Gurkhas welcomed to Lowestoft

It was my privilege today to take two Gurkha veterans from the Gurkha community at Thurrock out to tea at Lowestoft.

Although I am no longer a trustee I still have a keen interest in the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holday Centre at Lowestoft. The Manager, Duane Ashworth, made contact with a Gurkha community in Thurrock and in 2020 we had invited two Gurkha veterans to join us for the Armed Forces Day event. Sadly the pandemic overtook those plans and the 2021 AFD event was also cancelled but this week two veterans were able to visit us for a short break and we welcomed Mr Man Bahadur Rai (President, below right) and Mr Kishor Limbu (Advisor, left) from the Thurrock Nepalese Gurkha Community.

Two Gurkha veterans visiting the Kitchcner Centre, Lowestoft

At ‘The Thatch’, almost opposite the Centre, they were keen to relate the proud tradition of the Gurkha connection with the British Army since 1815. The annual recruitment process is still very competitive and only a relatively small proportion of applicants are actually accepted. While there I was the somewhat embarrassed recipient of a scarf of ‘peace and prosperity’ as well as a T shirt and plaque and the latter will be offered to the Centre to be added to the many already on display there.

They assured me that they were very impressed with the Kitchener Centre and would make their community aware of what is provided to the many veterans of military and emergency service. They were especially impressed with Lord Kitchener. They were, of course, familiar with the WW1 image of Kitchener pointing at you from a poster declaring that ‘Your Country needs You!’ but I don’t think that they had realised, until their visit, that the Kitchener of that poster had been a real person. And they were impressed with the photograph in the hall of our patron, Lady Kitchener, and thought her very beautiful.

It was discovered during their visit that the Gurkha community does not have its own national memorial, even at the National Arboretum, and our two visitors are keen to see one set up. It would be good if in some way our Kitchener community could assist them to establish somewhere where all their fallen comrades could be commemorated.

It is hoped that the links forged today will lead to visits by many more Gurkha veterans in the future.

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On 6th May, remember – did your SCC member support the Lowestoft Record Office?

Today I received a letter from the Conservative Party urging me to use my postal vote to support their two candidates for the Lowestoft South Division of the Suffolk County Council on 6th May. The trouble is that the concept of support is usually reciprocal. I needed to ask myself, “Have they represented the best interests of their constituents during their previous period in office, enough to prompt me now to support their re-election? I’m afraid the answer is a resounding ‘No’ for one major reason.

Suffolk County Council comprises 75 seats 48 of which are currently held by the Conservatives. In spite of the valiant efforts of a few opposition councillors the Conservative had a large enough majority to ignore them and to pass any proposal they pleased. One of these was the removal of the majority of Lowestoft’s local history archive from the Lowestoft Record Office to an expensive vanity project in Ipswich called ‘The Hold’.

A report by the Suffolk County Archivist in 1983 pointed out the expense and difficulty of travel to Ipswich from North-East Suffolk and explained that there is a widespread unwillingness of owners of records resident in that area to deposit them in an office in Ipswich. That was the justification for establishing a Lowestoft Record Office in the first place. The expense and difficulty of travel 40 years later has remained the same.

Extract from Friends of Suffolk Record Office Newsletter, July 2016

It is only natural that those of us who have been contributors of records to the Lowestoft Record Office expected that material to remain within easy reach of the local population. It was a real shock when we discovered in January 2018 the plan to move the contents of LRO to Ipswich. Most donations are only of interest to the local people and to move them 40 odd miles away removes them from the sphere of interest by making them no longer easily accessible by local residents. This is no encouragement to future potential donors to continue to contribute.

This whole confused mess has been created by the misguided policy of Suffolk Archives and members of Suffolk County Coumcil. In spite of having the negative results of that policy ably demonstrated to them by the North East Suffolk campaign group Save Our Record Office (SORO), SCC and Suffolk Archives have shown no inclination to moderate it let alone reverse it.

Sadly we cannot vote the members of Suffolk Archives out of office, would that we could! We do, however, have that option when it comes to members of Suffolk County Council. Please remember the track record of the Conservative majority on Suffolk County Council when you come to cast your vote on 6th May.

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RIP Prince Philip

Very sad news that His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh has died today, a Royal with a true sense of duty in his support of our Queen. He may have been a little outspoken at times but it was a fault that endeared him to most of us.

