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David Henderson, who died on 20 June 2015, lived a full and adventurous life, seeing the world both during and after his 22 years’ service in the Royal Navy.  He reached a dramatic turning point when, at the age of 25, he experienced a religious conversion that guided his actions for the rest of his life.  He wrote a fascinating autobiography which he published in 2009  and which provides most of the information for this obituary.

David Henderson, boy seaman, aged 15

David was born in 1934 and grew up in Carshalton.  At the start of World War Two, he and his eight-year-old sister went to stay with their paternal grandparents in Methil, Fife. They returned to Carshalton in 1941 and became accustomed to air-raids sirens, nights in shelters, and the houses wrecked by German bombs.  He was evacuated again in 1943, this time to Staffordshire, but returned once again to be with his parents, V1s or no V1s.

In 1948, at the age of 15, David enlisted in the Royal Navy. He survived the usual bullying and naval punishments and became a trainee seaman on HMS Vanguard, the navy’s largest and last battleship. After three years spent mostly at sea he was posted to the naval barracks at Portsmouth.  It was while there that he met and married his wife June.  His marriage had an inauspicious start when, against his protests, he was dispatched on a year-long round-the-world trip on the aircraft carrier Bulwark.

It was during a stop in Aden that David underwent his religious conversion.  He described how, while he was on the Bulwark’s flight deck, he experienced a vision of Jesus dying on the cross against a deep-blue night sky. “A deep inside peace and joy suddenly became mine.” From that moment his decisions were made in the context of what Jesus – his “hero” - would hope and expect of him as he adjusted to a “living faith and new life”.

David left the navy in 1960 and trained as a radio and tv engineer. By then he and June had two sons, Gary and David.  Soon afterwards David embarked on two years’ missionary training in Birmingham and was then posted to the Seychelles to help start a missionary radio station.  While there he and June had three more children: Mark, followed by twins Christine and Amanda.  The family of seven returned to the UK in 1970.  After a spell of unemployment, David became a part-time reporter for Radio London and then helped arrange a tour for the US evangelist Billy Graham, meeting celebrities such as Cliff Richard and Johnny Cash.

David next embarked on a remarkable missionary trip, under the aegis of the RBMU organisation, to Nepal and Papua New Guinea. Once back in Britain David travelled widely before the family settled in Welling, Kent, where he became a church pastor. But he was still away from home at lot and his marriage suffered, ending in divorce in 1986.  He was acutely depressed and came close to suicide before finding reassurance and inspiration once again in his religious beliefs.

David next worked for a Christian radio station and then became a financial advisor and salesman for Liberty Life, followed by a lengthy spell in the private health sector. He went to live in Crystal Palace and then in Penge and while there became an early member of the Croydon Male Voice Choir, which he records as having “about fifteen members”.  He found a new spiritual base at St John’s Church and also met Hazel Willson – a fellow singer, with the Croydon Philharmonic Choir: “   a very special lady,” he wrote, “with a remarkable quality of character”.

David in 2010

David and Hazel, together with two friends, set up a children’s hospice charity shop in Penge, Little Ones. It became a refuge and outlet for choir members who had to dispose of goods when downsizing, and David was invariably a cheerful presence to greet them.  Members also remember him as quiet, generous and unassuming. 

David fell ill in 2013 and finally had to retire from both the choir and the shop at Christmas 2014.  He knew he did not have long to live but remained remarkably positive and cheerful, in keeping with the final words of his autobiography: “I look forward to the next life with my hero.”

His funeral was held on 7 July followed by a Thanksgiving service at St John’s, Penge, attended by some 200 people, including a large contingent from the choir.



Eric Forster, who died on 29 May 2015, was born in a room over a pub in north-east England in June 1925.  An only child, he grew up in South Shields and Gateshead where life for his family was hard as his father was unemployed for long periods during the 1930s.  When Eric won a scholarship to the local grammar school, his grand-parents helped to pay the cost of his uniform and other requirements.  His father eventually found work as a clerk with the National Assistance Board and in 1939 was transferred to London.  The family settled in Wembley where Eric was unwilling to start at a new school and so become an office junior in a local factory.  He continued studying at evening and weekend classes and in this manner obtained his matriculation and higher schools certificates.

