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Joe Garratt 1930-2001

Peter Edward Garratt, whom most of us knew as Joe, died peacefully in hospital with his wife Laura at his bedside in the early hours of 17th May 2001. Joe had been receiving treatment for lung cancer.

Joe was born in Manchester in 1931 and was educated at Altrincham Grammar School where, at the age of 15, he first took up fencing. He went to Nottingham University and gained a degree in mechanical engineering. It was at university that Joe met Laura who, as she put it dabbled with fencing. On leaving university he started as a graduate apprentice with Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester.

When he was called up for national service Joe joined the Navy and became an officer. He continued his fencing and competed in the Portsmouth Command Championships in 1955 and in The Royal Tournament in 1957. On leaving the Navy Joe joined BEA, now British Airways, where he worked as a manager involved in many projects including the planning of new airport terminals both in the UK and abroad. His overseas travel enabled Joe to make contacts and life long friends with other airline fencing clubs. Some time around 1960 Joe was co-founder, with Robert Giraud, of an annual inter-airline fencing competition. In 1982 the competition became the Flying Friendship Cup. Joe’s club Wellesbourne continues the tradition today fencing as British Airways. Joe did not take anything for granted and served on the committees of the clubs of which he was a member.

Joe was a founder member of the Hillingdon Samaritans. He worked unselfishly with them until his death, being secretary and treasurer at various times and turning out at all kinds of unsociable hours to help others in trouble. It is a testament to Joe’s modesty that few people knew of his work in this field.

Joe joined the Vets (NVA) in 1990. He believed passionately in its aims and it soon became his greatest interest. In 1997 he became the NVA’s second Chairman carrying on from Henry de Silva’s pioneering work in the veterans movement. Joe brought to the job all of his considerable people skills. He identified and addressed the problems of the growing organisation and handled the people with tact and patience. He forged an understanding between the Vets and the BFA so that the NVA received the recognition it deserved. He made the changes happen without losing any of the personalities along the way.

Joe was known to all as a warm, courteous and gentle man. He made sure that he personally welcomed newcomers to the NVA events. His charm won him many friends among fencers from Britain and many other nations. It was Joe’s endearing nature, his sense of humour and his command of several languages that often smoothed out problems when the Vets were on tour. Joe was always up for a bit of fun and often was heard to say, at the end of a match or some other event, “the party is in my room tonight”.

On the piste many were surprised by Joe’s aggressive style of fencing. He was remarkably fit and would chase an unsuspecting opponent to the end of the piste from the start of the bout. He would fence all three weapons at the NVA National Championships and never seemed tired by it.

Joe leaves not only his wife Laura but also his two children Peter and Phillipa to whom we extend our heartfelt condolences. Fencing in general and the NVA in particular have lost a true friend. He will be greatly missed.

Dave Sweeney

Donations may be made in memory of Peter Garratt to:
Hillingdon Samaritans
2 Press Road
Uxbridge  UB8 1AT

Personal Reminiscences

Joe’s wife telephoned me this morning with the sad news that Joe had died in the early hours in hospital where he had been for the last week as she wanted Wellesbourne Sword Club to be told.

As many of you know he had lung cancer and had been on chemotherapy and radiotherapy but a chest infection caused complications.

He told me heand his wife Laura both fenced at Nottingham University and he joined the Navy as an officer for his national service.

He was a manager at British Airways for many years where he was involved with a lot of projects including planning new terminals, this involved much overseas travel and enabled him to develop contacts with other airline fencing clubs.

An annual competition between airline clubs became the Flying Friendship Cup, a tradition which Wellesbourne carries on today fencing as British Airways. (I have a document in Dutch which I think says it started in 1982).

The previous chairman of Wellesbourne Derek Platt tells me he remembers Joe joining the club about 16 years ago and he does always seem to have been there on Thursday nights as far as I can remember !

He came on to the committee in various roles after he retired from BA and was treasurer up till the last AGM last December, he was still our armourer this year.

Joe was Chairman of the NVA (Veterans fencing) recently where his hard work ensured the NVA received more recognition from the BFA after some years on the edge of the official fencing in the country, he was always good at getting difficult things done without offending anyone.

I am sure we will all miss him very much.

