Early Years

An interview with Alf and Joan was recorded October 1997 by their Daughter Penny, and Granddaughter Sheila. They spent several hours talking of their earliest memories and the cassette tapes were distributed to grandchildren to enjoy their voices for many years to come. These tapes have been digitised and can be found here. Much of the information has been taken from these recordings and written about on this website. Whilst information has been verified as much as possible, it has been noted by older family members of the family that Alf and Joan’s recall of dates and events had become a little blurred. However, considering Alf was 81 years old at the time and Joan would have been 79 years, it would be forgiven and quite understandable for their memories to become jaded over the years!

Alf Leggatt - Born 1916 Leytonstone

As Alf said himself when his life’s story began, he was very young. He was born in 1916 in Leytonstone on 28th October 1916  to Alfred (an entrepreneur) and Rose, and had a younger brother George. In his early years, the family moved to Leigh on Sea. His special memories included his father’s chauffeur driven Daimler and living in the very posh bungalow that had taken three years to build. Both he and George were sent to a small public school in Lyndesfarn. According to Alf this was so that his parents could play golf as often as possible. There was not much home life and in the summer months but Alf and George had the compensation of spending their holidays with their grandparents who lived less grandly on Canvey Island. It was here that Alf and Geoge both learned to shrimp, cockle and catch fish.

At school his brother was very good at sports but he was not. Alf flourished academically and enjoyed school (particularly maths and science), matriculating at 16. Then his life changed. His entrepreneur father became bankrupt, his parents divorced and he and his brother had to leave his public school and live with his mother in Leigh on Sea. Jobs were very difficult to find in 1932. He tried many avenues including attending College to learn book-keeping and typing.

Alf Leggatt with his younger Brother George Circa 1920s

Growing up in Leigh on Sea

Rose with her son's Alf (right) and George (left)

Eventually a fisherman who had taken Alf fishing at the weekends offered him a job and he became a mate on a shrimper for 3 years. Towards the end of this period Alf and his brother took the lease of the fried fish shop that had come up in Leigh old town. Both Alf and George worked all hours to get the business going. The hallmark of its success being the excellence of its fresh fish which Alf used to pick up every morning on his converted motorbike from Billingsgate Market. When they did make some spare time they would spend it sailing the channel in and around Dunkirk. 

Alf (Left) starting his Naval Career

Alf (left) with his Father and Brother George (right)