CHAPTER 7 – 1923 The Club House

The Social Side

The projected Amalgamated Sports Club did not materialise, but the dream of a permanent headquarters for the Weymouth Sailing Club did, and the story of its acquisition opens a new chapter in our history.

In the early months of 1923 we note a growing interest in the social side of the club, manifest in the holding of informal meetings and suppers at the Crown Hotel, and the appointment of Mr. Miles, who had once been a Naval Steward, as social organiser with the official title of ‘Toastmaster’, in undertaking which he is reported to have ‘shown his keenness in a very practical manner.’

This development of social activities stressed the need for a permanent clubroom, but came in for some spirited criticism from Mr. Byles, who opposed the project of including a dinner with the A.G.M. and deplored the appointment of a ‘Toast-master as a ‘retrograde step since it was departing from the club’s policy to be solely a sailing club.’ In both these objections he was over-ruled, however, on the rather question-begging grounds that social attractions were a means of recruiting new members.

On the subject of new members it is worth digressing to note, among those elected this season, the familiar names of Capt. F. W. Hamblin, R.N. who, as Treasurer [1924] immediately took a leading part in the club’s organisation and remained an active member until his death in 1948, Mr. F. W. Bratby [father of three members-to-be – Reginald, Herbert and Freda], Lieut.Cmdr. Mayo [better known as Capt. Mayo, O.B.E.], Capt. Masters [an experienced mercantile mariner, whose death occurred recently at Swanage], Capt. Cooke – the Harbourmaster – and the late lamented Engineer Rear Admiral Hoare.

New Boats

New members bring new boats, and in this connection we observe the re-instatement of class B, with the return of ‘Sonia’ [Capt. F. W. Harnblin, R.N.], ‘Sprig’ [Mr. Bratby] and ‘Colleen’ [Mr. A. Warren], and the addition of ‘Heroine’ [Major Foster], the others allocated to this class being ‘Puffin’, ‘Ripple’, ‘Reliance’ and ‘Saucy Polly’. In A class, ‘Hirondelle’ reappears in the hands of Col. Baldwin, and C class gains Lt. Cmdr. Mayo’s ‘Old Bean’, but loses ‘Young Feller’, Mrs. Hownam Meek now taking over ‘Bumble Bee’ from Col. Rudyerd – an old foundation member who died at the end of this year [1923].

Further additions came from naval units at Portland, which were invited to enter boats in club races at the suggestion of Capt. Hamblin, and contributed a skiff from H.M.S. Badminton and whalers from H.M. Ships ‘Lucia’, ‘Cyclops’ and P.C.73, bringing the total up to 28. The fixture-list included eight trophy races, of which four [Saturdays] were now scheduled for Portland harbour and five special races, comprising the now established Ladies’ Race [for which the Daily Press gave another cup], the Franklin Smith Race, and a series of three consolation races for which Mr. Donnelly provided a cup to be won outright.

The points system was revised this year to give the winner of each race 10 points, second 9, and so on, PLUS one point for each boat beaten – a nice bonus to winners of big races, but liable to abuse by pot-hunters and fair-weather sailors.

Mr. Bussell’s Offer

Returning to the subject of the clubhouse, records show that the quest for a permanent headquarters – now adopted as a definite policy – was rapidly brought to fulfilment through the agency and good offices of Mr. Bussell, who, with at least one eye on the club, put through a private business deal, sounded the committee on his plan, and set the ball rolling at the A.G.M. which took place, complete with dinner, on 21st April.

At this function it is recorded that Mr. Hownam Meek, rising to return thanks for his second re-election as Commodore, ‘referred to the general desire amongst members to possess a clubhouse, and asked for an expression of opinion as to the desirability of taking over premises supposing they became available’; whereupon Mr. Bussell ‘mentioned that he had recently acquired some Coastguard property on the quay, part of which might be suitable for the club’s requirements.’ Mr. Pitcher [Vice-Commodore] supported the idea by saying that they would have a long way to go to secure equally suitable premises, and the meeting enthusiastically agreed to give the committee full power to act as necessary in following up this very promising offer.

The new committee – elected en masse by ballot with power to appoint its own officers – held its first meeting five days later [April 26th] and promptly agreed to ask Mr. Bussell’s permission to inspect his new premises with a view to renting them. This visit was made on April 28th by a party consisting of the Commodore, Capt. Hamblin [Hon. Treasurer], Capt. Cooke, Messrs. Pitcher, Wakefield, Taylor and Hillier, and Mrs. Mackenzie-Grieve who ‘expressed her appreciation of the situation of the premises and offered, if they were taken over, to provide curtains for the windows.’ The inspection produced unanimous approval, for it is recorded that ‘after viewing the premises all present agreed that the situation was ideal, and that little more remained than to make the necessary agreement.’

