River Cruise on Board M.C. Belle, August 28th 1937

My dad was born in 1919 in Saffron Walden in Essex; he was christened in Peterborough Cathedral, but spent most of his life in Cambridge. From an early age his best friend was Sammy, and in 1937, just after his eighteenth birthday, the pair of them set of on a holiday cruise. They kept a diary which is fascinating reading!

We started this afternoon from Banham’s Boatyard at 2:30 p.m. under a beautiful clear sky and a slight breeze behind us. After successfully passing through Baites Bite and Bottisham locks, we settled down for a nice long stretch of water. We did not hurry and at 5:15 p.m. we stopped about 1/2 mile from Ely and had some tea. We then pushed on to the Cutter Inn at Ely where we moored for provisions etc.

Half an hour later we were off again and after travelling along  magnificent stretches of water we came within a quarter of a  mile of Sandhill Road Bridge, Littleport. We put ashore here for the night and moored our craft securely before having a short and unsuccessful attempt to fish the water round about us.

Sammy and dad 2 001

We went for a stroll after dark along the bank, the air being cool after the sunny afternoon. On our return we wound up the clock and made our beds and in a short while we were “dead to the world.”

On August 28th, 1937, two 18 year old lads set off for a week’s holiday, cruising the River Cam. Gordon Samuel, Sammy, kept a diary of their adventures. The other young man was Donald Elsden, Snick, my Dad!


  1. icelandpenny

    Hi Lois, This is a wonderfully touching post, even though none of us knew your dad. There’s just something about looking back at the old photos and diaries of earlier generations, when they were young and eager and fresh to the world. Somehow it helps lift them out of their hierarchical role in our lives — e.g. father, grandmother, great-aunt — and makes them simply human. It adds a dimension to their identity for us, and we discover them anew. (I’ve just looked up at the wall next to my computer, where I’ve framed and hung an old black-and-white snap taken of my own parents, when they were newly engaged…)


    1. Lois

      Thank you, Penny! I’m going to write the rest of the diary – it’s not very long and there are some lovely little parts which amuse me… and show how life has changed!


    1. Lois

      Thanks! No-one knows where the nick-name comes from; his brother was called Snick too so Donald was little Snick but with him the name remained and even at his funeral he was referred to as it!

      Liked by 1 person

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