|Yachting re-started slowly in 1919. The ravages of the four years
1914-1918 had taken their toll of both men and craft.
Of the forty odd medium tonnage yachts berthed in the creeks,
or hauled up into Messrs. Drake Bros' yard at Woodrolfe, Tollesbury,
a number had changed hands. The beautiful sleek steam yacht
"Winifred" had been sold in 1915 to France as a hospital ship,
but had been later torpedoed. A few of the racing craft had
been sold to Scandinavian countries where presumably finance
was easier, but many of the original British owners had
suffered physical and financial losses. Likewise many of
the original crew members were not to return to the unstable
employment as professional yachtsmen. In some cases a new breed
of yacht owner emerged, the "nouveau rich" sometimes referred to,
and quite wrongly as "war profiteers". Fortunately,
Tollesbury was not unduly affected, as this type of new owner
favoured the larger and more ostentatious craft which could not
berth at Tollesbury.
Of the twenty-three young men volunteers of August 1914,
only about seven resumed their seafaring careers. Seven had
lost their lives, several had suffered severe injuries,
of these George Leavett had lost his right arm at Hill 60,
but was immediately employed in the furrier trade by his
former yacht owner, Mr. Glenholm Bradley, who had been awarded
the D.S.O., and D.S.C., in the Great War. Mr. Bradley was
the owner of the yawl "Pamela" (55 tons) which skippered by
Capt. Wm. Rice had escaped from Kiel on the outbreak of War.
Another volunteer Steve Barbrook, son of the famous
Capt. Stephen Barbrook had sustained
a severe leg injury, and subsequently set up a boot and shoe repairing
business. Fred Rice son of Capt. Wm Rice, although suffering from the
privations he had endured, went into the bakery business with his
father, but became seriously ill and died. Of the remainder,
Percy Clark, Percy Clarke, Bob Ottley (although he had been wounded
no less than five times), Jack Frost, Jack Lewis Walter Lewis,
all resumed their yachting careers with some success in later years,
and Arthur Brand became a tug skipper at Grimsby.
Claude Denny, Louis Lewis, John Frost, Sidney Rose, Frank Layzell
and Joseph Ingate, had all made the supreme sacrifice and are
remembered. Of that gallant band of young men, there is so far
as is known only one survivor to-day, and he is as well as can be
expected for his great age and what he endured.
It is not generally known, except by the families concerned,
that apart from those who were members of the Reserves or
Territorials, there were a number of older men, who had been mates
on some of the larger yachts, and some members of the first
Tollesbury Scouts, all of whom had been Auxiliary Coastguards
in support of the local contingent. They all joined the newly
formed Royal Naval Air Service, and became coxswains and
skippers in charge of various craft attendant on seaplanes, etc.
Some qualified for Board of Trade Certificates of Competency
as Masters (Home Trade). A. group photograph of some of these
men was taken at Eastchurch, Sheppey, and easily
recognised are - Edward Carrington Heard, Henry Frost,
George Howe Brand, William Drake Frost, Harry Leavett, Arthur Mills,
Edward South, William Wilkinson, Charles Edward Wash, and of the
young men, Frederick Holder, Frederick Collins, James Osborne
and "Latty" Carter.
Edward C. Heard later became mate of "Shamrock IV", master of
"Noresca", "Shamrock V", "Astra" and "Endeavour I".
George H. Brand for many years was in charge of Mr J. Blott's
William Drake Frost was for some thirty odd years master of
Sir Richard Cooper's various steam and motor yachts.
Coming home from school during the lunch hour one day in the
Spring of 1919, groups of guernseyed men, displaying
embroidered names of famous yachts on their chests, were
seen to "be standing on The Square. Word had gone round
that Capt. Edward Sycamore, accompanied by some other
notable Colneside skippers, were in the village to
complete crews for their yachts. Capt. Sycamore,
although claimed as a son of Colneside, had at an early
age been apprenticed to the Myall family and had
been cared for by Mrs. Ann Myall, the only woman
known to have crewed in the fishing smack "SWH" with
her sons Sidney, William and Harry Myall.
The "SWH" in 1963 was being used as a yacht,
renamed "Duenna" and rigged as a topsail schooner.
The last heard of her was that she had been bought by
the publisher, Heinemann and was in the Baltic.
In 1919 yacht skippers favoured serge tunic s.b.
jackets, hook-eyed up to the throat, and trimmed
with black mohair braid. Modeled on the pattern
adopted for officers of the U.S. Navy, crew
members jestingly referred to them as "monkey
tamer jackets". The jackets were smart and neat,
and only went out of service just before the last war.