I have always felt a special affinity with Prince Philip ever since I discovered that he and my father, Edward Graham Sims, were born on the same day, 10th June 1921.

In my youth the BBC news, at the beginning of the bulletin, would announce royal birthdays and on 10th June would say something like ‘today is the birthday of HRH Prince Philip’ and would play the play the National Anthem.

In my ignorance I thought it very fitting that my father should also be honoured with the National Anthem. Sadly he died somewhat sooner than Prince Philip, on 15th May 1973.

They both served in the Royal Navy during WW2. My father graduated from Imperial College, London in July 1941 and in August 1941 was accepted for Naval service as a Sub. Lieut. (E), RNVR, serving first at Wallsend and later as Lt. (E) RN in HMS Ajax in the Mediterranean and HMS Vengeance in the Far East in time for the Japanese surrender.

With the death of her husband our Queen is bound to miss his support intensely but I hope that her faith will be a consolation to her. Please pray for her.

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The end of an era…

Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre, Lowestoft

I have decided to step down as a trustee of the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre, Lowestoft. With a family connection of active support going back to 1919 it’s a bit of a wrench but there comes a time when you realise that you can’t justify remaining in post when other, younger, candidates are able to do twice the job that you can in half the time!

If the Kitchener was a club or an association then I could probably get by, freewheeling while others do the work but the Kitchener is far more important than a club. It provides a service to veterans of the armed, merchant and emergency services and to my knowledge no-one freewheels at the Kitchener.

I understand that new trustees are already being appointed and I wish them every success, I hope that they will have the energy and enthusiasm required. I would just remind them that being a trustee is not a sinecure, it needs to be worked at for no return other than the satisfaction of doing the best you can for those who have served.

I remain a supporter of Kitcheners and hope to see it continuing to fill a welfare need of its target clientele. The Kitchener is a large and old listed building in a conservation area and the maintenance costs are high. If you have the skills of a craftsman or tradesman then your support would be very welcome, as would financial support either direct or in sponsorship. To donate please see this Virgin Money Giving link.

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Derek J. K. Sims, RIP

My much loved brother Derek died in Broadlands Residential Care Home on Sunday 5th April 2020. He had been there a couple of years suffering from a cruel disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a neurological disease which affects cognitive responses. Born on 24th July 1947 he was 72 years old.

We had a somewhat erratic early childhood both of us being witness to domestic violence. Many years later I asked him how much he remembered of that and he said ‘quite a lot’ but we never otherwise discussed it. Perhaps we should have done. It remained, however, an unspoken bond between us.

We each went to different boarding schools and the holidays did not always coincide. We did not see each other at all during term time and our respective holiday activities of foreign school visits, Alpine ski-ing, Scout camps, etc also kept us apart although I remember when I was about 16 hitch-hiking to Cornwall from Lowestoft just to see him during one summer holiday.

I’ll always regret that he did not live within easier reach until after he had retired. For a short while when he looked after Boulton & Paul’s computer suite at Norwich (in the days of a refrigerated and dust-free atmosphere) and lived in Oulton Broad we were close enough to each other to be able to go out for the occasional pint of Adnams bitter.

Once we had both grown up, left home and were married my overiding feeling about young Derek was one of pride. Pride in his achievements with a young family, a house way beyond my means but mainly his success in developing his own company in the computing world. He introduced me to the worldwide web long before it was a household name, before Windows existed. Later I was able to show off his expertise to my contemporaries in the holiday industry of Lowestoft as he developed a Gazetteer for holiday providers. Sadly it was to prove too advanced for many of our potential customers who would not be seeking online holiday bookings for some years to come.

After he retired to Ludham we shared the clearing of our uncle’s house in Oulton Broad for one day a week for many months when he and his wife Tricia came over. He was even then showing the early signs of the awful disease which eventually meant his having to go into care and he was more comfortable working outside in the garden than sorting through the house contents. Our picnic lunches in the kitchen gave us the opportunity to catch up with family news. His condition deteriorated, however, and Tricia was able to find him a place at Broadlands in Borrow Road, Oulton Broad.

For some years we had developed a Christmas routine of buying each other some quite appalling presents, each trying to outdo the other. I think that overall he won hands down but I particularly remember the singing fish. I think somewhere we still have the movement activated croaking frog.

With a tradition of buying each other silly presents established after he went into Broadlands I gave him some solar powered waving toys for his window sill which seemed to amuse him.

