many rare steam engines.  


Without wishing to give the game away and spoil David’s excellent talk for others, it was a most interesting detailed account of how to spend ten million dollars (at 1928 values, equivalent to  142 million dollars at today’s values) on shopping in 1 week.

Henry Ford’s personal wealth was staggering and he essentially saved lots of key steam industrial archaeology that would otherwise have ended up rusting away in situ or on a scrap heap.


Lots of questions showed that the audience were attentive and interested.  David answered all of them with his detailed knowledge and painstaking research into this intriguing subject.


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Life Behind the lens    Tom Way  (Wildlife Photographer)   8TH AUGUST 2018





This talk focussed on wildlife hotspots around the world which Tom has been fortunate enough to visit and photograph amazing wildlife all in their natural environment.  He showed and described his latest adventures photographing Tigers in India, along with new material in Africa.

Tom excelled himself and thoroughly thrilled his audience with his superb photos and descriptions of the magnificent subjects.  The talk was peppered with technical and artistic know-how that explained his thought processes that went into each shot.  

We came away with a lot of respect for a young talent and look forward to getting him back again to see more insights into wildlife from all over the world.







                                 617 Squadron from the cold war to today

The talk will look at the progression of the squadron through the past 75 years since during WW2 the sinking of the Battleship Tirpitz.

Mike Whitehouse

Mike came fully prepared to fly through his presentation and enthral us with both his personal and official historical experiences and anecdotes from his life in the RAF.  Unfortunately the Fitzwilliam Centre’s projection system didn’t want him to fly or even to taxi along the runway!!   Part of his war story was to relate the continuing arguments between the RAF’s 9 and 617 squadrons,  initiated in 1943 over an ongoing argument about who actually sunk the Tirpitz.  The irony was that his laptop wouldn’t talk to the Fitzwilliam new projector despite using both VGA and HDMI routes.  Even substituting another laptop didn’t convince the projector to communicate.    So we got in an old table top projector and Gerry Rigged it to save the day and show the show.

Mike’s talk was riveting and authoritative with the various roles and missions that 617 have been tasked with since bombing the German battleship Tirpitz and bursting their dams.  Sounds like it was a near thing with the attack on Tirpitz and had the local ME109s been scrambled into the air a little faster the Tirpitz may have been defended more than adequately and the German Navy and Luftwaffe won the day.

617’s Roles in the Iraq conflict and other post-war battles were explained and in particular the extensive modifications to the various aircraft for playing their part in the so called multi-functional roles of spotter, fighter , bomber, reconnaissance etc operations.  It reminded me of the roles that the various gun dogs play in the shooting field.

All in all another good performance by Mike in spite of the incommunicado technics.


Chris Bevan



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Edward Smith  (Rathbones)


Not being an economist much of Edward’s talk was too techy for me to summarise but nevertheless I will try.

He basically presented arguments for maintaining free trade all over the world rather than raising barriers.  His arguments showed that in the past barriers had not benefitted either the country that raised them or the countries who suffered because of them.  The recent TRUMP politics was described and it was forecast that this will not benefit the USA in the longer term.  Loss of jobs poor productivity and the extra effects of a pseudo politically driven war was inevitable whether barriers were present or not.

The arguments for free trade were essentially that the benefits of the barriered economy were ineffective costly to the host nation.

I was not convinced that Edward’s predictions for BREXIT of the various outcomes were any more certain than the success of “weather forecasting” in Britain.


Chris Bevan (Speaker Secretary )



 "I don't mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint! That's very nearly an armful!" The doctor finally persuades Hancock to donate the full pint by telling him he has a rare blood type, which appeals to Hancock's snobbery.



After establishing beyond doubt that his audience were of a generation who remembered the comedian Tony Hancock (who died in 1988) and his famous sketch on transfusions, Colin proceeded to inform us of the anniversary of the first successful blood transfer from man to man.  Blood donation and transfusions are commonplace these days but it is a surprisingly recent medical procedure perfected by the British and something we can be proud of.

He explained the blood groups O,A,B,AB and factors which somewhat complicate the transfer of blood from man to man and explained how much more complex blood groups can be in some animals.

Harvey discovered blood circulation back in 1628 but it took hundreds of years to perfect transfusions.  Perhaps religion slowed down the acceptance of blood transfer and there are some sects who will not permit it even today.

Our members enjoyed Colin’s humourous delivery and a surprising number of them said were active blood donors although many are not permitted to donate now in UK as they are over 70.  Only 4% of the UK people allowed to donate volunteer to donate, a surprising figure but perhaps not so surprising since no payment for the blood is made by NHS.

Chris Bevan

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Paul Lewis gave us an excellent talk about the history, present and future of the Slough Trading Estate which is owned by SEGRO. The Estate was established in about 1920 on Cippenham Court Farm. During WW1 it was used as a vehicle repair depot and at the end of the war it was used to dump army vehicles. 3 entrepreneurs paid £3.65m for the vehicles which were then sold or scrapped and £3.35m for the land. The first companies on the estate were a Ball Bearing company and Citroen cars. In WW2 it was a target for German bombers, so a smoke screen was established and a decoy site set-up in Datchet, which did not please the residents. Today, turnover from the 350 companies is around £1.5 billion and lease income is £65m with 96% occupancy. There is a Police surveillance centre which has significantly reduced crime levels, a fire station, and a biomass power station on the estate. One of the largest companies is Mars which produces 2m bars a day and has signed a lease for next 100 years. With the introduction of The Elizabeth Linec, the Slough to Heathrow link, the 3rd runway at Heathrow, the M4 upgrade to a smart motorway, fibre upgrading, taller buildings and automatic vehicles to carry staff to/from the estate  and the opening of restaurants and a park, the future looks bright with an increase in occupancy by Data Centers. Occupancy is scheduled to increase to 98% by the end of this year and with a simplified planning zone agreed with the local council it will be easier to build new premises. And if this is not enough, Thunderbirds was filmed on The Estate!

I am a text block. Click on me to drag me around or click a corner handle to resize me. Click the settings icon (it's the left one, looks like a cog) to change this text. You can type new text into me or cut and paste text from somewhere else. Click outside of me when you're done and any changes will be saved.

For those of you who missed a really fabulous day in glorious sunshine and an extremely interesting trip to Frogmore Papermill in Hemel Hempstead. Frogmore Papermill is on the site of the oldest papermill in the world. The only paper making machine still in operation is the only one of its type still in operation in the world. We were amazed at the different products now made by paper, from firemans helmets, loudspeaker cones to the obvious toilet paper. We were shown the process of paper making from source to finished products. Materials now being incorporated in the product range from Denim cotton through to Elephant Poo. Incorporated also to give verity and interest range from Old Bank Notes, Gold and Silver Leaf and flower petals mixed with wild flower seeds. Water from the river Gade ( now a bore hole ) is used to turn the recycled paper which is mashed and steamed or mixed with water and made into “ Crumble” then mixed with more water and continually mixed to form “Stuff”. The “stuff” is then evenly distributed onto a Nylon mesh conveyor belt. The water is then extracted gradually through a process of rollers and heated rollers to the final product. The process had been performed for many years on the now disused machine shown in the photo. The process created paper two meters wide at a rate of three miles in one hour. Modern production now produces ten meters wide at a rate of seventy miles in one hour. We were all treated to a small boat ride up from the Papermill along the river Gade


“Big Pharma R&D: An insider’s view”

Chris Bevan


The original speaker booked for the 24th October couldn’t make the date so I volunteered to swap dates and give my talk. 

Everyone has taken a medicine or drug at some time in their lives.  In fact their lives may well have depended on taking a drug.  But, do people wonder about how they are discovered, developed and made into safe effective medicines?  My lecture aimed to inform the audience and was centred on a tour of drug discovery from my 40 years as an analyst working inside some of Britain’s largest pharmaceutical R&D labs.

