Category Archives: All at sea

Aubrey Boomer and a Ryder Cup story

Many of us have just watched the Ryder Cup but I wonder how many have read the story of the early days and one Aubrey Basil Boomer who was born on 1st November 1897 and passed-away on 2nd October 1989.

Aubrey had become interested in golf when he watched the sis-rimes Open Champion Harry Vardon playing in Jersey during the First World War.  After the war Aubrey developed his golfing career in France.  Why France?  He felt that in England golf professionals were employed by clubs as low-paid servants while across the Channel they were regarded as social equals of the members they served, by virtue of their skill at the game.  Aubrey became the favorite professional of the rich who visited Paris.  One of these was Sir Philip Sassoon who rewarded him by having suits made up for him at Saville Row!  This ‘status’ appears to have upset the petty-minded officialdom that then ran the British professional game so much that, when Aubrey was chosen for the 1927 Ryder Cup match against America in America he was recorded as a Frenchman and was required to wear a beret!

The sea crossing took nearly a week; many of the team were seasick, and practice was poor to non-existent for those that could cope with conditions because they found that they had to practice their swings in time with the roll of the boat!

This was the first of two Ryder Cup matches – the 1st Ryder Cup Match was held at the Worcester County Club in Worcester in Massachusetts. That very first competition was dominated by the United States who won by the then landslide score of 9½–2½ points with the USA Captain Walter Hagen becoming the first winning captain to lift the Ryder Cup.  Ted Ray was the first captain to represent the Great Britain team.

Aubrey was a profession golfer who played in the early 20th century. He had three top-10 finishes in the Open Championship and was a frequent competitor in the French Open which he won five times – in 1921, 1922, 1926 and 1929. In the 1921 French Open he won in a playoff against Arnaud Massy – his former golf teacher!  Massy had been 3 shots up after 9 holes but picked up his ball on the 34th hole when he was 8 shots behind!  In his 1929 victory he beat the St Cloud course record with a score of 61.

In the 1924 Open Championship held in June at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake Walter Hagan won the second of his four Open Championships, one stroke ahead of runner-up Ernest Whitcome.  Aubrey Boomer finished tied for sixth place in the event.

In the 1927 championship was held in July at the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland.  Amateur Bobby Jones successfully defended the title with a six-stroke victory, the second of his three victories at the Open Championship. Aubrey Boomer and Fred Robson tied for second place – once again six shots back from the winner!

Aubrey suffered a stroke in Cannes and died later in Brussels on 2nd October 1989.

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To Which We Serve

There are times when ‘doing what you plan to do’ gets done – and there are also times when ‘what you planned to do’ didn’t get done – and today I am not sure which of these apply – so I’ll leave it to you to decide!  It’s a part of our ‘Music for Ragtime to Rock ‘n’ Roll’ story – but doesn’t specifically contain either!  Last week our 1942 story had two new singers on the scene. This week we are all at sea with the story of HMS Kelly- a K-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy and the flotilla leader of her class. She had served through the early years of the Second World War in Home Waters, off Norway and in the Mediterranean. Throughout the ships service it was commanded by Lord Louis Mountbatten. The vessel was lost in action in 1941 during the Battle of Crete.

In 1942 a British patriotic war film, directed by Sir Noël Peirce Coward and Sir David Lean, with the assistance of Britain’s Ministry of Information, came on screen.  It was called ‘In Which We Serve’ with a screenplay inspired by the exploits of Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten.  In the Box Office the film was the second most popular movie at the British box office in 1943 and was one of the most successful British films ever released in the US, earning $1.8 million in rentals.  Noël Coward had composed the music as well as starring in the film as the ship’s captain. The film also starred John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson and Richard Attenborough – it was Richard’s first screen role. ‘In Which We Serve’ also received a full backing by the Ministry of Information which offered advice on what would make good propaganda.  The film remains a classic example of wartime British cinema through patriotic imagery of national unity and social cohesion within the context of war.

However – there were ‘responses’. 

A New York Times writer observed, “There have been other pictures which have vividly and movingly conveyed in terms of human emotion the cruel realities of this present war. None has yet done it so sharply and so truly as In Which We Serve… For the great thing which Mr. Coward has accomplished in this film is a full and complete expression of national fortitude … Yes, this is truly a picture in which the British may take a wholesome pride and we may regard as an excellent expression of British strength.”

Variety called the film “a grim tale sincerely picturized and splendidly acted throughout” and added, “Only one important factor calls for criticism. It is that all the details are too prolonged. The author-producer-scriptwriter-composer and co-director gives a fine performance as the captain of the vessel, but acting honours also go to the entire company. Stark realism is the keynote of the writing and depiction, with no glossing of the sacrifices constantly being made by the sailors.”

Despite largely positive reviews by audiences and critics alike, the film was not well received by some within the Admiralty who dubbed it “In Which We Sink“.  None-the-less – on Christmas Eve 1942 in New York, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures honoured the film as the ‘Best English Language Film of the Year’ citing Bernard Miles and John Mills for their performances.  The film was nominated in the 1943 Academy Awards but lost to ‘Casablanca’ for Best Picture and ‘Princess O’Rourke’ for Best Original Screenplay. However, Noel Coward was presented with an ‘Academy Honorary Award for “his outstanding production achievement.”   In 1943 ‘In Which We Serve’ also won the ‘New York Film Critics Circle Award’ for Best Film’, beating Casablanca’, and the ‘Argentine Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Film in 1943.

The steamship Great Eastern’s first voyage.

The steamship Great Eastern was built to carry 4,000 passengers from England to Australia without refueling.  However – for its first long distance journey it had been arranged that it would leave Southampton about 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, 16th June 1860 to cross the Atlantic to New York.  There were large crowds at Southampton to watch – but when 4 o’clock arrived nothing happened!  At 7 o’clock the steam began and everyone got ready to cheer.  Nothing happened!  There were stories that the delay was because the crew were drunk!  It is certainly true that the company director Daniel Gooch, who was traveling aboard, was not at all pleased!  It was not until 8 o’clock on this Sunday morning 17th June 1860, after a night at it’s moorings, that the Great Eastern finally slipped her moorings in Southampton waters and started on her first voyage to America.  The newspapers of the day note that she had just 35 paying passengers on board – 2 or 3 of who were ladies!   There were also eight company non-paying passengers, and a crew of 418. Among the passengers were two journalists; two engineers – Zerah Colburn and Alexander Lyman Holley –- and three directors of the Great Ship Company.

Although the weather was described as ‘thick and stormy’ it was recorded that she ‘threaded the narrow and tortuous channel down the Solent, and through the Needles, in safety, under the pilot-age of Mr Bowyer’.

Various telegrams give us a deeper understanding of the delays and departure.  One says ‘The weather was far too thick and stormy to render it prudent for her to have got away last night’.  Perhaps it is as well she didn’t, as on passing Hurst Castle a ‘large troop ship could be plainly distinguished stuck fast among the rocks near the Needles.’

There are, though, also stories that the delay was because the crew were drunk!  It is certainly true that the company director Daniel Gooch, who was traveling aboard, was not at all pleased!