Precious photographs record the happy Worthing Boys Choir days

Edwin Wells, with his two photographs of Worthing Boys Choir
Edwin Wells, with his two photographs of Worthing Boys Choir

NOT many people may realise Worthing once had a municipal boys choir, believes Broadwater reader Edwin Wells.

He was one of the boys in the choir, which was disbanded just after the Second World War.

Mr Wells, 86, of Hawthorn Road, was in the choir from about the age of 11 until he left school when he was 14.

He remembers the choir master at the time was Francis Crute, while the Worthing Municipal Orchestra conductor was Herbert Lodge.

“The choir master went into the forces, and that was that,” he said. “It was a shame really.

“It was good. I really enjoyed it. They were happy days, they were.”

He has two precious photos of the choir, taken where they used to rehearse, in the Little Institute, in Montague Street, which was around where Boots is on the north side.

“It was only a small hall that they used to use for all sorts,” said Mr Wells. “It was quite a dump actually, as you can tell from the pictures, where the cloth is falling off the stage.”

He doesn’t think many photos were taken, so these are an important record of the choir, which used to hold a lot of concerts in the Assembly Hall.

Mr Wells was also in the school choir at Sussex Road Boys School, and in the church choir at St Mary’s in Broadwater.

But his singing days came to an end when he started work at the age of 14, working in boat building at the William Osborne boat yard in Littlehampton.

“We were working on building torpedo boats,” he said. “It was a good job that was.”

As he was in a reserved occupation, he wasn’t called up in the Second World War, but his father, George Wells, was in the Navy.

His ship, HMS Dunedin, was torpedoed on November 24, 1941, and he was one of only 72 who were picked up out of a crew of 486.

“It was in the Central Atlantic Ocean and they were hit by a U boat,” said Mr Wells. “He was a lead stoker. They were lucky they were picked up because it was an American boat and its engines had packed up and it was drifting. One of the crew spotted these rafts, they had been drifting out there for four days and four nights.”

Mr Wells remembers that war was declared on a Sunday, when he was in church with the choir.

“My mum, Ethel, came up and just as we had started, they had a false alarm, an air raid siren.

“The sidesman, he came in and told the vicar about it. He said a prayer and then everyone went home.”

When the boat building business fell into decline, Mr Wells went into the Post Office as a postman. “It was a 4am start in those days,” he recalled.

Born in either Tarring Road or London Street, where his mum’s mum used to live, Mr Wells has lived in Worthing all his life, particularly around the Broadwater area.

“Broadwater used to be a nice village but then they knocked a lot down and built flats,” he remembered. “It was quite a nice area then, no traffic about.”

He was the eldest of four, two boys and two girls, and now lives with his sister, neither of them having ever married.

Mr Wells said an old school pal lives down the road and they enjoy sharing memories.

Does anyone else remember Worthing Boys Choir? Let us know. Email elaine.hammond@shorehamherald.co.uk