The 83rd London Company 1896 - 1977 






The 83rd London  Company  1898 

 The 83rd London Company 1955

The Boys' Brigade as a movement was started in October 1883, at North Woodside Mission in a rather neglected suburb of Glasgow.

     The founder was William Alexander Smith, a Sunday school teacher and ex- Officer in the 1st Lanark Rifles, who decided to start an organization called the Boys' Brigade based on the twin pillars of Religion and Discipline, achieved through the Bible Class attendance" and the participation in Drill Movements as a corporate body, with the Boys wearing a simple uniform.

From the very beginning The Boys' Brigade had an Object, which has remained, unchanged to this day

 “The object of the Brigade is the advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness.

The Founder laid down the principle that the Boys' Brigade should not merely have a nominal connection with the Church, but the connection should be a real and vital thing, which would draw Boys within the orbit of the Church, and lead them ultimately to personal membership. From the start in 1883 the movement spread rapidly to other parts of Glasgow, Scotland and southwards in the early 1890's.  

Early Years   

  Company Officers  1901 at the 1901 Battalion Camp  
held at Lancing Camp 

The 83rd London  Company Band Cir 1900 

    The 83rd London Company was started in October 1895, at St. James’ Church when the Reverend F.A.C. Lillingstone was Vicar of the Parish and was the first Chaplain to the Company. The first Captain of the Company was W.E. Munro, supported by four Lieutenants, one of who was Aubrey S. Roberts, later to become Captain.

       The company was enrolled in the South London Battalion at B.B. Headquarters on 13th January 1896. From the very beginning it rarely had less than 90 Boys in its ranks. The Company's first ever Camp took place in August 1897, at Swalectiffe with the South London Battalion. In 1900 C.F.L. Nursey succeeded Captain Munro.

    In 1901 the Company held its first solo Camp at Lancing in Sussex. In 1905, Aubrey S. Roberts took over the Captaincy, a position that he held until 1922.

    The 83rd was held in much esteem in this period in the South London Battalion and was very successful in many All-London Boys’ Brigade Competitions, and it was indeed very rare for the 83rd  not to appear in the Annual Boys’ Brigade Display held at the Royal Albert Hall in May each year including 1918, 1920, 1921 and in 1922 the 83rd won the famous Drill Shield presented by The Daily Telegraph.

    In 1935, the 83rd London Life-Boys Team was formed with DJ.Hooton as the Leader in Charge. The Life-Boy Team was a junior version of the Company taking Boys in the 9- 11 years age range.

    During the mid 1930's the Drum and Fife Band was very successful, and had a large repertoire. In 1936 J.E.Smith retired as an officer, A.P. Rowbottom became Honorary Captain of the Company while D.J.Hooton took over the Captaincy.

    In 1937 there was a South London Battalion Display at Herne Hill to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI   in which the 83rd participated, and the famous Empire Festival of Youth at the Wembley Stadium, in which eight 83rd Boys were part of the 1,000 Boy massed Boys' Brigade P.T. item. In 1938 the Reverend H.P. Walkden became Chaplain.  

The War Years  

St James Church Park Hill Pre War 

St James Church Park Hill Temporary Prefab Church 

     From 1939 onwards the 83rd started to go through a lean period with many of its officers and senior Boys being called up, or evacuated, because of the Second World War.

    On 3rd September 1939, Boys assembling for Bible Class at 11.00 am went round to the Vicarage at 10 West Road to hear the Prime Minister’s Broadcast on the wireless. The first impact of this was evacuations and blackout, but as part of the hall could be blacked out it was, available for Company meetings. However, more Staff were called up, and problems were beginning to arise.

    On 25th May 1940, a successful Company Inspection and Display was held at St. James' School in Clapham Park Road, but due to the overall situation it was not possible to hold the Company Camp planned for August. 

    In September 1940 the Battle of Britain started, and the Church Hall was an early casualty. One Sunday morning, Bible Class had already started in the Hall, but was abandoned when the warning was sounded, and so no members of the Company were inside when the building was struck. As it was a strong old building it was only rendered unsafe, however it was later pulled down.

    D.J.Hooton with great speed and urgency managed to get The Company equipment out of the Hall, and stored it in various other places around the Parish where it was kept until the end of the War. The Blitz was fully on, more Boys were evacuated, more staff called up, the Church Hall was unusable, the Parish School demolished in an air-raid and altogether things were very difficult.

