Saturday, 22 April 2017

Boyd in the Sky




The spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where dem boydies is.
Dem boydies they is on the wing.
But that’s absoyd. The wing is on the boyd. 
   Children’s rhyme



Flight Lieutenant Richard E. Boyd epitomises so many of the Dulwich Hamlet men of his generation. Richard was one of fourscore men from the club’s four teams who served in the Armed Forces during the Second World War. About half of those men, including Richard Boyd, were in the Royal Air Force, and the rest served either on land or at sea. Reg Anderson, Bill Parr, Ron Ebsworth and Eric Pierce, all with the RAF, made the ultimate sacrifice.

Richard was a Dulwich Hamlet first team regular in the second season of wartime football, and a member of the Junior team that won the London Minor Cup for the 1939/40 season. Despite not being as famed as many of his peers, Richard’s experiences before, throughout and after World War Two, make his story well worth telling.

I had a good chat with the ninety five year old, who now resides in Pennsylvania, on a recent transatlantic telephone call set up by Richard’s daughter Kathryn. It was a joy to speak to a veteran who lived through the London Blitz, made 33 bombing missions in Europe and survived a plane crash.

South London Boyhood

Richard Edwin Boyd was born in the Brockley Birthing Centre on 17 November 1921 and grew up in No. 40 Evelyn Street close by the River Thames and the London dockyards. His parents, Robert and Florence hailed from Carlisle in Cumbria, but found their way south to settle down in the Deptford Park area of South East London. Dad was a welfare officer for the London County Council.

Richard, known as Dickie in his youth, spent his schooldays at Bermondsey Central in Monnow Road. One of the great honours of his teens was playing in a final at The Den, home of local professional side Millwall, the club Richard followed. He supplemented his educational studies with Boy Scout duties, achieving the highest level of scouting by rising to King's Scout. He was also the Patrol Leader and represented his Scout group’s football team.

On leaving school he went to work as a junior clerk at Molins Cigarette Machine Company at the end of the street.  Molins manufactured huge machines that could churn out a thousand cigarettes per minute, half a million cigarettes per day. “You started off with a thirty foot long piece of metal,” Richard said, “and at the other end out came a packet of cigarettes.”

War Declared

War was declared in September 1939. At first it was described as ‘the phoney war’ because of the long period of inactivity by the two sides. In Britain ration books were issued, gas masks distributed, and Anderson shelters were on sale for £7.00 or given out free to the underprivileged.

As part of the war effort, Molins Cigarette Machine Company converted much of its apparatus, to weigh, load and pack shells in the munitions field. When the men began to sign-up or get the call-up to serve King and Country, countless women (including the author’s mother) were soon employed to carry out this vital work in munitions factories.

At home in No.4 Kempslade Street, Deptford, one of the key tasks eighteen year old Richard had to carry out was to dig up the garden and erect an Anderson Shelter. His proficiency skills with the scouts and engineering skills at Molins, made putting together the ‘flat pack’ a simple operation. Several sheets of corrugated iron and a steel shield were bolted together. Garden soil was then piled up around the sides of the structure with the express hope of extending the lives of the occupants. The size of the shelter was approximately six feet in height, six feet six inches long, by four feet six inches wide. Not a lot of room for movement.

Trial for Dulwich Hamlet

Richard had a friend who was a clerk, who told him that he had sent off an application to Dulwich Hamlet’s Junior team and had just been invited for a trial. The Junior team from its formation in 1922 was an essential ingredient in the growth and success of the club during the inter-war years. Dozens of youngsters had made the grade from Junior to First Team.

His friend said, you can play a bit, why don’t you come along with me. The offer was taken up, and while the hapless office boy failed to impress and was rejected, sixteen year old Richard put on such a good display that he was immediately drafted into the squad. Appearance records for the Hamlet Juniors, are rather scant to say the least. Jimmy Cairns, who looked after the youngsters in the war years, certainly had no interest in ‘goals for’ or any individual scorer. To the best of Richard’s knowledge his trial took place before the start of the 1938/39 season.

His big break came at another trial match two years later at the Champion Hill ground. It was the last Saturday afternoon in August 1940 and according to one press report Richard “stole most of the thunder”.



These were troubled times and most of the Hamlet senior squad, as was the case in World War One, were fighting in Europe. Maybe the Hamlet Committee drew inspiration from what took place a quarter of a century earlier, when another band of youths, among them the legendary Edgar Kail, stepped in to fill the breach.

