The 83rd London Company 1896 - 1977
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
Post War Years
The 1946-47 Session; started in October 1946 with 3 staff, and a full programme
of activities including the restart of the Band.
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 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.
M r. Hooton was on the Quartermaster's staff and several members of the 83rd
attended the service in Stipules' Cathedral to mark the Centenary.
r. 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.
1957 A.E. Milan retired as Captain of the 83rd and Bernard Pitcher took over the
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
ex - Officers of the Company, some of whom were serving St James' and the
83rd at the beginning of this century.
ex - Officers of the Company, some of whom were serving St James' and the 83rd at the beginning of this century.
83rd. London Company
in the South London Battalion 1896
Motto: -" OVERCON4E"
1895 - F.A.C.LiUingstone,
0 - S.J.Hepworth,
1965 - V.A.Sheen,
- C Gale
6 - D.J.Hooton,
- D.C.Aiderson, Acting)
It is estimated that during the past 100 years that over one Thousand Boys
Have passed through the ranks of the Company.
Boys' Brigade Prayer.
O God, The Boys’ Brigade, and give
3rd Life Boy Team
3rd Life Boy Team
1935 the 83rd Life Boy Team was founded with Mr. D J Hooton as leader
now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He
shall direct thy paths.
the days of thy youth, In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.
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. &
Westcott was assisting with the music and very soon Margaret Webb & Molly
Henderson joined the team as Leaders.
Think the Team transferred to meeting at Glenbrook School during 1956, and
Malcolm Williams and Mike Fisher became leaders during that year, Harry Dean
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
the Team from the Company.
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
Remember.... Outings to Oxted Woods and chasing Boys through the trees and
bracken, or getting "hooked up" by Boys in the tree branches.
Remember.... Dressing up Boys to look likes American Western women in bonnets
and skirts to do a square- dancing item in a Display.
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.
Remember ... The first tubular bells and the first plastic flutes/pipes we bought, and
the new musical dimension they brought to the Team.
... The first tubular bells and the first plastic flutes/pipes we bought, and the new musical dimension they brought to the Team.
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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.