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Bob Hammond
Robert ('Bob') Vernon Hammond
(1920 - 2008)

Bob, one of the four sons of Robert and Ella Hammond, was born 28th June 1920 at Milford, Surrey. He had twin younger brothers, Fred and Roy, and a brother Eric, who at just five years of age died from meningitis at Brookwood. Regrettably, Roy was killed in action in World War II on the 21st October 1944, aged 19 years and is buried in Brussels Town Cemetery, Belgium.

Bob Hammond with his mates c.1939
 Bob Hammond c.1939
Bob Hammond c.1939

(Left) Bob Hammond with his mates c.1939

His father, served in the Army during the Great War 1914 - 1918 and for a short time lived in Steadmans Cottage opposite the then Anchor public house Normandy, working as a chauffer to Lord Pirbright. Bob's early years were spent at Brookwood following a move for the small family from Milford moving yet again in 1925, to a newly built bungalow "Hill View" on the Normandy Park Road (now named Pirbright Road), Normandy. The land was previously in the ownership of the Executors of the Poyle Estate and from which clay had been extracted for brick making at the Wanborough Brickfields. In 1927 the bungalow was renamed "Hillrise" and remained the family home until his move to Ashbourne Court, Ash in 1998.

Bob and his twin brothers all went to Wyke School during the headmastership of Mr. Harry Aubrey Smith (1929 - 1954), remembered by some pupils for his robust discipline of them. For the community he was remembered as a head-teacher for being a formidable force in promoting and cementing an improved relationship between School and Parent. As was normal for children of that period, Bob left school in 1934 at 14 years of age and started work at Westwood Poultry Farm for a weekly wage of 12/- (60p). The farm, part of the Westwood Estate, was located in Westwood Lane opposite what is now Westwood Place and employed about 20 people, under the manager, Mr. George Kirsch. From 1935 to 1938 Bob was employed as an apprentice with the Aldershot & District Traction Company Ltd; (TRACCO), in the body shop under the immediate foreman Mr. "Rip" Coyne (renowned for ripping into every job, usually with a saw!).

In 1938 Bob joined The Royal Engineers Territorial Army in Guildford and trained with a searchlight unit but with the inevitability of war and being a member of a Territorial unit he left TRACCO to work for a short time for "Charlie" Cull, the Normandy Builder. Bob recalled that it was whilst working on a roof at Frog Grove Lane Wood Street village in 1939 that he received his official "calling-up papers" and so in 1940 the unit was mobilized and was sent to France to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Following the German break-through in May, virtually the whole of this Force was sent into Belgium to try to stem the German Advance. This proved unsuccessful and by the end of May the British Army was retreating steadily towards the beaches of Dunkirk. Apparently Bob's unit arrived in Dunkirk about the 30th May. The unit endured two days of shelling and strafing by dive-bombers. Bob and others of his unit were rescued by an Isle of Wight Ferry paddle-steamer and eventually arrived safely at Dover.

The unit reformed within the Defence Forces but by the autumn of 1940 Bob's unit was incorporated into the Royal Artillery to man searchlights and light anti-aircraft guns. In 1942/1943 Bob was again transferred but this time to the infantry and was sent for training to the Army School of Infantry at Warminster, recognised as one of the toughest training units of the British Army. Bob survived the course and was posted to join the Royal Scots Regiment at Edinburgh, then awaiting orders to embark for Burma. In 1943 the Royal Scots Regiment was integrated into the 14th Army and saw action in Burma. For a time Bob was with a unit of "The Chindits" then involved in the fighting retreat from Rangoon to the Indian border where, with the main force, endured the siege of Kohima. The Army was later reinforced, broke the siege and advanced back into Burma. Bob was awarded the Burma star for bravery. Later, he received a Defence Medal, a Victory Medal and a Territorial Decoration.

Bob was demobbed in 1945 and started work at Drummonds, an engineering firm at Broad Street near Rydes Hill, Guildford, moving on to work for Vokes on the Pirbright Road for 26 years from 1959 until he retired, complete with gold watch presentation from the company, in 1985.

He would have loved to have had a family of his own but it wasn't to be, for following the death of his father he continued to live at "Hillrise", caring for his mother until her death in 1974. He was and remained a very active and busy man, who loved to talk and tell stories about the war.

