It really was something to behold. The skies were clear, the weather quintessentially un-British, and the setting picturesque. Royal St George’s was at its unapologetic best, and as the clock struck 17:59 on Sunday, a truly memorable evening began in earnest.
A Hurricane jet flew over, as low as 100 feet to the ground, leaving the guests and players at the 2015 Simpson Cup Opening Ceremony looking on open mouthed in amazement. As the Hurricane circled with a tremendous display of audacious manoeuvres, the Coldstream Guards’ Marching Band received their cue. The next 15 minutes were a treat for the senses, as they delivered both music and movement to the highest standard.
The honorary captains for Team GB and Team USA – Mike Tindall and General Brigadier Dieter Bareihs respectively – introduced the players, and then the bold and assured voice of master of ceremonies Dusty Miller announced: “I officially declare the 2015 Simpson Cup… open. The game is on!” And my, what a way to get things going this was. The iconic image of such a rare aircraft in the immediate background of the Band is something the 250 people who witnessed it won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
And so it was to the Opening Dinner, where distinguished guests, including 95-year old ex-Squadron Leader Simme Simpson (On Course Foundation founder John Simpson’s father), Bernard Gallacher, Neil Coles and US Military General David McKiernan, enjoyed an evening to remember.
After a welcome address, the stage was graced by something truly special, as a four-strong contingent of Gurkhas performed one of their legendary Knife Dances. It was three minutes in length, but all in sundry were left wanting more. It wasn’t to be, but on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, three of Royal St George’s most renowned late servicemen were honoured with remarkable tales of their time in combat.
Simme Simpson, too, was honoured with a special award, as was Squadron Leader Ian Fortune, who shared his sensational story of surviving a bullet wound to the head while flying his plane, and subsequently rescuing a group of injured American troops despite having shrapnel in his cranium.
Such bravery and spirit typifies what the Simpson Cup is all about, and with the feel-good factor now at fever pitch, an auction followed. Mediocre bottles of wine, or an arbitrary holiday to a second-rate destination? My goodness me, not a bit of it. These prizes were worth their weight in gold, and then some. Try these for size:
- 2 passes to the pit lane at the 2016 Silverstone F1 Grand Prix
- Tickets to the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham
- 2 rare Vicuna scarves
- A day trip on a Gama Aviation Lear Jet 45 from Farnborough to Glasgow to play at Royal Troon or Turnberry – and back in the same day
- Tickets to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards
- A free trip to play golf at Oak Hill CC next year – home of the 2016 Simpson Cup
Unsurprisingly, a tremendous amount of money was raised, as guests locked horns in a bidding frenzy, determined to get their hands on an item from this outstanding array of lots.
The delicious selection of desserts rounded off a delightful three-course meal, and indeed a terrific Opening Evening. It was a stylish and impressive occasion; but, most importantly, it was one enjoyed by all who had the privilege of attending it.
They say an Opening Ceremony sets the tone for any sporting event. Well, it’s over to the players now, who have a heck of an act to follow. The Simpson Cup 2015 is very much under way, and for players and spectators, it promises to be three days to savour.