Accordingly a valuation was carried out by the Admiralty Surveyor, Mr. A. J. Hoare, and this resulted in an offer from Mr. Bussell to lease the two upstairs rooms to the club at a rental of £10 per annum, which the committee accepted on the following terms:-
[1] That the premises be taken over for three years with the option of renewing for a further seven years on the same terms.
[2] That the club have the sole right to the two upstairs rooms, staircase and outhouses.
[3] The right to install water, gas and/or electric light.
[4] The club to have the first refusal of the lower premises in the event of their being to let.
[5] The lavatory to be put in proper condition.
[6] The landlord to do outside repairs, the club the inside repairs necessary.
[7] The tenancy to be dated from 17th May.
[8] A flagstaff to be erected.
[9] The club to be responsible for rates.

The House Committee Gets Busy

To all these conditions Mr. Bussell readily agreed, so without more ado the club took over and the committee held its first meeting in its new permanent headquarters on May 23rd. Here in a bare and dusty room, they at once appointed a house committee consisting of Mr. Pitcher, Mr. Miles and Capt. Hamblin, with instructions to ‘take steps to install gas and water, clean walls and ceiling, lay linoleum and get such furniture as they were able out of a sum of £25 to be placed at their disposal.’

A pane of glass in one of the windows had an inscription scratched on it by a byegone tidewatcher [dated 1839] and this is preserved to this day.

Second only to the need for furniture was the need for drinks, and this was dealt with at a special meeting on May 25th, when the Secretary submitted a licence application form, received from Col. Symes, which it was agreed to fill in and forward to the Clerk of the Magistrates with a fee of 5s and a copy of the club rules.

Meanwhile the house committee set about their duties and reported [on June 4th] that the cost of gas, water, linoleum, a table, chairs [nine], and crockery would amount to £54. As this quotation was more than twice the figure allowed it was agreed to cut out the gas item [£8.18s.] for the moment and to limit the chairs to six at £1 each which with the table and £1 for sundries would bring the cost down to the original £25. The extra £30 odd would have to be found soon, and among suggestions for raising this were an entry fee for all future members and a levy of 10s on all existing members.

These suggestions were put to a general meeting on June 22nd, when Mr. Pitcher reported that the mahogany table now in the room had been bought for £6-10s., linoleum was ready for laying [£13], water had been laid on with sink and drain [£9], the room had been white-washed and distempered [£2] and the committee had been offered 10 mahogany chairs, once the property of the County Club, at a cost of £11.10s. which with crockery etc. would come to about £45, with no provision for lighting and heating. After discussing various methods of raising funds it was agreed to open a subscription list limited to 10s per head, and to charge an entrance fee of 10s on all new members. It was also agreed to rent lockers to members at 10s per annum, and to fit a snap lock to the club door for which keys would be available to members on a deposit of 2s-6d.

The draft application for a licence was duly approved and Capt. Hamblin suggested a permanent steward for the bar remarking that ‘a senior scout might be obtained for about £1 per week’; but Mr. Miles advocated a conservative policy, with a key of the wine locker for each member of house committee, and a woman to clean out the rooms periodically.’ This last remark resulted in the arrival on the scene of our good friend Mrs. Skillman who has ‘cleaned out the rooms periodically’ ever since [until 1951].

With the financial problems thus settled, the final arrangements were made and the club room was formally opened at a special general meeting on July 1st. Here ‘general satisfaction was expressed at the work of the house committee. Water had been laid on, linoleum laid, a good table and a number of chairs had been provided and the place had been thoroughly cleaned and distempered.’ The chief business at this meeting was the tightening up of the election of members by stipulating the display of proposal forms on the notice board for seven days before being placed before the committee. The Commodore and Mr. Donnelly each offered to contribute 1s per week towards providing newspapers for the club; and Mr. Hunt subsequently presented two pictures, a notice board, a letter box and various articles of stationery. Thus within the brief space of two months the bare and deserted coastguard quarters were transferred into the happy home of a flourishing sailing club.


The weather was not good for sailing this year, and both Regattas [R.D.Y.C. and Town] had to be cancelled owing to high winds, though the Sailing Club resolutely went through with their Town events which included an open race ‘notable for the close competition between the amateurs and professional boatmen, conducted with the best of goodwill on both sides.’

The Ladies’ race, after being postponed twice for bad weather was finally sailed in a hard blow, reported ‘as a very severe test for a lady and all are to be congratulated on the way they have acquitted themselves, especially a young lady of 12’ – this was Janet Byles whose sister Elsa won the Daily Press cup in ‘Sprig’ against eight competitors including Mrs. Pitcher and Mrs. Foster. The Hownam Meeks were at Cowes, so ‘Bumble Bee’ did not compete. The preparations that went into this race were indicated by the Commodore at the Prizegiving Dinner when he said ‘if anyone had any doubts about the Ladies’ Cup they had only to attend a teafight weeks beforehand to realize how popular it was.’

The press-report of the Prizegiving Dinner provides as usual, a good summary of the season’s activities, and this year each class seems to have been dominated by one skipper. Thus Mrs. Hownam Meek [‘Bumble Bee’] won the Rink Cup with five first out of eight races; Mr. Byles [‘Puffin’] won the Hambro Cup again with six first out of eight and Mr. Miles [‘Jose II’] put up an all-time record by winning the Rose Bowl with a first in each of the seven races for which he entered!

In referring to this remarkable feat, the Commodore said ‘the fact that ‘Jose II’ was for sale would evoke a heartfelt hope that she would not be lost to the club, as her stem would be very much missed!’ ‘Jose II’ also won the special Donnelly Cup, and one cannot help feeling it was a pity that her old rival ‘Puffin’ had been put in another class.

In acknowledging his prizes Mr. Miles said that the sport of winning them was the best part, and Mr. Byles remarked that ‘they had run the club for ten years now and it was the most sporting little club Weymouth had ever seen. The club-house naturally came in for frequent mention at the dinner, notably from a Mr. Lambert who said ‘it was a wise move to acquire such nice little premises over the harbour, and another thing which struck him was the enthusiasm shown and work taken on by the younger members.’ Mr. Wakefield, who Mr. Lambert described as ‘a wonderful man and a safe pilot worthy of Reliance’ reported a membership of 65 and 29 boats sailing in races.

Winter Activities

The club-house meanwhile had been embellished with two basket chairs from Capt. Hamblin, some old-time prints from Mr. Burt, a set of bound volumes of Yachting Monthly from Mr. P. Simpson, and a set of curtains [as promised] from Mrs. MacKenzie Grieve [who was elected an Honorary member]. The venture had been a great success so far:- the question now arose ‘what to do in the winter?’

In order to keep the club-house open it would be necessary to press on with electric light, which, with a heater, would cost about £11; but as the furniture fund stood at £16 and the bar had taken £48 in less than three months, the club now had a balance of £17 which would easily cover the electric installation. The Treasurer in reporting this, hoped the club would remain open all the year round, and suggested lectures, whist drives, chess tournaments, etc., to justify the overhead charges of rent, rates and upkeep. The worthy Mr. Byles expressed himself in favour of the installation of electricity, but ‘was desperately opposed to bringing in a man who was not a sailing member with the idea of turning the club into a card-playing room.’ On this point the Commodore reassured him that there was very little fear of the club being abused, and the electric light plan went through. Capt. Hamblin’s idea of lectures took on at once, and the programme, arranged by Mr. Wakefield included such interesting topics as ‘The Battle of CoroneI’ [Mr. Hownam Meek], ‘Tides’ [Mr. Pitcher], ‘Memories of the Navy’ [Mr. Miles], ‘The Evolution of Sails’ [Mr. Haines] , ‘The Norfolk Broads’ [Mr. Byles] and ‘Resuscitation of the Apparently Drowned’ [Dr. Gerrard Pearse]. Judging by Mr. Wakefield’s graphic reports, these lectures set a very high standard. Mr. Miles’ talk in particular, must have been very illuminating, for in it we read he described the type of ship in the Royal Navy in 1880. Each ship was fully rigged, steam was only an auxiliary, the idea of naval officers being that sail power was necessary to keep a crew smart. The guns were all muzzle loaders. Mr. Miles described his own experiences in H.M.S. ‘Condor’ during the bombardment of Alexandria, when they received the signal ‘Well done Condor.’ This talk was rounded off by sandwiches thoughtfully provided by the ex-messman lecturer.

Other more specialized subjects included ‘Internal Combustion Engines’ [Capt. Hamblin]; ‘The Blood of the Grape’ [Mr. Bratby] which was concluded by all present sampling a bottle of excellent Madeira wine, and ‘Tanks’ by Capt. Hooper, R. T.C., with special reference to the battle of Cambrai, ‘the first occasion in which tanks took a leading part – described with a lucidity which could only come from one who had taken part in it himself.’

