Copies of the full journal are also available at just £4 from the Thomas Hardy Society.
Delighted to say, the article about my links to Thomas Hardy, has finally been published in the summer edition of the Hardy Society Journal. A PDF copy of the article, plus extra photos, are featured below and can be downloaded for free.
Copies of the full journal are also available at just £4 from the Thomas Hardy Society.
From the book "Salerno Remembered" by Geoffrey Curtis
"On 9th September 1943 the first major assault on the mainland of Europe was made at Salerno on the SW coast of Italy. Salerno Remembered brings the battle to life through the recollections of those who took part in the operation."
My father, Albert John Williams was there. It was a battle that changed the course of his life. He didn't like talking about his war experiences as the injury he sustained during that battle was forever a sad reminder of those days and the friends he lost.
I never knew anything about the battle at Salerno, except the brief stories my father chose to tell us to explain the nature of his injury.
Then, after my father's death in 1994, I came across the book "Salerno Remembered" by Geoffrey Curtis who was a platoon commander in the 2/6th Queen's regiment at Salerno. His book is a fascinating account of what happened and helped me understand how my dad sustained his injury, which involved losing part of his hand.
My dad was modest about his role in that battle and almost embarrassed talking about it. He was not even proud of the medals he received (recorded in his army book as "Africa Star with 8* army clasp and 1939, France, Italy Victory etc") From what I remember he disposed of them over the years.
I've always been curious to know more about his time in the army and why he became a reluctant hero. I call him that because in my eyes he was one of the many brave that fought for our freedom. But for my father it was just painful and depressing for him to reflect on that time.
As a family though we were always encouraged to respect and acknowledge Remembrance Sunday and at 11am we would stand quietly watching the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on television. My mother would always be tearful when Big Ben struck 11am. For her it was a reminder of my father's disability and how that had impacted on her and shaped the family life that we had.
The details of that moment dad was injured can be found on pages 46-47 in the book Salerno Remembered, but the background to events leading up to this were described at the start of the chapter. It explains that British troops had secured a particular hill that gave them support and protection, as well as a vital observation point of the enemy.
It is described how this occupation of the hill was a thorn in the side of the Germans as the British gunners were able to shoot up any movement in the valley below. My father was in charge of one of sections guarding the hill.
Pages 46-47 explain that "..the Battalion 3in mortars had also been in action and that Sgt Cardwell, who was the Mortar Platoon sergeant at the time, recalls getting a message that Sgt Williams (my father) and that he had been badly wounded in the hand. When the Germans had got behind them in the valley, Sgt Williams had turned round his mortar, firing it down hill at them and he had been hit by a bomb before he could get his hand away from the muzzle."
The details of what happened in the immediate minutes after this incident are not recorded in the book, but my father had told me of the time when he arrived at the first aid tent to be treated by the doctors.
When he told me the story it was never clear if he knew at that time the exact extent of his injury. He knew that a number of his fingers were badly damaged and hanging by a thread. I'm only hoping that some pain relief had been administered, but this was unclear. He only describes, quite graphically, how the doctor treating him, quickly and swiftly cut the damaged fingers (three of them) straight into a bucket.
My father's hand was then bandaged and he was shipped back to the UK. This is all dad would tell us. It seemed quite cold hearted what the doctor had done, but I'm guessing there was no room for emotion and decisions on how injuries were dealt with needed to be quick.
The days, weeks, months and years following my father's ordeal are long and detailed so probably best told another time. But as today is Remembrance Sunday I thought it important this part of his time in the army was told.
Dad's Army Book records state that he was discharged from the army on 2nd February 1944 and his military conduct recorded as EXEMPLARY.
There is no doubt my father was an exceptional man and I can't wait to tell you more about him.
For those who regularly check my page I apologise once again for my absence. But you know the score by now.
I haven't been idle as I've been consumed with another important project. And this is my birthday week, so thought it appropriate to update you. Not that I'm looking for birthday messages, presents or offers to take me out.
For ages I’ve been talking about writing a book about my life. It all started when friends suggested I should write about my times working in the music industry back in the 1960’s with bands like the Small Faces and also explain what it was like having Don Arden, Sharon Osbourne’s father, as my boss. Then I thought there are lots of other diverse activities that I've been involved in over the years.
In May 1991, following a neighbour noise problem that forced me to move house, I launched a national campaign called The Right to Peace and Quiet. The comedian Spike Milligan, who'd had a number of noise problems himself, became our Patron. With his involvement the campaign attracted widespread interest, especially in the media and parliament. In 1997 I was awarded an MBE for that work.
In more recent times I discovered that I am related to the writer and poet Thomas Hardy. Which for me as a writer is hugely exciting.
