No. 6. a ps January 2019
Welcome. Find below an addendum to mini Reflections no. 6. It contains the 'Company Stories', as told at the Reunion last October, transcribed by the storytellers themselves. Thanks to Moreen, Hazel, Stam, Peter and Alan for telling their stories and 'putting pens to paper'... Thanks also to Les Wright who spoke at the Reunion of his 'Life in the 70th and after...' Les wrote of this in Reflection's editions 11 and 12, both of which are viewable on the website.
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Hazel’s Story 'Teddy – created and redeemed'
When first asked I couldn’t think of any specific memories of 7th London – but gradually I realised I have so many (some prompted by looking at photos) but not really many that would be of interest to others. However I have brought along a friend to help me...
This is Teddy (and no, I’m not Mr Bean!!) He is really quite special. I doggedly persevered in knitting him in order to gain a Badge, of which I was quite proud. I do remember though that several of us did the same, making items/toys to go on a stall at one of the ‘Ye Olde Tooting Village Fayres’ that the church were fond of in the 1950s.
Very reluctantly, (for I had grown to love this bear I created) – I gave them Teddy.
On the afternoon of the Fayre, I saw to my delight, that he hadn’t yet been sold, and used all my pocket money to buy him back! How wonderful, he was mine again! As I considered what to say this afternoon, I remembered a few years ago a very dear friend of mine telling a similar story about a little boy and his boat, and I realised that Teddy was a lovely illustration of God’s amazing love for me. I was created by God, became lost, and then Jesus, by his death, bought me back again. Teddy is twice mine, and I am twice God’s possession!
Teddy has slept on my bed ever since that day (about 62 years ago) – he’s getting a bit ‘fred bear’, like me, but he is still precious.
One other memory involves GB ‘camp’ (we slept on palliasses in a church hall). We were going to Bridport in Dorset, where many years later my parents worshipped for several years, - however the driver misheard instructions and headed for Bridgewater, Somerset – so we eventually arrived safely, but very late! One day that week we walked to the nearest beach (Eype Bay) – singing, to the tune of a well-known GB marching hymn, some scandalously made-up words - something about: ‘then steadily shoulder to shoulder marching to Eype Bay – looking around, down on the ground, for the ‘talent’ that should there lay’...
There are many more memories springing to mind now, but I think I’ll leave it at that!
Hazel Willson (nee’ Bowbeer)
Stam’s Story 'Cops and Blubbers' (or 'How much we'd do to get to camp... ')
Enjoying the BB was a no-brainer, but the actual 70th London was the only company for me. Why do I say that? I joined them from my 1st home in Colliers Wood, a short walk away, but one fateful day mum says ‘we’re moving.’ And that was to Brixton Hill miles and 2 bus rides away! Pete Knights of course was willing to help by finding some kind of alternative... No way!
The proof of the pudding was in the fact that I stayed, lovingly commuting on the 95 and 220 or the 35 and the tube then the 220.
A little while after however, my loyalty was sorely tested when it came to that highlight, that week of untrammelled joy - BB Camp.
Getting to Longley Road was trial at the best of times (see above) and the journey often dragged for an hour or more. So, getting to coach departure for camp on time would be a logistical, anxious teenager nightmare. So it proved the summer after I ‘stayed’ with the 70th.
July beckoned and the week under canvas was the most important week in the universe. Then came the departure day. Up early and kit bag (still have it, heavy with fond memories) packed, mind racing, eyes like gunshot mugs with excitement, I hurried round to the bus stop having given myself the usual travel time. Fool.
I waited and began to fret, panic and worry
Then fighting back tears of fear, went to the phone box nearby. Had no money for a very expensive taxi, we had no car so what could I do in the phone box? I think I tried to find the Davis coach phone number, someone - ANYone who was nearby. Zero luck.
Then a thought struck me and an oddly obscure initiative gathered in my head. I called the police! Yes, I got through and yes, they listened, but hang on there before I finish.
This was the end of the 60’s, I was not and still am not :-) of the then normal British ‘colour’. It was early Saturday and a summer weekend was just rising out of a busy Friday night so what would they want to do for this desperate boy?
Yes, they listened to my tale of needing to get the Sidmouth-bound coach from Tooting and mosey along with friends to that temporary Heaven. And in minutes they arrived by the phone box, smiled I recall and told me to get in. I climbed aboard wide-eyed with wonder and hesitant hope.
We missed the departure!
I know not how they knew and how they reacted to this horrid predicament (for me!), but the next vague memory was of them cruising a tad quickly in the direction of a coach full of expectant members of the 70th London on the way Southwest.