We attracted a decent audience as members had invited their wives and partners to the ladies luncheon afterwards.  Judging by the questions and discussions afterwards the widowed ladies enjoyed the talk and a few were reminded of their husband’s jobs in some of the local pharmaceutical companies that were in the Beaconsfield area.  Namely, GD Searle at High Wycombe and nearby Glaxo at Greenford.

I demonstrated the importance of showing how the properties of compounds can change with pH by using an extract of red cabbage which changes its colour and other properties at different pHs.

Drugs in the stomach experience an acidic environment whilst in the gut they are in alkaline conditions.

I also showed how laser light scattering can be used to find out if a drug has precipitated from solution and how liquid chromatography was used to analyse and purify drugs.

I concluded my talk with a 5 minute film showing modern highly automated drug discovery processes inside  GSK Stevenage research labs where I had worked for 22 years.

Perhaps many members will never eat a red cabbage again without wondering what colour it becomes as it goes through their body!




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History of the John Lewis Partnership  DAVID SHEEHAN  14 NOVEMBER 2018


David Sheehan joined the Partnership at 16 years of age and, although now retired after 45 years service, he has remained supporting the business as a volunteer at the JL Heritage Centre. David told us more about his interesting and varied career during his talk.

The presentation that was delivered was sub-titled 'Partnership in the Past' and it tracked the development of the John Lewis Partnership and the people who made it happen.

Curiously the discussion and questions afterwards focussed on the partnership as it stands today in the sharp environment of competition from the likes of Amazon and other on-line suppliers.

John Lewis and Waitrose have always looked after their employees by using their partnership schemes to augment salaries with various goodies such as social clubs and facilities and of course the well known bonus.


Unfortunately the lap top PC that he brought with him decided to stall on several occasions saying its memory was full!!!  Despite this technical glitch David coped well and his talk was very informative and spawned lots of questions afterwards from several John Lewis customers in the audience.


We are living through a time of massive change in the retail sector and we may be seeing a direction change in the history of one of the most generous and benevolent retail employers.

Can we afford to allow the old fashioned service first ways to disappear on the basis of price alone?  I suspect not.

 John Lewis is being KNOWINGLY UNDERSOLD, let’s see what happens.


Chris Bevan

Speaker secretary


Colin Oakes

St Pancras, Station or Village?





St Pancras is famous now just for its station, although often confused with the nearby Kings Cross. How few realise it was a former village with much history?  St Pancras has 2 churches, the old one with many literary connections including with Thomas Hardy. The other church is on the Euston road was important in the horrors of 7/7. On this talk Colin looked at the areas famous people, connections with Music hall, its growth with the railways and it redevelopment into the modern role it plays now.


As always, Colin was so well informed about his subject and enthralled the audience.  Lots of questions too,  with some members reminiscing about their personal connections with St Pancras.  Brinsmead pianos were made there apparently.

The discussion moved on to what was underground in the area and we will invite Colin back to give us a talk on the archaeology of this fascinating part of the capital.






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”MAN ON THE SPOT” 12 :12: 2018


One of our best talks this year as Bill recounted his exciting career as a humble “old school” style reporter delivered with a gusto and drive that would not have been out of place in a Shakespearian drama.  His Dundee accent transmitted authority and authenticity to the stories of woe and pathos that surrounded many of the trouble spots around the world that he has visited and reported on.  Despite the often grave and tragic circumstances of many of the stories, he effectively lightened up the mood by some great  Glaswegian anecdotes that the audience hoped were true and didn’t really mind if they were not.

The overall impression of the man was humility, professional detachment but coupled with a strong sense of duty and caring, honed no doubt by his years of experience being in the thick of trouble spots.  His numerous charitable works bear witness to this and I got the impression of a man who wants to make a real difference to those worse off than him.

Dr. Chris Bevan.     Speaker sec Probus Old Beaconsfield


Barry has given a two-stage talk. The first talk was on the Russian American space race and the developments of the various propulsion units use by both the Russian and Americans. The first satellites being launched up the first Occupied space craft to include Monkeys, Dogs and eventually Man. Since the first exploration the “Space Junk” has grown exponentially and presents a real hazard to future space exploration.

The second stage of Barry’s talk reflected the Apollo missions from 1 to 17. He showed several films of the success and tragedy’s and how many of the missions were so very close to disaster. The success of “Eagle” and the first Lunar landing and the exploration on later landings with the Lunar Buggy and important samples being brought back to Earth for analysis, and some remarkable footage to help prove that America did really land on the moon and that it was not a big hoax. Finally, the big question as to why the Apollo missions finished at 17 was answered. Simply because the moon was full of Aliens and NASA were warned off by these beings.


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It’s not often that you get a nuclear fusion physicist to wax eloquent about seeing strange lights in the sky and admitting to 50 elderly men what it really feels like to spend a couple of nights with her at -40C in a tent.  All a good excuse to have a wee dram or two or three and maybe then we would all be seeing stars and believing it was actually snowing in her tent as she faithfully recounted!

Melanie is somewhat unusual in that she seeks adventure and challenges.  She believes in fusing cold hard physics with risk and wonder.  Perhaps this isn’t so unusual for a true scientist who seeks truth and explanations rather than fantasy and speculative belief.  She explained what the Aurora phenomenon meant to ancient Sami tribe in the Northern climate, they thought it was their long dead ancestors coming back to haunt them.  Having seen the aurora several times myself in Thurso Northern Scotland, both before and after a wee dram, I can certainly empathise with those ancient tribes.  It is mystical and beautiful and inspiring.  A natural phenomenon that is rare to see for most of us and one that defies logical explanation to those without a knowledge of high energy particle physics and spectroscopy.

Melianie’s lecture was awe inspiring and delivered with honesty and insight that comes from her personal experiences rather than reading from a book.  She has written a book about the phenomenon and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase copies after her talk.




The Plant Hunters from the 17th to 21st Centuries



 The Plant Hunters From the 17th century onwards, intrepid explorers risked life and limb to bring back from distant lands those trees and plants that are now an established part of our English gardens. This talk recounted their exploits, focussing on the Golden Age of Plant Hunting in the 18th and 19th centuries and included some of the latest conservation-based work for the 21st century.


Many of us own gardens and take an interest in the plants we grow but do we sit and ponder as to where they came from?  The local garden centre I can hear a wit say...!

But in the world before Garden Centres most of the plants in 17th Century gardens had been in the UK for hundreds of years. 

Plums, roses walnuts and parsley, were”gifts” of the Romans over 1000 years old.

But it took the likes of intrepid explorers such as Raleigh (tobacco), Captain Cooke (antipodean plants), Douglas of Fir fame, George Forest (rhododendrons)  and latterly (1910) the so called less well known “Chinese” Wilson  (lilies).


We take exotics for granted these days and have essentially homogenised the world’s plants some with good outcomes and some with disastrous consequences, (Japanese knot weed).


The talk was well delivered and the questions afterwards demonstrated the audience interest.







28 02 2019


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The Musical museum contains one of the worlds foremost collections of self-playing musical instruments. from the tiniest and most valuable musical boxes to the Mighty Wurlitzer. There are a large collection of Pianos, Organs and some pianos capable of playing the Violin. We also saw a piano that had 4 Violins included in the wood case.
2 hours of enjoyment and also education.
The club then went to The Bell & Crown Public house for lunch. It would seem that the building was originally a Shoe repair Shop and then a Hairdressers and built in 1650 so it had a lot of history. Overlooking the Thames and enjoying a Lunch and Large Glass of Wine it was a wonderful way to relax before the coach journey home.