In the later stages of the disease the effects of PSP had taken their toll and it was tragic such an acute intellect was so limited in expressing itself and painful to see him struggle to make responses. When death eventually comes some of us have the consolation of faith to believe that that intellect somehow still survives. Sadly those without faith do not.

Some childhood exploits

This is an image of Derek aged about 12, a studio portrait looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth! In fact we tended to get into mischief as most boys do and as the elder it was usually my fault.

Our first home where we lived as a family was in Blackheath after father was demobbed from the Royal Navy. Soon afterwards he obtained a job with ICI at Northwich and we moved to Knutsford, Cheshire to a large semi-detached house in Glebelands Road called Underwood. It had a large garden as the property had an additional building plot alongside the house which was laid out to lawn and to a vegetable garden and orchard. Between the lawn and the vegetable garden was a revolving summer house, a wooden structure which could be turned to face the sun. We had a gardener, a Mr. Curbishley, who had a constant battle with rabbits eating the vegetables and father was convinced that the rabbits lived under the summer house.

One day he decided to take the battle to the rabbits and with Derek looking on he, with my help, levered the summerhouse up off its central pillar to gain access to the rabbits. The rabbits, however, had other ideas and when the summerhouse had reached an angle of about 45 degrees a giant rabbit leapt out from underneath and caught Derek squarely in the middle of his chest, bowling him over backwards. I am afraid that was the end of the rabbit campaign. We could not hold the summerhouse up any longer because we were laughing so much. Derek shook himself down and stood up but did not appreciate the funny side for a long time.

By the late 1950s we had moved to Lowestoft to live with our maternal grandparents at Walmer House. Here we had an even larger garden which was bounded by the main A12 road on one side. We had a television and were fascinated by the rope throwing skills of Hoppalong Cassidy and when we found a length of insulated cable suitable for use as a lasso we decided to try our skill. Throwing the lasso against static objects in the garden was no test of our skill, we needed a moving target and so decided to try and capture a cyclist over the fence on the A12. We succeeded, fortunately without causing any injury or damage but it did generate a visit from the local policeman to explain to us the error of our ways. I think that resulted in the exercising of a slipper wielded by mother and in confinement to our bedrooms on bread and water for the rest of the day.

Derek was more into chemistry than I was so I think it must have been 1958 or 1959, after he had gone to boarding school, that he told me about the potential of the weedkiller sodium chlorate and sugar and explained its explosive properties. For an 11 and 13 year old, experimenting with this seemed an ideal summer holiday pastime. The ingredients were quite cheap and easily obtainable. The most expensive was the jetex fuse which we used to ignite the mixture. (Jetex was a solid fuel rocket motor for model aircraft which was quite realistic for models of jet aircraft like the MIG 15).

For our first attempts we used the aluminium cigar tubes that would be left over from Christmas, packing in the mixture and piercing the screw on cap so that the jetex fuse could reach the outside to be lit. The result was disappointing as it behaved like a roman candle which in daylight is nothing like as spectacular as it is after dark. We decided to upgrade our effort and for the next attempt used the steel tin that the sodium chlorate came it. Well mixed with sugar and with a tiny hole pierced in the lid for the jetex fuse we felt that we needed to be somewhat circumspect in where this experiment took place. At the bottom of the garden was a disused wooden pigsty with earth banked up against one of the walls. We buried the tin in the earth, lit the jetex fuse and retired hastily to cover. The pigsty was pretty derelict before we started so I don’t think anyone ever noticed any additional damage but the resultant explosion frightened us enough not to repeat the experiment!

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Lowestoft Record Office

Now that the Lowestoft Record Office as we had come to know it has closed and the start of the transfer of the contents of the strong room to Ipswich is imminent, it makes one wonder how the decision makers can justify such a retrograde policy. Are they really qualified in the preservation of local history for local people or just in administration? They seem to have lost sight of the purpose of a Record Office.

Family Tree Resources, a website assisting genealogical researchers, defines a Record Office simply as:

“Record Offices bring together collections of items and documents local to the area served by the Archive. They have specialised staff who are very knowledgeable about the items in their care, and have helped to conserve the records for future generations to enjoy.”

On the 30th anniversary of Lowestoft Record Office in 2016 the reasons for its existence were listed in the Friends of Suffolk Record Office Newsletter as:

In 1973 Suffolk County Council acknowledged the need to establish a branch of the Record Office at Lowestoft to supplement those at Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. In 1983 County Archivist Amanda Arrowsmith cited additionally the expense and difficulty of travel to Ipswich from the North East of the County and a widespread unwillingness of owners of records in this part of the county to deposit them in Ipswich.