So, as I thought about each of these landmarks in my life, the idea of writing a book sounded appealing. Time to stop thinking about it and time to start writing.
As a working title, I'm calling it 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It' which was the first single of my favourite 60's band, Small Faces As a writer I am often self critical and have moments of doubt. I feel it's part of the creative process. Whatcha gonna do about it eh?
Writing a book about my life is obviously something I've never done before, and I realise this isn't a short term project!
I was talking to Kenney Jones, drummer with Small Faces, The Faces and The Who, following the launch of his autobiography Let The Good Times Roll. He had been working on his book for some years, but said that having someone help with research was so important and he would not have been able to complete the project without that help. Getting dates and times correct is so important and I agree that is taking up a lot more of my time than actually writing.
I now have someone to help with Editing, which has been a huge bonus in getting me focussed. But so far, I'm enjoying the journey.
This week I may have some difficulty as I have a birthday on Wednesday (7th November in-case you're interested). Celebrations already started on Saturday when I went to see the best and my favourite pub band, Bif Bam Pow. They made a rare trip across the Dartford Bridge into Kent from their homeland in Canvey Island, Essex, or the Thames Delta as its known. If you ever get a chance, go check them out. You will be blown away!
I'll try my best to keep you updated on the progress of the book.
Val, with husband photographer Phil Weedon and Bif Bam Pow at the Westcourt Arms, Gillingham 3rd November 2018
Listen to me TODAY on the community radio station SheppeyFM talking about everything from community radio, the band Small Faces, my campaign work, and my family connection with the poet/writer Thomas Hardy. sheppeyfm.org.uk/
Well, here we are at the beginning of another year. Here goes my attempt to summarise, in monthly bite size pieces, my thoughts and ramblings on the variety of activities that seem to fill up my life these days.
It was really tough getting back into writing. This was partly due to me facing a number of family and friend's bereavement anniversaries that occur in the early part of the year, especially January.
The loss of my best friend Pauline Corcoran, who died on January 14th 2016 hit me pretty hard. We had known each other for over 50 years and I’m still finding it hard to accept that she’s not here. The last ten years since we re-connected we were in touch most days, either by text or via Facebook. So it is weird not to be able to pick up the phone to her and make arrangements for our regular get-togethers over lunch down in Margate where she lived.
I’ve written about Pauline a number of times before here on my website, but for those of you who don’t know, Pauline was the fan club secretary for the 60’s band the Small Faces. From the moment we first met at the fan club offices Pauline and I became best friends.
It has been my plan for a number of years now to tell our full story in book form and not confine it to the odd words in a blog. It is certainly worthy of the full monty!
The other loss in January was that of my eldest brother John who died on January 17th 2017. Out of all my siblings, I was closest to him, simply because he was our big brother. When I was a young girl he would care for me, for example, taking me to the dentist, holding my hand because I was scared, even though he hated medical stuff, especially needles. Or he’d treat me and take me to the cinema. As an adult he moved to South Africa with his wife Ann and two young children looking for a new life. But we always kept in touch and still had a connection. He was a dedicated Christian and his faith was important to him. Whilst I didn’t share the same religious passion, it didn’t matter because he was such a caring person. He loved everyone and would tell people they were beautiful. During the last 15 years of his life he suffered a number of serious strokes that eventually left him dependent on a full time carer. But he never lost his humour and had a number of quirky quotes that friends and family were reminded of at his memorial service last year.
“My brain is scrambled.”
“I’m so wobbly.”
“Have you met my first wife”
“If I’m talking to you, I’m good.”
On January 11th this year I was honoured to attend a special wreath laying ceremony in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey to commemorate 90 years since the death of poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. It was organised by the Thomas Hardy Society who were also celebrating their foundation 50 years ago.
I have been a member of the Society for a few years now as part of a mission to establish whether a family rumour that we have links to this celebrated man is true or not. As a child Thomas Hardy’s name was mentioned numerous times by my mother, but I’ve never really known if the connection was real or not. I’d made a few feeble attempts in the past and then a second cousin I’m in contact with on Facebook sent me some useful documents she had obtained from her grandparents that allowed a decent starting point for my journey. But it was still difficult to know how to proceed any further.
So, in January 2016 I attended a local Family History class and was able to finally confirm I do have a direct link to the Hardy family via Hardy’s mother Jemima Hand. One of Jemima’s brothers, Christopher Hand, had a daughter called Caroline. She is my great grandmother.
