The Goldfish Club
Club Contact Information
Club Membership Information
A Letter from the Membership Secretary
The History of the Goldfish Club- June 1990
The Goldfish Club was formed in November 1942 by Mr. CA Robertson who was at that time Chief Draughtsman to Messrs PB Cow & Co., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of Air-Sea Rescue equipment. After hearing of the experiences of some of the airmen who had survived, ‘Robbie’ conceived the idea of forming an exclusive club for airmen who owed their lives to their life jacket, dinghy, etc.
With the company’s backing, the club was named The Goldfish Club- gold for the value of the life and fish for the sea- and each member was presented with a heat-sealed waterproof (!) membership card and an embroidered badge. With wartime restrictions no materials were available for the badges until some redundant dinner suits were contributed in response to an appeal by columnist William Hickey in the Daily Express.
News of the new Club spread rapidly and in January 1943 the BBC broadcast an interview by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas with Robbie and two members who had qualified on their first operational flight.
By the end of the war the Club had 9000 members from all branches of the Allied Forces and it had been intended that the granting of further memberships should cease but applications continued to arrive. When Robbie left PB Cow in 1947 to start business on his own account he retained the Club records in order to continue administration at his own expense.
An article in the RAFA Journal ‘Airmail’ in January 1951 renewed interest and a reunion dinner was held. This was a great success and the Club was reorganized and a formal subscription basis in March 1953. The reunion events have been held annually ever since at various venues with many distinguished guests- in response to a message of greetings Miss Mae West made it clear that she was well aware of and took great pride in the fact that members of the RAF had adopted her name for their life-jackets!
Among the ranks have been a number of airmen who qualified in World War I, more than twenty years before the Club’s foundation. Inevitably many of the older members have passed on yet new members still arrive. Many of those who joined in the Service days rejoin on learning of the Club’s continued existence- one chap nominated as a ‘special member’ the Italian airman who offered him a seat in his dinghy when they met in the Mediterranean in 1942. The only German Goldfish qualified when he ejected from his F104G, part of the NATO forces in 1971. Helicopter crews predominate these days; ditchings are rare among combat aircraft, for most aircrew ‘bang out’ with their ejection seats but still qualify if they come down ‘in the drink.’ A couple of years ago Richard Branson escaped from his trans-Atlantic balloon and became the first ‘lighter-than-air’ Goldfish. Last year, Gloria Pullen ditched a Bleriot monoplane of 1911 vintage and is the only lady Goldfish- though no the first.
The five hundred-plus members around the world keep in touch with a regular Newsletter and the Club looks forward to celebrating its Golden Jubilee in a couple of years time.
Update 1993: July 1992 saw our 50th Anniversary celebrated in fine style. In July 1993 we came back to the same venue, the Falcon Hotel in Stratford-on-Avon, and enjoyed the 51st in like style.
Update 2000: The Club has continued having its anniversary celebration in the same venue in Stratford-on-Avon to this year.
Additional information on ditching a heavybomber and the Goldfish Club.