Eric Forster

In 1946 Eric met his wife-to-be Moreen at a dance at Wembley Town Hall.  They married in 1949 and moved to Bromley in 1954.  Eric had worked in the education department at Middlesex County Council.  He later transferred to the NHS, eventually rising to the post of Chief Hospital Planning Officer for the South East Region.  He was still avid to learn and took up an evening course at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1968.

Eric and Moreen moved in Oxted in 1981.  When Eric retired in 1983 they settled down to enjoy gardening, their family, and holidays, often with their good friends Win and Geoff. They went walking in the Yorkshire Dales and spent a winter month in Tenerife.   They also become closely involved in the local community.  They volunteered for the Link organisation for several years and Eric held a range of offices in the Rotarians.  He joined the Oxted Operatic Society and sang in many of their productions – taking up where he had left of as a choirboy in Gateshead more than fifty years before.  He sang with Belle Canto Opera and later joined the CMVC. He and Moreen were both active in Oxted’s Barn Theatre.  Eric was also a keen amateur painter.

Eric and Moreen were married for sixty-six years.  They had two children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, bringing Eric and Moreen pride and pleasure in their lives and achievements.  Eric was taken ill in April and accepted that he did not have long to live.  He laid plans for his ninetieth birthday but died in Tanbridge Heights Nursing Home the day before, with Moreen at his side.   In tributes at his funeral on 17 June, attended by a number of choir members, he was described as “a true gentleman, a person of high standards, decency and integrity, courtesy and consideration”; and as “a kind, generous and loving man”.


Cliff Jacob, who died on September 18 2014, was born in Islington in 1929. He was the youngest of thirteen children and during the war was evacuated to Cambridge with two of his sisters. He returned to London before the end of the war and had memories of fires caused by German bombs. He left school at the age of fourteen and undertook an apprenticeship in the printing industry.


Lance-Corporal Jacob prints for the army during National Service

Cliff did National Service from 1947 to 1949, serving mostly in the Canal Zone in Egypt and working for the army as a printer. It was a time of rising tension in the zone as the Egyptian regime began to press for the canal to be returned to full Egyptian control.   Later Cliff worked in Fleet Street as a compositor and was also a leading trade union figure during the era when the print unions dominated the newspaper industry, although he finally moved into management. When Cliff retired he bought a print machine and other equipment and ran a successful business from his garage in Hayes. He retained a keen interest in politics and current affairs.

Cliff was married at a young age and had a daughter, Eleanor, by his first wife in 1953. He met his second wife, Margaret, at a ballroom dancing school in 1958. Both were keen dancers and they won numerous competitions in East London and Essex. They moved to Hayes when they were married in 1962. For a time Cliff had two jobs as he worked to support his young family: Debbie, born in 1965, and Clifford, in 1966.

Margaret and Cliff on holiday in 1994 (Photo John Hills)

Margaret and Cliff were always fit and active and when Cliff was in his 70s he still liked to display his prowess as a ballroom dancer, particularly in jive and rock and roll.Cliff enjoyed bowls and belonged to the Hayes Country Bowls Club, later joining the Crystal Palace Indoor Bowls club. He followed football and was a life-long supporter of Arsenal. He and Margaret were keen travellers and often took holidays abroad.

Cliff enjoyed singing and his first choir was the Spring Park Choral Society, which he joined in 1995. He moved to the CMVC in 2000. His first concert was at Sevenoaks in 2001 – which was also the first concert conducted by the choir’s new musical director, Richard Hoyle. Cliff was a loyal member of the second tenor section and he and Margaret took part in most of the choir tours until he retired through ill health and infirmity in 2012. He and Margaret continued to support the choir and regularly attended our concerts.

Both children acquired their parents’ interest in music. Debbie was a member of Ravensbourne Operatic Society and the West Wickham Operatic Society and regularly featured in their productions at the Churchill Theatre as a dancer.  Clifford’s musical talent was on the keyboard and composing hymns for his Bromley church, where he was a leading member until he moved to India. He was unable to fulfil his ambition of becoming a missionary but stayed in India where he continued to compose and play his keyboard for churches.

Cliff at Cudham parish church in 2006 (Photo Phil Talmage)

Debbie’s husband Peter, who gave the eulogy at Cliff’s funeral on September 30, described him as “a doting father whose love and support continued through their childhood, school, university and onwards. He was a family man and proud of his children and their achievements.” His second daughter Debbie had two children, Rebecca and Joshua. Peter said: “His love and support was wholly evident to his grandchildren. Ask the children how they remember their grand-dad and they recall him being supportive, funny, kind and generous.”

