The Cruise of the Merriment – Norfolk Broads August 1919

I was busily writing a blog post to accompany the set of 1880s photographs of the Norfolk Broads which I’m working to get on to Broadland Memories at the moment, when a lovely surprise popped up in my email inbox on Monday. It was the third instalment in the series of original Norfolk Broads sailing logs written by Edward Leslie Champness, this one dating from August 1919.

I downed keyboard immediately so that I could read the log which, given previous instalments, I knew would be an entertaining read. The two week trip took place a year after their honeymoon on the Broads and nine months after the end of the First World War,  Leslie and Rowena Champness being accompanied this time by four friends. The log has been transcribed, researched and laid out in PDF form once again by Bruce Robb, the couple’s grandson. The Cruise of the Merriment is slightly different in that each of the crew members, having been given suitable nautical nicknames, took it in turns to write up the log at the end of the day. It gives the log a different slant and is a very amusing and charming account of the adventures that the friends got up to along the way. Having splashed out on a hamper of provisions which was delivered by Harrods, instead of relying on Roys of Wroxham as they had on previous holidays, I was relieved to discover that Bovril and potatoes (which had been a staple during their 1918 trip) were still on the menu on day one! The group covered most of the northern rivers during their fortnight and attended the Potter Heigham and Ludham Regatta, one of the female members of the crew even won the ladies open swimming race. The log includes an original hand bill from the regatta along with numerous photos of the event and from the rest of the holiday.

A misadventure involving their boom and the trellis of a riverside bungalow at Potter Heigham led to them to seek the services of a “Walter” at the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company for repairs to Merriment. It is very likely that “Walter” was none other than Walter Woods, father of Herbert Woods. The crew then bought  wood and paint to make good the damage to the trellis themselves.  Different times!

This really is such a joyous read and you can find The Cruise of the Merriment on the main Personal Memories page of the Broadland Memories website.

In 1919, Leslie Champness was an Assistant Constructor in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, prior to the war he had qualified as a naval architect at Armstrong College in Newcastle. Mordaunt Mauleverer Parker, who was a fellow crew member on this trip, had been at Armstrong College with Champness and was also in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors during the war. Bruce added the following information about his grandfather’s career in shipbuilding; “He was Assistant General Manager at Palmers in Jarrow and Hebburn on the Tyne in 1933 when the company went under – throwing most of the Jarrow out of work and leading directly to the Jarrow March. He (probably with the aid of others but family legend says he was the prime mover) managed to rescue the smaller Hebburn shipyard by getting Vickers-Armstrong to take it over and was Managing Director there up until his retirement in 1953.

My thanks once again to Bruce Robb for taking the time to transcribe the log and for allowing me to share it via Broadland Memories.

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