Tony Bradford, 1933 – 2020
Tony served as the Guild’s life president from its foundation in 1982, up until his death in March 2020. Throughout most of that time he was an active member, although in later years, poor health reduced his appearances somewhat.
Tony was born in Kings College hospital, Brixton, South London on 8th September 1933, and grew up in nearby Cheam, where he attended the boys’ school. On leaving, he failed his school certificate (a key qualification for secondary school pupils at the time) but somehow, he managed to get a credit in English.
This no doubt enabled him to get a job as a copy boy at Reuters before he began his two years’ compulsory National Service in 1952. He joined the East Surrey Regiment and went on to serve in Egypt and Libya. Serving alongside him was the late actor Windsor Davies, who later became famous as Sergeant Major Williams in the sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot mum. The pair met again in 1975 at the premier of the British comedy film Carry on Behind, in which Windsor played the part of butcher, Fred Ramsden.
On leaving National Service Tony is believed to have worked on a brick and tile magazine before marrying Erica in 1956, at Banstead in Surrey. Early holidays took the form of camping, including trips to the continent.
In April 1957 Tony received a letter from the legendary Bill Whiteman, editor of Caravan Magazine, offering him a job on the editorial team. Bill was the magazine’s first editor and a founder of The National Caravan Council in 1939.
Tony loved the job and soon had his own caravan. Fortunately, Erica loved the lifestyle too and it became the perfect solution for family holidays with their son and daughter, who were born soon afterwards. The children also proved to be ideal props for the many photos he took for the magazine, including front covers.
By 1968 Tony had become editor of Caravan Magazine and found himself offering a job to a young Barry Williams, who went on the become Head of Publications at the Caravan Club. Barry said
“I joined Caravan in July 1968, knowing absolutely nothing about caravans or magazine journalism; but Tony’s enthusiasm, good humour and kindness sparked an interest that stayed with me for the rest of my working life.”
In the 1970’s Tony took a keen interest in car rallying – not solo, but with an old caravan on the back. Daughter Liz remembers that, on more than one occasion, he came home with the caravan looking more like a flat pack kit than anything habitable! During this time Tony drove in 24-hour tests at Silverstone, acquiring several caravan speed and endurance records.
Tony also became the author of two books on caravanning. Caravanning, published by Haynes in 1979, and The Caravan Handbook, published by Patrick Stephens in 1982.
Both sold widely in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, being translated into several languages, including Dutch, German and Spanish.
In 1982 Tony found himself with other journalists on a visit to the Newmarket factory of Caravans International (CI), at the time the leading manufacturer in the UK. Sitting round the table with CI management after a working lunch, founder Sam Alper (another industry legend) suggested that the journalists form a guild as a means of improving relationships with the industry.
Tony leapt at the idea and became one of the principal people involved in the Guild’s establishment. Such was his enthusiasm; he was elected Life President even before the Guild was officially formed. Tony then also became Chairman at the first general meeting later that year.
The industry soon realised the value of a good working relationship with an often-critical press, and invited Tony to sit on the National Caravan Council working party, drafting the Caravan Code, along with representatives from the major Clubs and the Department of Transport. Under Tony’s leadership the Guild flourished and a social side was developed with rallies and seminars being organised several times a year.
In 1985, at the age of 52, Tony Left Link House (publishers of Caravan Magazine) with the avowed intention to go freelance for five years. During this time, he served as consultant editor for the magazine but he must have loved the freelance lifestyle because the five years rolled on into fifteen.
Tony and Erica joined the first leg of Guild Chairman’s event in Hull in 2007, but declined the second leg to Holland as, by this time, Tony was beginning to suffer with Parkinson’s disease. However, in September the following year, they were able to attend a Guild social weekend at Peterborough, with Erica driving the motorhome. Sadly, it was to be their last such event, as Tony slowly grew worse and then Erica developed dementia. None of this dimmed Tony’s interest in the Guild and he asked to be copied in on all Committee correspondence. We also kept in touch by phone and I remember one particular conversation in August 2014. His mind was as sharp as ever but he complained that his body had pretty much given up. He quipped that, despite her dementia, Erica was in good shape, so with his mind and her body, they were coping just fine.
Tony passed away on 16th March 2020, aged 86, with Erica following soon after on 5th April, aged 85. Sadly, coronavirus restrictions prevented normal funerals but the family hope to hold a celebration of Tony & Erica’s lives when the situation allows.
David Ritchie said
“Tony was known for a long time as the doyen of caravan journalists. I remember him as a delightful chap with a great sense of fun and always great company.”
A wonderful epitaph indeed.
Tony leaves a son, daughter and two granddaughters.