The British Legion Story
By Captain Ambrose Good J.P.
Article taken from “Cottingham Review” 1st November 1952
As time passes and one’s memory is short I have thought it advisable to record particulars of the formation of the Comrades of the Great War (Cottingham Branch) which became The British Legion (Cottingham Branch)
On the return home of men demobilised from His Majesty’s Forces in 1919 a number of Cottingham ex Servicemen got together to form a Branch of the Comrades of the Great War, a non-party and non sectarian National organisation established to keep alive the spirit of comradeship, patriotism and mutual understanding learnt during four and a half years of war, to commemorate the memory of the fallen and to assist in every possible way the disabled and the dependants of those who gave their lives for their country.
A committee, with Major J.P. Sargent (Education Officer with East Riding County Council) as Commandant, Mr E.C. Stubbs of 131 Finkle Street as Hon. Secretary and Mr A. Clapham of 13 Linden Avenue as Hon. Treasurer, with Messrs. W.G. Arbon, Ambrose Good, G. Richman, L.C. Stephenson and F. Ward was formed, and decided owing to lack of social facilities in the village, to endeavour to acquire suitable premises in the village to be used as Headquarters of the Branch and as a rendezvous for ex-Servicemen to enjoy facilities of a first class club.
An appeal to local residents was issued on the 18th August 1919 and brought in £400. The Committee secured the Angel Inn, with the adjoining house in King Street, from Messrs. Moors and Robson Breweries Ltd at a cost £700, but it was necessary to make extensive alterations before these could become a first class club. In order to raise the means for paying for these alterations Capt. Henry Samman, Jnr. M.C. (now Sir Henry Samman, Bart.) lent £1500 on easy terms and further amounts were raised by dances, whist drives, etc. and donations and loans at low rates of interest from members and other Cottingham residents.
The premises were called “The Cottingham Memorial Club” and the club was officially opened on Saturday, July 3rd 1920 by Col. B.G. Price, C.B., G.M.G., D.S.O., late Brigadier-General, 150 Brigade 50th Northumbrian Division. Major Sargent took the chair at an afternoon meeting to which all subscribers were invited.
In 1921 all ex Servicemen’s organisation became amalgamated in one body “The British Legion”, and from 14th July 1921 the “Comrades of the Great War Branch” became the “Cottingham Branch of the British Legion” with myself as Chairman, Mr. L.C. Stephenson as Vice Chairman, Mr A. Clapham as Hon. Treasurer, and Mr. F.A. Quelch as Secretary. For a number of years the Branch, helped by lady members and other ladies, held Christmas parties for the orphans and children of ex Servicemen, but this had to be stopped. Each year the Branch or the Club has held successful Christmas Draws, the proceeds being devoted to Legion relief work or to the general funds of the Club as advertised at the time.
The Womens Section of the British Legion was formed on the 13th October 1937 under the chairmanship of Mrs. L.B Witty.
During the last war, (1939-1945 Ed) under the leadership of Mr. H.R. Wright, the Cottingham (War Services) Welfare Committee was formed as a Central Committee to further the voluntary war work in the village, and comprised members of all the village organisations. This Committee held its meetings in the Memorial Club and was wound up in November 1945. Great credit is due to its Secretary, H.R. Wright, for the success achieved. Mr Wright has also done valuable work as Army Welfare Officer for Cottingham and District with Honorary rank of Captain.
End of article. Published in “Cottingham Review” 1st November 1952.
Cottingham Memorial Club & The Royal British Legion
[Produced by HR Wright, February 1981, as a reflection on an article written by Ambrose Good, November 1952. Ed]
The accompanying notes written by Captain Ambrose Good some 28 years ago give a most interesting account of these two closely related organisations in Cottingham, for, indeed the inauguration of the Club was first and foremost a lasting memorial to those who served in H.M. Forces in the 1914/18 war. Captain Good refers to the early activities of Major Sargent, who, however, left
Cottingham within a year or two following his demobilisation.
Without doubt, Captain Good was the mainspring and driving force of the ex-Service men’s involvement, and for very many years he was Chairman of both the Club and Legion, during which time the management of both concerns was under the control of a General Management Committee comprised, by the rules, entirely of ex-Servicemen. It is not generally known that Ambrose Good – he was affectionately known as “Ambrose” – was a director of John Good & Sons, Ltd. a well known Hull Shipping firm, and he was also Consul for Finland with which country Hull conducted quite a large trade. He, and his wife and family of three (two daughters and one son) were members of our Zion Congregational Church, and they resided for some time at “Shardeloes” Newgate Street. His son, Cyril, was killed in action in the Second World war.
Ambrose dedicated himself to the social life of our village, urging club members to help on occasions. One such was the raising of a fund in the club to help pay for repairs to our parish Church clock, and it was he who committed the Legion and Club to setting up our Air-Raid Wardens’ Service in 1938, which he led throughout the succeeding war. He was also Chairman of the Cottingham War Services Committee.
Reference has been made to the “Comrades of the Great War” which body preceded that of the British Legion. Initially there was a second movement in Cottingham named “Discharged Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen’s Organisation”, which resisted all attempts to merge with the newly formed Legion, but they were few in number and soon folded up once the major body had got into its stride.