Suddenly out of the blue (twas a grey morning in fact) there ahead was the Davis coach and in seconds we’d overtaken it and had it stop. I was sure my heartbeat was heard back in Brixton!
You know, I am positive I thanked them profusely and am doing so even now, but that moment of stepping onto the coach, Captain Knight’s smile and the surge of sheer joy in me will NEVER be forgotten.
A police car ride got me to that God-given joy; the seven day splendour in Southern England.
Tears well up from time to time. Do you blame me?
Peter's Story 'Three go adventuring on Dartmoor'
In 1959 Alan Rance and Ralph Price needed to complete a 50 mile, three day camping trip to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards. The regulations required it to be a three man party and, as there was no other candidate, I was asked to join them. We had to carry all our own equipment including food, which was mostly in tins - the only lightweight item being dried mashed potato. This meant that our three rucksacks were rather weighty.
Following a train and bus journey we started our trek across the Dartmoor open moorland.
The first day was difficult with rough broken ground and small streams to cross. One stream crossing is well remembered, this stream had higher banks than the others we had crossed and once Alan and Ralph had gone (got?) over I made my way down the bank. The combination of a heavy rucksack and slippery bank culminated in me slipping and ending up sitting in the stream. Bearing in mind that all the food was in my pack, Alan and Ralph’s reaction was to shout out “THE FOOD, THE FOOD”... But all was well, we brushed ourselves down and continued to our overnight pitch.
Over our evening meal, it was decided that the next day Alan and Ralph would push on and achieve some mileage and I would take a shorter route and meet them at a prearranged spot (I was not under test so my distance did not count). The next day we set off and I, via Princetown and Dartmoor Prison, duly arrived at the arranged meeting place. This was a grassy picnic area by the side of a road, with an Ice Cream Van, and there I started to wait.
When it came to the late afternoon I had a sense that something had gone awry and either I was in the wrong place, or they had missed the arranged spot - we never found out which it was. If we had a problem we knew that Brian and Joan Rance were in the YHA hostel in Tavistock (Brian being the D of E organiser for the 70th) So I then got a lift into Tavistock from the friendly ice cream vendor in his German bubble car - me and my bulging rucksack stuffed in the back of this tiny vehicle. How I arrived or found the YHA hostel and Brian and Joan is lost in the distant past, but after some refreshment I was put on a bus and met up with the others, and we pitched that night in the grounds of a somewhat spooky farmhouse.
The rest of the weekend and expedition went well and we completed the requirements of distance and nights camped, duly arriving at Exeter station on Sunday evening. While we sat on the floor of the station entrance deciding which train to catch back to London we were advised to move on by a station official, perhaps we looked a bit too dishevelled... Eventually we caught a late or overnight train and arrived back in South London on the Bank holiday Monday morning.
Following our weekend of exertion and incidents Alan and Ralph achieved the Gold award D of E (the first in the 70th), and I was able to do my belt up another couple of notches!.
(You can see Alan and Ralph after they had received their award at Buckingham Palace in the 60’s section of the photos archive on our website)
Moreen's Story 'Avis Porter and her amazing Figure Marching'
I was in the ‘Girls’ Life Brigade’ when the uniform had a ‘sailor’ type collar across the shoulders, and the Captain was Elsie Dorey. It is such a long time ago that other memories about it are vague.
However, there is one memory of preparing an item for the display each year which remains with me – it was “figure- marching”. Our instructor and encourager was Avis Porter (wife of Bert Porter) who always planned attractive routines which usually included intricate formations pleasing to the eye of the watching audience – as long as every girl had memorised the correct sequences! On one occasion we all held a lit torch and the routine was carried out in the dark.
But music was an important ingredient which kept us marching in the correct rhythm and we had a wonderful pianist who could extemporise with any number of marching tunes – Connie Knights (mother of Peter Knights).
Happy and memorable ccasions. Moreen Sore
Alan’s Story 'A Tall Order'
You will remember that Friday night was Drill Night.
At home, before parade, out would come the Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish for the leather belt, the Brasso for the metal work and the Meltonian for the whitening of the stripes and the button on top of our pill boxes.
On one such Friday Drill Night, Lt. Roly Clark was the inspecting officer and I was a Squad Leader. Roly, about 5ft 3”” tall, began inspecting me at 6ft 3” tall...
All seemed to going well with the close inspection of all my uniform until Roly says to me “bend forward Corporal”.
Totally thrown by the command I duly bent forward. Why the command? - it was so that Roly could see that the button on my pillbox had been properly whitened!
No comment was made and Roly continued down the line and the inspection of the other squad members. I can only assume that I came up to scratch as sometime later he let me marry his beautiful daughter Avis!
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