I now have a number of official documents as final proof that I am indeed related to Thomas Hardy. Of course my journey doesn’t stop there. Now I am on a mission to find out as much as I can about the great man. My only regret is that I’ve left it so long and really wish I had known this connection when I was at school and university. I often wonder if that English essay I failed in my first year at college would’ve been graded differently had my tutor known of my literary connection! Sigh!
See you next month…
"There have been many events in my life over the last few years that have impacted on me emotionally. The loss of close relatives and friends in particular. I've suffered depression on and off since I was quite young so I am experienced enough now to recognise that depression is unpredictable. Hoping that 2018 will be a more positive time. Watch this Space." Val Weedon December 2017
Erin Jones, daughter of rock drummer Kenney Jones (Small Faces, Faces and The Who) will be running for two key charities MS Society and Prostate Cancer.
The Half Marathon takes place on Saturday 12th March in London.
Dig deep and give generously.
Erin pictured here with her mum Jayne Jones (left) and dad Kenney
Photo by Phil Weedon
FIRST NIGHT 7th APRIL WILL BE DEDICATED TO SMALL FACES FAN CLUB SECRETARY PAULINE CORCORAN WHO SADLY DIED ON 14th JANUARY
We lost our lovely Pauline on 14th January this year following a short illness. April 7th would’ve been Pauline’s 67th Birthday and she was so looking forward to seeing the musical. The loss of Pauline has not only left a huge gap in my life but also for the fans that she had reconnected with since 2006.
She was such a special person. Tolerant, good natured and mature beyond her years. It’s what made her such an ideal fan club secretary. The Small Faces band members loved her dearly too. They were like her brothers.
Pauline started working for the Small Faces as their fan club secretary right at the start of their rise to fame in 1965 following the release of their hit single Whatcha Gonna Do About It. She continued to work loyally in that role, right up until the time the band disbanded in 1969.
When she went for the interview with Don Arden she was hoping the vacancy was to work for The Who, as she really liked them, so when Don Arden told her it was the Small Faces she’d be working with she looked rather disappointed. That response got her the job! Don told her he didn’t want someone who would be in awe of the band. He wanted someone who wasn’t going to be dazzled by their fame. Being a fan club secretary for a professional famous band was one of the most envied positions back then. But Pauline was so grounded she handled all of it with such calm and dignity. She travelled almost everywhere with them, going on tours, including Europe and even accompanied them to television studios for the recording of programmes like Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops. Don Arden told Pauline he wanted her to have unlimited access to the band so that she would have all the information she needed to write her fan club newsletters.
There were two other girls who worked in the fan club office with us. The receptionist was called Stella, a young mum with two children, and then there was Linda, Don’s secretary. I was so fortunate in getting that job working with Pauline. I had been a fan and used to hang out at the office helping out as a volunteer. Pauline and I just hit it off and we became best friends. She really begged Don to take me on full time. He obviously knew what a huge fan I was, but I had to promise him I would behave myself, especially as the band came into the office a lot. We had such a laugh everyday in that office, but we worked really hard too as there was so much to get through. We didn’t have computers back then and everything was answered on a manual typewriter. It was quite amazing to think that Pauline was only 16 years old herself and she handled her role with such maturity. The workload she had to deal with everyday was huge, coping with thousands of letters and she would answer as many of them personally as she could. The phone calls from fans were non stop too. Then there were the newsletters, produced every few months, that she wrote herself. All so incredible for someone so young. I don’t think I ever saw her get angry or stressed, she was so good natured and always smiling.
The band could be quite a handful when they came up the office, always in high spirits and mucking about. Although we all loved them coming into the office it could be quite disruptive, but Pauline handled them very well and I never saw her get irritated with them, even when they answered her phone or messed with her typewriter, adding funny messages to letters that Pauline would be half way through typing. Kenney was the main culprit, although he was the quiet one, he was also the joker. Mac was mostly well behaved and sensible, it may be that he was still fairly new and finding his place. Steve had a special bond with Pauline, often using her as his confidant. He was probably the closest to Pauline out of all of them. Ronnie was the cheeky one, always trying to flirt with her, but Pauline knew exactly how to handle all of them. To Pauline they were her brothers who needed looking after.
When the Small Faces left Don Arden’s management Pauline went with the band to work from the Immediate offices. Eventually, in future years, she ended up working from home for them until the band finally disbanded.
Pauline went on to work for Don Arden again when he took over the management of the band Amen Corner, and he asked Pauline if she would be their fan club secretary. Pauline and I remained friends throughout this time and even both got married to musicians in the same band. We both had two children and lived close by for a few years until she moved away. We lost contact when Pauline’s husband, drummer Dave Neal, joined the Suzi Quatro band and because he was touring abroad a lot Pauline and the children went with him.