It was now the club’s intention to promote more youngsters straight into the First Team. That weekend the Selection Committee took the bold decision to continue to blood the first team with sixteen to nineteen year olds, as one reporter put it “[Dulwich Hamlet was] dripping with teenage juniors”. A handful had already played in the previous season's campaign – including forwards George May, Mick Pinder, and the 16 year old Hillier prodigy in goal. So, for Richard Boyd to break into this side was really quite some achievement. The best of these youngsters were therefore selected to compete for Dulwich Hamlet in the South Eastern Combination League, a makeshift competition set up whilst the Isthmian League took a wartime break. A smattering of ‘old stagers’ – Jack Hugo, Horrie Robbins and Len Thornton – and the line-up was complete. In club tradition any Hamlet servicemen on leave were automatically drafted into the side.

Richard was given the right-half position, and during the season he played alongside several past and future Hamlet greats. “Arthur Phebey on the right wing and Pat Connett in the centre. They were my contacts. Phebey became a top cricketer.” He spoke highly of Pat Connett, the Cormont Road Schoolboy International: “A fabulous player. I was his feeder.” Another talented schoolboy, 16 year old Ronnie Dicks from Kennington was also in the side. He and Connett had often been opponents for their school teams in Brockwell Park when they were growing up, and then teammates in the South London Schools side. It is little wonder they knew each other’s game inside out.

But it wasn’t just about footballing skills. Manners maketh man, and so an exemplary character and dependability were also required before a young man was invited to become a member of Dulwich Hamlet and presented with a club rule book. Richard still has his original copy with its pink and blue cover.

The Hamlet Juniors were finalists of the London Minor Cup two years running – 1938/39 and 1939/40. In the former they were beaten by Hoxton Manor but were victors in the latter over Docklands Settlement. This final had been held over from the previous extended season that ran into June!

The Blitz

Richard was about to be thrown in at the deep end at Champion Hill where Dulwich were entertaining Bromley in the South Eastern Combination League. Bromley were one of the top amateur sides of the day. Just a couple of years earlier they were winners of the FA Amateur Cup, the major prize for ‘non-league’ clubs, and had progressed to the second round proper of the FA Cup twice in successive years. But no doubt they were in the same boat as Dulwich and drawing on a younger element.

So for Richard Boyd, a player making his first team debut, this game is to be counted as one of the most memorable he would ever play …but for another reason. The date was Saturday 7 September 1940, the first day of the Blitz, and the start of a period of intense bombing.

With twenty minutes of the match remaining and the score 3-2 in favour of the home team, the game came to a sudden halt when the air-raid sirens sounded and the players and supporters carried out the air raid drill.

By five o’clock the men had changed togs and were making their way out of the Champion Hill stadium and into Dog Kennel Hill. In the sky overhead they could see scores of aircraft following the route of the Thames towards the East End of London. At first it seemed like an impressive display of aeronautics by the RAF but it turned out to be hundreds of enemy aircraft on a mission to raze London to the ground. Within moments the bombing started. “First there were the air raid sirens, then the Ack Ack [Anti-Aircraft guns] and then the bombing started.”

A packed Champion Hill during the 1930s. 
The main stand was situated opposite the present main stand.

Now it was all about getting home. With great difficulty and amidst real terror Richard made his way back to Deptford, where the Anderson Shelter was put to proper use for the first time. It was kitted out with water and food supplies, bunks and bedding, and became the sleeping quarters for the next six months as countless incendiaries were dropped on the capital. Each time the sirens sounded Richard dived into his bunk. The Blitz lasted through the autumn and winter of 1940/41. Nights were cold, damp and uncomfortable but our forebears got on with it. “Shelter all night, a wash and your ablutions the next morning, then off to work.”

Despite the bombardment day in day out, life continued as normal as was possible, never knowing when your number would be up. For safety’s sake his younger sister Patricia and her entire school were evacuated to the English countryside. The family home twice suffered bomb damage. Firstly during the blitz when many of their belongings were destroyed, and then later in the war while Richard was serving abroad, when a V1 rocket landed at the end of the street. On another occasion Richard was making his way home on a bus when a V2 rocket landed a few yards away. In a flash all the windows were blown out sending shards of glass abroad.

As Patrol leader of his scout group Richard was attached to the local police station working as a messenger whenever the communications (telephones and radio) were down. More than once he was blown off his bike in bomb blasts whilst racing through the streets delivering a memo.          

He also volunteered for the Home Guard to defend the Surrey Docks. This was always going to be one of the main targets when battle commenced, so field exercises and strategic operations were carried out in preparation of an invasion.

Royal Air Force

Just prior to the start of the war the Military Training Act was introduced. All 20 year old men had to register for a spell of six months of military training. Then soon after war was declared conscription was introduced for 20 to 23 year olds. They could choose the service they wanted. Many of the Hamlet boys chose the air force over the army or navy. As the war progressed older men also received their call-up papers.

Richard, along with some of his mates from the boy scouts, volunteered for the Air Crew in 1941. His scouting activity and decorations all went in favour of him being accepted into pilot training. Little did he know that that meeting with the recruiting sergeant would lead to forty five years in aviation. He jokingly says that without the war he would have become a stuffy accountant.

After eight weeks intensive training he was off to flight school. He learned to fly in a De Haviland Tiger Moth biplane, but before he had a chance to fly solo he was selected among a very limited number of cadets for the Arnold Scheme and whisked away to the United States.

American General ‘Hap’ Arnold had set up a scheme to train 4,000 British pilots over a two year period promising better flying conditions, weather-wise and with no threat of enemy attack, than England could offer.

He crossed the Atlantic aboard a ship from Liverpool to the Royal Canadian Air Force Base in Moncton, Canada via Halifax, Nova Scotia. On his very first pay day he traipsed into town and purchased a bunch of grapes, some peaches, bananas and oranges and devoured the lot before he got back to the barracks. Due to the rationing in the UK it was the first fresh fruit he had tasted in two years!

The three phase flying programme – Primary, Basic and Advanced – conducted by the US Army Air Corps produced a limited number of successful cadets who were either returned to the UK as bomber pilots, or stayed in the States to train others.

In January 1942 he was moved from Moncton to Albany, Georgia in the South, and with the Aviation class of 42-I he was taught advanced flying. After spending a few days in hospital, he moved to the class of 42-J. His hospitalization had been due to dehydration during a football match, when the Brits were attempting to introduce association football to their fellow American classmates.

At the end of the course the Major check pilot got in beside him in the plane telling him, “Okay Boyd, give me two circuits and tell me how to fly this machine.” On successful completion Richard was told he would not be returning to Britain for another year. Instead he would be retained in the States as an instructor pilot in the US Army Air Corps.

After making such a good impression and achieving the required marks he received his US Army Air Force wings in November 1942 and became an instructor – one of just 577 British officers to do so. At the same ceremony he also received an RAF Commission [Officer] – one of seven out of the 60 trainees, the others became sergeant pilots. He was based in San Antonio, Texas, and went on to train American pilots to fly heavy bombers in Houston, Texas.

This Charming Man

Richard, it would seem, was a man of incredible charm. Once whilst doing a bit of sightseeing, he stopped the car outside the Governor’s House in Tallahassee for a tourist photograph, when a woman came running out calling to him and his colleague. She was Mrs Spessard Holland, the Governor of Florida’s wife, and seeing the two men in uniform, invited them in. They ended up spending the entire weekend there! Americans warmly received the Brits in the USA, and although leave was rare, Richard and his fellow trainees often enjoyed the hospitality of local families.

During a routine visit to Toronto, Canada he met and fell in love with his future wife Rita. It was the occasion of Richard’s twenty first birthday, and she helped him celebrate by dining and dancing at the Royal York Hotel. They renewed their acquaintance the following year. So taken were the pair with each other that they spent the next few years corresponding.

Whilst in the US, and with more pressing issues at stake, he lost all contact with his footballing friends in London but he did represent his own squadron’s soccer eleven. In fact Richard was a bit of an all-round sportsman and was just as comfortable with a cricket bat or squash racquet. He was also a powerful swimmer. Towards the end of the war and after, when on leave he made the odd visit to Champion Hill where a space would be found for him in one of the Hamlet teams.

While Richard was away on active duty, his kindhearted mother gave away his bicycle, sports gear, scouting equipment and all of his clothing to some of the deprived kids in the neighbourhood. She did, however, hang on to a precious Dulwich Hamlet Junior Team photograph featuring her boy. The picture was of the finalists of the London Minor Cup of 1939/40. On studying the photograph some years later, Richard racked his brains to try and fill in the names of the players and staff. One player he has labelled as ‘Dix’ is actually wing-half Ronnie Dicks, mentioned earlier. Dicks was stationed with the Royal Artillery up north in the early 1940s and signed for Middlesbrough. He made his first team debut in 1947 and became one of the club’s best loved post-war players. Because of Dicks’ versatility – he played in every position for the club including goalkeeper – Boro’s manager David Jack referred to him as “the handyman of Ayresome Park.”

DULWICH HAMLET JUNIORS – Winners of LONDON MINOR CUP 1939/40 (September 1940). 
Players names only as annotated. 
Back row:  Boyd, Marsden, Garner, Bullbrook, Hardine, Tom, Anderson. 
Front row: Bates, Phebey, Connett, Haskell, Dicks. 



The Battle for the Skies

Richard continued to develop his technical skills and learned to fly a number of different aircraft. “The new boy on the Squadron” he said, “was given the plane that was banged-up the most. Then as you moved along you gradually got to a point where you acquired your own aeroplane and your own ground crew. I made fifteen flights with my own plane and my own team.”

