SUBMARINERS ASSOCIATION: EAST KENT BRANCH

BRANCH HISTORY

The South East Kent Branch of the Submarine Old Comrades Association was formed on April 2nd 1952 at the Stag Hotel Walmer with four members present. Over the years the venue changed: The Alma Hotel from July 8th 1963, The True Briton Walmer from October 14th 1963 until the first meeting at the Royal Marines Association Club Walmer on January 12th 1976.

The Branch numbers increased and membership rose to the mid twenties, however, by 1995 the numbers were steadily declining; due to members "Crossing the Bar" and lapses. Of the members an increasing number were from Thanet.

By the late 1990's the meetings were being held every other month and attendance at meeting rarely exceeded eight out of the Branch role of fifteen.

In 2002 Wally Smith, Chairman, and Jim Thomsett, Secretary/Treasurer, were keen to stand down from their posts due to age and health problems. Additionally the future of the RMA Club was also in doubt, due to financial problems therefore a new venue for meeting would be needed if the Branch was to continue.

In January 2003, at an Extra ordinary Annual General Meeting it was decided to move the venue of the Branch meetings from Deal and Walmer to Margate Royal British Legion Club. A grateful Wally Smith and Jim Thomsett were superseded by Geoff Humphrey's and John Sanderson as Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer respectively.
Meetings were held on the 3rd Friday of the month at 2000.

January 2004 - The year started well with five new Full and two Associate members joining the Branch. Early in the year meetings attracted up to ten members, unfortunately this was not sustained and now the monthly meeting attendance is around five to seven members.

Two Full members resigned from the Association, due to age/ill health and the President, Chris Dawson moved out of the area.

2005 brought changes to the branch officers and a new day and time for meetings.
John Sanderson decided to be first out of the escape hatch and departed our shores for sunny Spain.
All members were grateful to John for all the hard work, time and effort he put into running the Branch since our move from Deal.
Barry Harris took on the role of Secretary and Bill Nash that of Treasurer.
Changing the monthly meetings from Friday evening to Sunday lunch time proved a great success. Not only has this allowed two of the younger members to attend on a regular basis but also three of our senior members. It has been a real treat for all to be in the company of founder member Jim Thomsett, and senior members Stan Gosden and Dolly Grey.

In January 2006, at the Annual General Meeting, two proposals were made by the Chairman and Secretary. The first was for the branch to recognise the work that founder member Jim Thomsett had put into the branch over a span of 54 years. This to be shown by awarding Jim life membership of the SA Association. Jim accepted the award and it is hoped his story appeared in the SA booklet 'A Potted History' celebrating 50 years of the Association.

The second proposal was to recognise the sterling work of John Sanderson in getting the branch up and running in Margate and for carrying out the role of both Secretary and Treasurer from 2003 to 2005. The members unanimously agreed to ask John to become President of the branch, a position he gladly accepted.

The March 2006 meeting was the last John Sanderson attended before departing for Spain. He drove 24 hours solid to visit us and attend the July 06 meeting. John continues to keep in touch via the website and email.

2007 began with the branch welcoming a new member. Peter Powell has transferred from the Norfolk branch. This brings our membership to 20 plus two associate members.
Attendance at meetings averaged 10 during 2006.
In March we decided to raise funds for a Branch Standard. The local support was nothing short of remarkable. In July the fund had topped £2000. The standard was ordered and plans began for the Dedication Ceremony.
The date was set for the 7th October. Our good fortune continued when, Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE DL agreed to attend. All three Thanet town Mayors together with Kent and Thanet Councillors also agreed to be part of our big day. Again fortune smiled on us when the National Standards of both the Submariners Association and the Royal Naval Association confirmed they would attend. A phone call from Lord Boyce offering the services of his Admiralty Sergeant and his Sea Cadet, completed a star studded list of VIP's.
In all fourteen visiting Standards would be with us on the day.
It cannot be said that the day went smoothly because it did not. However, good weather and good company ensured a very memorable day for Branch members and guests.
From dedication day to the end of 2007 the Standard was paraded on 13 occasions. This included 4 parades in the Netherlands and 3 in Belgium.

During Trafalgar Weekend, branch members met up with our good friends from AVOM in Holland. A very enjoyable evening with our guests on the Friday was followed by the Trafalgar Dinner on Saturday with Ramsgate RNA. At the Sunday Trafalgar Parade we were able to introduce our Dutch friends to all at Margate RNA.