Andrew Brown

I was shattered by your e-mail received just now. I had met Joe in the late 1940’s-early 1950’s, when we were both students, he at Nottingham, I at Leicester. Both were University Colleges at that time giving External London University degrees. These were tough exams; how tough I learned to appreciate later on, when I started teaching for Internal degrees at Birkbeck College.

Joe and I crossed swords (in a friendly competitive spirit, I must stress) on many occasions at University matches, at the UAU championships and possibly also in county matches. I vividly recall the beautiful setting of the gym by the lake of the Nottingham campus, where we relaxed after matches.

We renewed our acquaintance after, I believe, 37 years, when I wished to join the NVA and contacted him as its Chairman. I recall meeting him in person after all these years at the Christmas competition in 1999, where we recognised each other and then again at the annual championships in 2000. He looked fit and well, slim and in good trim. Hence his death came as a great shock to me. He will be greatly missed by the fencing community. My deepest sympathy to his family.

Robert A Shaw

I have just returned from Martinique, to your e-mail about Joe.

There is nothing really that I can say. I am very sad, because I liked Joe very much, and have only good memories of him. He seemed to me to be at the heart of what the Vets is about – he never expected to be among the medals in fencing, but he loved the sport, and the people he met through it, and his enthusiasm made others enjoy their fencing the more. There seemed not an once of malice in him – beyond what was necessary to tell a good story well.

He had seemed frail but in good heart at the Nat Champs in March. He was not at all self-pitying, and laughed when I said I’d be missing his demon quarte-ripostes this year. I’ll be missing them in the future as well.

Richard Cohen

I was so sorry to learn of Joe’s passing: he always struck me as a quiet, gentle man; firm but fair and an excellent motivator.

I enjoyed his company and I know that he will be sadly missed by his family and all who knew him. Fencing and the NVA in particular have lost a good friend.

Geoff Silverman

I am so sorry to read of Joe’s death.

I shall be thinking of his family, and would like to join in your group sympathy and condolences.

Penny Spink 

I did not know Joe, before I joined the Veterans, 2 years ago. I will always remember him coming over to me at my first Championship and making me feel most welcome, and at ease with this new environment. A great ambassador and administrator, he will be sadly missed.

Lindsay Watkiss

I first met Joe when I joined the NVA and went to Beaumanor Hall for competitions starting some 10 years ago.

I remember him having his lunch in the huts at Beaumanor — one of those heavy Army camp meals — with a bottle of red wine and offering a glass to anyone who took an interest.

On the piste he lost his apparently mild manner and fenced each weapon with the same determination. He was remarkably fit.

I think I saw him annoyed only once through fencing — he was hit on the head from an adjacent piste when presiding. Nobody realised what had happened but there was Joe facing us out and saying very firmly that he was waiting for an apology.

Another side to his character came out when he became Chairman of the Vets. He identified and addressed the problems that the organisation had and handled the people with skill and patience.

It has been a privilege to know Joe and I shall miss him.

John Mason

Sorry to hear the news about Joe. He was a sensible and moderating influence at a particularly difficult time for the Veterans Association.

This has been clearly shown through the strength and standing the Veterans Association now has in the UK.

Mike and Joan Whitehouse

Today is a very sad day for me and many others who came in contact with Joe. My life is a lot richer through knowing him and my deep-felt sympathy goes out to is family.

Below you have three photos which in my mind sum up the Joe I knew and counted as a blessing to call a friend.

No 1 shows Joe at his best presiding at the Vets championships.

No 2 Joe with is friends in St Petersburg on the way to whip the Yanks.

No 3 Joe in good sprits at the top of Table Mountain

If there is any space in the book of remembrance I would love these to be included

God bless you Joe

Ian Degville

It is with very great sadness that we learned of Joe Garratt’s death. He has been such a pillar of strength and steadfastness in the fencing world that it is difficult to believe that he has so suddenly left us.

My friendship with Joe (he has always been Joe and I never knew until now that his real name was Peter; the email address made me wonder, but it never occurred to me that Joe was not his proper name) started in the early 1960s when I was a member of Riverside Fencing Club in Middlesex. We took part in the very active Middlesex league and regularly had fixtures against Silver Wings, the British Airways Fencing Club. It was always pleasant to go to their excellent sports club. Years later in the 1980s, when, now with a fencing family, I lived in High Wycombe Joe suddenly turned up to join Wellesbourne Sword Club. The Silver Wings Fencing Club was no more and Joe had come to us.

