Member Login

Latest News

Junior Section Sleepover Saturday 26th June 2010 -...
Water Activities at 1st Bedhampton Boys' Brigade T...
Company Section Grade 1 Expedition Saturday 19th J...
Junior Section Marwell Zoo Trip Saturday 26th June...
Company Section Assault Course on Broadmarsh! Thur...

Memories of the 1st Bedhampton Company, The Boys' Brigade

The first memory I have of the Brigade in Bedhampton is of one of those tricks of fate where my life could have gone in a completely different direction. I had been on a waiting list to join the Boy Scouts, it was one of those things that boys from my sort of background did, not much thought went into it, but I heard nothing.  On Sunday mornings I attended Sunday school at Bedhampton Methodist church, it was there I heard talk of starting a Boys’ Brigade Company, someone called John Stratton whom I did not know was prepared to organise it. I had no idea what it was but it sounded interesting, I put my name down on the list for that as well.

I was taken to the very first evening, probably walking from Maylands Road where we lived, I don’t have a definite memory of what we did but I do know that just after I had left the house a couple of lads called at the door to see if I was coming to join the Scouts, my name had reached the top of the list, a few minutes earlier and my life would have been dramatically different, I might not have stayed connected to the Church.

I joined the BB; it was the very first night 15th September 1967. The evening was a test to see if there was demand for a Boys Brigade Company in the area, you can’t just meet as a BB company, the Staff and Church had to be assessed and approved, not that much different to what happens these days! We had to meet and show what we could do; on the 11th November 1967 we were recognised as a BB company and given our official name, The 1st Bedhampton Company, The Boys’ Brigade.

I have the original Subscriptions book and it shows the subs as 4 pence (that’s old money, I think less than 2 pence these days, about the same price as a ‘MARS BAR’ at the time). From the record it shows 7 boys the first evening swelling to 9 the second week, of those first boys David Cuell, Phillip Briggs and I all went through the junior and then the later Company Section.

I still have my Junior Section award card showing what badges I collected, I was not one of those who have attained the Junior Gold Badge I only got to Red, one below Gold, no doubt I needed to try harder, or at least stop talking so much (things don’t change).

The Staff

I can remember, John Stratton, our founding Officer I could imagine him as almost a caricature naval chap blunt, full of common sense with a distinctive gravely voice, his face had huge wrinkles when he smiled, not one to be ignored by the boys. Later when I was an officer he explained to me that the Church had wanted something to challenge the young boys from the Sunday School, they had an active Drama Group and Young Wives and many other activities but not anything for the younger members, John was a great believer in Discipline and said he would not run a youth club and thought a BB company was a better idea.

Geoff Briggs, tall slim dignified, much more of a quiet officer, better at the individual badge work than giving orders, I think we gave him a hard time, but he continued for years with the Brigade, I don’t know how he had the patience with some of us, but he was still working years later when I became an officer. Geoff and his wife Elsie (who has always looked after our finances), provided the backbone for the junior section for years, with out them the Brigade would not be what it is today. I can even remember the time Geoff and Elsie took the juniors to Camp in a barn while the Company section camped in the field out side; I take my hat off to them.

John Dowdell is the other member of staff I can remember he is still in the area and is a local preacher, he must have been young at the time, ages are different when you are only 7 all the staff where such a lot older. Now seeing it from the other side, age is not as important.

Later Alf Lowin arrived and went on to run the junior section, I have fond memories of the evenings, we were noisy and awkward, not the best behaved but the standards never changed, we were being moulded into the people we are now.

Then of course Norman Cuell, I don’t know any officer who does not chuckle when his name is mentioned, and it still is regularly! He was quiet, unassuming, with a great wish not to offend or upset, a wall flower? Not a chance. I was constantly amazed, he would alter what he was doing so that it was as if we boys were driving the activities, just one example would be his wonderful crosswords, written out on sheets of wallpaper, if your answer more or less fitted what he wanted he would put in extra boxes for letters to make sure it would fit, I just assumed he couldn’t spell like me, but he was still doing it years later when I was staff, it was then I noticed the twinkle in his eye.

Norman was also a constant conscience for us as staff, sitting in meetings very quiet until he needed to speak then casually quietly rolling a thought grenade across the floor, making us look again at what we should have looked at in the first place.

I have more memories of the Company Section formed after the juniors about 1969; I was promoted into the Company in 1970.

I was eleven, there was only one NCO Kevin Johnson, I didn’t know anything about him, but I do remember wanting to have stripes, I can remember the band starting, Kevin as the NCO had a drum (pigskin rope tensioned, probably from the Crimea!) and sticks. I and another drummer shared the other drum and sticks, it is daft when you look back but we took turns one took the drum and two wooden spoons, the other had the sticks, not the greatest of ideas but it got us started.

I also remember the walks and weekend camps, most of these organised by the next batch of NCOs Kevin Grant, Alan Cousins and Mark McDermott, we walked to Petersfield, almost via South Harting, walking to Chichester, the back way via Funtington and around the circumference of Thorney Island other favoured routes. The feeling of meeting on a Saturday morning and setting out together, catching the train home at the end of a great day with your mates is a memory I treasure. It’s a sad endorsement of our society to think that almost all of us carried sheaf knives; it was part of our routine, used to whittle wood, cut bits of string or rope when camping, and would have thought you were a complete lunatic if you said the knife was for protection.

We did the things that other lads did not do, we trusted each other, we worked as a team, yes from time to time we picked on one another, we did things you should not do, but we never deliberately set out to cause damage or harm to anyone. I learnt the value of , leaving a field having camped overnight with only the impression of the tent in the grass, no rubbish, how to keep dry, how to cook, how to sew on a button, clean shoes, press my shirt and the importance of self discipline.

It is through the Brigade that I came into contact with Jane my wife, although we attended the same school we were two years apart, our paths would not have crossed had she not been going out with one of my Brigade mates.

Finally it is the Brigade that has kept me involved in the Church, given me my Christian belief. It is the Brigade that provides the challenges, the adrenaline the excitement that makes Christianity alive for me. I hope and pray that we continue to inspire young men to ask the difficult questions, to challenge themselves, to make up their own minds in a safe environment as I was challenged.

God Bless

Alan Dabbs
(Current Company Section Leader)

Approx 1977 1st Bedhampton Boys Brigade Company Photo

Approx 1977 1st Bedhampton Boys Brigade Band