 Every object tells a story (Pitt Rivers museum Oxford)

  LUCY GASSON                               [ Ladies Invitation]

The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is like no other.  Descending the steps at the entrance, you enter a dark Aladdin’s cave filled with thousands of fascinating objects from different cultures all over the world. In fact, the museum holds a world record: more objects are crammed in there per square metre than in any other museum in the world. From boomerangs to baskets, masks to mandolins – the museum is essentially a celebration of human creativity and cultural diversity. What’s really special about the Pitt Rivers, though, is the fact that behind so many of the objects lies an extraordinary story. In this talk Lucy  to wetted our appetite by introducing a selection of objects in the museum with some of the most intriguing, entertaining – or in some cases poignant – stories behind them.



I met Lucy a couple of years ago whilst doing a tour of the Science Museum in Oxford.  We discussed the exhibits from a special display of the history of the Pharmaceutical drugs industry and I was impressed by her guide skills and detailed knowledge of the exhibits.  Chatting to her, she told me that she is an Oxford GREEN Badge* tour guide holder which is an official guide to all things Oxford, which included the Pitt Rivers museum. 

So, I walked along to this most unusual museum to be enthralled and fascinated by the unusual exhibits and “inhabitants” therein.  Situated immediately behind the Museum of Natural History this spectacular collection is an assault on the senses.  Crammed with what is essentially unclassifiable artefacts and objet d’art from the massive collection of Major General Pitt Rivers, otherwise known sympathetically as the man whose parents couldn’t decide on a memorable first name for their baby.

Major General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers (14 April 1827 – 4 May 1900) was an English officer in the British Armyethnologist, and archaeologist.[1]

One gets the feeling that one has stumbled on the antique or bric-a-brac shop from another world.  Indeed this collection encapsulates a world of forgotten lives and lifestyles peppered with mementoes and tools from bygone ages and bygone territories long since abandoned. 

Oh my, how much our lives have changed since this museum was opened.  Photographic equipment being the most modern of the exhibits whilst some date back to antiquity and beyond.

A great place to prepare oneself for the interview question when one is asked:

“Can you think of a dozen uses for a dead fish or gutted hedgehog?”

Lucy’s lecture took us on an illustrated tour of life elsewhere and “elsewhen” trying to piece together and elucidate the ideas, beliefs, and customs from peoples long since passed on.

 Lucy’s final slide showed an animal that was considered useful for grooming, and no I do not mean a horse.  Another showed a protective vest and pants useful to shield oneself against knife stabbing; I must point out (no Pun intended) no KEVLAR was harmed in the making of this vest.  Maybe a new use for a recycled door mat perhaps!

Fascinating, intriguing and humourous; Well done Lucy, an excellent talk.



*  LUCY GASSON   Lucy Gasson <>

Lucy studied Classics at Jesus College, Oxford and went on to complete a Masters at Wolfson College, Oxford in Medieval Literature and History. When not giving tours of the city she works as a guide in three of Oxford’s museums - the Ashmolean,  the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of the History of Science.



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 A History of Wallingford Castle 

'Wallingford Castle - Royal Stronghold of the Thames Valley'.

By the early 11th century Wallingford was a large fortified Saxon town, guarding an important crossing point of the River Thames. William the Conqueror came there in 1066 to cross the Thames with his army and to negotiate the handover of the kingdom. Wallingford Castle was built on his orders between 1067 and 1071. It was to remain as a royal fortification until 1646 - the penultimate Royalist stronghold to surrender at the end of the English Civil War. It was demolished by Cromwell in 1652 but its massive surviving ramparts are still impressive. Throughout its 600-year history, Wallingford Castle was a vital royal stronghold of the Thames Valley, standing alongside The Tower of London and Windsor Castle. It was held by the medieval heirs to the throne, became part of the Duchy of Cornwall and was a royal base and residence involved in many key national events.  Yet its presence is barely known today, so it is a piece of history worth sharing!  




Not many people could compress and recount over 1000 years of British history into an hour but Judy did it with ease, clarity and skill.  We time travelled from 1066 to the present day with the focus on the importance of Wallingford castle to the Royals and the fates of churchmen, barons and commoners throughout the good and bad times:  no mainly warlike bad times for the castle, as it remained a stronghold until finally demolished in the 17th century. 

William the Conqueror used the Thames crossing at Wallingford to gain access to north of the river and ultimately London for his invasion forces.  He recognised the strategic importance of Wallingford as a access point to the capital and secured it with a castle.  Many of his successors made use of this defensive bastion and used it as a stronghold and even as a sort of holding “prison” for King Charles 1 against Cromwell’s parliamentary forces in the Civil War.

Aerial photos now show the Motte hill and not a lot else, most of the castle stonework remains underground and has been unearthed by archaeologists and by geophysics surveillance.

I knew virtually nothing about this castle at the start of her talk and by the end I felt like an expert. 

A thoroughly informative and well researched talk by an obviously keen and learned volunteer curator from the Wallingford Museum.

Chris Bevan

Speaker secretary

27 March 2019


          “Tony Blair: A Political Profile”

Dr Martin Holmes is well known as a leading Oxford University academic specialist in political economy.  In October 1987 he was appointed Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford, where he has subsequently been Director of the College of Business Administration (UNL) Programme since 1989.  Last year he gave us a talk on our former Prime Minister, Ted Heath, which went down very well.  His latest talk on Wednesday 10th April was a profile of Tony Blair another notable British Prime Minister.


Probably one of the best lectures we have had, delivered with all the skills of a good speaker.  We could hear him, with or without microphony, and he answered the audience’s many questions with confidence and authority.

Martin explained Tony Blair’s rise to fame and commented on his standing as a labour candidate for the “true blue” Beaconsfield seat back in the 1980s, which unsurprisingly he failed to get.


We heard a very balanced view of the former prime minister, listing his achievements and his issues and scandals. 

I have always thought that anyone wanting desperately to be Prime Minister should spend time in psychiatry and nothing in Martin’s lecture persuaded me otherwise.  Branded by some as a war criminal after the invasion of Iraq his 3x terms of office were largely put aside and his many successful social and welfare policies and achievements overshadowed.


Martin took us through the Blair PM years and reminded us of the many issues that he had to deal with.

Despite many historical facts and figures I didn’t get a real insight into the character of Mr. Blair who I will remember as a man clothed in an armour of the spin doctors making.  I suspect that many people voted for the young clean cut sociable man in the labour landslide victories, but then as his premiership moved on we saw less of the real Tony and more of his publishing machine.  I wonder if he was able to have his time over again whether he would choose to get rid of the PR dept.

We will invite Martin back next year to deliver another lecture profiling another PM; Thatcher perhaps or May?


Chris Bevan: Speaker secretary Probus OB.




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 Austria in the first half of the 20th century

Ahhh, Austria – the land of oompah music, apfelstrudel, and beer, with edelweiss growing in mountains ringing to the sound of music. But there is some dark history behind that edelweiss. The first half of the 20th century was a turbulent time that fashioned the modern world, with 60 million violent deaths, the fall of monarchies and empires, and the emergence of new superpowers.  It was little, beautiful Austria that caused all this. Yet in Britain we never hear anything about Austria during this time. This talk filled in our understanding of what was going on there and then.




A really well presented account of all the key issues leading up to the 1st and 2nd World Wars. 

Austria seemed pivotal in its geographical and political position and influences on these two literally world shattering events and suffered greatly for it then and in the years to come.

Bernard presented his view of Austria from a personal familial perspective since his mother’s family were brought up in Eibiswald down south in Styria near to the border with Slovenia.  His father was a British serviceman sent to Austria during the post war period in the late 1940s to supervise the area after the war. 

Having friends in this part of Austria and having visited there last year on holiday I could be forgiven for not imagining such a beautiful place being in any way associated with the ravages of war.