Public transport from Lowestoft to Ipswich is still both expensive and slow. The new repository of Lowestoft records in Ipswich, The Hold, is not easily accessible by those with their own transpsort and it has just 20 parking spaces, all reserved for their staff.

The cavalier attitude of Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Archives has certainly not endeared them to the people of North East Suffolk. I believe that they will now be even more unwilling to deposit records in Ipswich than they were in 1983.

The Hold is within the campus of the University of Suffolk and is seen as a joint enterprise between the University and Suffolk County Council. It is ironic that one of the University’s faculty is David Gill, Professor of Archeological Heritage. In 2012 he won an American award for his blog ‘Looting Matters’ which advocates the return of looted material to its place of origin. I wonder if he would take up our cause?

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Kitchener’s 2020

We are constantly amazed to find that some Lowestoft people do not realise that we exist. 2020 will be our 101st year of catering exclusively to ex armed, merchant and emergency service men and women (some longer than others), with rates subsidised by grants from service and other charities. Don’t miss out, visit our website at for our tariff and facilities.

Further details from the manager, contact via

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Time for a coalition

The negotiations with the European Union are too important to be left to one political party and it is surely time for all parties to share their expertise to reach the best deal for us.

The Conservative Party is not the exclusive home of able men and women in politics and someone needs to start thinking along the lines of what is best for the country. The Labour Party has said that they are prepared to reach a consensus on decisions.

More statesmanlike thinking is needed. A party which tries to hang on to power by cosying up to a fringe potentially divisive minority group is beyond belief.

For goodness sake will the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties please start talking to each other about a coalition. As well as the Brexit negotiations there needs to be decisive action to save our NHS as well as preserving our security. Members of both major parties need to think country, not party.

There are 101 other things I should be doing rather than setting out the above but nobody in power seems to be thinking straight. Someone needs to state the obvious.

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Amazon Marketplace and VAT

Amazon Marketplace sellers registered for VAT are missing a trick by not saying so.

I sell books and I am registered for VAT. Because books are zero rated I don’t have to charge VAT but because I am registered I am able to reclaim the VAT element on the purchases I make as part of the selling process.

Amongst other places I buy on Amazon (who doesn’t) but I am frustrated with Amazon Marketplace sellers who do not state their VAT status. Amazon lists items at VAT inclusive prices. If sellers are registered for VAT they should be shouting the fact from the rooftops because it means that trade buyers, like myself, will be able to reclaim the VAT element of any purchase. This makes their price much more competitive.

Take ink cartridges as an example. I buy ink cartridges by the half dozen at a time. A number of ink cartridge sellers are based in the Channel Islands and at first glance their prices may just have the edge over mainland sellers. Channel Island sellers do not charge VAT. However if you dig deeper on the status of those Amazon Marketplace sellers with mainland addresses you may find some who are registered for VAT.

The irritating part is that they rarely say so. For my last purchase I found a UK based seller offering ink cartridges at slightly more than his Channel Island competitors without saying that he was registered for VAT.  I had to contact the seller direct to ask if they would supply me with  a VAT invoice. Having established that they would I placed an order but by not saying so in the first place they must be losing sales to others who can’t be bothered to enquire further. Wake up UK mainland Amazon Marketplace sellers!


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Lowestoft WW2 Cuckoo postscript

With the 75th anniversary of the raid on 1st February 1942 fast approaching it is perhaps time for a brief postcript to the piece I wrote on Lowestoft’s ‘cuckoo’ air raid warning. Please read that first if you have not done so already.

Last year I eventually tracked down the grave of Stanley Bessey, who was interred in 1973 in the same grave as his wife and two children who had been killed in that raid. The grave was well kept and the fresh flowers indicated that even 40+ years after his death someone was still looking after it.

The inscription on the headstone inferred that it had been erected by his second wife whom I had not known existed. It must have been hard for her to fulfill what I assume was his wish to be buried with his first wife and two of their children.

As I had no wish to stir up what might be painful memories for any member of the family still living I thought it best to leave matters as they are and not press for the originally proposed recognition of the sacrifice made by his first wife Hilda Bessey (35 years) and their children Peter (10 years) and Pamela (4 years).

Stanley W. Bessey headstone

Stanley W. Bessey headstone

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