There are a small handful of very exclusive clubs, organisations and associations which none of the qualifying members ever planned to join.
One such is the club founded by the intriguingly named P.B. Cow Company Ltd., formed in 1826 and by the beginning of WW2 a major manufacturer of all manner of rubber goods, in particular air-sea rescue lifejackets and dinghies.
The firm made the famous Mae West life preserver and it is interesting to note that the use of the screen siren’s name received her personal endorsement.
As the war progressed the company was contacted by an increasing number of airmen who wished to discuss their experiences and confirm the value of the products.
Because of this, in 1942 P.B.Cow formed a club – The Goldfish Club – to enable those who had survived a ‘ditching’ to contact others and share experiences. A badge was designed, featuring a winged goldfish and two wavy lines representing water. The Gold element of the name represents the value of human life.
It is indicative of the scale of aircraft operations over water that by the end of the war some 9,000 members had joined.
The club eventually passed into the control of an independent committee and continues to operate to this day, its more recent additions to membership being mainly the result of Helicopter operations.
A notable civilian who declined membership is Sir Richard Branson. His crash-landing in the ocean near Hawaii in the balloon ICO Global Challenge, would have qualified him as the club’s first ‘lighter than air’ member.
When I was researching Jock’s story for my original article (see link below), his son Simon told me about a ‘Goldfish Medal’ his father had earned because he had been in two ditching incidents.
At first I imagined that this was some gallows humour-jam tin lid type award, cobbled together by airmen operating in appallingly dangerous conditions.
When studying some of Jock’s papers. however, kindly lent to me by Pam Bevan, I came across a completed application form for The Goldfish Club, obviously a much more widespread organisation.
The fact that I had it in my hand indicated that it had never been sent; a telephone call to the membership secretary, Roy Graham, established that Jock, who undoubtedly qualified for membership, had not taken it up.
By kind permission of Roy and Steve Hart, who deals with the badges, I was able to obtain a lapel badge for Pam, along with an invitation for her to apply for associate membership.
I was pleased to be able to give this to her, not only as a small thank-you for allowing me to tell Jock’s story, but also because it clarifies a little piece of history for the whole family.
Note: The photographs of the Goldfish Badge, mounted with details of Jock’s ‘ditchings’, and of Pam and Simon Bevan with the badge, are by Chris Thornhill