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A life in the same house and a lifetime messing about in boats


Keith Odle

Keith was evacuated in WW2 from his native Surbiton but has lived in the same house ever since. His career spanned 4 decades in the oil industry and he is a very active participant in The Thames Traditional Boat Society and owns a variety of classic un-powered craft.

Felicia Odle, Keith's wife, spent her early years in Capetown, South Africa, before coming to UK as a qualified nurse.

1940s, 1950s, 1960s, Boats, Oil, Skiff, Thames, TTBS, Work, World War 2

From country life as a lad to postwar service in REME and eventually to restoring and driving steam boats.

ken_petipherKen was brought up on a smallholding near High Wycombe and served an engineering apprenticeship during The Second World War, when his family hosted evacuees.
His national service was in REME in Austria and Germany and then he ran a garage with several celebrity customers. Ken eventually joined Peter Freebody,the famous traditional boat builder, restoring and driving passenger steamer the Windsor Belle and working at the yard up to his 78th year.

1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1990s, Army, Beaconsfield, Boats, Engineering, REME, River Thames, School, Thames, Wartime Evacuation, World War 2

A new career at 60!


The late bill Wallace followed an engineering career after University at Cambridge. Made redundant at age 60,he spent a further 20 years as head boatman and rowing coach at Shiplake College.


1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, Boat Building, Boats, Cambridge, Coaching, Engineering, Merchant Navy, Rowing

A doyen of traditional boat building- and he made harpsichords too!


Peter's family have been trading on The River Thames for over 300 years. His boatyard at Hurley is famous for both building and restoring classic boats. In the video, he tells of apprenticeship, then starting up and running his family business and some of the celebrities and prominent businessmen he has served: and even filmed with.

Very sadly, Peter died suddenly on 18th December 2010. The River Thames and the classic boating world has lost a true character.

Our deepest condolencies to his wife Liz and the family.

 The Freebody tradition will carry on with his son Richard and daughters Melanie and Kate already having proved themselves in running the business very effectively, backed by an excellent team.We wish them every success.

1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1990s, Apprenticeship, Boat Building, Boats, musical instruments, Thames, Work

Geraldine's War

geraldines warGeraldine, seen in this video clip with her husband, spent her war years as a 16-18 year old, working at 'heavy ackack' anti aircraft gun sites. She tells of her experiences, including being strafed by a ME109.


1940s, World War 2