John Marland Obituary

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

It is with a sad heart that we must report the passing away of John Marland (WINGFOOT) of Watford Woodcraft Folk. 

John died on 31st October at the incredible age of 94. He was born in 1922 and was married to Kate.

John was a stalwart of the Watford District for many years and was a member of the Folk as a young person. John was at the battle of Cable Street in 1936 at the age of 14, when anti fascists and the local community stopped Mosley from marching his black shirts through a Jewish area in the East End of London. John was one of the first Pioneers in Watford, joining its first group in 1930 which met at the Bungalow Cafe in North Watford. In 1939 John joined the 700 strong delegation to the peace camp of Red Falcons at Liege in Belgium. The camp was held in the forlorn hope that war in Europe could be averted but sadly was only weeks before war broke out. John was clearly one of the Folk who despite believing in peace felt that fascism had to be stopped. In the Second World War John joined the Navy and served as a submariner on HMS Seraph.

John was in the crew of the sub that was part of operation mincemeat, an event remembered in the 1950s film "The Man that never was". Operation Mincemeat involved the acquisition and dressing up of a human cadaver as a "Major William Martin, R.M." and putting it into the sea near Huelva, Spain. Attached to the dead body was a brief-case containing fake letters falsely stating that the Allied attack would be against Sardinia and Greece rather than Sicily, the actual point of invasion. When the body was found, with all the false pocket litter data, the Spanish Intelligence Service passed copies of the papers to the German Intelligence Service which passed them on to their High Command. The ruse was so successful that the Germans still believed that Sardinia and Greece were the intended objectives, weeks after the landings in Sicily had begun.

John stayed a member of the Folk his whole life, taking children camping in Edale and Lockerbrook. His friends and comrades remember him as a wonderful man and a committed socialist as well as an active Trade Unionist. John also marched for peace with CND in the post war years. John had a way with children but especially the Venturer age young people. John's co-leader was Katy, his wife. Together they ran the Hardihood Lodge in Bushey.

John loved jazz and attended the Watford jazz club regularly where he met my dad, Bob Bemrose. Although I was never fortunate enough to meet John myself my dad would tell me of conversations he had with John about the Folk. Clearly he remained a Folk member in his heart and soul, committed to the fashioning of the new world we have yet to achieve.

By Paul Bemrose (Brighthelmstone District)