From some old records to which I had access many years ago and which referred to the “Comrades of the Great War” I see that I joined on October 23rd 1919, and earlier members were George Welbourn June 18th 1919, and Wilf Bilton June 25th 1919. Although the Memorial Club was not officially opened until July 3rd 1920, the building had been in use for some months previously for meetings, etc. From those early records I notice that Fred Whiting joined on March 4th 1920.
I understand that many of the Club records have been lost or destroyed, but from the membership list exhibited in the hall I notice that my own (unbroken) membership dates from March 1st 1920. I served for very many years on the G.M.C. and for a while held the office both of Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer. There are also further survivors of the earliest days of the club, notably Albert Barker and Arthur Brocklesby, to name but two. There was also Frank Hodgson who, by the rules of the club, was Skidby’s representative on the G.M.C., but Frank, like the other two gentlemen, did not enjoy unbroken membership. Frank Hodgson, who is still a member is shown on the list as having joined in 1944, following a period of broken membership, but, in fact, his first membership dates from 1921. All the above served on the G.M.C. at one time or another.
Membership of other Committees of the club was not confined to ex-Service men, for many men who were too old to join the Forces at the outbreak of war had taken a prominent part in the creation of the club. So there was a mixture of the two on such Committees as the Finance, House and Games, and the same remark applied to the composition of the Board of Directors.
The first who-timed Steward of the club was Mr. F.A. Quelch, who had served in the Regular Army as a Regimental Sergeant Major. Mr Quelch was also the first Secretary of the Club and attended all meetings of the G.M.C. in that capacity and conducted most of the correspondence. Mr. and Mrs. Quelch resided on the premises, as did also their niece, Miss Pentney, who assisted in the bar and did cleaning duties. These appointments continued for about twelve years when Capt. J.J. Everatt became Secretary and Steward. I believe that Capt. Everatt was the last paid official to undertake the duties of the paid Secretary. Throughout its 61 years there have been a few changes in paid staff, but one in particular, George Stabeler was both proficient and popular, and both he and his wife are remembered for their courtesy and help. It is good to see that George is still very active in the Management of Club affairs.
The affairs of the Legion, apart from their social efforts and the running of Poppy Day, was largely in the hands of the Local Benevolent Committee chaired by Ambrose Good with Wilf Bilton its energetic and thoughtful Hon. Secretary. Right up to his death Wilf rendered yeoman service both to the Legion and Club, and worked untiringly in the interests of the ex-Service men especially on pension problems, and also the needs of war widows and dependants. All this involved much case work. He was well known throughout the village, and he had the distinction of being awarded a special merit medal by the British Legion headquarters for his devotion to the Legion’s own motto “Service, not Self”.
Most unfortunately Wilf died before the club was to celebrate its Golden Jubilee in 1969. At the dinner which was held to mark this milestone in the club’s history, Wilf’s daughter was presented with a mantelpiece clock appropriately inscribed to commemorate Wilf’s work and also for his being a founder member of the club. Similar awards were made to George Welbourn (Hon. Treasurer) for many years; also to Fred Whiting, and also to myself which I do indeed treasure. I am not certain, but rather think that no similar award was made to the family of Ambrose Good, whose youngest daughter resides in Skidby. If this is so, then I feel that this should be looked into, because Ambrose was a quite remarkable man and leader in the affairs of the Club and Legion, and his memory should be perpetuated.
It will be of interest to present members to know that the old headquarters in King Street embraced a large area now occupied by the Halifax Building Society [still the case in 2007 Ed], Cliffords shop, and Stroud’s shop, so they were very commodious premises. The two billiard tables in the large room – I think the woodwork is mahogany – are the original tables installed in 1919/20, and what is now Stroud’s shop was a quiet reading room. Not always was the old club a flourishing concern, for in 1932 we issued a folded brochure to a number of homes in the village inviting men to join. The brochure, of which I had a hand in drawing up, contained some attractive sketches of the amenities the club could offer., – the work of a friend of mine, the well known commercial artist Frank Armstrong. The annual subscription then was 7/6d. with a 1/- reduction to ex-Service men. It was also set out in the brochure that useful work was being accomplished by the Local Benevolent Committee which, in 1931 had dealt with cases on pension and related matters, and had, at the time, at the same time, given relief to the extent of some £259. Put into perspective, the real value in terms of today [1981 Ed] currency would be about £3,000. I have a copy of this brochure.
On a personal note, it was kind of Ambrose Good to refer to my work during the Second World War as Hon. Secretary of the Cottingham War Services Committee, and to my being Army Welfare Officer for Cottingham and district. Actually, my district covered a very much wider area, including the whole of Howdenshire west of Hull and stretching beyond Howden. I was also Hon. Secretary and Treasurer of the Incorporated Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen’s Help Society (Hull Division) meeting requests for financial aid vetted by a number of accredited agencies in Hull and district.
