THE SECOND WORLD WAR
Grimsditch Camp was a temporary camp situated at Grimsdyke, on the east side of the Salisbury Road, between Martin and Coombe Bissett. It was built in 1939 – 1940.
Swaynes Firs now stands on part of the site.
Reportedly, there were Canadian Paratroopers stationed at the camp and then a British Reconnaissance Corp. As yet, there is no information about this in the archive.
The U.S. Army
In 1943 Grimsditch was converted to a ‘Bolero’ Camp. The U.S. 250th Station Hospital was built there. (‘Bolero’ was the code name used for any facility associated with the provision of support for the U.S. Army during the build-up to invasion.) This camp was to take casualties after the invasion.
30th December 1943 – U.S. 526th Ordnance Tank Maintenance Company arrived at Grimsditch.
Extract from a history of the Company.
‘December 28th…The Company moved to a place called Grimsditch Camp, 6 miles south of Salisbury in Wiltshire. Here we finished the business which we had begun a week or two earlier of drawing our equipment.
Among the first official papers we received after arrival in England was one assigning us to the First United States Army which assignment remained in effect throughout the war in Europe. The company was furloughed to various places in the United Kingdom and the men were given frequent passes to Salisbury and Bournemouth on the southern coast of England.
We commenced the regular and systematic contacting of organizations for which we were designated their source of maintenance. It was valuable experience and later, during the campaign, paid off in the form of close cooperation when we supplied service to those same units with which we had become acquainted in England. The most noteworthy accomplishment during this period was the equipping of the 103rd AAA Battalion with a special sight designed and perfected by Lt. Col. Pecca. Our service section worked night and day for an extended period during this operation, manufacturing and assembling the sight to the satisfaction of all concerned. At this time the company was attached to the 6th Ordnance Battalion.
Chief personal concern of the men, it would seem, was the procuring of fresh eggs. We practically became egg worshippers after prolonged exposure to this powdered stuff the Army puts out. (Apologies to such kitchen personnel reading this as might pride themselves on their special recipe for treatment of the powdered variety.)
The impending invasion about this time became progressively a more and more important topic for a drop-of-the-hat discussion. In this company as everywhere, anxiety as to when and speculation as to where were in evidence.
About the middle of March we were joined by a detachment of ten and a technical truck from the 175th Signal Repair Company which remained with us until after the war in Europe.
The first long move made by the organization was made on March 31st 1944 to a secret training area located Slapton Ley and Torcross, beach towns in Southern Devonshire. Coincident with this move and at about the same date was a transfer to the 177th Ordnance Battalion.’
The Company was then organized into two detachments. Detachment ‘A’ left for France on June 1st 1944 and landed on Omaha Beach on June 8th. Detachment ‘B’ left for France in two vessels on June 8th, but at 3am on June 9th one of the vessels was struck by a torpedo from a German ‘E’ Boat and 27 men were lost.
In November or December 1944 a platoon of the U.S. 1318th Engineer (General Service) Regiment arrived at Grimsditch Camp.
Robert Lenon, a mining engineer who served with the platoon, writes briefly about this time in his book ‘It Seems Like Only Yesterday: Mining and Mapping Arizona’s First Century’.
‘My platoon was assigned to a U.S. Army Hospital at Grimsditch, south of Salisbury. We lived in winterized tents. At the hospital we built covered corridors through which patients could be wheeled in gurneys between dispersed ward Quonsets and a much larger Quonset that was used as an operating room. It is very difficult to do sturdy brick or stone work at temperatures at which mortar freezes. Fortunately, this particular winter happened to be mild, and we were able to lay brick for 24 days during January. We worked a seven-day week and knocked off for only about three days or so during heavy snow at the time of the Battle of the Bulge on the mainland.
…In early 1945, we all shipped out to France from Southampton.
The Camp, the War and the Village
John Flemington recalled wartime in the village and the U.S. Army at Grimsditch Camp in his memoirs, which can be found elsewhere in this archive.
These extracts reveal how life was for a boy during the war in Martin.
‘Later on before and during the War our area was often used as a training ground, and provided a great source of entertainment for us kids. There was a rifle range and assault course built on Martin Down, and we used to go there when not in use to retrieve any overlooked ammunition, discarded cartridge cases, spent bullets, or anything else we could lay our hands on. It’s a wonder none of us were injured or killed, for we used to take the cordite out of the blank cartridges to make up an explosive device of our own, or we used to push them into a suitable hole and hit the end cap to explode them.’
