Mavis recalls being a Redcoat when Butlin’s opened in town


MEMORIES of the first week of Butlin’s in Bognor Regis have been recalled in a new book.

The recollections of former Redcoat Mavis Idle during those difficult initial days are among the stories included in Wish You Were Here!

This tells the stories of seven women who wore the famous uniform in the 1950s to the 1970s.

Mavis, 76, of Mirfield in West Yorkshire, was hired with her late husband Ken and friend Dave Sheard to entertain the guests in the Bognor camp’s first season.

But The Verdi III, as they were known, found themselves competing with electricians for the campers’ attention one day.

“We played in the Pig and Whistle, which was a big bar with carousels which people could ride on. On our opening day, the electricians were still working in it.

“They were putting up lights as we were playing and putting in bulbs. Eventually, they were hammering away in time with the music.”

The camp opened on July 2, 1960. But the bright and shiny, ever-cheerful places of fun were sorely lacking as the Bognor site opened its gates.

Billy Butlin in a white coat directing motorists to their car parking places was the least of the surprises in store for the pioneering tourists.

Mavis said: “The camp was not quite finished and there were a lot of problems. The opening day was horrendous.

“They had moved a river for the camp and it had caused a lot of problems. Some of the playing field was in a bit of a mess.

“The big buildings and the reception were also unfinished. The company thought holiday-makers wouldn’t be bothered because they would only see the reception at the start of the week.

“But the visitors didn’t see it like that. They were worried about what the rest of the camp was like.”

The irate guests pulled and tugged at Mavis’s new uniform of which she was very proud.

Most stayed and thoroughly enjoyed themselves as did Mavis and Ken and Dave. They continued in the winter to entertain residents in the social club on site before their work took them elsewhere.

Mavis, of Mirfield in West Yorkshire, still stays in touch with one friend from Bognor she met then and is in contact with many of her fellow Butlin’s workers from those early days.