It was also a bold and far-sighted venture which led to the acquisition in 1949 of Elm Tree House – a lovely old residence built about 1820 with its imposing frontage to South Street and road access from Finkle Street. In 1904 the property was purchased by Mr. Lutze of German descent who, at the outbreak of the First World War changed his name to J.A. Lacey & Company being well-known coal exporters and shipping agents.
The purpose of these few notes is really to set the scene of the position of the club and Legion to 1949, but it would be a serious omission if one failed to express thanks and at the same time give credit to Fred Whiting and to many others associated with him in that particular post-second war era who were responsible for carrying out this highly successful venture. At Elm Street House we have a thriving club and headquarters of the Royal British Legion, but let us never forget that all this stems from the generosity and enthusiastic work of men and women in our village who, as the First World War was drawing to its close, made certain that permanent social premises would become available to those who had served in H.M. Forces. Hence the abiding link between Club and Legion.
PS..Just a few more items of interest. Ambrose Good refers to a generous loan from Sir Henry Samman, but it should be added that we also raised loans by the issues of Debentures, and these were repaid as and when the club could afford to do so.
Referring again to the pre-1949 period. One could list the names of many others (besides those already mentioned) who worked enthusiastically for the club and Legion, not overlooking the importance of the work of the lively Women’s Section of the Legion. And one can never forget the reverential respect paid to the fallen at the Annual Memorial Service held in our Parish Church each November, with packed congregations, when the names of the 105 men who had died for their country were read out by the Rector, and Ministers from all other dominations took part at this Service of Remembrance. On the following Sunday, our Legion Branch members supported a similar Memorial Service at Skidby Church.
Graham Stroud – A view of the last 50 years
The previous accounts of the history of the Cottingham Memorial Club are amply and correctly described by, first Captain Ambrose Good and continued in 1981 by H.R. (Harry) Wright.
The Club has seen many changes since I became a member in 1962 and I have perhaps seen more rapid change than either of my two illustrious predecessors.
My introduction to the Club came as a result of being a member of the Cottingham Dramatic Society and rehearsing across the road at the Darby and Joan Hall in the early 1960s. At the tea break I would escape to the Club for a quick pint with two colleagues who were already members. On one of these occasions it was suggested I might like to join the Club. I filled in the application form was duly proposed and seconded, handed it over the bar with 21/- (£1.05) and I was a member, all in five minutes. No waiting lists – no interview and no joining fee!
The attraction in the club, in my case was more convenience at the time, but I soon came to realise, after visiting other local pubs that the beer in the Club was the cheapest in the village. However, there was a major distraction with the Club. It seemed to me that every other member was old enough to be my grandfather! The premises were less than grand and the Steward was not always friendly. The members, almost without exception, would wear a collar and tie and nearly everyone smoked. The bar was quite small and finished where the south facing bar ends. The floor was covered with slate coloured congoleum which was covered in beer slops and fag ends.
It seems strange that in the years since I became a member, the Club became the place to be a member of. It was not unusual to spend years on the waiting list and fathers would put their son’s names down for membership years before they became ‘of age’. In 1962 the Steward was Jack Allenby who ran a tight ship and employed an iron fist. He would call time promptly at 10.00pm and expect everyone to be out by five past. There was no food available and the Club did not open on Sunday. It was nevertheless a friendly place with a good atmosphere.
Today, the Club is as well run and popular as it has ever been, yet it struggles to recruit new members. Perhaps there are so many other attractions with two more pubs, betting shops and sky television not to mention the supermarkets who sell beer and spirits as loss leaders.
Certainly the promotion of catering at lunchtime and evenings is vital to the success and survival of the Club as are the various attractions, including occasional artistes, quizzes, snooker leagues and competitions and the Golf Society. Without all this the Club would struggle to exist against a background of deteriorating fortunes for the licensed trade in general. The drinking scene has changed enormously since those early days. The Club moved to seven day opening many years ago and more recently, with changes to the licensing laws, all day opening became the norm. Although the gaming machines are not as obtrusive as they are in some pubs, they are nevertheless vital to the financial health of the Club. I can well rember stalwart members of the Club in a group hunched around the only one-armed bandit, which had an Indian braves head on the front, a glass display box full of sixpence pieces and one arm which was pulled to activate the machine every time a sixpence was placed in the slot. The object of the exercise was to get three of a kind of various fruit symbols to win a prize, or better still the ‘jackpot’ with it configuration of tic-tac-toe! I can see that ‘school’ now huddled and waiting anxiously, willing the jackpot to drop. It usually dropped at least once a week, on a Friday night and a loud cheer would go up as the ‘bandit’ disgorged its load of sixpence pieces in the total sum of £5.
There is no doubt the Club will prosper in the future, through peaks and troughs, with each decade proving better than the last. As I approach 50 years of membership, still paying the full subscription! I suddenly become aware that there are not many, like me who are still around and can remember the picture I have painted of the Club in those years past. But I would say to those in membership now – like a Prime Minister said all those years ago – and it is still true today- “You’ve never had it so good”
Photographs below are of the Club, at Elm Tree House, Cottingham c1960s
Photographs below are of the Club at its original location, King Street, Cottingham c1940s