The RNLI saves lives at sea.

Gordon Grassam

Picture of Gordon Grassam.

Gordon was born on 17th April 1921 at Iver, Buckinghamshire and had two younger brothers Geoff and Peter. His father was a market gardener and in his spare time, Gordon had to help out and take produce to market in the horse and cart. He played truant from school to go to Croydon Airport to watch the aircraft and it was at this time that Gordon developed a passion for motorbikes especially the Norton Manx. This passion stayed with him throughout his life and he always showed great interest in any motorbike that Ian bought.

Due to the demands of the business, Gordon never had any holidays and joined the Royal Army Service Corps (Territorial Army) as a driver on 12th October 1937. His Certificate of Service shows that he declared his date of birth to be 1920 as he was actually too young to enlist. One reason for joining was that he would at least get a ‘holiday’!

Gordon joined the Royal Air Force as a Technical Corporal on 28th April 1939. Less than a year later he was serving in the Mobile Expeditionary Force in North Africa. Gordon continued in service until April 1946 finishing his tour in Western Europe.

Gordon’s Certificate of Service for the RAF has the following statement from his Officer Commanding: “This NCO has completed seven years service in the RAF as a motor driver and at all times has performed his duties in a very satisfactory manner. His character has been very good.” Gordon’s proficiency ratings were only satisfactory rather than exceptional or superior because of a few misdemeanors where his behaviour was less than perfect – he once recalled borrowing a 4 ton lorry to go to the pub one evening and driving it back straight over the roundabout outside the barracks! The war years were clearly important to Gordon but it was never easy to get him to talk about that time. One of his roles was to recover inured airmen from their crashed aircraft. Remembrance Day was significant to Gordon and he always watched the service at the Cenotaph.

After the war there were few jobs for all the returning servicemen and both Geoff and Peter emigrated to Canada. Peter survives Gordon and continues to live in the Toronto area. Gordon continued using his driving skills and got a job with London Transport and drove red London buses passed the Houses of Parliament. During the 1950’s Gordon had a friend who was coxswain of the Royal National Lifeboat at Weymouth and Gordon would accompany him on the boat. He maintained this affinity with the RNLI for the rest of his life and hence our request for donations to the RNLI.

By now Gordon's parents had moved to the Guildford area and Gordon joined them working as a Driving Instructor with the British School of Motoring, becoming a manager at the Guildford office. But office life was not for him so he joined the Surrey Ambulance Service based at Godalming where he stayed until he retired in 1986.

Gordon took up rifle shooting with the City of London Club and represented Great Britain in Three Positional shooting competitions. He continued this hobby by joining the Farncombe and Godalming Rifle Club. He also enjoyed visiting the South Wales coastline and hiking in North Wales.

Gordon came into our lives in Normandy, Surrey in 1971 and my first memory is of Tosca his enormous German Shepherd dog that we all loved. Rifle shooting became part of our lives as Mum and Gordon shot at weekends with Farncombe and Godalming Rifle Club. We often went along and whilst they were shooting we would collect golf balls sliced into the range by members of the Bramley Golf Club or sit beside the river trying to catch fish. Both Philip and I took up shooting at various stages with Gordon as our teacher. Gordon and Mum competed in national competitions at Bisley in Surrey and Scotland.

Caravan holidays followed to Cornwall and Wales and we all remember one year at the aptly named Newgale in Wales, when Gordon spent most of the night trying to hold the awning down on the side of the caravan whilst I slept peacefully on!

Holidays were always amazing in terms of how brown Gordon could go with a bit of sunbathing.

Another year we all had to leap out of our family Morris Marina so Gordon could drive it up the hill with the caravan attached – this Marina did then get passed on to Ian and Philip who even re-sprayed it. After the Marina came the yellow Maxi that Gordon kept going for several years passed its peak.

He was always happy to help any of us out with car mechanics on the variety of cars we owned. In fact he helped in many ways. Ian recalls meeting Gordon in the kitchen at 6.00 one morning. Ian was coming home from the night before and Gordon fried up his breakfast before his shift started. I remember Gordon taking me to Highbury for an Arsenal match for my birthday – Arsenal won 1 – 0. It was an enduring topic of conversation for us to catch up on how the Arsenal were playing.

Gordon taught me to drive and I was unaware until years later that he pulled on the hand brake in my first lesson as I took a turning too fast. He was disappointed I failed first time but the second was a pass.

Moving to May Hill in 1986 opened up the world of golf more regularly to Gordon. He had started in Surrey and we enjoyed the odd round of nine holes with him as he taught Ian and me to play. The occasional pitch and putt at Brighton was always competitive. Now he bagan his weekly game with his friends Les, Dave and Ted. He also began working at the Arboretum with John and Sheila and walking Reg Sweet’s dog. All of these activities brought him great joy but reading (cat on lap) and watching sport on television slowly increased.

Gordon was first taken in to casualty with a heart infection on the 28th June and passed away peacefully on Tuesday 27th November.

Sadly missed.

Taken from the eulogy read by Gordon's youngest step-son David at his funeral on 11 Dec 2007.

Added by: David Webber on 8 December 2007.

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Picture of Gordon Grassam.
Picture of Gordon Grassam.

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The RNLI is a charity that provides a 24-hour lifesaving service around the UK and Republic of Ireland.

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