Concurrently with these lectures, a series of nine lessons in navigation was conducted by Capt. Masters, O.B.E., to the great interest and benefit of his eager class.

Junior Members

Another innovation this winter was the introduction of Cadets, or ‘Junior Members’ as they were called. This was effected by the inclusion of a new rule [10] [still valid] which reads:-
‘Junior Members up to the age of 18 may be admitted at a subscription of 5s without entrance fee, but shall not be eligible to become officers of the club or to vote at the club meetings, or to visit the club-house, unless accompanied by a member.’

The idea was sponsored by Capt. Hamblin who offered a prize ‘to be sailed for by Junior Members under similar conditions to those under which the Ladies Race is sailed.’

Among the first Junior members elected were Richard Hownam Meek, Reginald Bratby, Herbert Bratby, Robert Hamblin, Duncan Warren; and to these were soon added two girls – Janet Byles and Joan Walford, both of whom outclassed the boys in the first race.

The Burgee

In the spring of 1924 the design of a cap-badge was discussed and also a modification to the existing device on the burgee because ‘when flying, the yards of the ship showed crossed, thus confusing the appearance.’ A cap-badge submitted by Messrs. Formin & Sons was finally recommended for adoption at the forthcoming A.G.M., and as regards the burgee it was at first mooted that the device be omitted altogether, but at the A.G.M. Mr. Byles got a ruling that ‘instead of the device used at present, one showing the ship stencilled in black should be adopted.’ This is the present marking, commonly known as the ‘stoker’s sneeze,’

Mr. Wakefield Resigns

The strain of administering an all-the-year-round programme, consequent on the acquisition of the club-house, was beginning to tell on the hard-working Hon. Secretary, and at the A.G.M. Mr. Wakefield tendered his resignation from office on the plea that he ‘would like to rest for a bit.’ At this Mr. Pitcher ‘voiced the general feeling of regret at this retirement and the extreme gratitude they felt for all that he had done and the very successful way in which he had carried them through a very trying nine years, leaving them now in such a prosperous state and with such a large membership. ‘

At a later date Mr. Wakefield was presented with a ‘Smoker’s Cabinet’ as a mark of appreciation from his many friends, in accepting which he paid a tribute to the good fellowship which formed the basis of the club’s success. Meanwhile the office of Hon. Secretary was entrusted to Mr. C. E . Haines, a recent but active non-sailing member, with Mr. Miles as his assistant.

Mr. Hownam Meek was elected Commodore for the fourth time, and in returning thanks said that the club had advanced considerably by the acquisition of premises so delightfully and conveniently situated.

Capt. Hamblin’s [Treasurer’s] report showed a credit balance, even after furnishing the club-house out of income [thanks to the efforts of the House Committee], and this first A.G.M. in the new headquarters was concluded by a buffet supper provided by the resourceful ‘toastmaster’ Mr. Miles.


Commodore Mr. Franklin Smith
Hon. Secretary Mr. P. T. Rule
Hon. Treasurer Mr. H. W. Gill

Programme of the First Club Race

Programme of Handicap Sailing Match

for open boats not exceeding 15 feet in length, to be held in Weymouth Bay on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th, at 3 p.m.

The 1st Prize, a Silver Cup presented by H. Marsh, Esq., will be presented to the Winner on Weymouth Beach at the conclusion of the race.

Course – An imaginary line drawn between a boat moored off the Jubilee Clock, then to a mark boat off Greenhill, and then to a boat moored off to sea. Twice round. All marks to be left on the Starboard hand.


Preparatory Gun fired 5 minutes before starting time.

Time allowance one minute per foot open boats (the half decked boat permitted to enter, will be handicapped two minutes per foot)

Boat Owner Length
l. Seaflower Mr. H. W. Gill 12ft. 3in.
2. Shamrock Mr. Franklin Smith 12ft.
3. Mercedes Mr. J.Taylor 13ft.
4. Florence Mr. R. Turner 13ft.
5. Albatross Mr. W. Ashby 13ft. 9in.
6. Doris Mr. F. Hillier 14ft.
7. Buntv Mr. Roberts 14ft. 6in. half decked
8. Mallsgate Mr. W. Wallace 14ft. 9in.
9. Cicero Mr. A. Blinn 13ft.
10. Corona Mr. V. Bull 13ft. 3in.
11. Sunstar Mr. Wakefield 12ft. 9in.

The decision of the Timekeeper and Starter shall be accepted as final.