Fun and Fellowship

The Sikh Contributions to WWI &II

Surinder Dhesi gave a talk about the contribution of Sikh and Indian soldiers during the first and second world wars noting how the contribution and sacrifices made by Sikhs and other non-European nations and communities can often be under-played.

At the start of World War I the Sikhs, who contributed disproportionately to India’s armed forces, were promised they would be granted an independent Sikh Kingdom. They suffered heavy casualties on the Western Front amongst the 130,000 Sikhs who took part.
After the end of World War I, within six months, the British Empire, which needed Sikhs so badly in 1914-18, turned its own machine guns on them in the 1919 JillianWara Bagh Amritsar Massacre.

In WWII a Sikh contingent proved vital backup to the British Forces in France in 1940 and when they were amongst those evacuated at companies were evacuated at Dunkirk. Sikh pilots also contributed to the Battle of Britain and subsequently in bombing raids over Germany.

Sikh regiments played a major part in the operations in Italy, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, East Africa and the Far East including Burma. By the end of the war fourteen Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Sikhs, whom fought on land, sky and sea and south Asian merchant seamen living around the ports of London, Cardiff, Liverpool and South Shields played a significant role maintaining supply lines to Britain.

In addition to meeting her own requirements, India’s new factories produced much of the textiles required by the military.

In 1946 Colonel Landed Saras-Field lamented and argued in agonising terms about the ‘Betrayal of the Sikhs’ during the grotesque and undemocratic British-Indian colonial ‘Transfer of Power’ of 1947. In a direct call to the British government, he protested about how the Sikh political and economic interests had been totally forgotten, carving up the two states of India and Pakistan and not living up to the promise of giving back Sikhs their kingdom in the Northern region of the Indian subcontinent.

History books, the school curriculum and TV movies usually offer but skimpy acknowledgement of the role of non-European soldiers in WW1 and WWII. This can be painful for British Sikhs whose forefathers fought and died on the front-line for the UK. Surinder expressed a hope that this country might move to greater recognition of the contribution of Sikhs and other ethnic minorities in the World Wars especially by acknowledging this more in what is taught in schools. For future generations to grow up to with a more balanced understanding of the contributions of the Sikhs and others might help towards better understanding a for all.

Transition to Sustainable Transport – 28th Aug 2020

two white and red tesla charging station

Our speaker on Friday 28th August was our own Nigel Deakin who informed us of the rapid progress which is being made in the development of electric vehicles. Tesla has emerged as the market leader in this field, receiving many awards and accolades, including being named the safest cars on the road.

One of the disadvantages of electric vehicles up until now, for both cars and lorry’s, has been the limited mileage their batteries have achieve between charges.  However, battery technology is developing at an amazing rate. Many cars can now travel over 300 miles on a single charge and its forecast that within a few years this will increase to over 500 miles. And developments are afoot to drastically reduce the time it takes to recharge during journeys.

Tesla has invested heavily in battery development and manufacturing to the point where they produce more batteries than all other car manufacturers put together. Their mission statement is:

“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport” – and Tesla’s patents are open to all.

With new high tech factories under construction for car assembly and battery manufacture, it’s predicted that prices will fall to more than match the cost of the current fossil fuelled vehicles we drive today.  Nigel’s enthusiasm for the subject took another step forward this week when he  drove a Tesla for the first time – and he’s sold on the technology.   


two white and red tesla charging station
Photo by Chad Russell on

District 1090 Youth Services- Aug 2020

Chas Cairns, the District 1090 Youth Services Leader, spoke to the Friday Club Zoom meeting on 21 Aug 2020. He outlined various Rotary Youth competitions that continued despite current COVID restrictions. He listed the range of competitions and offered email links to the district level organisers which you can look up in the members section or the district website. He reminded organisers that Club winners of these competitions needed to be identified to District before 28 Feb 2021 for their progress to national heats.

Nominations could be entered for national Rotary Young Citizen and Sporting Hero Awards for under 25-year olds, and a STEM oriented Technology Tournament was available for local school groups (although there was no District representative for this yet).  He also confirmed that there would be no face-to-face Rotary Youth competitions held nationally this year, but Young Chef, Young Musician and Youth Speaks competitions would continue at Club and District level.

Non-Face 2 Face Competitions

  • Rotary Young Environmentalist – Theme: Climate change
  • Rotary Young Artist – Theme: Wild Nature
  • Rotary Young Writer – Theme: My Happiest Day
  • Rotary Young Photographer – Wild nature
  • Rotary Young Film Maker – Theme: Challenge

Face 2 Face Competitions

He also set out how many of the competitions would only operate at local and district level during the pandemic.

  • Young Musician – cancelled for 2020/1
  • Young Chef – to district level only
  • Youth Speaks – to district level only
  • Technology Tournament – yet to be finalised.

