Great days in the GTC

Parading at the Festival of Britain was a day the cadets of Sunderland Girls' Training Corps would never forget.

And pictures of that sunny day in 1951, featured in an Echo article last month, have brought memories flooding back.

Our original story detailed the experiences of Frances Wilkie, who recalled the blistering heat of Horse Guards Parade.

Some 200 girls succumbed to the sun that day, although Frances and her friends were not among the casualties.

"We had to wear our full uniform on Horse Guards Parade. We were hot, but very proud too," she said.

Frances's recollections, together with her pictures of the cadets at the event, were spotted by reader Jean Scott, nee Skinner.

She immediately recognised herself in one of the photos, which showed her as a smiling young officer in the corps.

"I was 14 when I joined the group, which started at Grange Park School and then moved to Bede School," she said.

"We took part in a tattoo, went camping and helped out in hospitals. We had to complete a First Aid course, too."

Jean, who lives in West Boldon, has many happy memories of her time in the GTC – including the 1951 parade in London.

More than 3,000 young GTC members from across the country took part in the prestigious event and she said: "I still have photos of that time, and of the bus that had taken us to London. I wonder anyone remembers me?"

Two of Jean's photos are printed here. One is of her in her uniform, and the other is of the girls gathered next to their bus.

"I would like to send my best wishes to all who were cadets. I would love to hear from any member of the group," she added.

Another GTC member to get in touch was Jean Wigfield, nee Bainbridge, who now lives in Buckinghamshire.

She was a member of the Seaham GTC as a teenager and, in August 1946, was selected for the experience of a lifetime.

"I was chosen, along with another cadet called Avis Hunt, to be part of a contingent to visit Holland," she said.

"The trip was through the World Friendship Association and the idea was for young people to exchange hospitality."

It was just a year after the war had ended when Jean made the journey to Zwolle in North East Holland.

"It was a memorable visit, with trips to Giethoorn and the Zuider Zee, as well as meeting numerous Dutch girls and boys," she said.

"The crowning experience was when we were all transported in army lorries to parade at the dedication of the military cemetery at Oosterbeek, not far from Arnhem.

"It was very, very wet, but we paraded in our white shirts and navy skirts and really were none the worse!

"With my three stripes I was a 'marker,' so was in the very front row to see the ceremony and Queen Wilhelmina."

After returning home, Jean invited her Dutch hostess over the stay – and returned to visit her in 1954, after getting married.

* If you would like to get in contact with Jean Scott, please write to her c/o: Sarah Stoner, Sunderland Echo, Pennywell, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.

Can you help?

Today we feature another batch of readers hoping for help with historical and nostalgia problems.

* Glen Wilson from Wigan is hoping someone might have a picture of the SS Empire Gilbert, built in Sunderland in 1941.

His grandfather, John Wesley Wilson, was an officer on the Bartram-built ship, which was torpedoed off Iceland in 1942.

"I would really like to see a picture of the ship either during the build process or at her launch," said Glen.

"She sunk after being torpedoed and all but three of the crewmen were killed."

Glen can be contacted by email on gw67@

* Chris Legge has a copy of the Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette dated December 22, 1873. He is keen to find out if it is a collector's item or worth anything. Contact him by email at:

* Ruth Benbow from Leicester is searching for information on her relation, Captain Joseph Wiggins, a courageous 19th century Arctic explorer.

Wiggins donated a stuffed walrus to Sunderland Museum, which is said to have given writer Lewis Carroll inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.

Ruth is searching for old newspaper stories about the captain and can be contacted via email at:

* A reader called Chris is researching the history of a walking cane he owns, which features a silver band inscribed with the name F. Bell esq.

The inscription mentions the Victory Club Ltd of Hetton, as well as the date of January 8, 1921. Does anyone know who F. Bell was?

Contact Chris at: