The South East Kent Branch of the Submarine Old Comrades
Association was formed on April 2nd 1952 at the Stag
Hotel Walmer with four members present. Over the years
the venue changed: The Alma Hotel from July 8th 1963,
The True Briton Walmer from October 14th 1963 until
the first meeting at the Royal Marines Association Club
Walmer on January 12th 1976.
The Branch numbers increased and membership rose
to the mid twenties, however, by 1995 the numbers were
steadily declining; due to members "Crossing the
Bar" and lapses. Of the members an increasing number
were from Thanet.
By the late 1990's the meetings were being held every
other month and attendance at meeting rarely exceeded
eight out of the Branch role of fifteen.
In 2002 Wally Smith, Chairman, and Jim Thomsett,
Secretary/Treasurer, were keen to stand down from their
posts due to age and health problems. Additionally the
future of the RMA Club was also in doubt, due to financial
problems therefore a new venue for meeting would be
needed if the Branch was to continue.
In January 2003, at an Extra ordinary Annual General
Meeting it was decided to move the venue of the Branch
meetings from Deal and Walmer to Margate Royal British
Legion Club. A grateful Wally Smith and Jim Thomsett
were superseded by Geoff Humphrey's and John Sanderson
as Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer respectively.
Meetings were held on the 3rd Friday of the month at
January 2004 - The year started well with five new
Full and two Associate members joining the Branch. Early
in the year meetings attracted up to ten members, unfortunately
this was not sustained and now the monthly meeting attendance
is around five to seven members.
Two Full members resigned from the Association, due
to age/ill health and the President, Chris Dawson moved
out of the area.
2005 brought changes to the branch officers and a
new day and time for meetings.
John Sanderson decided to be first out of the escape
hatch and departed our shores for sunny Spain.
All members were grateful to John for all the hard work,
time and effort he put into running the Branch since
our move from Deal.
Barry Harris took on the role of Secretary and Bill
Nash that of Treasurer.
Changing the monthly meetings from Friday evening to
Sunday lunch time proved a great success. Not only has
this allowed two of the younger members to attend on
a regular basis but also three of our senior members.
It has been a real treat for all to be in the company
of founder member Jim Thomsett, and senior members Stan
Gosden and Dolly Grey.
In January 2006, at the Annual General Meeting, two
proposals were made by the Chairman and Secretary. The
first was for the branch to recognise the work that
founder member Jim Thomsett had put into the branch
over a span of 54 years. This to be shown by awarding
Jim life membership of the SA Association. Jim accepted
the award and it is hoped his story appeared in the
SA booklet 'A Potted History' celebrating 50 years of
The second proposal was to recognise the sterling work
of John Sanderson in getting the branch up and running
in Margate and for carrying out the role of both Secretary
and Treasurer from 2003 to 2005. The members unanimously
agreed to ask John to become President of the branch,
a position he gladly accepted.
The March 2006 meeting was the last John Sanderson attended
before departing for Spain. He drove 24 hours solid
to visit us and attend the July 06 meeting. John continues
to keep in touch via the website and email.
2007 began with the branch welcoming a new member.
Peter Powell has transferred from the Norfolk branch.
This brings our membership to 20 plus two associate
Attendance at meetings averaged 10 during 2006.
In March we decided to raise funds for a Branch Standard.
The local support was nothing short of remarkable. In
July the fund had topped £2000. The standard was ordered
and plans began for the Dedication Ceremony.
The date was set for the 7th October. Our good fortune
continued when, Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE DL agreed
to attend. All three Thanet town Mayors together with
Kent and Thanet Councillors also agreed to be part of
our big day. Again fortune smiled on us when the National
Standards of both the Submariners Association and the
Royal Naval Association confirmed they would attend.
A phone call from Lord Boyce offering the services of
his Admiralty Sergeant and his Sea Cadet, completed
a star studded list of VIP's.
In all fourteen visiting Standards would be with us
on the day.
It cannot be said that the day went smoothly because
it did not. However, good weather and good company ensured
a very memorable day for Branch members and guests.
From dedication day to the end of 2007 the Standard
was paraded on 13 occasions. This included 4 parades
in the Netherlands and 3 in Belgium.
During Trafalgar Weekend, branch members met up with
our good friends from AVOM in Holland. A very enjoyable
evening with our guests on the Friday was followed by
the Trafalgar Dinner on Saturday with Ramsgate RNA.
At the Sunday Trafalgar Parade we were able to introduce
our Dutch friends to all at Margate RNA.
