On the 12th October 1964 a letter from the Caravan Club was sent to all Club members living in East Hampshire. The letter invited members to attend a meeting at 3.00pm on the 1st November at Chawton Village Hall. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposal to form a new Centre. This Centre would cover the area in which they lived. Members who lived outside the area could also attend but they would not be able to vote. If the new Centre was formed these members would then be allowed to join it and stand for office. At this time the Centres covered very large areas and it was generally thought that smaller would be better. Other Centres around the country were splitting. So the proposal was to split what was the Southern Centre into four. These new Centres were to become The East Hampshire, West Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire Centres.


The meeting took place and the proposal to form The East Hampshire Centre was accepted, with nobody voting against it. Elections for officers and committee were then held and the following people were elected: 


Chairman Mr. J. McLachlan 

Vice Chairman Mr.L. Eyres 

Hon Treasurer Mr. D. Dewey 

Hon Secretary Mr. P. Lewis 


Mrs. P. Smitham 

Lt. Col. H. Burden 

Mr. J. Cobbett 

Mr. T. Tappenden 

Mr. S. Terry 


The Centre actually began to operate on the 1st January 1965.


Committee meetings in those days were held in one of the member's houses. A sum of 2s 6d per member was paid to the host for providing tea & biscuits. One of the first things that the new committee decided on was to replace the tradition in the old Southern Centre of presenting rally officers with a spoon. Instead they would now receive a plaque. Next was to be the design of the Centre flag. A competition was held with the winning design being the wooden ship that we have today. Concern was expressed that it should not bear too close a resemblance to The Victory because of copyright implications. A second hand typewriter was purchased for £10.


Lt. Col. Burden thought he could lay his hands on a flagpole but unfortunately his contact was posted abroad, so that fell through.


The first rally was held at Bourley Camp Aldershot on the 3rd. April 1965, followed by the inaugural rally a fortnight later on Southsea Common. The local population were not too keen on having their Common invaded by 125 caravans over the Easter holiday. In view of this it was agreed that the Treasurer would release the information regarding the rally to the Portsmouth Evening News only shortly before the event.


19 rallies were held during the first year with an average attendance (excluding the inaugural rally) of 27 vans. A 4 shilling rally fee was agreed and 6d was added to the landowner’s nightly charge to cover the administration costs. The first Dinner Dance was held at the Queens Hotel Farnborough on the 27th November 1965. A five piece orchestra was booked and a meal of roast turkey provided, all for the price of 30 shillings.


Rally signs were provided by the RAC but this was eventually found to be too expensive and so the Centre had to obtain their own.


The membership for the first year was 614. By 1967 this had risen to 900. This year saw the first Ladies rally, which proved to be a tremendous success. In September of 1967 the Dorset Centre sent an invitation to the Devon & Cornwall, East Hants, Gloucester & Hereford, Somerset & Bristol, West Hants, Wiltshire Centres to join them in discussion with a view to running a combined rally. So the Wessex rally was born with the first rally at Lulworth Castle over the spring bank holiday in 1969.


In 1968 members were asked for their opinions on allowing motor caravans to attend Centre rallies. 75% of those questioned were opposed to the idea. Headquarters were informed accordingly.


In 1969 the first real cracks in the Centre started to appear when half the committee resigned over a disagreement about the venue for the Dinner Dance. The first rally book was produced this year as well as the idea of having a junior section. However, this was delayed due to the fact that the committee members involved in setting this up had resigned and were now not willing to see the job through


During 1970 it was agreed that on rallies that required it, an assistant rally officer could be appointed.


The junior section finally got off the ground in 1970. A committee was formed and they started off with a balance of £11 in their funds.


By 1971 the membership had risen to 2000. A rally was held during that year at Rushmoor Arena in conjunction with the Army Show. This rally attracted over 200 caravans. A similar committee to Wessex Centres was being set up at this time. It was to be called ‘The Southern Centres’. This was not the old Southern Centre from which East Hants was created from. It was a liaison between the Centres lying to the east of the East Hants border, to which East Hampshire was invited to join. The Centre was now involved with two regional groupings.


In 1972 the post of Rally Secretary was introduced. Prior to this, that position was known as Assistant Secretary. The first Rally Secretary was Mick Moore.


1976 saw the formation of the Isle of Wight Centre. Up until then the Isle of Wight had been part of the East Hants Centre. A loan of £50 was made to the Isle of Wight to help start the Centre up. This was eventually written off as a gift.


In 1976 East Hampshire were joint winners, along with Devon & Cornwall, of the Wessex Cup. However in 1977 it was felt that the Centre was being over stretched and in fact was unique in belonging to two regional groupings, Wessex & Southern Centres. The decision was taken to leave Southern Centres and concentrate all our efforts into Wessex. This paid off, with East Hants winning the Wessex Cup outright in 1982, under the chairmanship of Ken Allen.


The Club decided in 1996 that members would be better served with the creation of 10 Regional Councils. The Councils would not only represent the Centres but the whole of the membership residing in their area.  East Hampshire is part of the South West Region, the same area as covered by the Wessex Centres.


The membership in 2004/5 stands at around the 500 mark, out of which just over 100 rally on a fairly regular basis.


So what was life like for our Centre founders back in the 1960’s. The Beatles ruled the pop world. Neil Armstrong performed a ‘giant leap for mankind’ when he landed on the moon and England won the World Cup, which we watched on a black & white television. Caravans had glass windows, gas lamps, no electricity in those days, and a 40mph speed limit. In 1965 a 10’6 Bailey Maru would sell for £295. Luxury caravans came from manufacturers like Cheltenham, Castleton and Carlight. A 17ft Carlight Continental would set you back £1680 in 1967. You could have bought four Sprite Majors for that amount!


I hope you have found something to interest you in this ‘look back’.   


Pete Squires