I was left at the end of the talk with a mountain of reasons and facts that on the one hand seemed to explain and even predict the various conflicts and on the other demonstrate unequivocally the futility of it all.

We all came away with a much deeper understanding of the events of the first part of the 20th century and somewhat surprised at what little we knew of them.  Well done Bernard, a great talk.

Chris Bevan:  Speaker Secretary Probus OB

" Professor Martin Parsons has given three previous talks to the Club and his latest talk on 8th May was on Addressing the Issues of Migrant Children. 

His 35 years experience of War Child research has been much needed in dealing with the major problem of migrant children in Europe, particularly in the UK,Italy, Spain and Romania, and with migrant children affected by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and other countries. 

His talk touched on the sadness surrounding these children, and the large efforts made to offer them a more secure future. The work is hard on all those offering support and care to these children, and regrettably the helpers themselves are not supported as well as they should be for such demanding circumstances. The sterling work undertaken by the recently formed charity Children in Custody plays a valuable part in helping the children. 

The talk gave a real insight into the scale of the problem of migrant children,and was delivered with both passion and tenderness by Martin." 

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Prof. Armitage gave our audience some amazing insights into her resesrch group's latest discoveries on how bacteria can move about and adapt themselves to cope with varying environments.  She totally changed our view of what the bacterial world is actually like.

Over 300 years ago Leewenhoek recognised some tiny particles seen down his new microscope as living organisms because they moved  with purpose. However, we have only started to understand how bacteria move in the last few decades. Their flagella are too small to be visible in any light microscope and the mechanism has been pieced together by a combination of electron microscopy, molecular genetics and imaging key proteins fused to fluorescent tags.

Bacteria swim through their viscous world by rotating a rigid helical flagellum using a charge driven rotary motor spanning the cell membrane. The 45nm diameter motor spins at around 300 rev per sec, moving a 2 micrometre cell at speeds of up to 50 body lengths per sec. They use swimming to get to a better environment for growth, but are too small to sense a spatial gradient, but instead compare now with 2 sec ago, and bias their movement in an optimum direction. I will discuss the methods used to understand bacterial motility and its control, and why it is important for all aspects of our lives, from health to agriculture and possible ways of harnessing bacterial movement in future technologies.


"My career in the Prison Service"  


26 June 2019

It is a lovely sunny day as I write this opinion piece.  Usually I wouldn’t really notice and would go out and about as I please doing pretty much whatever I fancy; isn’t retirement nice? 

Yesterday I went to a lecture from Alastair Papps, a retired deputy head of the UK’s HM Prison Service.  He got me wondering what it must be like to be a prisoner at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.  He read out letters that prisoners had written to him saying how they had self-analysed whilst in stir and discovered themselves.  I couldn’t help but wonder if Alastair had spent time wondering whether he had made a difference, not only to their lives but also to his own.  He talked about the one letter that had “made his day” when he first read it, after a particularly difficult period in his service.  I wondered if he had thought frequently whether he had “done good” or simply been a neutral administrator manager of others’ policies and procedures. 

His talk started with him stating that he was the son of a missionary minister working in Africa.  He didn’t relate his own religious beliefs but obviously wanted to help people make their lives better.  I think we all share that desire but other things get in the way and our apparent freedom often makes us think we have little of not enough time for it.  As a retired research chemist I hope my life’s work has helped make lives better for others with some of the pharmaceutical drugs I have helped to develop.  If not, then ones job loses its soul and is relegated to a mere activity.

I was surprised that his lecture made me think and it was reinforced by a TV programme shown at 7pm yesterday evening when Michael Portillo visited the recently closed infamous Shepton Mallet Gaol.  His accounts and findings  echoed Alastair’s narrative.

Thanks Alastair for an hour of contemplation and reflection.

Now I had better go out and mow the grass, the rain and sun has made it grow!



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Prof. David PERRETT
The Archaeology of Power: from windmills to steam turbines

Man has always sort sources of power that are flexible to our needs, ranging from muscle power through natural sources such as wind and water. The real breakthrough came with Thomas Newcomen's engine in 1712 followed by Watt's steam engine and its successors after 1769. This lecture illustrated that progression using surviving machines and their uses.

David’s knowledge of steam power and the history of energy production is probably second to none. As a former professional analytical clinical chemist, industrial archaeology has been his hobby passion rather than his profession and his enthusiasm pervades every time he talks about the subject.
He took us from hand powered water pumps, horse and other animal powered systems right through the ages of water, wind and steam power from the initial Newcomen engine through James Watt and on to the pinnacle of steam power with massive beam engines and the pride of Victorian engineering prowess. Lots of photos of engines and power stations from all over the world marking places where David had personally visited in his quest to seek out and save these aged mechanical glories.
Many of our members are former engineers and appreciated his talk and many went up to discuss their interests with him afterwards. This is his third visit to us and it won’t be his last with a slot offered for late 2020 to hear about medical matters again with his stories of how chemists doctors and engineers improved medicine.

Chris Bevan
10th July 2019
Speaker Sec Probus Old Beaconsfield


“STAINED GLASS:  How did they do it, then and now?”

We have all seen stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals and in some posh houses too, but have you ever wondered who made, it how it is made and if you can still buy it?   Anna’s talk explained and answered all these questions in an amusing and informative way with ample illustrations of the processes involved and the beautiful results obtained from her skilled craft.

She told us of her childhood, cycling with her bag to collect old whole bottles from dumps to marvel at collecting the old coloured glass.  How she washed and sorted the glass as though it were jewels.  This childhood memory and fascination with glass led to her becoming a stained glass artist and gaining an impressive first commission of work for the famous Richard Branson.  Naturally enough more work followed and she was in demand with just limited early career experience with a steep learning curve to be gained on the job.  Wrestling with renovating house windows and lifting heavy leaded panes soon showed her that there was much more to earning a living out of this ancient craft than simply cutting glass.

She brought a selection of her work both to demonstrate it to the audience and to offer some items for sale too.

I got the urge to have a go myself and will probably sign up for a course at her studio to see for myself how hard it is to produce work that I probably used to take for granted.


Chris Bevan, Speaker secretary Probus OB,  24-07-19


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 Reflection of our day in the Cotwolds. A big thankyou to Griff Lewis who arrange such a wonderful Day

In the company of a top notch Blue Badge Guide, we will explore beautiful landscapes and visit an Indian Palace on a Cotswold Hill. We begin at 10.30am for time to buy morning refreshments in Moreton-in-Marsh at the head of the Evonlode Valley. This thriving market town has a 1000 year history going back to Saxon times. The expert Blue Badge Guide will show us some of the highlights of this handsome town and share some of its stories.
Then we'll be off by coach to explore some very beautiful landscapes, taking in Stow-on-the-Wold, where the wind can indeed blow cold and Capability Brown's dramatic Broadway Tower set on a beacon hill just off an ancient trading route. Broadway is the Jewel of the Cotswolds with an absolute chocolate box of a High Street lined with horse chestnut trees and a mixture of period houses and picturesque honey coloured stone cottages. Victorian artists and writers were drawn here and those seekers of beauty the Arts
and Crafts movement made homes in the area. There is a good choice of places to buy lunch and some great mooching to be had. Nothing quite prepares you for Sezincote. Winding through mighty oaks lining a long drive we will see a weathered-copper onion dome straight out of India atop a beautiful house in the honey coloured stone of the Cotswolds. It was built for Samuel Pepys' grandson - a Nabob of the East India Company. A curving orangery unfurls above a Repton landscape where gurgling water tumbles into the Island Pool in the valley bottom, before joining the River Evenlode below. Sezincote wowed the Prince Regent thus inspiring the Brighton Pavilion and it is now attracting lots of visitors having wowed viewers of BBC Gardeners' World. We will be taken on a tour of the house (beautiful Regency interiors, lovely and light and not overly long -heavenly!) and have time to explore the gardens. We'll stop nearby to buy a cuppa before heading home by 5.00pm.