At this time it was rumoured that Capt. Sycamore, instead of resuming
command of a "Shamrock", was taking over the American built
schooner "Hamburg II" 338 tons, requisitioned under war reparations,
reverting to her former name of "Westward", and later to be owned by
the City financier, Clarence B. Hatry. Capt. Sycamore evidently had
fond memories of Tollesbury and its villagers.
His daughter married George William Frost member of a well
known and respected Tollesbury family, and their son,
Ronald Sycamore Frost, whilst serving as an officer in the R.N.R.,
lost his life in H.M. Submarine P.33 in 1941.
Messrs. Drake Bros., had their hands full at Woodrolfe, re-caulking
yachts and preparing them for launching, full time working for
their twenty odd craftsmen and eight apprentices.
The firm established by James Drake at Old Hall in 1818,
later transferring to Woodrolfe, where only the ancient
wooden "Granary" stood on The Hard, where it does to-day,
did not suffer odd one major accident during their hundred
odd years existence. In 1919 yachts
at Woodrolfe either in the yard or berthed in the creeks included
amongst others, the following :- "Bunyip", "Galisaya", "Carib",
"Constance", "Coronella", "Diadem", "Gaviata", "Gladoris",
"Hispania" (H.M. The King of Spain), "Joyce",
"Lady Bird", "Lady Hilda", "Ma-Oona",
"Meg Merrilees", "Otter", "Palmosa", "Patrona", "Rover",
"Sylvia" 63 tons (Earl of Craven), "Sylvia" 30 tons, "Yelsa", "Xenia"
and ''Zanzara". Many of the yachts changed ownership,
"Calisaya" became owned by Lord Lloyd of Fareham,
"Constance" was always a pretty picture both in the yard
or afloat, skippered by Capt. Dick Page her copper sheathing
and bronze propellor were always burnished bright.
"Lady Bird" was for many years owned by the Hon. H. Bowen.
"Sylvia" 63 ton yawl was skippered by Capt. Ernest Ward
for the Earl of Craven who tragically lost his life early
in the twenties, "Sylvia" 30 tons was reputed to be the last
yacht to have escaped from Antwerp in 1914, and
her stern and hatch coamings still bore the marks where she was
raked by machine gun bullets.
This vessel was purchased by Sir Richard Ashmole Cooper Bt and
was skippered by Capt. Wm. Drake Frost, the first of several
vessels owned by Sir Richard.
Gradually the yachts fitted out and left Woodrolfe for cruising,
all with the exception of "Valkyr", a handsome small German
composite built cutter, with "Benz" auxiliary and "Duerr"
feathering propeller, which was moved to the head of Drakes' yard.
She was never re-claimed. Was she owned by the 7ft tall
Prussian officer, who struck his head a resounding crack on
the low beam of "The Hope's" diner early in 1914, remarking
at the time that he was the tallest man to have dined
there in the old pub? In later years I enquired of Will
and Alf Drake if this was so, but they told me that in
spite of all efforts they had been unable to trace the owner
of "Valkyr". Over the years, "Valkyr" deteriorated,
and eventually disintegrated.
In 1920 there was still little racing, the year was high-lighted
by the America Cup race, the contender being "Shamrock IV"
with Capt. Turner, skipper and Edward Carrington Heard as mate.
"Shamrock IV" won two out of the five
races against the defender "Resolute".
There were several Tollesbury men in the crew.
Fitting out in the Spring of each year saw a hive of activity
at Woodrolfe. Much scraping, rubbing down and varnishing of
spars and dinghies. Gear, sails, etc., were constantly being
brought out of the Yacht Stores (they were never Sail Lofts)
and transported to the various yachts. Spars were floated down
to Rickus for the larger yachts there. As work progressed,
the owners would occasionally visit the yachts. At times
there were more members of the nobility and baronetage to be
found on one square yard of The Hard than in the whole
square mile of Mayfair. It was a stirring sight to see the
yacht skippers standing on the running boards of the "Bentleys"
and "Hispano Suizas" roaring up from Woodrolfe dropping off
at their homes or the Square where the owners dined at
The Kings Head and sampled the excellent cooking of Mrs. Cowles
and her daughter Mrs. Hone.
In 1921 Capt. Charles Leavett was appointed sailing master
of H.M. King George V's racing yacht "Britannia" and had a
most successful racing season. There were a number of
other Tollesbury men in the crew that year and a group
photograph taken at that time is exhibited in "The Hope".