    In 1941 the Reverend E.J.Bloxham became Chaplain to the Company, which then consisted of a few Boys, and a couple of staff with nowhere to meet. Another Boys' Brigade Company the 33rd London at Kenyon Baptist Church, Solon Road, was down to one staff member and a few Boys but had an HQ, so the two companies linked together temporarily to keep each other going.

      The Sunday Morning Bible Class was held at Church House, 10 West Road, which was extended at the front to make a temporary Church since the Church building was demolished during an air-raid.

      In 1942 the Company managed to hold a Camp at Charterhouse, near Godalming, with the help of another local Boys' Brigade Company, the 88th London from Ramsden Road Baptist Church, Balham. This arrangement ensured that a camp could be run, and greatly increased the morale of those left in the Company. However, halfway through the camp week, Captain Denis Hooton was called up, leaving Dennis Alderson, to carry on. During the remainder of the war years although Denis Hooton was still officially Captain, the Company only remained open because of the sterling efforts of Dennis Alderson who became acting Captain.

      From 1942-1945 the Company kept going, with the Sunday Bible Class being held at 10 West Road, a games evening on Wednesday, and any other activities that could be organized between air raids. During this period the Company continued camping with the 88th London, camps being held d at Appledore and Brean.  

Post War Years  

Company May 1949 

Company Camp 1952

      On 8th May 1945, V.E. Day brought to an end the war in Europe, and in August 1946, D.J.Hooton returned to take over again as Captain. Bernard Pitcher joined the ranks of the 83rd as an officer with Dennis Alderson. 

    The 1946-47 Session; started in October 1946 with 3 staff, and a full programme of activities including the restart of the Band. The Company Display in May 1947 was ambitious enough to warrant taking the Army Drill Hall in Kings Avenue,

    In 1950 D.J.Hooton gave up the Captaincy but continued to serve as an officer and A.E.Milan became the seventh Captain of the 83rd.

    During the early 1950's the Company strength was about 50 Boys, it held its Drill Parade at Haselrigge Road School, and the Boys paid a weekly subscription of 2d (less than 1p in today’s money).

    The Drum and Fife Band, reformed in 1946,met on a Friday night at Lyham Road School under the expert eye of a Drum Major from the Guards and won the All-London Drum and Fife Band Shield in 1949,1950,1951, and 1955. Also in this period the 83rd won the South West London Battalion First Aid Shield for three years running in 1955, 1956 and 1957, and then went on to come 3rd in the All London First Aid Competition in 1955, 1956 and 1957.  


The 83rd and 74th Drum & Fife Bands 
at Bucking Palace  1953

The 83rd and 74th Drum & Fife Bands
at The Royal Albert Hall 1951

    The 83rd Drum and Fife Band joined with the Band of the 74th London to play on television as part of the celebrations for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 June 1953.

    In 1954 The Boys’ Brigade celebrated the centenary of the birth of it’s founder with a number of important events including the Festival of Boyhood held at Wembley Stadium at which The 83rd were represented in the P.T display while many 83rd Old Boys took part in the closing Parade.

    The 83rd were represented at the International Founders Camp of 2000 boys from nineteen countries held on the playing fields of Eaton College.

    Mr. Hooton was on the Quartermaster's staff and several members of the 83rd attended the service in Stipules' Cathedral to mark the Centenary.

    From 1952 the Company started holding its Drill Parade in the newly built Glenbrook School in Clarence Avenue, and in 1955 held its Diamond Jubilee Display, which was a great success. 

In 1957 A.E. Milan retired as Captain of the 83rd and Bernard Pitcher took over the Captaincy.

On 13th September 1958, the Company paraded at the Service of Consecration of the newly re-built parish Church of St James’ Clapham Park, the ordinal Church having been destroyed during the Second World War.

    It was in Bernard Pitcher's term of service as Captain that the 'Best Private of the Year' Award was introduced. This award was presented to the Private in the Company who had shown the best all-round efficiency, particularly in attendance, punctuality, and turnout during the Winter Session.

    Bernard Pitcher is particularly well remembered for introducing in January 1959 the Old Folks Party, which has continued to its 50th Anniversary  in 2008 

      In 1960 two changes took place in the Company staff, Gordon Whitefoot retired as leader in Charge of the Life- Boys to be succeeded by Malcolm Williams, and the Company said goodbye to the Reverend E.J.Bloxham who had supported, guided and encouraged it over many years as its Chaplain, and attended many of the Annual Camps at Whitectiffe Bay. The Company welcomed as his successor the Reverend J.S.Hepworth, the new Vicar at St James’.

