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Bobby Butlin

Companion Rat


Register Number: 668. Initiated into the Order 6 June 1968

As the son of Sir Billy Butlin, Bobby was groomed for the family business. As a child he spent numerous holidays at all the holiday camps and even worked as a Redcoat in 1951.

Sir Billy was a hard taskmaster, but Bobby had a natural ability and worked hard in all branches of the business. When his father retired in 1968 Bobby was the obvious choice to take over as head of the organisation. At that time Bobby saw the threat from the new cheap flights to Spain and Greece and realised that the traditional holiday camps needed updating; with his hands-on attitude, a charismatic personality and shrewd business sense he was ready for the challenge. With his good looks and boyish charm it was not unusual to find him visiting various camps unannounced and chatting with the holiday makers whilst eating fish and chips from a newspaper. On the more formal occasions an entourage of staff would follow him around giving an almost regal atmosphere.

One of his first major changes was to get rid of the dreaded early morning ?Wakey, Wakey Campers? call. He also engaged first rate entertainers such as Bob Monkhouse, Ted Rogers and Ken Dodd, to entertain at the late-night cabarets. He also instigated an aggressive advertising campaign to lure new and old holiday makers to Butlins? nine camps. He also introduced self-catering ? much to the horror of his father, who believed that families did not want to cook on holiday. In 1969 Bobby banned single-sex bookings at all the camps to prevent groups of youngsters from upsetting the family atmosphere, but five years later the organisation attracted unwanted publicity when an over zealous Personnel Manager at the Barry Island camp enclosed a note in the staff wage packets accusing them of ?promiscuity particularly with the campers? [one can?t help but remember Gladys Pugh in ?Hi Di Hi?]. An overzealous kitchen porter leaked the note to a Sunday tabloid newspaper and within hours crowds gathered outside the camp to peer though the fence in the hope of seeing an orgy. Recalling the incident later, Bobby sighed ?I suppose sex and holiday camps are destined for one another?.

In 1972 he oversaw the sale of the Butlin camps to the Rank organisation for 43 million. However, the company continued to expand with many of the camps being refurbished and new hotels purchased.

Sir Billy died in 1980. Four years later Bobby retired; by which time many of the camps had closed down. Bobby spent the rest of his life actively involved with the charitable work not only of the Butlin Charitable Trust but also of the Variety Club, the Vaudeville Golfing Society and the Grand Order of Water Rats of which he was a Companion.
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