Cliff lost touch with his first daughter Eleanor for a time and was delighted that they were in contact again when Eleanor was an adult. Peter said: “He always offered her supportive and kind advice. She was able to build a warm relationship with her dad and the rest of the family that has meant a great deal to her.”

Margaret was Cliff’s life-long support and her lively, generous, and ever-cheerful personality infected everyone she met. She was full of vitality and energy and she is still running Keep Fit classes in the Hayes area. Margaret’s smiling, happy disposition wins over everyone she meets and her devotion to Cliff was unwavering to the end.

By John Hills



Here is the commemoration address that was read at Mitch's funeral in Crawley on June 18.

Mitch has been referred to as a big personality and he certainly made his presence known. A hard working man who wanted to achieve the best for himself and his family.

He had a very strong work ethic and had two precision engineering companies.  He would regularly put in long hours at the factory, tool making, and at home doing the books and administration.   The family were often involved in driving to meet clients or dropping off work to meet deadlines.  Through his need for further involvement, he joined the Founders Company and the Masons and enjoyed the meetings and social aspects these groups offered.

He was also physically strong doing many jobs himself in the house and garden - the perimeter brick wall, the york stone walls, the terrazzo path and the digging of the cellar. These were some of his many projects. The perfectionist in him meant these were time consuming and lengthy.  Who can forget the greenhouse - a work in progress for nearly thirty years.

Mitch was musical as well - being in a choir as a boy and in later life joining the Croydon male voice choir.  Did you know that he also played the guitar in a skiffle band in the 50's? And he and Esme regularly went ballroom dancing.

His family were very dog friendly - when first married there was a black cocker spaniel called Quin and, after the appropriate doggy life span, Quin the second. And then came the Weimaraners - Benjamin was a big part of his life and led him into the competitive world of showing and obedience in which they were very successful winning dozens of rosettes and placings. 
Scuba diving, swimming, sailing, skiing, shooting, foreign travel - he embraced many different aspects and enjoyed them to the fullest.

Mitch must have assumed he would live into his hundreds given his remarks on future projects.  No-one ever doubted he had the physical strength to do so, but other factors came into play and stopping at 90 seems a reasonable compromise.


Mansel Barnes, who died on March 23 2013, was a man of many interests and passions. He had a love of the countryside, singing, his family, Wales and rugby (and especially Welsh rugby)

He was a popular and witty top tenor and was also one of the remaining handful of choir members who did National Service in the post-war years.

A love of wild places: Mansel on holiday in Cornwall

Mansel Herbert Thomas Barnes was born in the village of Hirwaun near Aberdare in 1929. His home was close to the Brecon Beacons and he quickly came to love the beauty of the countryside, going for long stream-side walks with his father – a coal miner who worked at the Tower Colliery – to pick nuts and blackberries. He learned to tickle trout in the streams – a skill he passed on to his family – and made day-long outings into the mountains with groups of pals in search of wimberries which they would sell for a shilling or two.

At the local infants school he shone at reading and helped less able pupils. Later he won an eleven-plus scholarship to Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School. It was there that he acquired his life-long passion for rugby and a love of poetry and singing. From time to time amid new repertoire for CMVC Mansel would sing well-remembered songs from cantatas he had sung in his youth. He sang in school concerts and his maths teacher was conductor of the Cwmbach MVC. He joined the Junior St John’s Ambulance Brigade and the YMCA, enjoying the Sunday-night hymn singing and camping trips to the Lake District.

National Service in the Royal Air Force saw Mansel securing weekend passes to play rugby for his station! He may not have learned to fly while in the RAF, but his knowledge of the coast where radar stations are no longer was extensive. Always meticulous, Mansel made sure that when in camp, his hut won the radio for the week by ensuring that bedding and kit were folded and spaced immaculately - measured with a rule and straight string.

Back home again – while playing for his local club Aberaman RFC, a rugby injury resulted in a never-to-be-repaired severance of the right lateral popliteal nerve, leaving his leg with no sensation from the knee down.

He studied mathematics and physics at university in Cardiff and also played number 8 for the basket-ball team.