    In1963 Chris Jones, a Lieutenant in the company took over from Bernard Pitcher as Captain.






A New Era  

    Since 1895 the boys of the 83rd had worn the traditional pillbox had, but this was changed, in Chris Jones' early days, to the more modern Field Service Cap. A Bugle Band replaced the Drum and Fife Band. These changes were made to try and revitalise the Boys enthusiasm for The Boys' Brigade.

    In 1966 the Life-Boys changed its name, to be called the Junior Section of The Boys' Brigade, a change thought by many to be long overdue.

    The 83rd continued to progress steadily in the 1960's with camps normally being held at the regular camp site at Whitecliffe Bay, and holding successful Displays in May, and very happy Old Folks' Parties in January. The 83rd continued the tradition of excellence in First Aid, with Instructor Brian Dalton, leading the Company to win the Lambeth Battalion First Aid Shield for three years running in the years 1968-1970.

    The Company continued to camp with the 181st London Company, from Bonneville Baptice Church, having struck a very enjoyable partnership between the two Companies. Thoughts of camp at Whitecliffe Bay still hold fond memories for many men to date, as over a period of some 40 years many hundreds of 83rd boys have enjoyed their week's camp on the island. 

    Football has traditionally been one of the most popular of the sporting activities the Company has run over the years. In the late 1960's the Company reached a very high standard, winning the Lambeth Battalion Football Shield from 1968-1970. It was also well represented in the Battalion Football Team, with at one time 5 members of that team coming from the 83rd.  

75th Anniversary  

    To mark it’s 75th Anniversary the 83rd was presented with its first Company Colours, which were dedicated at the Annual Inspection and Display in May 1970..

    At the end of 1970 Chris Jones retired from the Captaincy and was succeeded by Jeff Cackett. Several changes took place at about this time, with a concentration on lightweight Camping and Duke of Edinburgh's Award activities taking over from some of the more traditional items.   

    Several very good camps were held at a variety of different sites, including the Dartmoor National Park. The Boys continued to take part in the Old Folks Party Community Service, and some very successful Displays were held at Lambeth Town Hall. The Boys extended their interest outside the Company, and visited local hospitals at Christmas time to sing Carols to the patients. During this time, although the Company was not strong in terms of numbers, a wide range of activities were offered, and Peter Harper rose from the ranks to serve for some years as a Lieutenant.

In 1974 Peter Harper succeeded to the captaincy when Jeff Cacket left the area.

     Unfortunately in the late 1970's things became more difficult for the Company particularly due to pressures on staff time. In 1978, in the 83rd year of the Company it had to close its doors to the Boys of Clapham after having given continuous service since 1895.   

    All possible efforts are being made to try and revive it to serve the needs of the Boys in the Clapham area, and to extend St James' mission in this vital way. At the moment the 83rd London Old Boys' Association, started in 1949, is still running and coordinating the help and activities of a large number of Old Boys and ex - Officers of the Company, some of whom were serving St James' and the 83rd at the beginning of this century.

The 83rd. London Company

Enrolled in the South London Battalion 1896
Connected with St. James' Church, Clapham

Company Motto: -" OVERCON4E"

                                                             Chaplains: -

        1895 - F.A.C.LiUingstone,

        1900 - W.T.Hollins,

        1918 - A.E.Thompson,

        1921 - A.E.Hughes,

        1938 - H.P.Walkden,

        1941 - EJ.Bloxham,

        1960 - S.J.Hepworth,

        1965 - V.A.Sheen,

        1987 - C Gale

                                                            Captains: -

        1896 - W.E.Monro,

        1900 - C.F.L.Nursey,

        1905 - A.S.Roberts,

        1923 - P.S.Wigney,

        1927 - A.P.Rowbottom,

        1936 - D.J.Hooton,

        (1942,46 - D.C.Aiderson, Acting)

        1950 - A.E.Milan,

        1957 - B.A.Pitcher,

        1963 - C.F.Jones,

        1971 - J.B.Cacket,

        1974 - P.Harper,


It is estimated that during the past 100 years that over one Thousand Boys

 Have passed through the ranks of the Company.

The Boys' Brigade Prayer.

