The History of the 14th West Kent (Bexleyheath) Company.
Very early in the 20th Century, William Dickinson, much to the dismay of his housekeeper, formed the Highfield Boys Club. At this club the boys had the freedom of his house and spent many Sunday afternoons, followed by a simple service in the local mission hall. It was in 1904, after several requests by the boys and much encouragement by the Rev Fry, the then Vicar Of Christ Church, Bexleyheath that Mr Dickinson sent out a letter to all club members calling a meeting to consider forming a Company of The Boys’ Brigade. The response was so great that at a meeting was held on September 14th 1904; all were keen to go ahead with a company. An application form was forwarded to the Brigade forthwith and on October 31st of that year; the Rev Fry had his BB Company, to be known as the 14th West Kent. The Company was given the use of a room at the rear of a small private library, which served them well for the first eight years but numbers were growing.
Soon the Company were the proud possessors of a drum and fife band; the Sunday evening Church Parade became an imposing sight, with the bandsmen playing with lyres strapped to their wrists and colza oil lamps strapped to their shoulders, leaking oils onto the jackets, as they played such marches as “Under the Double Eagle”.
The following year, the Company went to camp at Eddington, at the cost of 10 shillings and much to everyone’s amazement returned home fit and well after a glorious week. The Company soon learned the meaning of discipline and team spirit. In November 1912, a piece of land was leased from Mr A Hide, the owner of a department store and the building was erected. Thus we owned out first headquarters – 70’ x 28’ at the cost of £340.
Soon the country was at war and many of those early members were to lose their lives. The Company gave its help in many ways, which included the band, now bugles and drums, leading the volunteers on route marches, buglers sounding air raid warnings and everyone collecting waste paper.
With the war behind it, the Company continued to grow and reached the final of the London District Daily Telegraph Shield in 1923, beating the 1st Barnet Company by 13 marks – the marks awarded for rifle drill proving the decisive factor. The following year, we failed in the drill but reached the final of the Devonshire Cup for Bugle Bands, losing to 76th London.
In 1926, the lease ran out on the existing hall and the Company acquired a second-hand wooded medical clinic and had it erected on a new site. Camping was very much a feature, usually at Herne Bay on the North Kent coast, a day out consisted of a five mile march to the local station, before catching a train to Canterbury, watching the County play cricket and then the return trip.
In the 1933-34 session, William Dickinson or “WD” as he was known, handed over to a younger man, Lieutenant AP French, while he became President, a position, he held until he died in 1949.