East Devon Branch report: Mar to Aug 2021

Although we were only able to give Zoom presentations for three lectures from our winter programme, they were all well received by a wide audience. Two of them: Robin Wootton’s “Charles Kingsley, his Writings and Times,” and “Dunkeswell Airfield and its role in World War II,” which was given by Brian Lane-Smith, are available for DA members to enjoy – see this page (codes BED01 and BED02). An audio file of the Q&A Session following Brian Lane-Smith’s lecture also includes a short informal talk about Joseph Kennedy Junior, who flew in thirty three missions from Dunkeswell as a US naval pilot. Plans are in place for the Branch to visit Dunkeswell Airfield and its Heritage Centre in 2022.

The deaths of Bill Gilliam in March and Rev Brian Matthews in May were particularly sad for the Branch. Bill had been a DA member since 1985 and served on the committee from 1988 to 2009. He will be particularly remembered for his well organised and very interesting summer visits. Bill was one of the last of the ‘Old Brigade’, and, with his late wife Jackie, was an active member of the East Devon Branch well into his nineties. Although Brian was a relatively recent member of the DA he enjoyed and helped, in his quiet way, at East Devon Branch meetings and was always happy to say grace at our Branch Lunch!

Our committee members were pleased to meet face to face in June to plan our next events and lectures. Ever hopeful that The Manor Pavilion Sidmouth will be open again by the autumn it was decided to invite back the speakers who did not Zoom during the lockdown and to complete our 2021–22 programme with new lecturers. We plan to offer a mixture of speakers, some whom are new to us, such as best-selling local writer Jane Corry, and old friends like Derek Gore.

Whilst regretting the demise of the Axe Valley Branch we were thrilled to hear that the thirty six ex-Axe Valley members were joining the East Devon Branch. We extend a warm welcome to them all and look forward to meeting them and to sharing ideas for future events.

For our first lecture on 8 October 2021, we will again be hosting an event as part of the Sidmouth Science Festival and will be going “back to the soil”. The speaker, Dr Kate Schofield, a biogeochemist at the University of Plymouth, will introduce us to the extraordinary, vast and intricate world of soils whilst highlighting the issues facing soil health. This impacts on all our lives so it will be interesting to learn more about this fascinating subject.

Hazel Harland