Capt. Sydney Leavett, son of Charles, who was a certificated
master mariner, and had served under his father in
"Britannia" after a successful career in the Port Line,
in 1922 took command of the double-topsail schooner
"Sunbeam" 532 tons, owned by Sir Walter Runciman
(afterwards Lord Runciman).
Practically all the crew were from Tollesbury,
namely :- Arthur Leavett, chief officer; Robert Appleton;
Joe Dawson; William Howe (who was awarded the O.B.E. for
rescue work in the Great War); Dick Lewis; Herbert Frost;
Chris Elmer; Sonny Stokes; Charles Wash; Walter Mussett;
Chris Brand (W. Mersea); and Clarence Rice, ship's carpenter.
There were a number of other men, about seven in all from
Scotland and other parts. It is interesting to note that
"Sunbeam" when first owned by Early Brassey, made a round
the world voyage, and on that occasion one of her officers
was Capt. Charles Lee, father of Mrs. Mabel Thorington, of
this village. In 1929 "Sunbeam" was replaced after over 50
years service by "Sunbeam II" another square topsail three
masted schooner. Other Tollesbury men who served in the
"Sunbeams" at one time or another, were Fred Carter, Sydney Heard,
Sam Crees, Ted Crees and Alfred Ward. Capt. Sydney Leavett
was in command of "Sunbeam II" until the end of 1936,
when he took over the beautiful three masted staysail schooner
"Creole" 697 tons, owned by Sir Connop Guthrie, and
was in command until outbreak of hostilities in 1939, when
she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for accommodation duties.
In the twenties several of the yacht skippers residing on
Colneside and Tollesbury removed to Southampton to be near
the large draught yachts which could not berth easily in
these parts, as very often yacht skippers were employed all
the year round on the larger craft as were the mates in
many cases. One of the first Tollesbury skippers to move
to Southampton was Capt. Fred Stokes who had the "Sonya"
42 tons, subsequently the "Mariquita" 100 tons, and
lastly the"Xarifa" or "Radiant" 290 tons owned by Lord Iliffe.
About 1923 the "Mariquita" was skippered by Capt. Walter
Bibby who had served with other Tollesbury men in the R.N.A.S.,
and in "Shamrock IV" in 1914 and again in 1920.
In 1923 Capt. Isaac Rice, Senior, was master of the steam yacht
"Bantam" owned by Sir Reginald Tyrrell, M.P., who often had
the yacht moored in the
River Thames at Westminster, so that he was in easy access
to the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, Capt. Rice
suffered severe injuries when he gallantly went to the rescue
of a crew member who had fallen between the yacht's side and
the harbour wall at Ramsgate that year. Unhappily he was
to lose his life when swept from the bridge of the steam yacht
"Medea" 137 tons in a gale off Minorca on 10th March 1926, a
full account of which was given in the Parish Magazine of April 1926.
Also in the year 1923 Capt. William Drake Frost took command of the
S.Y. "Mallard" for Sir Richard Cooper, and later on the
S.Y. "Cala Mara" 313 tons, one of the largest yachts to have berthed
at Woodrolfe. In 1929 Sir Richard had the motor yacht "Alice"
529 tons built by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd.
at Wallsend, and the crew mainly from Tollesbury went up for
the launching ceremony and brought her round to Tollesbury Pier
arriving on Cnristmas Eve 1929 and afterwards went out to the Mediterranean.
On her way out to the Mediterranean in January 1930, the
"Alice" called in at Gibraltar to take on stores, etc.
As is usual whenever any craft reaches a distant port
one of the first priorities is to collect mail and despatch
letters home. On this occasion in this most British of
towns in the Commonwealth, a number of Tollesbury men
converging on the Post Office met the then Vicar's niece,
whose husband was an officer in the Royal Navy, emerging
from the Post Office. Similar meetings with Colneside
and Tollesbury men took place in several Mediteranean
ports that year, as a number of the big "J" class yachts
were taking part in races off Cannes and Monte Carlo.
The notable exceptions being H.M.Y. "Britannia", and
"Shamrock V" which skippered by Capt. E.G. Heard was the
contender for the America Cup later that year. "Alice"
berthed in Cannes harbour between "Westward" and
"Aldebaran (ex-Meteor III)" two 400 ton schooners.
Other yachts present were "Cambria", "Candida", "Astra",
"White Heather" and "Lamorna". "Alice" was the last
word in luxury for yacht owner and crew, and was visited
by a number of Colneside yachtsmen. On being shown the
bathroom and shower installed for the crew of "Alice"
one renowned skipper was heard to say "What !
Bathrooms for sailors." The old order died hard.