Soon after Joe needed a team for the annual Flying Friendship Cup and sought recruits from Wellesbourne. The Flying Friendship Cup, started many years ago, is an annual encounter between the fencing clubs of BA, KLM, Air France, Aeroport de Paris and Iceland Air. Each club takes it in turn to organise in their country and on that first occasion for me and Wellesbourne Fencing Club members is was in Amsterdam. My husband, Clive, had recently gone over to Amsterdam for his job, so the whole Payne family took part, Clive presiding and our two sons, Tom and Nick, fencing men’s foil and me fencing women’s foil for BA.

Now Clive and I are living in Holland and, thanks to Joe’s introduction, are members of the KLM Club. The annual Flying Friendship Cup has enabled us to keep in touch with Joe and our friends in Wellesbourne and even occasionally to come over to fence again in the UK . This year the Flying Friendship Cup is again being organised by KLM (on 16 June). Joe was a founder member of the Flying Friendship Cup and had fenced in the event every year. As BA Captain and elder statesman of the event, he always took his duties very seriously; he always had an appropriate speech and tokens of friendship for the other teams. This year’s event will miss him more than we can say.

Kristin Payne

What terrible news met us when we got back from the Veterans World Championships in Martinique. How dreadful for his wife, Laura.

Thinking back over the many years that we knew each other, it was in 1961 that our friendship began. I had been invited for the first time to take part in a fencing match between KLM and British Airways. I will never forget that evening at the Silver Wing Club. We could hardly believe our eyes. What a wonderful club it was. And it was also the first time I met Joe. Maybe he did not make such a strong impression then, but that was to change over the years.

In 1974 I myself became chairman of the KLM Fencing Club and soon afterwards along with Henk Kenter and Joe we had the idea of organising a tournament together with Air France and Aeroport de Paris. The first occasion took place in Amsterdam and during the event all the participants got together and chose the name Flying Friendship Cup. Some years later we were joined by Iceland Air led by Yves Bertino. The FFC established itself as an annual event providing a friendly fence plus a good chat and a beer. Sometimes my work took me to Heathrow, and if Joe was “at home”, I would visit him in his office.

Another occasion was in Emden, Germany. We were fencing there (Kristin and Clive Payne, too) and Joe’s flight back to London the next day was from Amsterdam, so my wife Mar and I took him home to spend the night with us. After dinner Joe and I sat together talking in my study where I keep my fencing collection. We exchanged memories and remembered mutual acquaintances

A couple of days later I received a thank you letter and a few photos for the KLM album.

This year, too, Joe was planning to attend the 2001 Flying Friendship Cup in Amsterdam. He would be coming, he said, but, for the first time in 40 years, he would not be able to fence himself because he was not well enough. But he was still handling all the arrangements for accommodation for his team.

But it was not to be, nor ever again.

Bert van Donselaar
Chairman of the KLM Fencing Club, Holland

(Translated from Dutch by Kristin Payne)

I was saddened to learn of Joe’s death.

What struck me most during the short time I knew him was that although he had enjoyed so may years involved in fencing he still was interested in, and valued, people like me who came to fencing pretty late in life. I had the pleasure of meeting him at several Vets events and on some other occasions and he reminded me of the Queen Mum in the way that he always gave me the impression that I was the person he most wanted to meet there! But I think he was taller than her. He also always asked how my daughter Chrystall was doing.

The enormous amount of work he did for the Vets will be very greatly missed.

Catherine Nicoll

Je préfère vous écrire en francais, que je peux, traduire mieux mes sentiments que mon anglais universitaire.

Je n’ai connu Joe Garratt qu’en 2000 à propos des championnats de Brighton.

Nous avons converse par fax, telephone, lettre ….

Je l’ai vu pour la première fois à Brighton si curtois, si gentil, si disponible. Je le croyais en bonne santé et l’invitais à nous rencontrer à Paris. Quand on m’a dit à Gödöllö qu’il était malade, j’ai cru ââ une maladie passagère.