Sacha Sarshar

The contents included:;

⦁ What is innovation & what is achieved by innovation?
⦁ Why do we need innovation?
⦁ Who are the innovators?
⦁ Some examples, past and present
⦁ The stages of innovation
⦁ Challenges facing innovation
⦁ Risks and rewards,
⦁ A broad look at R&D expenditure in the UK and other countries
⦁ The way forward
⦁ Concluding remarks

Sacha gave numerous examples of how old ideas and solutions are being rediscovered and re-engineered to help solve current problems. Many of his examples were from Iran his birthplace before he came to the UK in 1958 to study engineering. He made a very good case for greater funding of innovative ideas to be developed into products and pointed out how the UK used to be famed for its inventiveness and latterly we are falling behind.
“ Sacha presented some detailed data on the volume waste produced worldwide, the problem of plastic and plastic waste, shortage of water worldwide and other environmental issues which need innovative solutions for the survival of mankind.

Many members of our Probus audience are not professional R&D scientists and engineers and perhaps haven’t personally experienced what it is like to work in an environment that actively stimulates and values innovative thought and practice. Many jobs involve the application of tried and tested methods and strict adherence to well established principles and practices. In my case, a life in research has fostered in me a strong desire to seek novelty and try to come up with ideas that will solve problems, particularly where no one else has found a solution. Sasha’s talk very much convinced me that he is cut from the same cloth. Thinking “out of the box” and trying to cross apply the principles of scenario A and apply them to scenario B often reaps rewards.
I was minded in one of Sasha’s slides how the ancients had solved the problem of making domes stable either by using brute force iron rings or by altering the contours of the dome. The domes made in the latter case looked like nature’s solution to the shape of the humble Turkish fig.

Sasha concluded his talk by showing how Graphene, an allotrope of hexagonally bonded carbon atoms, possessing almost magical properties, was discovered and developed by Nobel Prize winners at Manchester University UK but is currently being further developed and applied to a variety of situations by materials scientists from abroad. Initially I thought of the bees wax hexagons in bees’ honeycombs but also linked the structure to that of Persian/Iranian religious buildings.
Such structural analogies are perhaps unsurprising as all the structures are maximising their strength from the hexagonal base unit. Buckminsterfullerene and geodesic domes came to mind too.

Illustrations: Buckminsterfullerene, Geodesic Dome, Bee Honeycomb, Iranian Dome, Graphene.
Clearly Sasha’s Iranian background and working life solving problems in the oil and gas industry has shaped his thinking innovatively and I enjoyed listening to his historical and current descriptions of the importance of bright ideas solving problems in so many aspects on our lives.
Chris Bevan
Speaker Secretary 14 August 2019

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In a thought-provoking and lively presentation, Andy Thomas explored some of the most famous global mysteries, finding unexpected linking threads between them. What is the truth about real-life ‘X Files’ – UFOs, ghosts, pyramids, strange animals, religious apparitions, psychic phenomena and visions of the future, and what is their connection to famous alternative theories concerning the Moon landings and shadowy secret elites? Are we really told the truth about the world we live in, and if not why not? His lecture sparked debate amongst our mixed audience many of whom are hardnosed scientists and engineers. Most admitted it is difficult to satisfactorily explain many of the phenomena he reported and recounted.
Chris Bevan: Speaker Secretary Probus OB.

Gervais explained that he worked in the Forest Products Research Laboratory and taught at Bucks University in High Wycombe before moving into consultancy as well as teaching in schools and at County Shows.
A little known fact is that the timber industry is the 5th largest manufacturing industry in Britain, the manufacture of 25 million pallets every year is some indication of this.
Gervais showed photos of the German Sherman tree in the USA which is the largest tree in the world and the Bristle Cone Pine which is the oldest tree in the world. Wood has been used for a very long time for all kinds of purposes, for example Roman wooden postcards have been found near Hadrian's Wall and Seahenge, similar to Stonehenge but in wooden form, became visible on the coast of Norfolk. Gervais also showed the audience a photograph of 'The Great Bed of Ware', a very large carved 4 poster bed, was made around 1600. 
1 kilo of wood requires 100 kilos of water to grow 
Modern solar panels are far better at capturing and using sunlight than trees are
However, trees are advantageous due to the many uses of wood.
Cork from Oak Trees has been used to make wine bottle corks for many years but with the introduction of screw tops there is a need to find alternative uses. Wooden houses, some 14 stories high are being built, there are wooden bridges 150 meters in length, there is a wooden dome 530 ft high and of course there are violins including Stradivarius. 


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Ian told us the stories of his many years with Cunard, notably as the last (21st) captain of the QE2 or QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, a beautiful ship that he obviously loves.  Any admirer of nautical architecture and engineering excellence could not fail to be impressed by this wonderful classic liner.  I share his appreciation of her performance abilities, notably 32 Knots max speed, razor sharp bows that could cut through the water better than a Samurai sword and a superstructure that still looks like a Queen’s liner rather than a floating block of flats (sic).

Ian’s relaxed style of presentation went down very well with our audience and he fielded many questions that covered topics as diverse as;  where did the name CUNARD come from, to the work of “jobby gobblers” a reference to the responsible micro-bacterial treatment of sewage aboard... rather than overboard.

The old adage of  “I joined the navy to see the sea, and what did I see, I saw the sea” was fully put to bed.  Ian has done many, many nautical miles and seen most of the world’s major ports and coasts in some of the most beautiful parts of the world.  His slide set was magnificent showing the QE2 in the Falklands refitted and drab painted as a military ship to her heights of cruising luxury entertaining the Queen, polished and painted in her traditional CUNARD house colours of dark grey and red.

Her final resting place is in Dubai as a fixed berth floating hotel.  A chance for customers to inhabit her without fear of sea sickness perhaps.

Chris Bevan   Speaker secretary Probus OB

25 September 2019


Prof. Alan Fenwick


                                              Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI)



Schistosomiasis (also known as Snail fever or Bilharzia) is a parasitic disease that leads to chronic ill-health and affects more than 200 million people in developing countries, 85% of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 600 million people are at risk of contracting schistosomiasis because they live in tropical regions where water supply and sanitation are inadequate or non-existent.


The SCI is a collaborative project to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa to control schistosomiasis, intestinal helminths and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The SCI was awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize (2008), and a medal and certificate were collected from Buckingham Palace on February 14th 2008.

By 2017 SCI had reached the milestone of having assisted in the delivery of 140 million treatments against schistoisomiasis in Africa and the Middle East


Some of our members said beforehand that they were unsure whether they were really interested in attending this talk.  Much of this apprehension appeared to be derived from their inability to pronounce “SHISTOSOMIASIS” without spraying ones audience with saliva!  In fact hardly anyone in the audience had ever heard of this disease or its tragic affects, since in cool England we don’t suffer from it.  However, after listening intently to Alan’s beautifully crafted exposition they had completely reversed their opinions and praised him and his quest with passion.  We all felt that Alan’s working life story, enveloping his quest to treat and eliminate this disease, was something that we should feel humbled about and wish that our own lives had made so much impact on so many, many people.


Delivered with a storytelling style, jesting where appropriate, illustrated with photos of not only the great and the good but also the poor little children who had contracted this very disabling condition by simply swimming, paddling or drinking water shared with these snail vector carriers.


Despite once a year treatment with a drug to arrest the condition people are still at risk and sanitation and elimination of the snails is probably the only way to eliminate the parasitic worm.  Unfortunately as many equilibrium driven processes act in nature we heard that fish eat snails so over fishing actually increases snail populations.