Young Citizen Awards

This is aimed at groups or individuals who must be under 25.

  • Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award
  • Young Citizen Peacemaker Award

Rotary for Young People

Chas then went on to outline various ways in which Clubs could attract and interest young people in a long-term commitment to Rotary and our ideals through organising local Rotakids, Interact and Rotaract groups.  Explanatory booklets on how these challenges could be achieved was available through him, although there was a postage charge.

Full details and contact information for all of the topics Chas covered can be found on District 1090 webpages.

Communication in the New Normal

On 14th August 2020 John Groves gave a talk entitled communication in the new normal.

It looked at how the general,  inexorable drift in communication towards digital and online sources had been given a massive boost by the Covid-19 pandemic situation. He warned that the communication methods most popular with club members are anything but typical of the population as a whole and that failure to grasp this could have dire implications for club’s future.

Whilst recognising the quality of some of our existing methods of communication questions were raised as to whether we had a coherent and sufficiently broad communication strategy or an adequate  information flow mind-set to assist those delegated to manage the different media.

He then took members on a whistle-stop tour of the website focussing predominantly upon the members area which requires a log-in to access.  Members were encouraged to visit this on a regular basis. Patience was urged if they had to update their password leaving a few minutes between receiving and using the update link and if they needed help to sort a password not to give up but to email him as he could change it.

The members’ area contains recent notices and events although, again, this could be made even more useful if all club members got into the habit of “Think Internet and Social Media”  as well as more traditional forms of communication.  Additionally the area has a plethora of useful information such as: members roles and contact information, committee make-up and minutes, advice on organising activities etc. etc.

He concluded by saying the club needed to  take-on-board the emerging “New Normal” at club, committee and individual member level if we were to survive and thrive.

The session gave rise to extensive discussion of a predominantly positive nature which included discussion of the balance of paper vs digital, the use of social media and the idea that some in-house IT training amongst the members might help.

The speaker was thanked in the nomal manner.

“Talk – When Hybrid Cars were Cool.”

On 7th Aug 2020 Stephen Groves gave a talk about early hybrid cars.

The hybrids he talked about, however, were not the petrol/electric hybrids that we’re all familiar with but luxury cars of the 1960/70s  with a European body and American v8 engine.

After a brief introduction the three vehicles that he subsequently focussed on were the:

  • Facel Vega II
  • ISO Grifo
  • Jensen Interceptor.

All had limited production runs and the expression “If you need to know the price then you probably can’t afford it!” seemed to fit well.   In their day they were aimed very much at the super-rich, and celebrity market.

The performance data for all the vehicles revealed they out-shine the huge majority of vehicles on the road  today some fifty years later – with the exception of fuel consumption and maybe reliability.

The talk included fascinating facts about the rise and fall of these companies. It also included mention of the issues involved in selecting and restoring them.

It finished with one of the stand-out  UK  offerings: the Jensen Interceptor which was specifically included because the World’s largest Jensen dealer / restorer is just down the road in Cropredy. (In post-pandemic times it may be possible to arrange a small group visit for Banbury Rotary members.)

After fielding a few questions he was thanked for a talk that was as entertaining as it was informative.

Welcome to the new Team – July 2020

The ‘Rotary Year’ runs from 1st July to 30th June and so the meeting this week was the handover – albeit a Zoom affair.

Good luck to our new team who have the challenge of steering the club through a period when much of the work we would normally be engaged in is ‘on-hold’ pending improvements in the Covid-19 Pandemic situation.

The club, which is  is always studiously supportive of members facing health or other issues, quickly moved to Zoom meetings early on in the pandemic.
As we enter our 13th week of (the now reduced for most ) lockdown we know many members will have appreciated that extra link beyond their household that Rotary has afforded them though this period.

For more about the Principles of Rotary visit this page.