His father was a founder member and committee member of the British Legion (Normandy Branch), formed in 1937 and it seemed only natural for Bob to become a member also and remained so until his death. He was a stalwart supporter of The Royal British Legion, standard bearer for 49 years, attending innumerable military ceremonies, a committee member for 30 years and was a "Poppy Day" collector for over 40 years. In addition, he was an accomplished billiards and snooker player, competing in local tournaments for "The Legion".

Armistice Parade
Foreground - Doug Roberts
First row - Jim Baker, Bob Hammond, Alec (?)
Second row - Gus Krawczyk, Rev Graham Hawkett, Gordon Finden
Fourth row - extreme right - Fred Lampart

On Sunday the 8th November 1998, members of The Royal British Legion (Normandy Branch) together with Lt Colonel James Tedder (Trustee) and invited guests, gathered to receive Rear Admiral Sir Peter Anson Bt. his wife Dame Elizabeth Anson for an award to Doug Roberts of The Legion d' Honneur by Sir Peter on behalf of the French Government for service in France during the First World War. The opportunity was taken by those present to request Sir Peter to award to Robert (Bob) Vernon Hammond a statuette of a standard bearer in recognition of his incredible 49 years as standard bearer to the Normandy branch of The Royal British Legion.

Bob Hammond receives a statuette of a Standard Bearer
Bob Hammond receives a statuette of a Standard Bearer
Sir Peter Anson Bt; Bob Hammond; Doug Roberts; Gordon Finden (Standard Bearer)

Bob supported most village activities and societies. More often than not, it was he that became an early member of emerging clubs and societies such as Normandy Historians, Normandy Tennis Club and Normandy Bowling Club. Undoubtedly he would be remembered for his bicycle, on which he rode everywhere. Wherever his bike was to be seen, Bob would not be far away, be it propped outside the sub-post office in Glaziers Lane, St Mark's Churchyard, the Normandy Chapel and of course, the cricket ground, for he loved his cricket having been a player-member for Normandy Cricket Club for so many years.

Perhaps what he was least known for, was his skill as an artist in oils, water colour and in his later years for his talent at painting on glass. As a member of the Normandy Art Circle his paintings of local scenes were much admired such as that of "The Lost Landmarks of Normandy". His painting of The Brookwood War Memorial was presented to the Burgomaster of Ypres in 1979 and now hangs in what we would call "The Mayor's Parlour of their Town Hall".

Bob joined the Normandy Chapel at Willey Green in 1965, which was then a Congregational Chapel, and became an active and faithful member for many years. In 1973 the Congregationalists amalgamated with the Presbyterians to form the United Reformed Church and the chapel took on the title of the United Reformed Church Normandy. In 1985 the chapel was sold and a new one was established in Glaziers Lane on the site of the redundant telephone exchange. Later in 1991 it became the Emmanuel Free Church (U.R.C.) where Bob remained a member until his death.

Canada House London 30th May 2002 - Canadian Veteran Day
Canadian Veteran Day 2002
Background - National Flags of Canadian Provinces
Left to Right: Attaché Officer Royal Canadian Air Force; Bob Hammond; Attaché (unknown); Geoff Ashwell Canadian Artillery;

Bob was hardly ever at home - always out doing gardens for people, cutting grass at the Legion Club, riding from one location to the next on his bike. He liked his gardening, particularly his own around the bungalow on the Pirbright Road, which were for ever a picture of colour and tidiness; just like himself. He liked to look smart and would often dress in grey flannels and blazer. He enjoyed wildlife and knew the names of all the local birdlife, feeding them regularly during difficult winters.

Canadian PM meets veterans
Canadian PM meets veterans
Left to Right: Unknown Piper; Bob Hammond; Jean (Jack) Chretien (PM of Canada 1993 - 2003); Albert Cunningham; Unknown (Parade Marshall)

Bob greatly enjoyed traveling by coach with the Joy Wheels bus company and had many happy trips and holidays with them visiting museums, especially such as that at Duxford and above all was a frequent visitor to the War Graves of Belgium and ceremonies at The Menin Gate, Ypres.

Robert (Bob) Vernon Hammond, a long-standing resident of Normandy died on Monday the 3rd January 2008. His funeral and interment (with a Royal British Legion piper-tribute escort), was on Tuesday the 22nd January at St. Mark's Church Wyke.

With grateful thanks for notes supplied by: Mr. Albert Cole; Mrs. Julie Pawsey; Mr. Peter Trevaskis and for the use of archive MSS6 (21) material extracted.

Peter Blakiston

Also see Roy Hammond (Remembrance)

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