Merck offered their drug, PRAZIQUANTEL (250 million tablets), to the SCI for free to treat young schoolchildren before it becomes life threatening.


Great talk, even greater life’s work, well done Alan, let’s hope the SCI work carries on now you have retired.


Dr. Chris Bevan: Probus OB Speaker Secretary. 10 Oct 2019



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Hilary took us on a lovely illustrated 18-day touring holiday of somewhere most of us would never go to, namely North Korea.  On President Bush’s access of evil list and ruled by the infamous Kim Jong Un this is at the opposite side of the world from the UK and equally at opposition in almost every way from a family holiday in Bognor Regis.  But although we have been conditioned to think of NK in this way Hilary’s talk showed that the people are much the same as here on vacation but with the big advantage of much more space per person.  Empty streets, no visible litter, empty hotels, clean hygienic modernist architecture, fabulous valleys with classical waterfalls and forests to hide an army in, what more do you want!  Chaperoned by translators and security people the holiday for Hilary was somewhat monitored and controlled so perhaps it isn’t quite as free as playing on the sand at Bognor would be.  Friendly people enjoying themselves and a ruling regime that demands guests to respect and observe the worship of their leaders and past leaders by much bowing, even to inanimate bronze statues of past heroes and notables.  No income tax, 100% employment and lots of space in the country sounds wonderful, especially if you live in a crowded polluted city.  What’s the catch you may ask?  You are ruled completely and your destiny governed and manipulated.  Educated well but your freedom of what work you perform seems to be directed and managed by the state.  Capitalism is penetrating their culture and religions, although outlawed, are present in a rather passive way.  I did wonder how they can afford nuclear weapons and their development but I guess that it is a state priority to punch above their weight on the world stage militarily.

I came away with a feeling that life in NK isn’t as bad as we might have thought but watching it on slides in a nice lecture theatre in Beaconsfield isn’t the same as living it under a regime.  A taster but I think I will stick to European shores for my future hols; thanks Hilary.







Probably one of the oldest English traditions is that of Swan Upping, dating back to around 1186, the practise of labelling swans with the people or companies that own them.  David has worked on the Thames as a river boat and water man since he was 15.  Ownership of swans for food dates back even further and the customs surrounding them have emerged to ensure their welfare and protection as a valuable and somewhat luxury food.

Identification of the bird is essential and this used to be done by making cut marks in the bird’s upper mandible.  Current and more humane practice is to ring the bird with a tag on it leg showing ownership.

 As the master of the Queen’s swans he has responsibility for the welfare of the swans on the Thames and elsewhere in Britain.  The Queen, Livery company of vintners and dyers, and various rescue organisations finance and maintain the health of the birds and regularly examine the birds for signs of injuries and illness.

David said that he has promoted education, particularly of children, in the welfare and handling of the birds and runs meetings with local schools to show them good practices and welfare procedures as well as the annual Upping where they count and label the birds on the Thames.

I really enjoyed listening to his well prepared and delivered talk and will be much more aware of these magnificent birds on my walks down the Thames paths.


Chris Bevan

 Speaker secretary Probus OB


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Colin Oakes

Suffragettes, Freedom Fighters or Terrorists + STATUE FILM


13th June 2018

So, were the Suffragettes freedom fighters, terrorists or simply women expressing their human right to participate in the voting process and not be subjected to ridicule and discrimination?   Colin made a good case for them being all of these things and more.  He explained that the suffix ‘gettes was a term of abuse meant to ridicule the women so that their pleas would not be reported or acted upon.  The suffragists were the more peacefull  protestors who, in Colin’s opinion, were responsible for getting the government of the time to finally recognise that women should be allowed to vote. 

A fact filled historical talk at a high standard and full of interpretation from the very knowledgeable Mr. Oakes.

We followed up Colin’s talk by showing a 26 minute film of the making of a bronze statue of Emmeline Pankhurst intended for display in the city of Manchester.  The film was shot by Chris Bevan a few weeks ago at Hazel Reeve’s (the sculptor) workshop in an interview style conducted by David Ferris.


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Andy Thomas

A Conspiracy History of the World

23rd May 2018

Do you believe that NASA sent men to the moon in the Apollo programme?  I must admit that I do as I watched it on TV back in 1969 and know chemistry colleagues who analysed the lunar regolith dust that the astronauts brought back to earth with them.  However, Andy sowed the seeds of doubt in our members’ minds when he asked them to explain the odd shadows and reflections on the photographs purportedly taken on the lunar surface.  He said that they might have been shot in a studio and that they could be fake.

He continued to sow doubt on many other supposedly true events suggesting alternative explanations and conspiracy theories to offer alternative explanations.  The assassination of President Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald was another event to which an alternative explanation was explained to us.  I always come away after one of Andy’s talks with question marks floating around in my mind and a realisation that we shouldn’t take anything for granted.  His former talk on crop circles was convincing that they are hard to fully explain.


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Vic Baker:   My Life in a White Coat


Despite wearing a bright red coat Vic recounted his working life as a pharmacist where the traditional dress is typically a white lab coat.  A lovely chatty style interspersed with jocular accounts of misreading the GPs poor handwriting on prescriptions, resulting in follow ups on patients who had drunk liquid paraffin liniment oil rather than rubbing it on their sore backs. Vic came across as a very caring man who found that helping people in trouble was so rewarding and he told us of many patients who had relied on his advice and perhaps simply a chat to help them overcome their distress.  In this contemporary world of the computerised pharmacists and diagnoses the opportunity simply to talk it over with a human being is being lost to many people.

Chris Bevan Speaker secretary Probus OB

27 November 2019


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23 AUGUST 2017

Over the past few years we have unfortunately had a number of disasters in the UK and Europe.  Some have been natural in origin and some manmade.  Irrespective of origin, the problems facing the police and forensic investigators are the same; matching up body parts and identifying them unequivocally.  A sombre subject,  but explained by Steve with sensitivity and insider knowledge from 31 years as a policeman and latterly, after his retirement from chief inspector rank, to working as a specialist investigative detective  in the Thames valley police unit.  Apart from the more obvious methods of identification such as DNA and fingerprint matching we were told of the socio and familial issues involved in cases where loved ones have died and / or disappeared in disaster scenarios such as earth quakes, tsunamis and explosions etc.  Close relatives used for matching DNA from the deceased victims sometimes discover that they were in fact unrelated!  Steve related a surprising statistic that 1 in 6 of fathers in England has a child who is not related to them.  

The systems used internationally to record and track information from disaster zones were explained. 

One fact that surprised me was the rate of misidentification of a body in mortuary by a relative.  Facial appearances change after death and bodies decay and decompose making facial identification unreliable.  Steve took many questions from the audience and had discussions with members in small groups afterwards. 

A most intriguing insight into a world not many of us have experienced.... fortunately perhaps.

Dr. Chris Bevan [Speaker secretary]


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On 19th July, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of our foundation with a splendid lunch for 84 members and ladies in the elegant function room of Maidenhead Rowing Club.  Founding member Richard Nisbet recounted how the Club was formed in April 1992 by the late Don Swinhoe-Standen.  Don and others decided to start a new club because the original Beaconsfield club situated in the New Town had limited accommodation and a long waiting list.


Also enjoying the occasion was Don's 90 year old widow Pat who proposed a toast to the Club and member no 11 Clifford Beebee who celebrated his 90th birthday this year.  The event was organised by Club members Peter Rogers and David Baker. One of the photos shows Clifford Beebee (left) together with Pat Swinhoe-Standen (centre) and Richard Nisbet.(right).


