On the Banks of the Amazon, the late 19th century account of a trip down the famous South American river by WHG Kingston, is an in-depth story of natural history to make anyone feel transported, let alone a reader with the imagination of a schoolboy.
When Charles Smith was given a copy of it as reward for “proficiency and regular attendance” at the Royal Marines School in Gosport 90 years ago, it swiftly became a treasured possession.
“My father remembers this book very vividly,” says Smith’s son, Andrew. “It was one of his favourites growing up.”
Lost in the wreckage of his parents’ bombed house during the Second World War, the copy only resurfaced when it was given to the Hampshire town’s museum in 1984.
A family member tipped Smith senior off that the book was back in town and, following a chat with his son, the local council’s museum service has arranged for it to be loaned to the Museum of Croydon, close to the 98-year-old’s home.
“We were thrilled to make Charles’s wish to be reunited with his book a reality,” says Margaret Snaith-Tempia, the Executive Member for Culture and Recreation.
“The Museum Service has carefully preserved this book over the years and was delighted when we were approached by the Smith family and found out about its true history.”
Smith the younger has found his detective work equally invigorating. “I was delighted to have tracked it down,” he says.
“I will be able to take my father to the Museum of Croydon to be reunited with this book and relive some of his childhood memories.”