1939 – The war years

In the late 1930’s the country was not really awake to the incredible threat that was building up from Hitler.  This is what the invitation to the annual dinner dance in 1937 looked like.

In 1939, war had struck the country, most men were called up and the Club became dormant as did many others as many of the HYC members joined the war effort. Many never came back. The boat of one of the members, Mr C L Hunt’s ‘The Quest’, had the honour of being with the immortal Dunkirk Armada otherwise known as Ramsey’s Cockleshell Navy, a fleet of 850 boats of all sizes that went to the rescue of the thousands of Allied forces, awaiting them. That  Armada picked up from the Dunkirk beaches some 340.000 men including one of HYC’s most important members, the wounded Johnny Hillyer.  Of the 203 private boats that were included, some less than 20 ft, less than half returned.

Here is a picture of soldiers, members of HYC, with V bombs.



London was devastated, many died and many more became homeless. Most of the men were away on active duty. Nevertheless there was HYC activity, not least because Commodore Charles Cook determinedly managed to keep the flag flying (1939-1942) in those dark years.

After those six long and devastating years, though buildings and plant had suffered badly, the members were inspired like never before, got together, under the leadership of Commodore W J French (1943-46), with massive energy and put them in condition so that the Club was fully functioning again as a Yacht Club as early as the summer of 1945.

And as the soldiers kept on returning home from the war, looking for therapy and relaxation as well as needing to rebuild their lives, energy like never before went in to the HYC, which soon enough consisted mostly of ex servicemen.

Don Barry, a warm hearted lorry driver, member of HYC, had been taken prisoner of war in the desert and managed to escape. He was a larger than life character and was a comedian at heart. He provided much energy and spirit for the HYC on his return from active service. Unfortunately and ironically, having magnificently survived the war, he died tragically early in life from an operation that went wrong.

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Tom Wallis, the Desert Rat, who is still a member, played a leading role in those amazing days of recovery and renewal and has been an important figure of the HYC (if not the most important figure) since then (see separate story later). Here is on leave in 1944 (on left).