/ 1920s onwards - more Victory Days. Winifred Hone ...

ID: WW01_081 / Winifred Hone
Title1920s onwards - more Victory Days. Winifred Hone memoirs
AbstractBill and Cecil Barlow, now demobbed from the RAF, were the sons of the late Mr Lazarus Barlow who had owned the 50 ton schooner, the ROSENEATH, which used to anchor in the Quarters when they were in residence in their Mersea Home 'The Grove' facing the sea. Later, when The Grove was sold, Bill made his headquarters at the Royal Thames Yacht Club Knightsbridge, and the Victory for weekends. These brothers were very devoted but very different in looks. Cecil, the youngest, was very dark and tall, but Bill very fair and big with a generosity to match it. He had a great dane 'Tiger' always at his heels. I deluded myself into thinking this animal was fond of me also, but I soon discovered that it was the saucepan of giblets I had in my hand when he came into the kitchen. Our dog Toby was a lovable well behaved mongrel that Tiger treated with complete disdain.

Bill asked me if I would look after Tiger while he went on a winter sports holiday in Switzerland. He told me I had only to lift my arm to correct him and Tiger would be docile as a kitten. Bill departed for his holiday and the aristocratic Tiger lowered his dignity by becoming friendly with Toby. I didn't realise what I had taken on in looking after somebody else's dog, it was a cold winter and my arm raising didn't have the slightest effect on him when trying to get him away from the fire in the bar. The few customers tha we had that winter, he used to frighten out of their wits by his menacing behaviour. Toby, flattered by this friendship offered by Tiger became very disobedient and they used to disappear, only returning when they were hungry or tired. A visit from the local policeman informed me that Mr Pearl Cross, a local farmer, would shoot them on sight if the pursuit of sheep worrying was not stopped. Bill returned from his holiday a few days later so the threat was never carried out. Tiger returned to his well behaved upbringing, completely ignoring Toby who tried hard to be friendly and was made to understand that even among dogs there was the upper ten and the lower five.

Bill always seemed to be running in top gear, never did I know anybody in such a hurry to get nowhere, he always had too much money for his own creative good. He liked fast cars, fast living, but strangly enough not fast girls. He seemed to surround himself one at a time with some lovely creature and used to get deeply interested, and so did they. He had considerable charm when he liked to turn it on. Being a batchelor, he was quite a catch, but the something he was looking for evaded him so he consoled himself by consuming large quantities of scotch, pink gins and Champagne, and inviting the world and his wife to join him. During our first decade at the Victory he used to be the instigator of the most fantastic parties, there was alway gaiety when Bill was about. Although we weren't there to make headlines, we often did.

Bill required more than the air to breathe and there were always ideas afoot to stimulate this restlessness. His father Mr Lazarus Barlow used to give the Island a treat with a display of fireworks from the deck of the ROSENEATH on his birthday. Bill thought he could improve upon this perpetration to his Father's memory with a bonfire in the Victory field. However this did not come to pass as many people living in the vicinity thought it too dangerous.

Another member of the Barlow set was Captain Chaworth-Musters and his lovely wife Popsie living at the Shameen, a lovely house with a fabulous garden at the end of Seaview Avenue overlooking the sea. You had to travel over an unmade road to get to it. This is now the Two Tides Hotel with most of the garden and other buildings sold off separately. Captain Chaworth-Musters came to recuperate after a severe head wound he had received in the war, but Mersea seemed to suit him and he regained his health and got bored with being inactive so he bought The Shell works at Peldon. In the past this had manufactured local shell into grit for chickens. Knowing of the difficulty of the bonfire, he said we could have an old lighter he had up at the Shell Works. This was duly towed to a mooring opposite the Victory and filled with old tyres, diesel oil and anything that would burn. It promised to be more exciting thatn the bonfire in the field. But when the day came for the celebration, a howling westerly gale was accompanied by torrential rain. However, it was decided to carry on and after a deal of persuading with the aid of paraffin, the fire started, but not before the bellowing black smoke blew directly on the crowds assembled as well as on the newly painted Victory, covering them with great black smuts.

Earlier in the evening I was passing a bedroom that had no modern wash basin and where two guests were changing for dinner, as they called out asking what they could do with the water in the basin. I replied, metaphorically speaking, throw it out of the window. Taking me seriously, they did and it landed on Chief Officer Berry and his wife as they were entering the front door. They were most indignant, as indeed they should have been, but Alic Webb our general help came to the rescue, saying he had been cleaning a stopped up drain pipe half way down the front of the building and that had caused the cascade. Chief Officer Berry listened to this explanation with somewhat hostile disposition. However a couple of towels and a drink and all was well.

When the fireworks started it was hardly as the words of the song so popular in those days, Tra la la. They went backwards instead of towards the marshes, breaking the tiles and windows as well as amongst the spectators. One of the guests was a naval officer and he said he could produce something more spectacular. Going down to his boat on the hard, he returned with a naval distress rocket and lit it from the ground instead of the proper container. This really was the end, the explosion was more like Big Bertha going off, completely destroying any tiles or windows left in the Victory. Captain Chaworth-Musters seemed to have completely disappeared. We found him in the summer house, unconscious and severely hurt. He was removed to bed and it was several days before he could be moved. Colonel Stockwell, the Chief Constable and his family were great friends of the Chaworth-Musters and they took charge of the invalid.
(After WW2, Lieut General Sir Hugh Stockwell became British field commander on the spot during the Suez crisis in the middle east.)

CWA Scott, East Mersea
Charles Scott landed in a pool of water at East Mersea Golf Club - August 1932

Charles Scott, then living on the Island, was serving a temporary commission in the RAF. He flew over the Island to drop a weighted note to say he couldn't make it, but the note got caught in the propeller and he crashed at East Mersea, fortunately not hurting himself, but damaging the prospect of a permanent commission in the RAF. With RAF personnel all over the place, Charles had to make himself scarce as it looked as if he had made this spectacular arrival on purpose, with lots of his friends greeting him 'good old Charles, glad you could make it', etc etc. Charles in later years would have received promotion for his experiments instead of the boot.

When the firework display finally finished we were short of water to clean the casualties up. Bill Barlow was all blood and black grime, Major Orton, Norfolk Regiment, fainted as he couldn't stand the sight of blood. (Major Orton later left the Norfolk Regiment to direct films with Anthony Asquith, son of the Prime Minister.)
There was a sharp rebuke from the Police to my husband and myself about any such escapades in the future, and the expense of renewing tiles, windows and paint - I certainly found that day an endurance test in an unpleasant situation. Fireworks was a word not to be used after that.

AuthorWinifred Hone
Publishedc1969
SourceMersea Museum / Wendy Brady
IDWW01_081