The 45 foot yawl WINDFLOWER was designed by E.P. Hart and built in Emsworth in 1928. She was owned for eight years by Colonel Buckle, a West Mersea resident and a member of West Mersea Yacht Club. Sold to Sir Richard Wells in 1936, she remained in the Wells family until 1956. Sir Richard was Member of Parliament for Bedford.
While owned by the Wells family, the skipper was Frank Elgar Mussett.
But Mike Wells mentions that many WINDFLOWER pictures have no crew evident. The Wells - 9 children, plus friends - were competent sailors, so I expect unless Sir Richard and Dolly were coming and would need some help, Skipper was able to leave them to it and carry on with his famous oysters.
Other photographs show not just Frank Elgar Mussett, but another crewman, yet to be identified. 'Cromer' Russell crewed on WINDFLOWER with Skipper Mussett, and it is likely that Frank Elgar's son Elgar also crewed on her.
WINDFLOWER had a mud berth at West Mersea, east of the Victory - on the outside of the ARK ROYAL and the VERA houseboats. She had her own store at Wyatts and was well looked after. John Milgate can remember caulking her decks after the War, and at that time was offered a job crewing on her at 30 shillings a day - but he was already busy crewing the KISMET.
During WW2, she was laid up in her mud berth at West Mersea, looked after by Skipper Mussett. She was offered for use at Dunkirk, but was not fast enough. On several occasions bombs fell around her shattering other craft, but WINDFLOWER escaped with nothing worse than a torn cover and being bespattered with mud; after he six year's rest she emerged as sound as ever. The Wells family were relieved to hear in 1945 that Skipper was prepared to carry on, with the proviso that he would not be going foreign.
Dorothy Wells' General News Bulletin (family newsletter) 11 July 1949 gives us a view of life with WINDFLOWER in the years after WW2.
Skipper Mussett catches eels
".... I was jolly thankful to get Daddy away to WINDFLOWER this weekend. We set forth on Friday, leaving Bedford at 12... We unpacked, had tea on board, and then Skipper said would we like to try for eels? So off we set in the dinghy, and looked round all the "withies" or beacons, the small dead trees stuck in the mud to mark the channels.
The eels seem to like to rest there and curl their tails round the little trees - that is at dead low tide. We crept cautiously up to each one, so as to avoid noise or splashing, and sometimes Skipper said "There's one" but we could never see anything.
If there was one, he got his large hand-net neatly down and scooped it up; it looked so easy, but I'm sure if you or I tried to do it, we shouldn't catch a thing. He got about 10 altogether, none of them very large, and skinned them, and Dodo nobly cooked them for our supper, and Skipper had the rest. Very delicious they were too. We had never seen eels caught like that before, it was most interesting.
We went a little way up Mussett's Creek, and there was a man busy on the oyster-beds, and to my great excitement, he was walking in Splatchers! (See "Secret Water" by Arthur Ransome.) We had never seen anyone wearing the things before, either; but Skipper says they have to have them so as not to crush the infant eels, and that "in old days" as he put it they used to race in Splatchers! It must have been fun.
On Saturday we sailed early, at about 9.30, and went up the Blackwater as far as Heybridge, where we anchored and had a comfortable lunch below. Then we sailed back....."
In the following week's letter, 19 July 1949, Arthur Ransome has spent the day sailing with them - he's down in Mersea seeing to his boat PETER DUCK which has been laid up there, and entertains them all with his stories, though apparently very shy of talking about his books.
WINDFLOWER was eventually sold to American solo yachtsman Peter Tangvald, who arrived in Long Beach, California in December 1958 and then sold her. It appears possible that a derelict photographed on blocks at Dun Laoghaire, Ireland around 2000 is WINDFLOWER so she may not be quite gone yet.
Frank Elgar Mussett was born 1885. He was a fisherman and oysterman but served in the Mercantile Marine Reserve in World War 1. He was Skipper of WINDFLOWER 1936 - 1956. Frank Elgar married Nellie Heard - they had a daughter Joan and a son Elgar Frank.
Frank Elgar Mussett died in 1985 at the age of 99.
Elgar Frank was born 1920 and became a joiner with Clifford White & Company on Mersea. He was in Singapore when it fell in 1942. He escaped to Sumatra and the party reached Padang hoping to be rescued by a British destroyer, but things did not work out. They were captured by the Japanese and remained in captivity until end of the War. After the War, he was a carpenter and engineer with the Clarke & Carter boatyard on Mersea.
The Burma Road, the area opposite The Victory that has developed over the years, was named by Elgar Frank Mussett, when he was working on it one hot summer - a reminder of his time in Burma during WW2.
In 1982 'young' Elgar was interviewed by Dennis Chatters for Lions Talking Magazine. Elgar talks mainly about his time in WW2. You can listen to them online - there are two parts, 25 minutes and 36 minutes respectively.
Play Part 1
Play Part 2
Lloyds Register of Yachts 1930:
WINDFLOWER 149150 wood aux yawl. Built R. Kemp Emsworth 1928. Owner Dr Herbert S. French, Cudworth Manor, Newdigate, Surrey
LRY 1932 Owner Col. Cuthbert Buckle
LRY 1935 Owner Col. Cuthbert Buckle
LRY 1937 Owner Sydney R. Wells M.P.
LRY 1947 Owner Sir Richard Wells, Bart., D.L.
LRY 1953 Owner Sir Richard Wells, Bt., D.L.
Most of the background to the WINDFLOWER has come from the Mike Wells and the Wells family.
Mike Wells wrote an article on WINDFLOWER and the Wells family for Classic Boat Magazine May 2021.
See the article as a PDF file in a separate window - it is 5.4Mb !
- with thanks to Classic Boat magazine.