David Baker

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"30 YEARS IN THE FIRE SERVICE" If you want an exciting career helping people, working with your mates and driving fast vehicles and not knowing what is to be encountered each day, then David's old job as a fire fighter is one you should consider. However, the job could be interpreted as putting your health and life on the line every working day and getting paid nothing special for the risk and trouble.
Some very amusing anecdotal stories from his 30 years in the service made for interesting and easy listening. Amusing accounts of the elderly lady who managed to put her bed fire out without the help of a fireman whom she had invited to come up and see her bedroom, to the fireman who extinguished the fire and fireplace next door by hosing gallons of water down the wrong chimney pot whilst the innocent homeowners sat watching TV. Always guaranteed to raise a laugh when things go wrong, as well of course as raising a compensation cheque for the damage to match!
A lovely storytelling style account of life in the fire service which prompted loads of questions.
Chris Bevan Speaker secretary Probus OB
28 JUNE 2017

Journey into Space:  What is ISS?      Chris Bevan     14 June 2017


If you have ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what the millions of distant stars are called then wonder on; as my Journey into Space talk will be about what's going on only 250 miles up.  One of those small sparkling spots of light isn't a star, it's a huge spaceship with people, laboratories, lavatories, robots, telescopes and computers flying around at 5 miles a second watching over us; all the time day and night.  I will be taking Probus members to visit it and take a visual tour of this spinning international community.

Good morning Probus Earthmen from ISS


It would be self indulgent of me to comment upon my own lecture here but the web links below are provided to inform those who were unable to attend it.  I got quite a few thoughtful relevant questions which must have meant the audience were listening, so at least the lack of availability of a lapel microphone yesterday didn’t hamper me.  

Chris Bevan Speaker secretary Probus OB

LOUD LAUNCH OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE      Space X return of 1st stage on land           Lady Astronaut tour of ISS     ISS view of earth LIVE


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Many people unfortunately suffer physical and mental challenges in their lives.  Some succumb to them and spend the rest of their lives being chronically handicapped significantly whilst some (the lucky ones one might say) pull themselves out of it and continue to achieve as much as they can in spite of their disablements.  The Jubilee Sailing Trust helps people to realise and accept that despite their inabilities and disabilities they can enjoy a fulfilled life and experience situations that they could not have imagined being possible for them.  David told us the stories of such people who through the trust’s voyages have been given the confidence to work alongside others to sail huge sailing ships around the world and learn sailing and living skills invaluable to them in the various communities in which they live.

A significant investment in two  sailingvessels worth many millions of pounds enable these voyages supported by a dedicated professional crew augmented by volunteers such as David.  There was a lesson to be learned from his experiences; i.e.  don’t feel sorry for yourself and don’t treat disabled people as though they are invisible or inadequate.  Their expectations are probably as great as yours, perhaps greater, and many seek achievements to bolster their confidence...... Dont we all?

Chris Bevan Speaker Secretary to Probus Old Beaconsfield

26 04 2017


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For those of you who were unable to come on our Excellent Trip, here is a small insight. Obviously you missed out on the Gin and to be able to feel the silk, her are a few Photos.

A very Big thankyou to Tony Ebutt for arranging such a well presented trip.

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David Hayhurst-France

F1 life in the fast lane

Fro a career in motor insurance IT to a logistics manager in Mercedes F1 seems an unlikely transition but that’s what happened to David.  The apparently glamourous world of motor racing top class Formula one has a lot of hidden secrets and these aren’t just in how to win the race.  Spending over 70 pc of ones time away from home might suit the single person with no relatives but to most of us it splits us from families has a definite downside.  David explained how the F1 teams travel the world much like a travelling circus bur instead of performing elephants they support 1600cc V6 raving engines with select drivers dedicated to winning at all costs.  Costs that amount to almost 400 million pounds a year to get the trophies that demonstrate vorsprung durch technic and another win on the podium.  Spin-off justification from racing engines to family cars didn’t convince me but its sheer fun and exhilaration  of man and machine pushing the limits so why try to justify it on economic or developmental grounds.  Mercedes have been so successful over past 3 years that the opposition are getting worried and the fans  getting used to seeing the silver cars at the chequered flag.  As in politics one must have credible opposition and this coming season  we will see in any knock Mercedes off the top spot.  A most interesting well delivered talk which prompted lots of interest and questions.

Chris Bevan Speaker secretary


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8TH February 2017


 Mike Whitehouse heralds from the RAF as a former Red Arrows display team flight commander pilot and who was later deployed into MOD -Air Intelligence.  

The RAF’s bombing accuracy was very poor early on in WW2 and proved costly and ineffective.

Later on the precision bombing of, for example the Dambusters’ raids, showed that technology had advanced considerably mainly due to knowing exactly where you were in the sky with respect to your target. 

Mike took us through the various early electromagnetic signalling devices (LORENZ and pseudo RADAR type) and computational devices (ENIGMA & LORENZ CYPHERS) used for directing, jamming and de-coding signals respectively from the enemy in WW2.   

WW2 was an historical period of enormously fruitful innovation and inventiveness on all sides catalysed by the demanding needs of warfare. 

The so called Battle of the Beams was a period early in WW2 when bombers of the German Air Force used a number of increasingly accurate systems of radio navigation for night bombing in the UK. British scientific intelligence at the Air Ministry fought back with a variety of their own increasingly effective means, involving disruption of radiowaves.  

Prior to the war, Lufthansa and the German aircraft industry invested heavily in the development of commercial aviation and various systems and methodologies that would improve its safety and reliability.  Among these was a considerable amount of R&D of blind landing aids which allowed aircraft to approach an airport at night or in bad weather.  The primary system developed for this role was the LORENZ system, developed by Plendl, which was in the process of being deployed on large civilian and military aircraft.

The Lorenz system worked by feeding a special three-element antenna system with a modulated radio signal. The signal was fed to the centre dipole, which had a slightly longer reflector element on either side set slightly back. A switch rapidly alternated the opened midpoint connection of each reflector in turn, sending the beam slightly to the left and then slightly to the right of the centreline of the runway. The beams widened as they spread from the antennas, so there was an area directly off the runway approach where the two signals overlapped. The switch was timed so it spent longer on the right side of the antenna than the left.

An aircraft approaching the airport would tune one of their radios to the Lorenz frequency.  If the crew found they were on the left side of the centreline they would hear a series of short tones followed by longer pauses - the pauses being the time the signal was being sent out the other side of the antenna.  Hearing the "dots", they would know they had to turn to the right in order to be flying down the centreline.  If they started on the right side, they would instead hear a series of longer tones followed by short pauses, while the signal was on the "dot" side of the antenna.  Hearing the "dashes", they would turn to the left to capture the centreline.  In the centre, the radio would receive both signals, which sounded like a continual signal, the so-called "equi-signal".  Flying in the known direction of the runway and keeping the equi-signal on the radio, the Lorenz could guide an aircraft down a straight line with a relatively high degree of accuracy, so much so that the aircraft could then find the runway visually in all but the worst conditions.

In these days of modern GPS we take for granted that our little black box in our car knows where we are and where other drivers are too when married to a traffic management system on ones mobile phone; even if we ourselves don’t!    Back in the inter-war period one had merely a compass and the stars or at best the terrain if one could see it through cloud and recognise its landmarks.

The latter part of Mike’s talk concentrated on the work of the code breakers at Bletchley Park and the electrical communications engineering of COLOSSUS by Tommy Flowers then of the GPO. 

One wonders whether this work would be understood and appreciated by us today had it not been for the ubiquitous use of our personal computers.

Mike fielded lots of questions after his talk showing the interest from the members, some of whom had been pilots in the fifties and sixties.