But, thanks to the internet, we reconnected in 2006 and we picked up on our friendship like we’d never been apart. We had ten wonderful years reconnecting again with Kenney, Mac and of course the fans.
Pauline was a beautiful person and I think it’s so lovely to have the first night of the All or Nothing musical dedicated to her. Such a fitting tribute. All or Nothing was her favourite Small Faces song and was being played as she passed peacefully. It was also played at her funeral. She will be missed so much, but we were so lucky to have her in our lives.
Best friend and Fan Club Assistant.
These are my pride and joy and thought it would be nice to share them with a wider audience. They were written by fan club secretary Pauline Corcoran who was just 16 years old when Small Faces manager Don Arden employed her. She had unique access to the band, attending concerts and tv appearances, at the instruction of Don Arden who told Pauline it would enable her to gather the material she needed to write her newsletters. They were published about every 3 months throughout 1966 and there is one last one published around April 1967 when the Small Faces moved management from Don Arden to Harold Davison and Tito Burns. When the fan club was run from Don Arden's offices in Carnaby Street fans were able to visit the office fairly easily. Well, it's how I got my job working for them. Unknown to my parents, I used to scive off my day job in a boring City office and go to Carnaby Street to help Pauline in the fan club offices instead! Eventually I got offered a full time position helping Pauline. But when they moved management I went to work with Galaxy Entertainments (the agency that handled all the tour concerts for the band) whilst Pauline went to new management offices alone. In the first newsletter she produced there, she announced to fans that "you will no longer be able to visit us anymore.." She revealed some years later that the new management resented her position and made her feel very uncomfortable, giving her a really cramped office the size of a cupboard and not being particularly friendly towards her. In time she ended up running the fan club from her home in Wembley until the time when the Small Faces finally split.
These old newsletters make fascinating reading and for a mere 16 year old Pauline did an amazing job relaying stories to the fans that were full of intimate facts about the band and what they did and how they felt about life at that time.
Pauline Corcoran is the official fan club secretary for the sixties band Small Faces. Pauline started working for the band in 1965 when she was just 16 years old. She had trained as a secretary and this was her first full time job. Her mother worked for Thames Television as a make-up artist and Pauline wanted to follow her mother's footsteps and work for the entertainment business. When she got the call to go for an interview working for a "Pop music group" she was very excited and had expected it to be working for the "other" Mod band "The Who".
The interview took place at number 52-55 Carnaby Street, right in the heart of the Mod shopping district in the west end of London. Interviewing her was the notorious Impresario (known as the God Father of Pop) Don Arden. When told which band it was she was visibly disappointed. But her reaction got her the job as Don said he didn't want someone who would be in awe of the band. He needed someone who would be totally professional as she would have unique access to the band that no one else would have, accompanying them on tours and television appearances. Don explained to Pauline that this access was necessary so that she had an inside knowledge of what the band got up to on a daily basis and this would provide her with the material she needed to write newsletters and respond to press enquiries.
Pauline continued to work with the Small Faces after they left Don Arden's management, when they went to Immediate records, although she felt she was not well treated by the record company and in time ended up working from home until the band finally split. Pauline was then approached by Don Arden once again when he took over management of the band Amen Corner, and Pauline was offered job running their fan club.
The book Pauline is available via Blurb, the publishers website, where a full preview copy can be seen. It has been compiled by Pauline's assistant Val Weedon MBE who worked alongside Pauline at the fan club offices throughout 1966.
So, today I decided it was time to share my passions and thoughts with a wider audience. Having bored my friends and close family for a number of years with my constant moaning and threats of "going to do it", it was time to take action! So, here I am.
The reason I've set up my own blog is that I find Facebook and Twitter restrictive. Often I would refrain from going on about stuff for fear I may offend. It just didn't seem the right public forum to express my thoughts, particularly on wider issues other than what the cat had done today. Although I may from time to time reflect on such matters in my Blog.
I also feel that however kind I try to be in putting over my strong opinions, I fear I may be coming across as an attention seeker, which I am, but want to appear to be nice at all times. As a writer I worry constantly about what people think of me. I like being nice.
So, as someone who hates conflict, but loves expressing her thoughts and opinions I apologise in advance if you don't like what I say. I do try to be fair and take into consideration others likely opinions, so feel free to express them in response to my ramblings. I always want nice things to happen as a result of any campaigning issues I write about. So, unlike many others who moan about stuff, I do try to have a point to what I say and will highlight what I think needs to be done to improve a situation so that things are nicer all round and I will not moan about stuff just for the sake of it. Others do that so much better than me.
Of course I am no push-over. I am a Scorpion. Say no more!