It was while at university that he met Mary Goodwin. They were married at Llanishen Church, Cardiff, on a snowy February day in 1955 when the sun shone for the wedding. Mary, he said, remained “the love of his life” for the next 58 years.

The love of his life: Mary and Mansel on their silver wedding day

Mansel and Mary moved to Croydon where Mansel joined Mullards of Mitcham, part of the Philips company. After nearly 25 years with Mullards, Mansel changed careers, teaching maths at Fairchildes school in Addington for the next 13 years. He helped run an after-school motor mechanics club, keeping staff cars in trim. He was chair of the staff association.

He entered into all aspects of school life, from playing Jacob in “Joseph” to helping with scenery, school trips, end of term parties for his form and sports events. After “retiring” again he spent several years as a visiting teacher for problem children or those who were ill, winning their respect with his wit, care and understanding.

A constant in his life was rugby. He joined the Old Purleians RFC (which later became Purley RFC and then Purley John Fisher RFC) soon after moving to Croydon. A wily centre in his playing days, he was club president from 1985 to 1991 and a popular stalwart of the club. He became choir-master for the club choir, helping them win prizes and even teaching them to sing Welsh hymns for club tours to Wales.

Club members have paid tributes to his enthusiasm, his impromptu medical skills, and his way with referees. One said: “He was a gentleman, a rugby enthusiast, a Purley man through and through who loved the camaraderie generated through playing, supporting, drinking and singing.” He retained his devotion to Welsh rugby throughout his exile in England, taking special delight from the championship-winning 30-3 defeat of England shortly before he died.

He was a committed Christian who attended St John’s, Old Coulsdon, acting as sidesman in family and baptism services. He was a devoted family man, taking great pleasure from the achievements of his three children, Philip, Veronica and Ruth, and from his grandchildren and great granddaughter. Among his duties – willingly assumed – were running the second-hand clothes shop at Emanuel, serving as committee member at Archbishop Tenison’s, and shouting encouragement from the touchline when watching the Old Palace Lacrosse team.

Mansel the family manfrom right, Mansel, Mary, daughters Ruth and Veronica, grand-daughter Rachel (Ruth's daughter, now aged 23!)

Mansel joined CMVC relatively late in life, doing so in 2001 in the company of three other Purley RFC members, Dave Bannister, Martin Perkins and Ralph Osborne. He was a lively and popular top tenor, cracking jokes and making irreverent asides. He relished the friendship, camaraderie and banter, and usually returned home to tell Mary: “I had a good sing.” He was part of a coterie of Welshmen who could be relied upon to sing Welsh-language pieces with fervour and pride.

Mansel suffered a major stroke in 2008 but continued to attend rehearsals and to sing at concerts from his wheelchair. He was looking forward to the Patrons Concert at the Arnhem Gallery and had already sent his choir jacket for cleaning when he died.

Sporting his colours:  Mansel the Welshman (Photo: Phil Talmage)

Mansel will be remembered for his generosity and willingness to help others. “He was always a helper,” says Mary, who provided most of the information for this obituary. “Whether it was taking equipment to camp, helping someone with wall-papering, fixing a television set or even, on one notable Christmas Eve, repairing someone’s entire electrical circuit at their home….Mansel’s outlook, his attention to detail, his care for others and their difficulties, and his way of life all reflect his Christian upbringing and his continuing Christian belief. He touched many lives with his enthusiasm, gentleness and kindness.”

Mary adds that she was moved by the choir’s singing at Mansel’s funeral on April 8. “So many members came and sang with such richness and heartfelt sympathy.” Their singing, she says, “brought tears and smiles.”


We are sad to announce the death of our former member Tony Smith. Tony’s funeral took place at Croydon Crematorium on Tuesday, 6 November 2012. Some members of the choir attended, resplendent in their choir uniforms, and a recording of the choir singing The Rose was played during the service.

Tony Smith proudly wearing his service medals

Tony, or to give him his full name, Anthony Lionel Frederick John Smith, was born on 9 May 1931 in Lambeth. He was brought up near the Old Kent Road. In 1940, when he was nine,  the house where he lived with his mother and father was bombed and destroyed. The incident had a profound impact on Tony’s life.  His father died in the bombing and his mother lost an arm.  He also lost his home and he was evacuated, although he frequently returned to the Old Kent Road area during the war to be with his mother.