The bomber pilot had the less glamorous role among the fliers. Far more romance surrounded the fighter pilot; the knight of the sky engaging in close aerial combat with his Luftwaffe counterparts in one on one duels, the pilot and his maker in close proximity. The fighter pilot could effectively become an ‘ace’ after just five missions, whereas the bomber pilot’s recognition came after five times as many flights.

Despite being encased in similar aluminium framework, and on missions just as dangerous, the bomber pilot appears to have been the poor relation. He headed a seven man crew – pilot, flight engineer, navigator, radio operator, bomb aimer (front gunner), mid-upper gunner and rear gunner – delivering his cargo to strategic enemy targets. It was all about teamwork, working together to quite literally, meet targets. Yet they too were at great risk from the Germans’ fliegerabwehrkanone (Flak) anti-aircraft fire. It might involve a close call and then back to base, only to repeat the exercise the next day. Richard remembers one particular night during a renowned bombing campaign when he experienced a problem with the radar equipment, and had to face the flak on three runs before the crew eventually established the target. Richard is extremely proud that his entire crew made it through, and were able to return to their families without major injuries.

Lancaster Bomber 

In time Richard proved himself to be a man of great flying experience, and an excellent instructor. In December 1943, he was recalled to the UK by the RAF. He returned aboard one of our nation’s most celebrated ships, the Queen Mary. “It was a madhouse. With 26,000 troops aboard, there were bunks stacked everywhere. Mine was actually on the bridge of the vessel.” On arrival at the Liverpool Docks he was quickly moved up to Scotland to unlearn, as one British officer told him, any bad flying habits he might have picked up in the States.

For combat training Richard flew Wellingtons and Stirlings before moving on to the celebrated Lancaster bombers. The Lancaster could carry 15 tonnes of fuel and bombs, and was the only aircraft that could convey the enormous ten tonne Grand Slam earthquake bomb (the most powerful non-atomic bomb of its day.)

Taking charge of 33 bombing missions over France and Germany – 11 missions by day and 22 at night – his time in the air amounted to 1700 hours. A handful of those night time raids were as ‘marker crew’ dropping flares to light up a target for other bombers behind. But the primary aim of Richard and his crew was to knock out the marshalling yards, factories and oil refineries in Western Germany and to eliminate Panzer divisions.

His most difficult trips were to Dresden and Chemnitz. But it is not a subject that he likes to talk about. Twenty two thousand people were killed in the bombing of Dresden alone. More souls perished in two days than in the eight months bombing of London by the Luftwaffe. That would make anyone feel uneasy.

“The Russians needed assistance, we were told, because the Germans were moving equipment there to move into Russia. We were flying in wing formation and one of my wingmen took a direct hit and disappeared.” Richard was also hit and lost an engine.

What effect did the deaths of his colleagues have on Richard?  His daughter Kathryn told me: “My father saw what no man would ever want to see. It took 72 years for my father to even speak publicly about the war. With some very supportive vets we have encouraged him to tell the story for history. Personally I cannot wrap my head around watching your wing man being shot down or waking up each morning for breakfast to see who made it back the night before. Horrible. The worst of which Richard will not speak! Read the stats on survivors. It makes its own statement.” [There were enormous RAF casualties: more than fifty five thousand were killed, eight thousand wounded and almost ten thousand made prisoners of war.]

One of his fonder memories is from Christmastime 1944, with the 195 Squadron, No. 3 Group Bomber Command during the Battle of the Bulge. This turned out to be the Germans’ last major offensive. In a lengthy lull in operations he and his crew amused themselves by writing a parody of the Good King Wenceslas carol. The first verse sees the squadron setting “… out to bomb on the feast of Stephen, when the snow laid round about H Hour was eleven. Brightly shone the flares that night and the Flak was cruel, when a poor Lanc came in sight running short of fu u el.”

In the final days of the war he took part in Operation Manna [The biblical Bread of Heaven], a great humanitarian exercise. In place of bombs, tens of thousands of tonnes of food were dropped all over occupied Holland, to feed the starving civilians.

The war came to an end in May 1945 while Richard was on leave, but while many military men began returning home to their loved ones, Richard had to continue in his flying duties. He received a telegram saying he was no longer in Bomber Command but assigned to Transport Command, 51 Squadron, with immediate effect. He was not even given the opportunity to say his goodbyes to his former crew. The next year would be spent hauling Allied troops and equipment from Europe to Karachi, India via Tripoli, Cairo and Bazrah, in preparation of the next instalment of war – with Japan. In the event, two nuclear bombs put paid to that scenario.

