1946 – HYC comes back to life

Many others contributed to the well being of HYC. For example, the gates were put up by Phil Hemingway with assistance from a number of Club members.  Phil was an very active contributor to the Club and it was he who also lead on the building of the workshop.

The lockers were painstakingly made and fitted by Bert Kempson, who later in 1957 became commodore.

Some redundant bomb shelters were taken apart and the materials used for storage units at the Club and so on.

Below is a picture of MV Maybee at the Club in 1946.


(no 22)

It was in 1947 that Wally Hillyer, after being released from the RAF joined the HYC.  It was Wally who then persuaded his brother Johnny to join in 1948. At this time it was Commodore Lawson (1948) and Commodore Cooke (1949) who were in charge. Johnny, then aged just 25 had been hugely traumatized by the war. He had left the UK, aged just 19, 6 years earlier and had not slept in a proper bed since then except for the 48 hours leave in 1942 during which he returned and married his sweetheart Iris (just as Tom Wallis had married Vi, but they didn’t know each other then). Having spent 5 days waiting, wounded, on the beaches at Dunkirk, he had been rescued by the armada of boats…..he rowed out to the ship that was waiting to take him and others away and even then they were bombed and thrown out of the rowing boat, finally being hauled on board the rescue vessel. After Dunkirk he went more or less straight back in to action and participated in the D Day landings, later being part of the allied forces liberating Holland. His experiences, not least witnessing so much death and devastation, mutilation and other horrors, left him in a terrible state. Wally thought that perhaps HYC would help him turn his life round and Johnny never looked back. He threw himself, like many others, in to endless activity.

The war was over. People were trying to get over the terrible times. Cameraderie was most certainly a war time ingredient and this remained. These were glorious HYC days. Spirits were high and people felt re-energised.

HYC members bought cheaply, from the government that was getting rid of endless lifeboats and all kinds of other redundant ex war things that floated. They fitted or renovated engines and built cabins and had fun.

These were perhaps also the most formal years. Indeed the more formal times seem to have originated around the second world war and lasted for 20 or more years. It was also an elegant and stylish time. People took tremendous pride in the Club. For example, dress code at the Club was strict and strictly adhered to (more or less….). …  cleanliness (yes), blazers, badges, ties, white trousers and in summer peak hats with white tops. It was after all a time when uniforms were fashionable. If you were judged not to be properly dressed you were made to put a contribution in the RNLI Box. The country was proud of its soldiers who were being welcomed back home and Commodore W J French made sure they were welcome back to the HYC. It was a time of sadness because so many had died but it also was a fantastic time to celebrate and to find relaxation was de rigeur.

Below you get a good idea of dress code at this time.


Other rules were also strictly enforced. Discipline was a byword. For example, no-one could moor a boat for longer than 20 minutes on the pontoon, those who did so getting their lines cut! The Club Flag would be raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset.  On Regatta Day commodores would ceremoniously sail past. Club special dinners were so well attended that allegedly up to 200 guests were somehow stuffed in to the building (as can be seen from the photograph below).


Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx picture of dinner


Tom Wallis was a Desert Rat and spent the whole Second World War away from his home and the country, on active service in the 8th Army. Tom claims that when he became a member just after the war, he and his brother were always asked to be the sweep boat on the races down to the estuary. Their job was to tow back all those that broke down en route for one reason or another. He claims that as a result, since someone always did break down, he never had the opportunity to win the relevant cup. Tom and his brother became a member in 1947 when they were discharged from the armed services after the war and the Club celebrated his 50th anniversary as a member in 1997, making a special presentation to him at a dinner in his honour. He was one of the very few ever to be made a life member. For Tom, the HYC was a way of life. He is grateful for the many wonderful times and particularly makes a point about the fact that everyone always gave their services for free, which is something he is very very proud of.

Tom Wallis’ membership card from 1947 when Commodore J Wesson was in command, but only for one year. In fact, commodores changed every year from 1947 to 1950, which was unusual, but energy and inspiration was abundant.


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A long standing tradition at the HYC was the annual balloon race, see the 1949 picture below



Here is Tom Wallis in 1950, at the helm, with his son David on the right.


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After the war, sightseeing trips on the river became popular again and from 1948 there was even a boat, The Royal Sovereign, which made daytrips from Tower Pier to Southend and then across the Thames estuary to Margate and back to London. Pleasure boating generally grew and grew.

Here is an atmospheric picture of the Club’s river frontage, that we believe dates from 1955.



No 12

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxpixture of party (no 23)