Wheeler – Soldier Golfer – Shrimper by The Editor
At eighty-seven Albert Booth still has that same twinkle in his eye as when I first met him in 1957.The Rye Wheelers had just got on their feet again after a spell of inactivity and Albert, one of the club’s prewar champions, came back into the fold to teach us youngsters the tricks of the great sprinters. Make no mistake, Albert had been a great sprint cyclist in the 1930’s winning many races at the Rye Sports Festival and other Grass Track Meetings in the area. Albert With some the cycling trophies he won in the seasons before the War
Bert Birchel, Albert Booth, Tommy Sinden, Jack Munn, Jim Rutler, Albert Pope, Sonny Martin, Fred Clark, Jimmy Jarret and John Barden.
Albert came from a large Rye family being one of thirteen brothers. He met the love of his life on the steps at Hilder’s Cliff, she was Flora Ashcroft from Tenterden, It was love at first sight, they were married at St. Mildred’s Church Tenterden on St. George’s Day 1938.
Life was good for Flo and Albert. He had a steady job at Spun Concrete and still enjoyed his cycle racing. They started a family. But then the War clouds loomed and Albert was swept off to France and Belgium with the Royal Sussex Regiment. He had been a Territorial so was one of the first called to arms. When the German Panzar Tanks broke through the French lines and left the B.E.F. surrounded there was a massive retreat to Dunkirk where Albert, fighting with the rear guard units was one of the last British soldiers to be lifted from the beaches before the Germans broke through.
Later Albert was posted out to the Middle East where the boot was on the other foot. This time he fought with Monty’s Desert Rats at El Alamein and helped chase the Germans out of Africa.
Other foreign postings followed. Each time he had to leave Flo to cope with their new family, Jean, Brian and Victor, who Albert cradled in his arms at the age of a few months and then never saw again until he had started school. Flo evacuated with the children to Kidby, near Scunthorpe. Through it all she kept the family together and healty until Albert came home at the end of hostilities.
Albert was fortunate to have spent the war years among many of his friends from Rye. These pictures from various theatres and continents are a record of other Rye heroes who fought for freedom from tyrany in those terrrible times.
In Iraq with Sonny Martin, Les. Tullet and Fred Bumstead in 1945
Albert certainly had an active war. He returned home to Rye to a different world than he had left. He still had his job at Spun Concrete but it was hard to support a family in these times. He continued with his cycling and was also involved with and later became involved with another source of cycle racing. Cycle Speedway caught on in a big way and Albert managed the Rye Aces for several years, travelling as far as Scotland with the team on more than one occassion, The Aces were very successful for a few years but became defunct in the late 50’s. Albert remained involved with cycling but changing his main efforts to his other sporting love, golf. Albert became a member of the Rye Artisan Golf Club. He played golf for fifty years, winning countless prizes and only retiring because of trouble with his knee joints. He worked with Spun until his retirement.
With Sonny Marin in the desert
The family lived in Military Road and then Pottingfield Road on the Tilling Green Estate, moving into the property just two days after it had been completed. Albert lives in the same house today, sadly without Flo, who he lost a few years ago. Their’s had been an ideal marrage, they celebrated their 50th. Anniversary in 1988.
From Rye’s Own October 2003
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