Post War Trauma

On leave one weekend in early spring he was in the Dulwich Hamlet dressing room after a game. As he opened up his coat to retrieve his wallet, one of the players noticed a ribbon pinned over his breast pocket. “He’s got a DFC!” one of the players said. The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for gallantry in action. Being such a humble chap he had not even mentioned the honour. Nevertheless, his achievement, coupled with his modesty, were brought to the attention of the club, and in the following week’s programme he was given a little write up. “Congratulations to Flight. Lt. R.E. Boyd on his distinction of being awarded the DFC.  Dickie has had his decoration for some time, but didn’t let on to us about it – it was only by accident the ribbon was spotted on his tunic last Saturday [16/3/46], although we had seen him on several occasions recently in great coat. Dickie was pilot of a Lancaster bomber and the award was for consistent good work on operations.” (Matchday programme Saturday 23 March 1946)

Yet just a few weeks later, before the ink was dry, Richard was badly injured in a plane crash. Having survived the Blitz, and made it through the war unscathed, he experienced his closest brush with death in peacetime!

As part of the Volunteer Reserve – the training branch of the RAF – Richard was observing a pilot in a York Transporter (Avro 685 York 1). On approaching the runway at the RAF base in Woodbridge, Suffolk, on the evening of Thursday 11 April 1946, a standard procedure of simulating engine failure was carried out. The ‘three engine approach’ saw the aircraft bounce heavily on touchdown, and overshoot action was taken to avert disaster. The pilot, however, lost control as he attempted to climb away and could not avoid colliding with a wooded area close by, where the 18 tonne aircraft crash-landed and caught fire. “That’s a time I don’t even want to think about.” Of the six man crew, the pilot George Brooks from Colwyn Bay sustained the most serious injuries. He died the following day. The casualties were all rescued from the crash site and taken to the RAF hospital in Cambridgeshire.

The Times, Saturday 13 April 1946

At the earliest opportunity the Dulwich Hamlet press secretary relayed what information he could obtain. “News was received on Friday that Flight Lieut. R.E. Boyd, DFC, was involved in a flying accident which we understand resulted in loss of life. Dickie fortunately escaped, but is in hospital with a broken leg. We wish him a speedy recovery and tender him our sympathy in the loss of his colleagues.” (Matchday programme Saturday 20 April 1946)

In reality, Richard’s injuries were far more serious than the report suggested. His leg was twisted out of shape and broken at the knee, and the left side of his pelvis was damaged. The impact on crashing also affected his lower back. He spent the next three months alongside the navigator and co-pilot recuperating in hospital in the village of Ely. For the first month his entire body was covered in a plaster cast. He was later transferred to Newquay in Cornwall where he was able to exercise and further his rehabilitation.


AWARDED THE Distinguished Flying Cross

“Flight Lieut. R.E. Boyd has been awarded the DFC for displaying the utmost servitude, courage and devotion to duty while on operations against the enemy.
The recipient is the grandson of Mrs Boyd of 5 Percy Road, Longsowerby and the late Mr R. Boyd who for 40 years was an employee of Carlisle Corporation and the grandson of the late Mr and Mrs Irving who were well known as the host and hostess of the Plough Inn, Wreay, for many years.
Flight Lieut. Boyd’s father was a member of Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry for eight years and served later in the A. and S. Highlanders. His parents are now residing at 4 Kempslade Street, Deptford Park, London.”

Report from unidentified and undated press cutting.

Following his recovery in the Autumn he was put on admin. duty whilst  regaining his leg motions. Having been pronounced fully fit, he was demobilised from the air force in January 1947. He couldn’t wait to visit Champion Hill and turn out for one of the Dulwich Hamlet sides. No doubt he was given the utmost respect when he ran out on to the pitch, but by the end of the match he realised he was nowhere near fit enough. His leg did not hold out and he left the field in great discomfort and distress. He had played his final game and he had not yet turned 26.

Commercial Aviation and Family Life

His flying career was also over. Having manned the cockpit of 15 types of aircraft, he could have taken up any position he wished to, but he had no desire to fly as a civilian pilot. So with his feet now firmly planted on terra firma, he took a job at London Airport, Heathrow, with the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in the flight operations office. As flight dispatcher he now dealt with the crew on the ground.

Once he had secured his position he wrote to Rita, his sweetheart in Toronto, asking her to marry him.  Such was his confidence in her reply, the envelope also contained a one-way ticket from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary, which he purchased at the Cunard Lines office in Trafalgar Square.
They had not seen each other for four years, yet Rita made the journey and the couple were married within four months. They have now been together for sixty nine years.

During his time with BOAC he did much travelling, with memorable stays in Cairo in Egypt and the Sudan. His eldest daughter Margot was born in Khartoum in 1949. A further trip to Canada found them in Montreal before being posted to Gander Airport in Newfoundland and a job with the Dutch airline KLM. It was in the town of Gander where his wife gave birth to a second daughter Kathryn in 1951.

