At the beginning of the meeting members stood for a moment in memory of Alec Cobb who died recently. The Chairman, Roy Howard, will represent the Forum at the funeral.
Our speaker this week was our own member and Vice-Chairman Roger Bancroft, who showed us his indentures as ship’s apprentice when he went to sea on leaving school in Keighley in 1962.
By the time he retired at the age of 55 in 2000, he had become a Captain of container ships and latterly of oil tankers.
He does not miss his job or the world travel but misses looking out at the vastness of the oceans and the darkness of the night sky before light pollution became a problem. His favourite harbour was St. John’s Newfoundland, where he would have liked to emigrate.
On board, sex, politics and religion were banned as subjects for discussion to avoid controversy among the crew. In later years drink and drugs were banned although they had been tolerated in the 60s and 70s. To our surprise separation from family was not as great as might have been imagined. Roger’s wife had accompanied him on many trips.
After a fascinating PowerPoint presentation, he had some comments to make about disasters at sea. As a young man he had been involved in the search for bodies after the Laconia sinking of 1963 (123 died ). More recently his union magazine had warned of the lack of attention to safety among some cruise ships in an article written only three weeks before the Costa Concordia was holed. Roger’s view is that “Some of the people who design ships should sail in them.”
The title of the talk,” Nitty Gritty” came from the nickname of one of the ships in which he sailed, the London Integrity. Roger promised to return with further reminiscences for our 37th season in two years time.
The sad news was received today that long serving member, Alec Cobb ,had died. Heartfelt condolences go from all members of the Forum to Alec’s friends and family.
The Time of Your Life
The Forum’s second special Anniversary Lecture, “The Time of Your Life”, was given by David Davies, current Chairman of Harrogate U3A and former Lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University.
In an outstanding Power-Point presentation delivered with great authority without notes, Mr. Davies recalled the years of austerity after 1945 and up to the Festival of Britain in 1951, years which most but not all the audience remembered well.
The presentation comprised a beguiling mixture of serious historical analysis and illustrations of popular culture of the time. Mr. Davies showed how Churchill was outwitted by Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference and how Britain was effectively broke by the end of the war. He rejected the Corelli Barnett thesis that Britain should have placed industrial regeneration ahead of establishing the Welfare State after 1945: after years of wartime hardship, the public would not have accepted it and all parties had accepted the Beveridge Plan. Mr. Davies went on to analyse the personalities of the Labour Government and praised Attlee and Bevin as true patriots. He also analysed the Cold War, including the Berlin airlift of 1948 in which Britain played a much bigger part than the USA now admits and the Korean War of 1950-53 (Pictures of the ‘Glorious Glosters’ ).
Alongside the serious analysis an appreciative audience enjoyed photographs of life of the period – days at the seaside where formal dress still appeared
( no leisure clothes ), the great snows of 1947 and the transport of the period
( the Morris Minor, the Pacific locomotives and the De Havilland Comet with its faulty window design ).
Ken Roberts, our own ‘Bevin Boy’, gave the vote of thanks and hoped that Mr. Davies would return for the 2013 season to continue the story of the years which we have all experienced. A richly nostalgic morning!
Baltic Cruise: Moscow – St.Petersburg
Norman Hails, Programme Secretary for Bilton Men’s Forum, spoke about a river cruise holiday from Moscow to St.Petersburg in the spring of 2008.
During the holiday his excellent slides showed the transition from a wet, cold May in Moscow to the uncomfortable heat of St.Petersburg in June. An aural tape of the monks of St.Cyril monastery on the river Volga (“Mother of Russia“) added to the atmosphere of the talk.
Particularly memorable were the many traditional wooden churches and cathedrals, including the Church of the Transfiguration built on the flat, watery environs of KIZHI island, which had been a pagan ritual site centuries before. Nearby Norman’s party had visited a baboushka’s house and found that many older Russians still yearned for the old communist certainties when welfare payments were guaranteed.
At St.Petersburg (Leningrad from 1924 to 1991 ) the Palace of Tsarskoe Selo bequeathed by Peter the Great to Catherine 1st displays such wealth and ostentation of gold and amber that the party had a greater understanding of why the battleship Aurora ( also seen ) opened fire on the Czar’s Winter Palace in 1917. This event started the Russian revolution.
During questions our popular member, Denis Smith, displayed a knowledge of the Russian language which gained him a round of applause, the first ever for a contribution from the floor!
Michael Cockrane, our new member from the now sadly defunct Woodlands Men’s Fellowship, gave the vote of thanks on behalf of another large gathering.