Bless, O God, The Boys’ Brigade, and give
to it greater power to advance Your
kingdom throughout the world. Grant in
mercy, that every member, past and
present, may prove stedfast in his fight
against evil, and true in his allegiance to
You. Help us in times of temptation; make
us strong where we are weak, give us
courage in difficulty, faithfulness in duty,
loyalty in friendship; and finally, by Your
mercy, bring us into Your everlasting
kingdom, through Jesus Christ, our Lord,


The 8 3rd Life Boy Team

In 1935 the 83rd Life Boy Team was founded with Mr. D J Hooton as leader in charge.    

  My Memories

By Gordon Whitefoot.

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.

I joined the Team as a Leader early in 1954, with Harry Dean having just taken over as Leader-in Charge the year before, from Mr. & Mrs. Stepple. Mrs. Westcott was assisting with the music and very soon Margaret Webb & Molly Henderson joined the team as Leaders.    

I Think the Team transferred to meeting at Glenbrook School during 1956, and Malcolm Williams and Mike Fisher became leaders during that year, Harry Dean having retired.  

In 1957 Molly Henderson moved away and Anne Smith joined the leadership with a parent Mrs. Renee Cambridge providing further assistance, and as the Team had increased in strength that year, Richard Smith transferred to the Team from the Company.

  As we in the Life Boys, tended to shy away from National events, or even Battalion Competitions, my Memories are mainly confined to our own 83rd Family.

  I Remember.... Boys making table-lamps out of cotton reels, painting baby- powder tubs and making them into tea, sugar and coffee sets, filling up baby 'Delrosa" bottles with loose bath salts, all to sell at the Church's Christmas Bazaar.   

I Remember.... Outings to Oxted Woods and chasing Boys through the trees and bracken, or getting "hooked up" by Boys in the tree branches.  

I Remember.... Dressing up Boys to look likes American Western women in bonnets and skirts to do a square- dancing item in a Display.   

I Remember.... The Leaders, at a Christmas party singing "Poor young Life-Boy he's going to die", and being pelted with bits of buns, cakes, etc.  

I Remember.... Making old-fashioned lanterns in pots and going out carol singing at Christmas, collecting for a charity.  

 Remember... The first tubular bells and the first plastic flutes/pipes we bought, and the new musical dimension they brought to the Team.  

I Remember.... the Parent's Evenings we had, and how we involved the Parents, especially Renee Cambridge and Mrs. Conroy.  

I Remember.... The terrible time Margaret and Anne had with a little Boy called "Frankie". I received the ultimate from Margaret ... neither he goes, nor I go'. Fortunately, " was only said in fun, hoping the junior Section was a help to Frankie in later life. Many years later, I met him on a train on his way to the Army firing range in Bisley. He was smart, clean immaculate in army uniform. We recognized each other, and he was full of the good times he'd had at Life Boys - I had to point out that Margaret and Anne had not been quite so enthusiastic, at the time.  

I Remember... Meeting on Clapham Common to play cricket, some Boys were playing " Rounders' while others were up at the Manor Street swimming baths. We all joined together to finish with notices and closing prayer in the open air. A lady, sitting on a bench, noted this and she wrote to the 'Clapham Observer' who printed her letter. Rev. Bloxham showed me the newspaper and was pleased that the '83rd' and St. James had shown a Christian witness so publicly.  

I Remember.... In the Olympic year an item we put on for an Area Display at Battersea Town Hall, of boys dressed up as Romans, Greeks and Spartans, of long jumps, and chariot races etc.  

I Remember.... Taking the Boys to Wembley Stadium to witness the Boys’ Brigade 75 years' celebration, and I being a part of the Officer contingent marching round the well-known turf.   

I Remember.... A little Boy, who shall remain nameless, who on the first night when his Mum brought him, clung to her dress and cried when she left him. It was only a matter of a few weeks afterwards that I had to step in and stop him from bullying other Boys!   

I Remember... The Boys all dressed-up as birds to enact the song.  "Who Killed Cock Robin", which was repeated later at an Area Display. We received much help from the Parents in making the costumes and masks.  

I Remember... Taking the Boys to the White City Stadium to watch the Displays by members of the Armed Forces, all part of the Solders, Sailors and Air Force Association Charity. To see the different Displays including a very up- beat rendering of the St. Louis' March by an American Air Force Band was quite an experience.  

There must be many more highlights and memories, Margaret and Arthur Webb, Mike Fisher, Anne & Richard Smith, could probably add to them. I cannot absolutely guarantee the dates but somewhere along the line, Joan Bonney, Mrs G Sheppard, Harry Dean, Vic Owlett, Malcolm Williams, Chris Jones, Ena Plumb all provided Leadership in the Team.