Former REME Old Dalby military depot workmates enjoy reunion after 40 years

Members of the 1979 apprentice intake of mechanical engineers at the former Old Dalby REME depot gather for a 40th anniversay reunion, from left, back row - Mick Garton, Steve Hudson, Derek Corton, Dean Gibson, Andy Macdonald, Graham Mann; front row - Martin Smith , Andrew Hamilton, Robin Williams, Malcolm Johnson (apprentice trainer), Phil Groom EMN-190411-110037001
Members of the 1979 apprentice intake of mechanical engineers at the former Old Dalby REME depot gather for a 40th anniversay reunion, from left, back row - Mick Garton, Steve Hudson, Derek Corton, Dean Gibson, Andy Macdonald, Graham Mann; front row - Martin Smith , Andrew Hamilton, Robin Williams, Malcolm Johnson (apprentice trainer), Phil Groom EMN-190411-110037001
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Memories of when they used to work on missiles and military equipment for use in wars in The Gulf and the Falklands came flooding back when workmates from the former REME depot at Old Dalby returned to the village for a 40th anniversary reunion.

Eleven members of the 1979 apprentice intake met up at Belvoir Brewery, which is adjacent to the old gatehouse to the depot, which closed 23 years ago.

Derek Corton and Phil Groom, members of the 1979 apprentice intake of mechanical engineers at the former Old Dalby REME depot, chat at a 40th anniversay reunion EMN-190411-110049001

Derek Corton and Phil Groom, members of the 1979 apprentice intake of mechanical engineers at the former Old Dalby REME depot, chat at a 40th anniversay reunion EMN-190411-110049001

The site is very different now from when hundreds of mechanical engineers were employed there and around 100 REME soldiers lived on the site in barracks.

These days the buildings have been redeveloped to form industrial units for the Crown Business Park when not that long ago security was tight as the depot carried out vital work for the British armed forces.

The reunion was organised by Derek Corton, now aged 56, who worked there for 17 years until it was closed due to the restructuring of the forces in the wake of the ending of the Cold War and softening tensions with nations in eastern europe.

Derek told the Melton Times: “Most of us had not seen one another since the 1980s so it was great to chat about the old days.

Andrew Hamilton, Derek Corton and Mick Garton, members of the 1979 apprentice intake of mechanical engineers at the former Old Dalby REME depot, gather for a 40th anniversay reunion EMN-190411-110100001

Andrew Hamilton, Derek Corton and Mick Garton, members of the 1979 apprentice intake of mechanical engineers at the former Old Dalby REME depot, gather for a 40th anniversay reunion EMN-190411-110100001

“I remember the work going crazy when those wars broke out - people were working Saturdays and Sundays and in the evenings to get stuff ready for the military.

“I used to work on the Rapier ground-to-air missile during the Falklands War and the drone reconnaissance equipment for the Gulf War.

“It was strange because you would go home and see Kate Adie reporting for the BBC from a war zone and see one of our missiles in the background.”

Derek served his apprenticeship there from 1979 and left when it closed although some of those at the reunion left in 1983 when they finished as apprentices

He said: “People from around the country came to the reunion, including Malcolm Johnson who was a trainer and who still lives in Melton.

“Everyone has done OK for themselves since it closed.

“I work for a company at East Midlands Airport, one lad is working on oil rigs and another has work with the MOD.

“When we got together again we all said the REME depot was a great grounding for us for later in our working lives.”

The site was initially farmland until being redeveloped in 1940 by the MOD for use as a vehicle depot and for storing equipment during the Second World War.

It was used to repair and maintain military weapons and equipment from the 1960s.

Derek recalled: “There was high security when we were there - we had passes and our cars were searched - and this was all ramped up when the Gulf War broke out in the early nineties.

“There were also the problems with Northern Ireland at the time as well so we got used to having security alerts.”