Maintenant, j’apprend son deces. Ma femme et moi avons été très choqués et très tristes pour sa femme et ses enfants.

Ce que j’apprends sur lui ne me surprend pas: la bonté et la generosité se lisaient dans son regard.

Pouvez vous transmettre à sa famille et à tous ses amis la peine que nous avons et le vide que nous ressentons dejà?

Merci beaucoup. Avec mes sentiments attentifs

Michel Hossard

I prefer to write to you in French to express my sentiments better than in my college English.

I only knew Joe in connection with the Brighton 2000 championships.

We communicated by fax, telephone, letter etc.

I saw him for the first time in Brighton, so courteous, so kind, so helpful. I thought he was in good health and invited him to visit us in Paris. When someone told me in Gödöllö that he was ill I assumed it was a temporary illness.

Now I learn of his death. My wife and I were very shocked and are very sad for his wife and children.

What I am told about him does not surprise me; by looking at him one could tell that he was a good and generous man.

Would you please let his family and friends know the hurt and emptiness which we feel already

Thank you very much. Best wishes,

Michel Hossard

I would like to express my personal condolences to Laura Garrett and all her family for her sad loss. I first met Joe when he came to Whitgift to plan the first World Veterans Championships in Cape Town. I was immediately struck by his charm, organisation and sense of fun. The Veterans Team was a dream to manage and Joe and the intrepid group who journeyed to Cape Town put us all to shame by climbing Table Top Mountain whilst we rested down below.

After that World Championships my respect for Joe just grew and grew as he calmly organised the GB Veterans to success after success and always with personal charm and wit but also a steely sense of authority if needed.

We shall all miss Joe and British Fencing will be making a presentation to Laura Garrett at the BFA AGM on Saturday 29th September.

Keith Smith

I had the good fortune to be NVA secretary during the year before Joe’s death. He was always a pleasure to work with: courteous and patient, yet inspirational and effective.

As chairman and secretary, Joe and I often collaborated on written work, and it was pure joy to see him in action. A past master of the ceding parry, he would quietly suggest an apparently very slight change of wording, which would in fact have the effect of making any attacker neatly impale themselves by their own efforts (while of course having no effect at all on anyone who was not attacking).

Joe commanded both affection and respect, a rare combination. I have always enjoyed watching a professional at work, and I feel privileged to have met one of the best.

Hilary Arnold

(Extract from The Sword)

This edition of News From The President starts with the sad news that Joe Garratt who had done so much to invigorate and manage the Great Britain Veterans Team has sadly passed away. We all extend our condolences to his wife and would all wish to express our thanks for his enthusiasm, good humour and superb organization.

There can be no better testament to Joe Garratt than the superb results achieved by the Vets this season. At the world Veteran Championships in Martinique Graham Paul won the men’s foil and Janet Cooksey won both the foil and epee events. At the recent European Veterans Championships held in Cologne, Great Britain had no fewer than four winners, with Janet Cooksey again winning the foil and epee, Richard Cohen winning the sabre, Lynn Bornemisza winning the women’s sabre and Denis Ward winning the sabre in his age group. Congratulations to all these World and European Champions.

Keith Smith

It must be about 15 years since I first met Joe at a fencing dinner in Paris. I remember it because that was the first time I had fenced in another country. I had gone with Henry and some of his junior fencers, and at the evening buffet not many other people were talking English.

Little did I know that Joe would become so influential in helping veteran fencing to become accepted and respected in Europe and also world-wide. It was obvious that he thoroughly enjoyed being a competitive fencer but he was also willing to devote much time and effort to the business side of fencing, and he was always eager to give help and advice.

Over the years Joe has impressed us all in many ways, such as giving thank-you speeches in French, German and Russian.

I remember when in Moscow asking Joe rather nervously the correct way to eat caviar. He reassuringly replied “Just pretend it’s jam, spread it on your bread and enjoy”.

He could always be relied on to share his bottle of red wine, even if it was out of a cup in the huts at Beaumanor, and his thermos of strong black coffee at a cold fencing competition, and to offer a few kind words after a disappointing fencing result.

I shall always have many good and happy memories of Joe.
Veteran fencers are very fortunate to enjoy a “family friendship”.
Remembrances are very important.

Sue Church