In 1956 the family made the permanent move to the United States, and a home on Long Island, New York, after Richard was head-hunted by Swissair, for a post at Idlewild Airport in New York. Following the assassination of the American President seven years later it was renamed John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK). It was here that he spent the next thirty years of his working life. Having started out planning all civil flights taking-off, in 1969 he took up the high profile and influential post of Swissair’s operations and maintenance manager for North America. It was to be quite a momentous year. After two decades jet-setting around the globe, the close-knit cosmopolitan family decided to file for American citizenship.

Further travels all over Canada, the USA, England and Ireland were made in Richard’s golden years. “I spent most of my retirement touring God’s Green Acres by car and by air.”

Despite some remarkable wartime exploits Richard was never one to blow his own trumpet. His colleagues at JFK hardly knew of his time in the RAF and the American Air Corps. “We only ever spoke of current aviation: DC10s and 707s. My military side went to the rear.”

Twilight

Richard has amassed a large treasure trove of awards, souvenirs, aviation books, framed pictures and items of uniform, his RAF logbooks, which he keeps in his ‘den.’ The ephemera from the various airlines he has worked for: BOAC, Swissair, Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), etc., enhance the collection. However, despite very fond memories of a joyful youth, he has precious little in the way of Dulwich Hamlet memorabilia – a couple of medals, an ancient rule book, the odd programme and that team photograph (reproduced in our centre pages) his mother cherished.

Today, aged a youthful 95, Richard is registered blind. He has had macular degeneration for the last ten years, with minimal shadow vision. He lives in a retirement home, quite fittingly in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His frail wife requires a little bit more extra care. Three or four years ago Kathryn persuaded her nonagenarian father to open up more about his heroic past and put his wonderful memory to good use before it is lost in the mists of time.


He spoke to a roomful of veterans about his 45 years in military and civilian aviation at a Remembrance Day gathering, and discovered it was something that he rather enjoyed, and signed up for more talks to other assemblies. Now, at regular intervals different groups invite him to come and deliver a talk about his experiences and exchange stories with former pilots and crewmen. He especially enjoys speaking with school children. As well as being very rewarding it also gives Mr Boyd a chance to air his two sets of wings – US Army Air Corps and RAF – plus a row of miniatures.  His next appearance is at an air-show in June where an aeroplane named in his honour will be flying in. Now, how cool is that for a former Dulwich Hamlet boy.


Acknowledgement and grateful thanks to: Richard Boyd; Kathryn Boyd; Ian Colley; Stephen Hunnisett; Tim Trimble (pictured above with Richard); Bill Azzi. Sources include: conversations with, and video recordings of Richard Boyd; emails and conversations with Kathryn Boyd; DHFC programmes; South London Press.

Originally published in HH31 Spring 2017
Copyright © Jack McInroy






Friday, 21 April 2017

HH31

I still have a number of copies of the current issue of the Hamlet Historian magazine, priced at just £2.00.

Please contact me via email or in person at one of the remaining Hamlet matches this season and I will see that you receive a copy.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Hussein Hegazi and Millwall



Hussein Hegazi and Millwall
Hussein Hegazi was something of a sensation in South London throughout the 1911-12 season. Brilliant at centre forward or inside right, Hegazi made national headline news when he left amateurs Dulwich Hamlet for professionals Fulham only to return after one game in black and white.

The following season, 1912-13, Hussein Hegazi signed amateur forms for Southern League 2nd Division outfit Millwall Athletic and played two games for them. The first – away to Croydon Common on Wednesday 11th September 1912 – saw Millwall lose 3-1. This match actually preceded Dulwich Hamlet’s opening fixture by a few days. Hegazi did not play in the Hamlet game on the 14th. His first appearance that season was in the ‘opening of the new Champion Hill ground’ on 21st September 1912.

On Thursday 3rd October Hegazi made his second and final appearance for Millwall in a Southern League Alliance game. Although it was so early in the season apparently the south Londoners had to play five matches in five days, and for the home game versus Cardiff City, they fielded only one regular player among the eleven - the goalkeeper, Spendiff. The average Lions fan coming through the turnstile at the Den must have felt cheated at the large number of reserves on display, and who was this strange foreigner at centre forward?

The London newspapers, championing the grievance of the home supporters, condemned Millwall’s action, and despite Cardiff’s 3-2 victory, the South Wales Echo echoed with, “Millwall flagrantly broke the Alliance rule which says that the club shall play at least seven of the players that took part in the previous Southern League match.” Whether this small storm of protest upset Hegazi we do not know, but every time he tried his luck with the professionals he seemed to court controversy. It wasn’t his fault; he just wanted to enjoy his football. He didn’t play for Millwall again - in fact, apart from County and representative games, he stuck it out with Dulwich Hamlet.