Another large schooner very active on the South coast in
1930 was the "Margherita" 380 tons, owned by Sir William
Reardon Smith, and skippered by Capt. Jack Howe.
The crew mainly comprised young ship's apprentices from
Sir William's ships. It was the beginning of the world
depression, many ships were being laid up around the coasts.
It also affected yachting, many crew members had to seek
other employment. Bill Polley who for many
many years had been a farm bailiff, became an engineer, in
the large yacht "Sapphire" and served in the ships of the
New Zealand Shipping Co. during the war.
M.Y. "Alice" was in fact the largest yacht ever to have
entered and berthed at Woodrolfe. Messrs. Drake Bros.,
prior to her arrival in the Fleets had marked the deepest
channel with stakes or "withies". In 1939 "Alice" was
requisitioned by the Admiralty and was on R.N. Patrol
Service in Scotland. Other yachts owned by Sir Richard
were the "Little Alice" and "Aldic".
It is quite impossible to list all the Tollesbury men
who were masters of yachts in the 20's and 30's, as so
often the yachts were not berthed at Tollesbury.
For many years Capt. Harry Pettican took a local crew
out to the U.S.A. to man a large yacht there.
Capt. Steve Barbrook who had had such a successful career
in racing yachts took over the S.Y. "Zaza" for Mr.
Wilfred Leuchars owner of the 12 metre "Moyana".
Capt. Charles Rice who for many years skippered "Xenia"
had the German built schooner "Viva" owned by Mr. Anthony
Drexel. Other yacht masters were Capts Edward Collins
"Zanzara", "White Fox", "Polaris", "Maruna" and "Alison".
Herbert Frost "Cariad" "St. Austell"; George Rice "Velsa";
Alfred Barbrook "Hispania", "Moyana"; Arthur Barbrook
"June", Isaac Rice Junr "Dwyn Wen", "Susanna", "Cicely",
"Anglia"; Nat Gurton "Chione","Sumurun"; Steve Gurton
"Lady Hilda"; Albert Potter "Adventuress"; Charles Pettican
"Ma-OOna", "Noreen", "White Lady"; Fred Ward
"Grey Mist", Arthur Abbott, William Wilkinson, and many others.
"Maruna" after the last War was bought by Cdr. Woollard, R.N. ,
renamed "English Rose" and crewed entirely by young women.
On the 23rd June 1936, the "June" 56 tons, skippered by
Capt. Arthur Barbrook, whilst sailing in the Solent was
holed by a practice torpedo. It was just before the
Munich crisis, and a foreboding of the
shape of things to come.
Although the America Cup challengers did not berth in these parts Colneside
and Tollesbury men from the first challenge in 1870 were members of the crews.
Samuel Clarke who passed away in 1940 at the great age of 91 years had
served in the first challenger "Cambria" of 1870 and on another occasion.
As is generally known Capt. Edward Carrington Heard was
master of the "Shamrock V"
in the Cup races of 1930, and again in 1934 in Sir T.O.M. Sopwith's newly
built "Endeavour". Unfortunately due to a bonus dispute the
greater part of the professional crew left the vessel and their
places had to be taken and filled by volunteer yachtsmen, who had
not the experience of the professionals.
It is however fair and right to say that two Tollesbury
men did crew on that occasion, namely Edward "Ted" Heard
son of the master, and Ralph Sailor Frost.
It is generally conceded that had "Endeavour" been favoured
by a totally professional crew that the results of the races
would have been in the favour of "Endeavour".
In the challenge of 1937 Capt. Heard who at that time was
master of "Astra" was again appointed to "Endeavour"
which acted as a pace-maker for the new challenger
"Endeavour II" and proved her superiority.
The epic voyage of "Endeavour I" from the U.S.A. at the
conclusion of the races in 1937 is generally known and
remembered in this village.
By 1939 most of the yachts were hurriedly laid up. The largest
steam and motor yachts were requisitioned by the Admiralty
and their crews were enrolled in the R.N. Patrol Service.
Many of the men who were R.N. Reservists were drafted for
service in H.M. Ships and auxiliary cruisers.
The heroic exploits of the "Rawalpindi", yacht "Campeador",
and "Jervis Bay" pay tribute to some
Tollesbury men who lost their lives in those epic engagements.
By the end of World War II yachting was never to be the same.
The days of yachts with large professional crews were finished.
However it is gratifying to note that the enthusiasm for
yachting has not diminished as can be gauged "by the success of
the Annual Boat Shows throughout the country, and the production
of fibre glass boats for the people of moderate means.