The Old Mill Restaurant
http://www.oldmillrestaurant.co.uk/index.html in Botley was honoured to be chosen by Project 71 and 15 WWII veterans as the venue to hold their annual reunion on St Patricks Day. The veterans who saw action in Dunkirk, Arnhem, Bastogne, Normandy Germany and Japan enjoyed a very special Irish themed lunch. Also present was Derek (a Spitfire pilot) and Molly (a Naval Officer) who was part of a very “special” team from Bletchley Park who was also sent to Washington as part of her wartime service.
We have all seen films such as Enigma, A Bridge to Far, Saving Private Ryan, Battle of Britain and the TV series - Band of Brothers, but the people in this group who came to The Old Mill all experienced and lived through the challenging real life events from WWII that these films are based on.
During the lunch the menu included a very special Irish stew, followed by a Bailey’s cheesecake and of course some 12 year old Irish Whisky (some in coffee’s but a fair few not..) and there was of course a request for rum from the naval contingent…
After lunch there was some music provided by a duo who played the violin and guitar, at which point a few of the veterans showed us a few moves that would put many youngsters to shame.
The veterans where then taken round the restaurant set in the Old Mill building by James (one of the owners who is also a P71 volunteer) where he pointed out the historical features such as the waterfall that used to power the mill wheel, the magnificent British Ruston engine and the mill stone housings that are still predominant features in the dining rooms.
One of the group regaled us with a story of how in WWII, just before the invasion on D-Day there was a line of tanks parked on Mill Hill in Botley all the way up toward Shedfield and two of the tank crews at the time painted the numbers 91 & 92 on the wall as you head out of Botley. Apparently the numbers are still there, albeit very faint. Two of the veterans did make mention of a possible night mission to touch them up, but did say they might wait until the weather was a bit warmer.
At one point in the afternoon there was a Soldier, a Sailor and a Spitfire pilot sitting together sharing their stories with the Old Mill team and the young waitresses were enthralled. All in all we were honoured, privileged and proud to have been able to share an afternoon with this wonderful group in our beautiful local restaurant.
Project 71 is a not for profit group that is run by volunteers and exists to provide support for our local veterans who come from Hampshire. They do not have huge funds or celebrity support but undertake lots of fundraising activity to take the veterans on trips to Belgium, Holland and Normandy each year to let them pay their respects to fallen comrades as well as organising events much closer to home, visiting and transporting anyone who needs assistance and providing equipment to aid the vets day to day. If you would like to donate a small amount to support this group, or if you have a company and would like to sponsor or help in some way then please contact James at The Old Mill Restaurant in Botley (01489 795290) or see more information at www.project71.co.uk
More importantly if you know of any WWII veterans who you think would like to meet up with some of the veterans looked after by P71 then also feel free to introduce them to the group.
All of the veterans said how much they enjoyed their time at The Old Mill and have already booked up to come back again later in 2018 for their next reunion.
Project 71 is a group run by volunteers to provide support to local veterans