Fortune had it that Hussein Hegazi’s tenuous link with Millwall saw him find a place in the team photograph of that year. Hegazi can be seen in the back row wearing a hat and jacket.
For the record the Millwall team v Cardiff City were: Spendiff, Jamieson, Woodley, Frost, Hawkins, Butterworth, Dilly, Quinn, Hegazi, Taylor, Grimbridge.
Goals: Quinn 2
Hussein Hegazi was born into the family of a wealthy rural aristocrat in Kremlah in the Sharkeya Province of Egypt in 1891. His father spoilt the youngster, who was given virtually everything he asked for. His leather football was probably acquired from one of the British soldiers stationed in Egypt in the mid 1890s. Hussein was rarely seen without his ball, and quickly developed skills and confidence.

Accuracy in shooting, chipping and passing the ball was developed in a very unusual, let alone costly way. As the peasant women walked through the village the young Hegazi would aim his shots at the large valuable jars they carried on their heads. The peasant women were used to the routine: the ball would fly over, the jar would come crashing to the ground, and the woman would go to Mrs Hegazi for apologies and compensation.

His athletic prowess was not just confined to football. A frequent sight in the village was Hussein Hegazi sprinting towards a water buffalo, owned by the villagers, and leaping over the creatures. This improved his high jump skills no end. Athletics, particularly track events, also appealed to the youngster, and during his early teens his lightning pace helped him win many schoolboy events.

Football pitches are not the same the world over. The beautiful game has always been played on grass, clay, sand, tarmac, and in England during long spells of bad weather on a bog. Hussein Hegazi, like most of us, favoured the truer surfaces. He also liked to feel the ball, and rather than the awkward boots of the Englishman, he preferred to play in soft shoes. I get the impression they were, what we would describe as ‘desert boots’, suede uppers with a crepe sole. Maybe he had them specially made like Stanley Matthews who employed the finest Italian cobblers with the finest Italian leather. The reports we have suggest he found it difficult to keep his footing in wet conditions, suggesting these soft shoes were without studs. However, one photograph clearly shows Hegazi wearing studded boots. Hegazi made his name at Dulwich Hamlet in the three seasons prior to the First World War. He was a member of the Dulwich team that beat Ajax in Amsterdam in 1913, and he also assisted London and won a Cambridge ‘blue’. If Hussein Hegazi had stayed in England for the duration of the war he would undoubtedly have been part of the great Corinthian side of the 1920s. Instead he headed home before the hostilities began.

On his return to Egypt in 1914 he rejoined his old club Ahly, (recently voted Africa’s team of the twentieth century) where he went on to became one of the most popular players of his day. He won a number of caps for the Egyptian national team, and was involved in three Olympic Games competitions in the 1920s.



Original article from 2002. Copyright © Jack McInroy

Sunday, 19 March 2017

High Praise for Jack Hugo

Dulwich Hamlet defender Jack Hugo was one of the club's most popular players from the 1930s.

This testimony from a 1937 Dulwich Hamlet matchday programme.



Friday, 17 February 2017

Supporters' Club notes from 1979

A bit of an odd one ...does anyone know who wrote this Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Club newsletter from the beginning of the 1979/80 football season? And are there any more issues knocking around?

This particular one (pictured) is made up of two and a half pages of ‘news’ printed on two sheets of foolscap paper, stapled together. Unfortunately we only have part of the first page, but it gives a fascinating glimpse of ‘fanzine style’ material from the nineteen seventies.Presumably the real Hamlet related content is on the other pages. 