During 2007 the branch adopted two Unknown Sailors Graves
at St.Peters Church Yard. A service of remembrance was
held at the graves in November and the branch Standard
was paraded. Also, the branch was given the honour of
reading the exhortation along with Brian Sleighttholme’s
In January 2008 the branch was again represented
at the Truculent Memorial Service in Chatham. This being
our first visit with the new Standard. Following the
service those attending met up with members from the
South Kent Branch at the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans
Social Club. On 12th February, the branch represented
the Submariners Association at the Channel Dash Memorial
Service. The service was held at sea off the coast of
Deal. The branch secretary attended on HMS Raider. The
branch Standard was on parade at Ramsgate harbour as
the ships departed. In June the branch was delighted
to accept an invitation from the French Reserve Officers
Association to attend a memorial weekend in remembrance
of D Day. This was held in Dunkirk where we also met
our AVOM friends from the Netherlands.
2009 began on a very sad note. Following our annual
attendance at the Truculent Memorial Service in Chatham,
branch members gathered in the Army Navy and Air Force
Veterans Social Club, Gillingham. Soon after arriving
our newest branch member John Cayzer collapsed and died.
John's funeral was very well attended with a number
of visiting Standards. The Submariners Prayer was read
by National Vice Chairman Ted Hogben.
2010 has seen one new member, Mick Griffin join the
branch. Regrettably our numbers remain static with the
sad new of the death of branch member John Rae.
At the National Conference in March, branch member John
Wood was elected to the National Committee. A proud
time for both John and the branch.
On July 15th, founder member Jim Thomsett celebrated
his 90th birthday. At the July branch meeting members
celebrated with Jim by holding the meeting at the RMA
Club Deal, Jim's home town. It was a very good day and
we were well looked after by the club and Jim's daughter
2011 The year had seen branch member Mick Griffin
recover from his illness and return to work. In July
we were joined by members of the South Kent branch when
again our branch meeting followed by the now traditional
curry, was held in Deal. All was well until the leaves
of autumn began to fall. In the space of two days, we
lost two of our number. Peter Powell, up in Great Yarmouth
finally fell to the cancer which had plagued him for
most of the year. Then one of our eldest, 92 year old
Jeff (Dolly) Gray, soon after having one leg amputated,
crossed the bar in Maurice House RBL nursing home. Both
funerals were held on the 31st October.
2012 was a landmark year for our founder member Jim
Thomsett. The branch celebrated its 50th anniversary
and in recognition of all the time Jim had given as
secretary and treasurer over the years, he was made
President of the Branch. It was fitting that we celebrated
our 50 years at the July meeting in Deal, the town where
the first meeting was held. This year also saw Jim having
his time in WW2 being described in the book 'Sea Wolves'
by Tim Clayton.
Sadly another member Crossed the Bar, John Jones departed
on his final patrol in October of this year. John Wood
who had been such a key branch member and NMC member,
sold his home in Thanet to move back to his native North
East. John decided to remain a member of the branch
and it is hoped he will be able to visit occasionally.
The year ended on a bright note when we gained two new
members, David Surridge and Graham Felts. The branch
membership stands at 14.
2013 The year started with our annual attendance
at the Truculent Memorial Service. This proved to be
the last time as a branch we were able to spend time
with our good friend and South Kent member, Ken Budd.
Ken Crossed The Bar in April. The Standard and members
of the branch attended the funeral in May. The early
part of the year saw us gain our very first serving
member, Paul Swaby. Paul was soon into the thick of
it when he represented the branch at the HMS Vindictive
Memorial Service in Ostend. The now annual July meeting
took place at the RMA Club Deal. John Wood was able
to travel down from the North and the Branch welcomed
new member Peter Maxwell. Regrettably two members have
lapsed their membership so with our two new additions,
we still stand at 14.
2014 The year started with our annual attendance
at the Truculent Memorial Service. The Chairman Secrtary
and Social Sec, attended the National conference which
was held at Maidstone. We had our usual July meeting
in Deal. Two members attended the Diesel Boat Reunion
in August. Also during the month, the Secretary represented
the branch at the Memorial Service for the three Chatham
ships Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy. The Secretary was invited
to unveil one of WW1 memorial boards at St Peters Church
Yard. The Social sec also attended and we were able
to recruit a new member, Brian Calder. We made a return
visit to Deal in September for the highlight of the
year. This occasion was for the award of the Presidents
Certificate to Jim Thomsett. Admiral Sir James Perowne
gave the presentation which was attended by Jim's family.
The RBL Club in Margate suffered from water damage late
in the year and we moved on a temporary basis to the
RNA Club at Ramsgate. Following the Remembrance Service
in November, yet another new member, John Gowans joined
the ranks. The branch membership now stands at 16.