Monday, December 11, 2006

C&BG Boy's Club ...The Club that produced Heroes


Previously on the BBC WW2 Archives and a few times on this site I have written about the C&BG Boys Club and on one occasion even referred to it as The Club that produced Heroes

Just in case anyone considered the article’s title a little bit over the top may I take a few minutes of your time to tell you about a dear old friend of mine who was a former C&BG Boy's Club manager and who sadly passed away last week.

The words are taken from a speech made to him in 2004 by Bryan, one of his sons, on the happy occasion of Derek’s 90th birthday..

Derek Merton and World War II

After marrying Frances two weeks after the outbreak of war, Derek had what people tend to describe as a ‘good war’. He joined up as a soldier in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps where he preferred the company of the other ranks to that of the officers. Derek’s experience of the second world war would seem to give substance to the view, expressed by someone (Norman Mailer, perhaps), that war consists of long periods of boredom and discomfort followed by short periods of intense excitement and fear. The early part seems to have been spent in camps in the remoter parts of the English countryside engaged in ‘manoeuvres’ and preparing for action.

Things improved a bit in 1943 when one of the regiment’s senior officers, one Anthony Eden, discovered Derek’s proficiency in French and sent him to London to serve at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Forces in Europe under General Eisenhower. He was later deployed on a special assignment which entailed him being disguised as a French businessman and billeted with Dr Ninet and his family at no. 11 Avenue Hoche in Paris. From there he acted as a kind of middleman between the Allied suppliers of weapons and the Maquis resistance, speeding, no doubt, the liberation of the French. For his exploits he was well decorated. These included two stars for his service in the war, the Defence Medal and from the French government something called Reconnaissance Francaise.

In the photo above, taken at the House of Commons in 1935, Derek is the dapper young man on the extreme right of the front row while a 12 year old Ron Goldstein is two boys away to his right, also in the front row.

5 Comments:

Blogger Frank Mee said...

Ron,
You are so right to publish the exploits of such men for people to read some time in the future we hope.
As a lad of 11 I well remember firstly my Scout Master followed by the senior scouts disapearing into the forces. Then several of the elders (well they were to me) vanishing from the boxing club as they joined up, most I never saw again although the Scout Master did return after the war to become a local dentist.
A couple of years later I joined the Army Cadets by lying about my age as did several others and over the war years watched the older lads peel off into the forces as they reached calling up age.
Many of the clubs and boys associations saw their members leave for the forces, I suppose the discipline and organisation of such clubs helped many in the forces to settle down quickly.
I was looking at a picture of my platoon in the Cadets and realised that after Bob died on bonfire night I am the last one left.
Was the sacrifice those men made plus all the others including you and Tom worth it I ask.
You gave us all a freedom and a right to use or abuse that freedom as we felt fit.
We have raised families in a relatively unstable world. We all of us tried to make the world better in our own way with the hope our grandchildren would be safe. Now we see more of those young men and women being killed in yet another war.
My point is those lads you write about are followed by young men still willing to put their lives on the line for Queen and Country. That to me makes them the same calibre as the WW2 and WW1 lads who went off to war.
It is a pity so many of those boys clubs went to the wall in the sixty's although one of our local boxing clubs is still going strong teaching young lads the disciplines needed to defend themselves in this world so there is hope yet and mainly thanks to those old boys from the old style clubs.

Monday, 11 December, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Hello Ron,

Anybody going into the Paris Region to work for the Resistance and evade capture had to be someone really special. It was the most dangerous place for the Resistance right through the war (until the month of August 1944 when apparently everybody had been a member since 1940).

Relatively few non-French agents seemed to be given the official recognition they deserved after the war. You have given a fine tribute to a brave unsung hero. It must have been some Boys Club you were in!

Monday, 11 December, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

I can't get over the fact that 12 year old Ron had a suit with long pants - I had to wait until I was 15 before I had long pants !
A remarkable club no doubt - and as Frank says - more's the pity of their demise as they instilled some discipline into young "tearaways" which made them all the more fit for active service.Seemed to bounce off tearaway Frank though from what I can gather !
To-day I wonder when I read and hear of so many in Iraq and Afghanistan sending and receiving e-mails - phone calls from home etc if this does not engender a homesickness attitude which the Government thinks can be dispelled with money ?
We were always happy to get a letter from home after only six weeks in transit - and a parcel was a miracle with the contents invariably shared with your mates.
At rock bottom though Frank - we did what we had to do !

Monday, 11 December, 2006  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

You've probably realised by now that I can go on for hours about the C&BG Boy's Club but I must add the following titbit.
Amongst our members were Bernard Spear, comedian...Simon Kester the TV Lawyer and Lewis Gilbert the incomparable Film Director responsible for some of the best of English films.

Wednesday, 13 December, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

You will find a full list of Lewis Gilbert's films here.

Wednesday, 13 December, 2006  

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