During 2007 the branch adopted two Unknown Sailors Graves at St.Peters Church Yard. A service of remembrance was held at the graves in November and the branch Standard was paraded. Also, the branch was given the honour of reading the exhortation along with Brian Sleighttholme’s granddaughter.

In January 2008 the branch was again represented at the Truculent Memorial Service in Chatham. This being our first visit with the new Standard. Following the service those attending met up with members from the South Kent Branch at the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans Social Club. On 12th February, the branch represented the Submariners Association at the Channel Dash Memorial Service. The service was held at sea off the coast of Deal. The branch secretary attended on HMS Raider. The branch Standard was on parade at Ramsgate harbour as the ships departed. In June the branch was delighted to accept an invitation from the French Reserve Officers Association to attend a memorial weekend in remembrance of D Day. This was held in Dunkirk where we also met our AVOM friends from the Netherlands.

2009 began on a very sad note. Following our annual attendance at the Truculent Memorial Service in Chatham, branch members gathered in the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans Social Club, Gillingham. Soon after arriving our newest branch member John Cayzer collapsed and died. John's funeral was very well attended with a number of visiting Standards. The Submariners Prayer was read by National Vice Chairman Ted Hogben.

2010 has seen one new member, Mick Griffin join the branch. Regrettably our numbers remain static with the sad new of the death of branch member John Rae.
At the National Conference in March, branch member John Wood was elected to the National Committee. A proud time for both John and the branch.
On July 15th, founder member Jim Thomsett celebrated his 90th birthday. At the July branch meeting members celebrated with Jim by holding the meeting at the RMA Club Deal, Jim's home town. It was a very good day and we were well looked after by the club and Jim's daughter Pat.

2011 The year had seen branch member Mick Griffin recover from his illness and return to work. In July we were joined by members of the South Kent branch when again our branch meeting followed by the now traditional curry, was held in Deal. All was well until the leaves of autumn began to fall. In the space of two days, we lost two of our number. Peter Powell, up in Great Yarmouth finally fell to the cancer which had plagued him for most of the year. Then one of our eldest, 92 year old Jeff (Dolly) Gray, soon after having one leg amputated, crossed the bar in Maurice House RBL nursing home. Both funerals were held on the 31st October.

2012 was a landmark year for our founder member Jim Thomsett. The branch celebrated its 50th anniversary and in recognition of all the time Jim had given as secretary and treasurer over the years, he was made President of the Branch. It was fitting that we celebrated our 50 years at the July meeting in Deal, the town where the first meeting was held. This year also saw Jim having his time in WW2 being described in the book 'Sea Wolves' by Tim Clayton.
Sadly another member Crossed the Bar, John Jones departed on his final patrol in October of this year. John Wood who had been such a key branch member and NMC member, sold his home in Thanet to move back to his native North East. John decided to remain a member of the branch and it is hoped he will be able to visit occasionally. The year ended on a bright note when we gained two new members, David Surridge and Graham Felts. The branch membership stands at 14.

2013 The year started with our annual attendance at the Truculent Memorial Service. This proved to be the last time as a branch we were able to spend time with our good friend and South Kent member, Ken Budd. Ken Crossed The Bar in April. The Standard and members of the branch attended the funeral in May. The early part of the year saw us gain our very first serving member, Paul Swaby. Paul was soon into the thick of it when he represented the branch at the HMS Vindictive Memorial Service in Ostend. The now annual July meeting took place at the RMA Club Deal. John Wood was able to travel down from the North and the Branch welcomed new member Peter Maxwell. Regrettably two members have lapsed their membership so with our two new additions, we still stand at 14.

2014 The year started with our annual attendance at the Truculent Memorial Service. The Chairman Secrtary and Social Sec, attended the National conference which was held at Maidstone. We had our usual July meeting in Deal. Two members attended the Diesel Boat Reunion in August. Also during the month, the Secretary represented the branch at the Memorial Service for the three Chatham ships Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy. The Secretary was invited to unveil one of WW1 memorial boards at St Peters Church Yard. The Social sec also attended and we were able to recruit a new member, Brian Calder. We made a return visit to Deal in September for the highlight of the year. This occasion was for the award of the Presidents Certificate to Jim Thomsett. Admiral Sir James Perowne gave the presentation which was attended by Jim's family. The RBL Club in Margate suffered from water damage late in the year and we moved on a temporary basis to the RNA Club at Ramsgate. Following the Remembrance Service in November, yet another new member, John Gowans joined the ranks. The branch membership now stands at 16.