Chris Bevan    Probus OB Speaker Secretary


Ted heath – a reputation revised


In his talk to Old Beaconsfield Probus club on 13 September, Dr Martin Holmes gave a fascinating account of the highs and lows of the UK parliamentary world of the 1970s-80s, during the “watch” of Ted Heath, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and, more recently, Tony Blair. Martin teased out the subtleties of the manoeuvring which took place on both sides of the commons and explained how arrangements were made to facilitate “awkward matters” which arose from time to time. His talk provoked a wide range of questions and comments and stirred our memories of this somewhat turbulent time in our recent history.   


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The nature of reality: there’s more to it than you might think. 

Dr. Peter Gibson

 9th August 2017

Our ladies invitation luncheon today followed a lecture on the nature of reality by Peter Gibson a retired teacher who has pursued an interest in philosophy to a doctorate level. 

Peter explained how his interest sparked as a child in how the world works and how we as human beings perceive it and explain it, has fuelled his studies throughout his life.  Peter didn’t take the scientific path to satiate his curiosity as many of our members have done, as his maths wasn’t up to it.

He decided that collecting ideas and thoughts from many people over the ages essentially led to him founding a computer database of ideas.  His website at    explains all this.

Peter’s lecture could have easily taken more time than we allowed him as he was concerned that his audience wouldn’t fully appreciate where he was coming from if he dived straight in.  Many of our members come from scientific and engineering backgrounds so Peter had to make it clear from the outset that he was not proposing that philosophical thinking should be stood up against scientific thinking but rather should augment or partner it.

Some of our audience said both in the brief question time and privately afterwards that they appreciated his philosophical perspective views of the reality of the room we were sat in and the objects surrounding  us and his explanations had some resonances with contemporary thinking in particle physics.  Terminologies in the two subjects vary enormously but current quantum particle physics thinking and field theories of Einsteinian spacetime do seem to point towards humanities’ interpretation of thephysical world of  mass: energy : time reality that we experience are perhaps simply using different ways of describing the same phenomena.  As a physical scientist I of course would choose the rigorous scientific method and employ careful measurement when building up or believing a theory, but Peter did try to convince us that there is value in the modes of thinking that a philosopher employs.

Of all the lectures we have had in the past few years this one should, in my opinion, be called the “MARMITE “ talk as I got quite a bit of polarized feedback afterwards.  The lunch was quite good too but no Marmite there I’m afraid!

Dr. Chris Bevan

Probus Old Beaconsfield Speaker secretary.


Latimer House and Wilton Park secrets of WW2 .   A TALK BY HELEN FRY. 12 07 17


An informative account of the British secret service’s interrogations during WW2 delivered in an amusing style.  I bet you didn’t think that interrogation could be light-hearted but neither did the German generals and senior officers taken prisoners of war and housed initially in the Tower of London no less, and later on in Wilton and Latimer houses.

By allowing them apparent freedom and ensuring their senior ranks were fully respected they felt as though they were honoured guests of the British rather than PoWs.  In fact every room and garden they occupied were bugged with sensitive listening devices and every conversation they had was being recorded, translated and carefully inspected for secrets. 


The existence of the German V rocket programme and their deuterium oxide heavy water plant were discovered by this method leading to the bombing and destruction of these facilities later in the war and of course the negation of the potential German Atomic bomb project.

It is impossible to say by how much this valuable knowledge shortened the war and contributed to the allies’ victory but it was comforting to hear that this knowledge was obtained without the use of force and cruelty so often taken as read in wartime.  The Germans actually believed that the British were useless as interrogators, having been subjected to mock interrogations to hide the real methods used.

Helen sold some of her latest books to our members afterwards and we have invited her back to tell us more for our 2019 programme.


Dr. Chris Bevan:  Speaker secretary Probus OB


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Hatfield House Event 21st June 2017

Firstly an excellent Event arranged by Richard Dillon. His planning and organization was completed with precision, a tough act to follow for his last role as Event Committee member.

The day started and finished as the hottest day in June since 1976. Fortunately we had a 51 seater coach which gave us plenty of room to spread out and maintain a comfortable temperature. On arrival the tea rooms proved to being both inviting and extremely welcome. Our tour started at 1230Hrs. Our guide being extremely informative and humorous and completed the tour at a very acceptable pace.

The afternoon was then devoted to keeping cool and exploring the Private gardens of Hatfield House and open park land.


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A tour-de-force 1 hour lecture from a highly qualified authority on British military history, Ian informed and entertained us with his detailed account of the role of various communities in Buckinghamshire from the outbreak of war in 1914 to its end in 1918.  He started with words coined and used in the Great War and long afterwards ; words such as “conchies” meaning conscientious objectors i.e. people who didn’t wish to wage war on their fellow man because of their religious or humanitarian views that disturbed their conscience, rather than them being very conscientious meaning hard working.  

Bucks contribution to the Great War was considerable and it affected practically everyone in some way or other and probably was the first war that did this.  The lives of the civilian population at home were affected in many ways and there is no doubt that it was a Great War, perhaps a Gross War would be a more appropriate term, there is nothing great about war.


Chris Bevan   Speaker Secretary Probus Old Beaconsfield

24 MAY 2017


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SAMUEL PEPYS aka Dr. Robin Gain

Robin Gain lived and breathed the most interesting life of the Diarist Samuel Pepys as part of our Ladies invitation luncheon on 12 April.  Dressed in full 17th Century regalia topped out with a wonderful head of hair, he entertained and informed us of his trials and tribulations consistent with living in London 300 years ago.  The men crossed their legs and winced when he explained the ins and outs of bladder stone removal surgery without anaesthetics; the story had more gravitas as Robin is a medical doctor.  Samuel Pepys never fathered children and perhaps we can now understand why.

Robin’s huge knowledge of Pepys has been gained over 40 years as a senior member of the Pepys society following his own father in this specific interest.  When answering the many questions from the audience afterwards Robin showed just how thoroughly he had studied Pepys’ life.


Chris Bevan  Speaker secretary  13 04 17


                     1917 London’s Blitz Year



22 March 2017

Another well researched great story of a little known facet of The Great War waged with Germany, now over a century ago, told by Colin Oakes to our attentive audience this morning.


Imagine yourself a person living in London 100 years ago with many of your family away in the French trenches fighting daily to repel the German advances.  The war was brought from the front lines not only buy letters home from the troops but by aerial attack on your homes some 100 miles away from the fronts.  German air power terrified Londoners and aimed to destroy morale.  Scared out of their lives they were, but it fuelled their sense of fighting a just war as the Germans had delivered their attacks on civilian adults and their children.

Most feared were the Zeppelin airship bombers and the huge fixed wing Gotha and “R” plane bombers, the latter with a with wing span of 177 feet.  All at a time when most wars a few years earlier had been  fought on horseback at a prescribed battle field. 

Much of London was bombed and this war laid the foundations of the plans to institute air defence systems in the between war periods as the penny (or the bomb) had dropped in military planners’ heads that Bombing was the way to victory.



German WW1 heavy bomber

Chris Bevan

Speaker secretary Probos Old Beaconsfield



BRIAN SCOVELL        22 FEB 2017

That famous day in 1066 when England sulked in defeat and nine hundred years later in 1966 when we strutted in victory.  Different enemies and different results but both are still talked about with spirit and pride years later.  Brian journalistically covered the World Cup and the England v West Indies in an enthralling 111 days that summer of 66. 

He contrasted what was happening back in those rock n roll innocent days with the greed and corruption of today that seems to have overtaken the nation’s major sports.

Many of the household names in sport were cited as great examples to the emerging generation of heroes.  Sportsmen who were paid little by today’s standards yet put their sport before their celebrity status.

Brian’s somewhat nostalgic anecdotes amused our audience.  He concluded by relating some of the more risqué encounters that journalists must get used to when dealing with the stars.

He brought along copies of his latest book “The conquests of 1966 by Alf & Gary” which is his 27th in a long line of sports reporting publications.

Chris Bevan Speaker Secretary Probus Old Beaconsfield


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