Towards the end of the war Tony moved south to enjoy the warmer climate of Norwood where he became an apprentice in the building trade.  After his apprenticeship Tony applied to a number of builders for a job, without success. He  was frequently told:  “What is the point in employing you if you are soon going to be called up for National Service ?” So Tony decided that, rather than wait to be invited to join the armed forces, he would volunteer. He joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1948 and served his country until 1971. Tony saw service in Borneo, Malaya, Northern Ireland and Germany – ultimately as a Staff Sergeant/acting Warrant Officer.

Doubtless, there was a dearth of jobs available in civvy street in 1971 where Tony would have been able to make use of the skills he had acquired during his twenty-two years service with the artillery. However, Tony found his way into the Civil Service where he became a counter clerk in various post offices in central London (including the House of Commons, which has its own post office). In the late seventies Tony was promoted to Executive Officer and held a teaching post in the Civil Service until he retired in 1991. However, not being one to sit around all day, Tony joined the Corps of Commissionaires and I recall him wearing his uniform with pride until he finally hung up his “stripes” in 1995. Shortly before this time Tony had a serious car accident – it happened when he was on his way to a choir rehearsal –  quickly followed by an operation to remove a brain tumour  which was found to be benign.

During this time Tony, once more showing a liking for warmer climes that must have been strengthened during his service in Asia, had moved his family further south  – all the way from Norwood to Riddlesdown!  In 1982 he joined the Coulsdon & Purley branch of the Royal British Legion. Tony was very proud of his association with the Royal Artillery Regiment and the Royal British Legion – until last year he could be seen every November rattling his collection box and encouraging the Coulsdon residents to donate money towards the Poppy Appeal.

He always wore his beret, regimental blazer and badges – if ever there was somebody who was the epitome of military bearing it would be Staff Sergeant Smith. Tony also found time to give guided tours around the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey to tourists but had to give this up when his hearing started to fail him.

Tony was also well known to the residents of Riddlesdown.  He took it upon himself to Keep Riddlesdown Clean!  His wife Yvonne bought him a litter picker some years ago, and, armed with this and plastic sacks, Tony would scour the pathways, roads and even Riddlesdown Common and remove any offending items. His contribution to the local area was certainly recognised. In the winter edition of the Resident’s Association newsletter, the editor wrote that Tony was out in all weathers collecting rubbish.  “Undoubtedly he would have cleared up the December snow-fall by himself given a big enough bag.”  Tony’s selfless contribution to improving the local environment and raising funds for the forces was officially recognised when he was invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Tony joined the choir in 1983 at a time when our rehearsals were held in the now defunct Co-op Department store. (I remember those times well, as I joined on the very same day as Tony.) Unfortunately there was no bar at the Co-op, so rather than being able to sip his favourite tipple, Guinness, during the rehearsal, he had to choose between hot chocolate and soup from the canteen vending machine (how times have changed!)  Perhaps that was a major reason why there were only a dozen or so members in the choir at that time.

In his younger days Tony was quite outgoing and outspoken. As the years passed Tony’s hearing became an increasing issue, no doubt a legacy from the years he had served with the Royal Artillery. Naturally, this would have led to increasing frustration for him, even to point where he could become relatively aggressive. However, this led to lighter moments such as when, on one classic occasion, the choir members were in rehearsal at the Albert Hall for Remembrance Day, and he threatened to punch the lights out of another senior member with whom he was having an altercation.  On another, after his hearing had deteriorated further, he had an argument with a fellow bass over whose hearing aid was emitting the high-pitched whistle that was distracting the rest of the section.

Then there was the choir Christmas social when Tony went missing for an hour before it was his time to do a turn.  He reappeared wearing a bright red ra ra skirt, bright red lipstick and very large gold ear-rings – something which got the rest of the choir talking and has left members puzzled even now.  He promptly got into an argument with a senior choir member (the same member he had threatened to punch at the Albert Hall) who had the temerity to help Tony with the words of the song he was attempting to sing.

Tony remained a stalwart of the bass section until 2007, when sadly his hearing had worsened to the  point where he could not continue singing Earlier this year Tony was diagnosed with another brain tumour that proved to be malignant,and he passed away on 23 October. The choir extends its sympathy toward his wife Yvonne and their children.

By Gerry Upjohn

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