When Peter Toogood left school as a 14-year-old he dearly wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather with a life at sea.

But with the Second World War still fresh in the memory, Peter’s mother refused to allow him to sign up, and instead he became an apprentice carpenter and joiner. Although he eventually spent three years in the Royal Air Force, working mainly disposing of bombs that were surplus to requirement after the war, his incredible skills working with wood are now in evidence all around him.

Over the past three years alone, 84-year-old Peter has built truly wonderful, detailed models of some of the boats his father and grandfather sailed in, including ‘Betsie Jane’ that his father sailed during the war. But his workmanship does not stop with boats. The home of Peter and Evelyn, his wife of 62 years, is adorned by the likes of wooden panelling, chairs, tables, cabinets and even a grandfather clock, all painstakingly and intricately handmade.

Peter’s mother and father lived in St Helens, but his mother went to her previous home in Reading to give birth to him. As soon as he could travel he was brought to the Island, and was christened in St Helens. He went to school in the village, where the medical centre now stands, and then moved on to the church school, which his father and grandfather also attended.

He said: “My father was Frank Nelson Toogood and my grandfather Edward William Toogood, and I remember seeing their initials scratched on the bricks of one of the walls at school. My family can be traced back to living on the Island since the mid-1600s.”

During the Second World War Peter recalls how as an eight-year-old he saw bombs dropped on and around St Helens. He said: “One hit the corner of the green, one house was damaged and the Woodnutt boat yard in Bembridge was often a target. As kids we virtually lived on the beach, and I remember watching the German aircraft bombing Portsmouth.

“We often went down to Bembridge harbour looking for shrapnel and souvenirs. We swapped shrapnel from shell cases like kids would swap picture cards these days. One German bomber crashed nearby and my mates and I got there even before the troops arrived.

“We were also down there one day when an Icelandic trawler, which had been taken over by the Navy, was moored out near Spitbank Fort. Suddenly a German plane came over from Bembridge direction, dropped a bomb straight down the trawler’s funnel, and she sank within five minutes. All you could see were two masts above the water.”

Peter left school at 14, and after being told by his mum to remain on land he worked for painter and decorator Charles Frederick Wade in St Helens. The firm expanded when men were demobbed after the war. He worked with a joiner named William Taylor, and did a six-year apprenticeship as a carpenter and joiner.

He continued: “When I reached 20 I did my National Service in the Air Force, signing on for three years. I couldn’t be a joiner in the Air Force, so I worked in a bomb dump near Andover, servicing bombs and depth charges. The war hadn’t long finished, and bombs were stacked in woodland over many acres. We had to cut down hedges and brambles to find some of them.

“The bombs had been placed there ready for the war, but had never been used, so we had to put them on trolleys, take them into sheds, where they were cleaned, repainted and I put brass plates on the bomb to indicate what it was filled with. The bombs ranged in size from 1,000lbs to 12,000lbs, and when defused a lot of them went for scrap.

“I was there for two years, and by the time I left we had still only got about halfway through the thousands of bombs that were there. I also worked on Lancaster bombers for a while, and even managed to go up for a flight on one of them.

“After two years, the RAF wanted volunteers to work in the carpenter’s shop and I got the job making furniture for the officers, and even built a bar in the officers’ mess. I came back to the Island most weekends. I was with a lot of Welshmen, who couldn’t afford to go home for weekends, so I paid them to do my shift. I was still in the Air Force when I married Evelyn, in 1952.

“We lived on a house boat in Bembridge Embankment, and after I left the Air Force, I became a ship’s joiner, making all the furniture for a boat called Perpetua, which at the time was the biggest fibre glass boat in the world. But after a disagreement, I walked out and never went back.

“My father was also a painter and decorator, so I joined him full time, and later took over the firm, F. M. Toogood and Son, gradually building up the work force. Some of the men worked for me for 25 years, and we did work on a lot of the big estates on the Island. I did modernisation of cottages, and even built a couple of bungalows.”

Peter ran the business until he was 63 when he had a heart attack, so was forced to close it down. But as his profession ended, his woodwork hobby flourished.

His sun room in his house is lined with oak, and most of the furniture in the home has been built by him. As an accomplished bricklayer he also built two extensions. His works also includes building a fishing boat for his grandson – basically there is nothing he can’t build from wood! He said: “I have done a lot with oak, but I think my favourite wood to work with is pine. I had throat cancer 10 years ago and got over that, and recently I had bladder cancer, but I still like making things.”

Peter has paintings around the house of the clippers his grandfather sailed on, while his father worked on yachts and was skipper of ‘Betsie Jane’ for then Lord Ebbisham. Peter said: “When the war started the Navy took over the ‘Betsie Jane’, so father joined the Navy. He went over the Portsmouth one morning to join, and came back the same day as a Petty Officer. In 1940 ‘Betsie Jane’ took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk under the command of my father. I don’t know how many trips he made as he didn’t like to talk about it too much.”

Later, Peter often sailed with his father in ‘Betsie Jane’ and the testament to his father and grandfather is the fantastic fleet of model ships, all to scale, underlining his incredible woodworking skills. Other members of his model fleet include the Cutty Sark, HMS Surprise, and even a Viking ship.  Some of the models took Peter a winter or more to complete. He said: “Sometimes I would go into my workshop in the morning, and the next thing I knew was my wife coming in to remind me it was midnight. I still enjoy working with wood – it has been a big part of my life.”