Speaker Event – The A12 – Jun 2020

Nigel Randall kindly agreed to speak at a Rotary Zoom Meeting last month and chose a subject close to his heart – an aircraft! It was a famous and special one to interest us all!
Most of those attending had little or no knowledge of this plane, which is not surprising as it was developed and manufactured by the Lockheed Corporation, in the USA, in the early 1960s.
The A12 was developed as a follow- on aircraft to replace the U2, (the existing major reconnaissance plane at the time) to overfly the Soviet Union that was being closely monitored in view of the Cold War.
The new plane was designated A-12 because it was the twelfth internal design for the code-named project ‘Archangel’. In 1959 the Lockheed design was chosen by the C.I.A over its competitors because of its higher specifications and projected lower costs. The aircraft was manufactured from 1962/64 and flew from 1963/68.
The plane began flying missions in 1967 and its final flight was in May 1968.
Nigel supported his presentation with several slides highlighting images and performance details of the very impressive plane in use, After development and production, the first A-12 was transferred to the Groom Lake test facility and in April 1962 it was flown unofficially and unannounced by a Lockheed test pilot. Five days later the first official flight took place and subsequently supersonic the A-12 reached speeds of Mach 1.1 at 12,000 feet.
The first loss was seen in 1963 when a test aircraft crashed but the pilot parachuted to safety. The reaction to the crash illustrated the secrecy and importance of the project. The CIA issued an inaccurate report of the name and model of the plane and two farmers who assisted the pilot were advised that the plane was carrying nuclear weapons to discourage any tampering with the wreck. In addition, a law enforcement officer and a passing family were paid $25k dollar each to keep quiet. Three more losses due to technical problems were seen but each time the pilots ejected safely. The first human fatality was experienced in 1967. The pilot escaped the crash but regrettably he could not separate himself from the ejection seat and died on impact.
The introduction of space satellites meant that the original purpose of the plane was no longer relevant with the superpowers monitoring the activity of each other from space. The planes were used however in the Cuba crisis, in relation to North Korea and the Vietnam war. In 1968 three missions were flown over North Korea following the capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo to monitor the subsequent activity of the North Koreans and the potential for a further attack on the U.S.
Even before the A-12 became operational, its intended purpose of reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union became unlikely and unnecessary, as the Soviets improved their radar considerably leaving the A-12 more vulnerable. In any event President Kennedy confirmed publicly that the U.S would stop these flights.
Our thanks to Nigel for making the effort to become the first Friday Rotarian lunchtime speaker at a Zoom meeting. He still has the interesting slides that alongside the Internet offer further interesting facts and performance details regarding the A-12.

Club Speaker – Banbury Cross Players – June 2020


Our speaker last month was Rotarian John Bennett who ran through the history of The Banbury Cross Players first 50 years.

The society was formed on 25th January 1945, before the end of World War II. Their first production on 20th April 1945 was “Hay Fever” and took place in the Great Hall at Bloxham School, there being no other venue available at the time. Because of petrol rationing the audience had to travel by bus, train, bicycle or walk. They decided it was worthwhile carrying on because they played to 400 people over 2 nights.

Over the years their other “theatres” have been Banbury Town Hall, Christchurch Hall, The Church House, College Theatre and their current home, The Mill.

John recalled various successes, failures and heart stopping moments that had happened in their productions up to their 50th celebrations in 1995. He also pointed out that, if it was not for

The BCP committee on their 70th birthday Covid 19, they would have been celebrating their 75th anniversary this month by presenting a festival of one act plays featuring other drama groups from far and wide.

Community Fridge Talk – May 2020

Yasmin Kaduji joined club members at the Friday Lunchtime Zoom Meeting last month to give a short talk about the Banbury Community Fridge. She explained that it is situated at the Mosque on Merton Street in Grimsbury.

It began when members of the Mosque community contacted Tesco to discuss how they could help address the issue of food waste from supermarkets. A partnership with Tesco began and Banbury Community Fridge was born. Since then links have been established with the Food Bank and the CAB. A Hygiene bank was also set up through a link with the Post Office.

Once the Pandemic resulted in lockdown the Community Fridge had to close. As people were no longer able to collect food, the organisers began creating food parcels and delivering these to people in need. At the height of the pandemic they were delivering 400 parcels a week. Once government food parcels were issued, the Fridge volunteers linked with the kitchen staff at Tudor Hall to support local Food Banks.

The work of the Community Fridge, alongside a number of other voluntary groups, to support our local community was recognised by a letter from the Queen and celebrated through reports in local media. To discover more about the Fridge visit their Facebook Page.

Yasmin’s enthusiasm for the cause shone through her talk. What struck me as rather lovely was Yasmin’s Facebook post in response to the recognition by the Queen: “Wow” Wasn’t expecting that!”

Speaker Report by Fred Riches

Breathe Easy Talk- March 2020

On Friday 6th March Jenny Smith and Diane Avery spoke about the charity Breathe Easy.
Jenny explained that her mother in law had problems with her lungs and she joined Banbury
Breathe Easy. Jenny started going with her to the meetings and the Chairman Rev Keith Wakely asked her
to become secretary. Breathe Easy is a support group for people with lung problems and breathing difficulties for all ages.

It is supported by the British Lung Foundation which was started in 1956. People with lung conditions and those who care for them often feel alone. Making friends is important and Breathe Easy provides
a good opportunity to enable this to happen. The membership includes ‘fit’ volunteers who help out as well as dedicated health professionals from the Horton Hospital.

The Group raise smoney for the British Lung Foundation which undertakes research but also provides funds locally for respiratory equipment at the Horton Hospital and for the Oxon Community Respiratory
Nursing Team.