HAZEL TINGLEY (nee Johnson)
Memories of My 1961 Summer Season as a Butlins Skegness Redcoat
[written in conjunction with with web-host  'A.J' Marriot]

While working for Max factor in ‘Derry & Toms,’ South Kensington, London, I made friends with a girl called Jerry, who worked for another cosmetic company. I felt very disappointed when she told me that she would soon be leaving to go to Butlins Skegness to work a summer season as a Redcoat, as she was great fun. When she suggested that I might like to become a Redcoat too, I jumped at the chance. She said it was difficult to get in, but she could organise an interview for me at the Butlins head office in Oxford Street, London, with the Entertainment Manager, Frank Mansell. And so it was that, in April 1961, I went to Skegness and became a Redcoat.

All the Redcoats had to share a chalet with at least one other Redcoat. Thankfully, I was allowed to share with Jerry, which immediately kept me more within my comfort zone. The “comfort” though, didn’t extend to the chalet, which was fairly basic. It had bunk beds and a hand basin but, when we wanted a shower, we had to go to the shower-block on our chalet line.

First thing every morning we would go to the Entertainment Office to get our list of duties for the day. We would be on duty from breakfast time until 11 pm, when the entertainment closed with the Redcoats singing “Good Night Campers” in the ballroom.

This photo looks strange, because the legs at the front aren't mine, but belong to the poor gentleman whose knee I am sitting on.
Here's me doing one of my duties, which was getting the campers up to dance.
It was a long day, but I loved every minute of it. Part of our duties was organising the campers into teams, for the week’s games and sporting competitions. They would be split into “Houses.” The house you were in was governed by which of the dining rooms you were allocated to, which were as follows: Gloucester, Kent, Connaught, Warwick, Windsor and Edinburgh.
On Sunday morning, the Redcoats would lead their allocated house in a parade which was, of course, deliberately staged to initiate the rivalry.

That's me and Andy King (right) proudly leading Kent House

Here's Andy King on another day, this time leading Gloucester House.
The man he is thumbing his nose at is 'Camp Tramp' Lou Grant

The points each house scored in all the weekly activities, games, and competitions, was tallied up and the winning house was declared on the Friday. I discovered that I was very competitive, and I made sure that my team always won. Well, at least, I tried to.

There's only one thing to do when you've been exerting all your energy organising games on the Sportsfield, and that's to lie down and recover.
We would eat in the same dining room as the campers; celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with them; make a fuss of their children; and were often asked for our autographs (fame at last).

And here are a gang of us at evening meal, presenting a bottle of champagne to the winning table. This was decided by where the arrow landed on a clock which had the table numbers and rows on its dial.
My favourite event was performing in the weekly Redcoat Show. At last I was on stage dancing, singing, and taking part in sketches, all of which was tremendous fun.

In one of the sketches our camp comedian, Freddie, came on stage looking immaculate in evening dress and started to tell jokes. He didn’t get very far, as members of the cast kept coming on stage interrupting him saying things like: “Hey Freddie! that’s my tie you’re wearing, give it back.” Or: “Hey, that’s my jacket,” or “ … those are my trousers,” so Freddie was slowly getting stripped as he handed over all the pieces of clothing he had supposedly borrowed. Eventually, he was left standing on stage wearing only a pair of very brightly coloured cotton shorts. That’s when I came on with a towel around my waist and a very bright cotton bikini top, which matched the shorts Freddie was wearing. All I said was: “Hey Freddie,” which immediately prompted a stage blackout.

I also helped Freddie out with another show he performed in called: “Give That Man a Cocoanut.” Can’t remember what it was all about, but I know it involved a great deal of audience participation, and had everyone in stitches.

I celebrated my 20th birthday during the season, and had my first-ever “grown-up” birthday party. I invited all the Redcoats, and everyone else on the entertainments side, like the band, and even including the resident photographer. It was fabulous.

Jerry and me, Hazel, holding a beautiful boquet
I had been presented with.

Claire and Jerry with their boyfriends.

Bob (with hand up). Behind him, Ken Wood, and me giving it some moves
Me front left, resting at the end of one dance. Meanwhile, Jerry has raised her arms in 'surrender.'
About three weeks before the end of the season I broke my arm. I was standing beside a trampoline when the accident happened. A rather large man looked as if he was going to fall, so automatically I put my arms out to save him and he fell on my left arm. Thankfully, I was allowed to stay on in my job, doing “selective” duties. I learned later that many Redcoats who were similarly incapacitated through injury, were sent home, so I bless Frank Mansell for  allowing me to stay.

One of the most memorable aspects of being a Redcoat, is the wonderful camaraderie. Not only did we have many a laugh between us, but we  supported each other if ever we had a problem.
 To prove a point, here are
the four 'nurses' who looked after me during my period of recovery from a broken arm.
Tina, girl, Doreen Shaw, and Pat
and some of the other Reds', including
Frankie and Brenda (at right)

Mind you, nursing could have its dangers. Part-way through the season I got tonsillitis, because I overworked my tonsils calling out the Bingo numbers. I had lots of Redcoat visitors when I was in the medical centre, with the result that half of them went down with tonsillitis as well. No one else was allowed visitors after that.


After getting through the difficulties of those three weeks during which I was nursing that broken arm, the end of season brought another problem. It was going to be very difficult for me getting home on the train, trying to carry my suitcase with one arm in plaster. Luckily, Freddie offered me a lift back to Surrey, as he was going on to Sussex to work a winter season at the Brighton Ocean Hotel. What a relief. But fate moves in mysterious ways.

In the last week of the 1961 season the Talent Show winners, from all of the camps, come to Skegness to compete in the final. On this particular day I was sitting in the café, having a coffee with some of the musicians who were in the competition, when Freddie came up to me and said: “Sorry Hazel, I can’t take you home because Frank Mansell is now sending me to Blackpool instead of Brighton.”

One of the chaps, Vince, said to me:  “Where do you live Hazel?” When I said “Reigate, Surrey,” he said: “Oh! Hugh here lives near there. He’ll give you a lift home. You’ll be safe with him,” and, by one almost unbelievable twist of fate, that is how I met my future husband.

Hugh kindly took me and my luggage all the way back to Reigate. He later confessed that he had had his eye on me for a few days, but was a bit shy in coming forward, and was grateful to Vince for suggesting it. He was hoping for some lively conversation on the way home but, disappointingly for him, I was sound asleep for most of the journey. In my defence, there had been a very late Redcoat end-of-season party the night before.

When he managed to wake me up he invited me to go with him to Ken Collier’s Jazz Club the following Thursday. Hugh ran his own dance band, called ‘The Tonics,’ but here at this Thursday night gig he played double-bass in the ‘Ken Hine Jazz Band.’

I knew from early on in our relationship that he was the one for me, and it wasn’t long before he put an engagement ring on my finger. That was the second “lift” he had given me, and there have been many more during all our years together.

If it wasn’t for Billy Butlin I would not have had such a fabulous time mixing with all the fun-loving campers, nor met all those wonderful people I worked with who made my job such a pleasure; plus, of course, found my perfect partner, Hugh, with whom I had 31 years of wedded bliss.
So “Thank you” Billy Butlin, for extending one glorious season at Butlins into a long and happy life.
25th March 2021

With sincere gratitude

Hazel Johnson

We are sincerely grateful to the photographers who took these pictures,
and preserved them as windows to the past,
and to HAZEL JOHNSON (now Mrs. Tingley) for sharing them.




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