Twenty Fourth September 1955 and Philip John Bamfield entered the world. Born in Gillingham Kent to proud parents Kay & George Bamfield.
My Father was at the time serving in the Royal Navy based at Chatham Naval base. He was an engine room artificer but a specialist by trade, being a ‘pattern maker’. For anyone unfamiliar with this particular trade, I will explain. Before the days of ‘repair by replacement’ became the norm due to greater and easier lines of communications across the world, it was important that if, for example, a replacement steam valve was required, it would need to be locally produced. My Father’s job was to carve the item in wood to be subsequently molded in sand and cast in metal. A very skilled job indeed. His skills also extended to carving the ships crests which are still in use throughout the fleet today. Every ship has one and there is a great deal of history attached to them.
My Mother was at this time a full time Mum to me of course, having worked previous to getting married. When I was 2 years old, my Father was given the opportunity to take up a ‘married accompanied draft’ (posting or appointment to land based people!). This would take all 3 of us to Malta. A great adventure in the day of course. The accomodation in Chatham was duly packed up in preparation and we moved in with my Grandparents, who were living in tied housing on Lord Brockets estate near Welwyn Garden City. In fact my parents were married from there in a local church and lived above the stables for a time. I have quite distinct memories of the cottage we lived in there, but that is from our second period of residence there on our return from Malta, so I will get to that later. This was supposed to be a very short term arrangement, but my Father was also a Navy rugby player and since sport is so important in the services, the move to Malta was delayed due to his being required to play in an important inter service match!
Once that was completed we moved to Malta. My Father was serving on HMS Forth, a submarine depot ship so he travelled seperately from My Mother and I. Such travel was very rare in those days I guess and it was quite a feat for my Mum to do such a thing with a small baby. Of course it was not possible to complete the flight in one leg and a fuelling stop in Nice was required. This was where my Mum had the misfortune to fall down the aircraft steps…..with me! Some would say that explains a lot! No real harm done apart from Mum ripping her stockings and grazing her leg.
I do have some memories of our time in Malta, where we actually spent 2 years in the end. Watching the rugby, going to the beach (rocks) Seeing Daddy going to sea and Christmas parties on the ship.
I know my parents enjoyed this time despite my Mum having only a primus stove to cook on and a biscuit tin on top for an oven! We were the first in the family to own a fridge though! A great rarity back then. There is a picture somewhere of my Mum standing proudly alongside this monstrous bit of kit……which was actually empty at the time I believe.
Too soon, I guess, it was time to return to the UK which we did , moving back in with Grandma & Grandad in Brocket park. Not sure why this was the case, I think there was some uncertainty over where my Father would be serving so we stayed there while it was sorted out. It would be from this period that my first recollections of the estate would be from.
There was a pretty pair of cottages in the grounds of Brocket park, which as I already said were ‘tied’ cottages. (They are actually still there and used for staff accomodation) My Grandfather (actually my Mothers Stepfather, having lost her real Father at a young age) was, I believe, a general estate handy man. I have vivid recollections of going to a pump house on the grounds with him. The smell of shale oil will bring that instantly to mind to this day.
At the age of five, I went to school for the first time from here.