DULWICH HAMLET SUPPORTERS CLUB
Newsletter No.1
1979/80

Firstly, let me welcome-you to the start of another new season; also apologies for this belated Newsletter. I was very pleasantly surprised at the vast numbers of people (two to be precise) who were quite upset that they were kept waiting for this load of rubbish to appear, I didn't know you cared, you genuinely wanted it (don't we all) when is “IT” coming out; well it's been out a lot, but you've probably not noticed it - I keep blaming the cold weather.
Apparently it is now the “IN” thing to be mentioned, and of course, insulted in the Newsletter – albeit nicely. So for the benefit of new readers – I report what goes on – what comes off and who does what, who with, and why. If I don't know, I make it up. I try to rake it amusing, with not a lot of success, and bring to your notice other items of news you may have missed, and sincerely hope it is received in the same light-hearted manner which it is intended – PHEW!!!!!!!!
Incidents, however small (and no-one has a smaller one than me) will be blown up out of all proportion, making me a dot on the card for a libel suit. (There was a temptation to mention Burtons but I won’t). If by any possible chance this does happen, please, please, please, get Nick Robinson to represent you. By doing this not only will I win the case, but get costs as well. (Love you really, Nick).
Circumstances beyond my control has made me an absentee for the start of the season; one of these circumstances being, I had to take my holidays a wee bit later this year. The reason for this was; we had slight booking problems – the truth is, nobody wanted us. I then heard that Ron Dennington and Hector MacDonald had booked up to go to Malta; so I thought, if they let them in, they would let anybody in. This proved correct, so here we are, in this haven of dust and rock.
I was asked to have something ready for the presses by the time I got home, so why not sit back comfortably on the toilet, and read a few of my impressions, before doing with it what you should have done earlier.
MALTA – now there's a place I shall recommend to all my enemies, where drivers have six accidents to the gallon. Let me start with the good point, the weather – now that is superb – well, that didn't take long, did it???
As I sit here in my made to measure deck-chair I am fascinated, watching all the very well proportioned young ladies, fighting a losing battle, trying to put back those very well-proportioned things that keep popping out. Giving this my undivided attention, I have now come to the conclusion that Eileen is a man.
As I have said, the weather's a bit tasty; I personally I don't like the Sun – come to think of it, I'm not all that fond of the daughter; so the only time I venture out from under my made-to-measure sun-shade is when I want to piddle – sorry paddle in the sea – no, I was right the first time.
But, wait a minute, people are running away in terror – Oh, it’s all right, it’s only Eileen returning after a swim, just like Ursula Andress did in the film Dr. No. Unfortunately she looks more like Dr. No.
Apparently quite a bit of smuggling goes on here (people trying to escape) it's comforting to know we are being protected by the never-ending vigilance of the Maltese Navy, who continually patrol the shores in their camouflaged rowing boat. What about the hotel? – well I must say in all fairness, improvements have just started they have now done away with the gas-chamber. They have still got the iron bars up at the windows, if you're lucky enough to have windows – we don't. Do you know, our room is so dark there are bats hanging from the ceiling. When you are marched down to the Dining Room you are strapped to the chair, and are … [End of available content]



Friday, 10 February 2017

Humble in defeat

On Tuesday evening, Dulwich Hamlet put on an extraordinary performance to defeat Braintree Town 5-2 in the FA Trophy third round replay. The result, against a team two divisions higher, puts the Hamlet through to the last eight of the competition and a home match against Macclesfield Town, also of the National League.

Braintree Town have had a number of incarnations since their foundation as the Crittall Window Company factory team in 1898. As Crittall Athletic they actually visited the old Champion Hill ground during the 1937/38 season. See Paul Griffin’s notes about that game here. On that occasion – the second round of the FA Amateur Cup – the cupholders Dulwich Hamlet were victors by 3 goals to 1. Despite being dismissed from the premier ‘non-league’ cup competition the visitors went away remarkably happy, due to their great experience at Champion Hill.

Murray, Robbins, Morrish and Hugo with the Amateur Cup in 1937

Indeed, the Iron’s next matchday programme referred to the visit the club made to South London. The following are extracts from that programme:

"Our departure from the Amateur Cup at the feet of Dulwich Hamlet was a fair result on the play. Three weeks ago we referred to Dulwich Hamlet as the Arsenal of Amateur football. This generality was evolved more from the fame of Dulwich Hamlet than from a practical knowledge of them. To us they were a name to be treated with every respect, and as a club were generally recognised to be adversaries fit for any amateur club challenge, and worthy foes for a large percentage of our professional brethren. We now possess practical association with them and cannot say enough of the pleasant recollections of our visit to Champion Hill.

We readily acknowledge defeat by a better side. Everything was done to make us especially comfortable. There was a refreshing absence of artificiality and an abundance of the real spirit of amateurism. Sceptics may think Dulwich can afford to do things well. Perhaps they can. Good manners, honest amateur enthusiasm and hospitality are not assets engendered solely by the possession of wealth. They emanate from those who consider the game paramount to any prize. It was especially good to feel we were doing battle with a club really and definitely amateur. Champion Hill is a genuine amateur 'football oasis'— there are few of these today!

The band even entered into the spirit of things by discoursing 'Any Old Iron' and 'I passed by your window.' Dulwich Hamlet went clean through our window, and they did so in a 'Football Raffles' kind of way, or a sort of half-apologetic, 'We hate to beat you, but we have, and we hope you won't mind!’  We wish to express our appreciation of the Dulwich spectators, officials and players. Congratulations are also due to them for their excellent programme, which told spectators everything they could possibly wish to know of ourselves as visitors.

We noted the compiler of the programme did not swamp his patrons entirely with sugar ripened by Dulwich partisanship. We have received a cheque for £234 as our share of the gate, which is easily a record with us and will be talked of in local football circles for many a day. Thank you, Dulwich!"

Whether Dulwich Hamlet will receive similar praise from the present day successors, Braintree Town, remains to be seen. They are at home tomorrow (Saturday 11 February 2017) to North Ferribly United. Someone please keep an eye on their programme.

Thanks to Alex White for the news clip

Jack McInroy