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Mayor of Grantham's 'Rock Ape' walking stick becomes all the rage



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A walking stick made by the Mayor of Grantham featuring a gorilla's head has become all the rage among serving and former members of the RAF.

Coun Dean Ward, a former member of the RAF Regiment who are known as the 'Rock Apes', could not find a walking stick he liked to help with his balance following a stroke he suffered in January last year.

Coun Ward said there was nothing out there on the market that "floated my boat" so he decided to design and make his own.

Some of the walking sticks made by Dean Ward which have become 'fashionable' with the RAF Regiment. (56105759)
Some of the walking sticks made by Dean Ward which have become 'fashionable' with the RAF Regiment. (56105759)

After seeing a resin gorilla's head on eBay that was designed for replacing a gear stick knob in a car, he decided to adapt it to suit a stick.

Coun Ward said: "I bought one and a brass collar to go underneath it, a rubber ferrule boot so it didn’t slip and a suitable stick. I stained and varnished the stick, put it all together and voilà, a stick was born that I liked."

Coun Ward added: "I made the mistake of crowing and showing it off to a 3,200 strong Facebook group call the “Band of Brothers” consisting of former members, serving members and those with close ties to the RAF Regiment.

The gorilla top of one of Dean Ward's walking sticks. (56105757)
The gorilla top of one of Dean Ward's walking sticks. (56105757)

"Now once someone shows these guys anything new with a gorilla or ape on it, these guys go literally ape for it!"

The RAF Regiment have been called the Rock Apes for decades and were formed by royal warrant in Grantham in 1942 at Belton Park.

After posting pictures of the stick on Facebook, Coun Ward was bombarded with messages from people asking him to make them one either because they had been injured and needed one or because it had a gorilla on it and would make a good keepsake.

The Mayor of Grantham, Dean Ward, suddenly found his waking stick was in great demand. (56105761)
The Mayor of Grantham, Dean Ward, suddenly found his waking stick was in great demand. (56105761)

Coun Ward ended up with orders for 80 sticks. He said: "I was charging the lads for the materials, nothing for my time as I was enjoying doing them. For every ten sticks made, there was enough profit for a free stick. I kept two and I’ve given six away to veterans of the Regiment that couldn’t afford one and needed one. I’m sure I’ll start making more soon.

"I have got to say thanks to the lovely lady at Malcolm Pearce carpets for saving her unwanted carpet tubes so I can use them for posting out the sticks and Sam at Welby Street carpets for doing the same."

Coun Ward explained the history behind the Rock Apes nickname given to the RAF Regiment.

Mayor of Grantham Dean Ward. (43958548)
Mayor of Grantham Dean Ward. (43958548)

He said: "The Regiment was out in Aden in the 1950s and during that time two officers got some downtime, some R&R, so they decided to grab a couple of rifles and go out hunting, probably to supplement the rations they were on.

"Out in Aden there were some monkeys about, Barbary apes, commonly known as Rock apes and apparently they made good eating.

"Anyway, the two officers split up for a better hunting chance. One officer noticed some movement in the bushes, took aim and fired, and yep, he shot his officer friend. The officer survived his wound and the officer that fired the shot got court martialled.

"Of course, the story got out to other military branches and they started to call us the Rock Apes as an insult or to wind us up, banter as it’s called now.

"We loved the nickname so we unofficially adopted it and it stuck, so now when other units call us Rock Apes we take it as a term of endearment as long as they have a smile on their faces when they do so, all good fun."



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