John’s wife, Mary remembers him telling her that they pushed this explosive into the hollow signposts around the village that had had their signs removed, and then hit them with a stick!
‘When War with Germany was declared I’m sure that my age group didn’t take it very seriously. I was ten years old then and not very interested in world events. I can remember being made to sit still and listen to the radio as the solemn declaration was made on that Sunday morning at eleven o’clock, but the thing that had the biggest impact on me and the other village children was the arrival of the evacuees. Those billeted on families in Martin all came from Portsmouth, but to us they may as well have been foreigners, they didn’t speak our native dialect, and being from the city didn’t have a clue about country ways.’
‘Mind you! For the first year the War was a bit of a non-event, and it wasn’t until the evacuation of the army from Dunkirk and the start of the Battle of Britain that we began to sit up and take notice.
One event which took place in the summer of thirty eight has only just come to mind. Very often in the fine weather we went for a walk on a Sunday afternoon, and one Sunday myself with sister Joyce, young brother Peter, and the two Bailey sisters Doreen and Rosemary walked up to the top of Windmill Hill. We were sitting there on the grass resting after our climb, when suddenly we saw this huge Airship circling around over the Village and heading towards Southampton. It had the black cross in a white circle of the German Air Force on its tail plane, and we just stood there with our mouths open watching this huge Airship cruising by.
We learned afterwards that it was the Graf Zeppelin, and it was believed the Germans were on a photographic spying mission with the coming war in mind.
As the war went on there came into service with the Air Force many new types of airplane, which became of great interest to us boys, and we could name them all. During the war there were several crashes in our area, but the first crashed plane I ever saw was right at the start and not the result of enemy action at all. It was a Blackburn Skua belonging to the Fleet Air Arm which crashed into the fir plantation in Knoll Woods.
Needless to say Mervyn Ings and I were soon on the scene and came home with a few souvenirs, although there wasn’t much left intact after it had ploughed through the trees. The pilot’s body had been removed by the time we got there.
During the war and until I left school I worked Saturdays and other odd times for Mr Jowell at Swayne’s Firs where he ran a poultry farm, mainly in two long buildings by the house, but also in moveable units in the field. Swayne’s Firs is on the main Blandford to Salisbury road, and nearer to Blandford just off the road the R.A.F. had a bombing range. We used to get used to planes, at that time. Blenhiems and Wellington bombers, flying from the airfields on Salisbury Plain to the Crichel bombing range. They usually flew fairly low and seemed to follow the main road as a route marker.
One day I was working in the field and heard planes approaching, I stood up to look and was astonished to see coming over the trees two German Messerschmitt fighter planes not more than a hundred feet off the ground. I just stood there in shocked disbelief as the pilot in the nearest plane actually waved his hand to me.
I afterwards learned that they had flown to Salisbury and shot down a Barrage Balloon and strafed the goods yard at the Railway Station.
The only enemy action that came anywhere near Martin was one night when a German bomber was caught in the searchlight beams and shed its load of bombs to help make a faster getaway, and on another occasion a land mine was dropped nearer to Woodyates.’
‘When the Americans came into the war, it widened our scope considerably, they were notorious for being wasteful, the equipment they used to throw away was unbelievable.
A camp had been built to accommodate them at Grimsdyke about a mile from the Village, with the dual purpose of being used as a hospital after the invasion of Europe for which they were training. There was a dump at the back of the camp on the edge of Jim Taylor’s farmland, they used to set fire to it periodically and us kids and some adults as well used to try and get anything of use first. A lot of their gear used to be shipped over from the U.S.A. in lovely wooden crates, and these were eagerly carried off, as timber to make anything was very difficult to get hold of during the war. But this was not all, every so often the crates would be full of oranges or other fruit, tins of spam pork luncheon meat, tins of jam and marmalade and other goodies. One of my finds was a padded machine-gunner’s seat out of one of their vehicles, it was spring loaded and adjustable up and down by means of a pedal. I had it for years as a bench seat in my workshed which I had constructed out of a chicken house Dad bought for me. The Yanks became a familiar sight around the village before and after D Day when a lot of the walking wounded used to find their way to the village. We invited three who came walking by on Sunday tea time to join us. They certainly enjoyed Mum’s home-made cakes, but I’m not so sure about the tea. These three often dropped in, and we used to get a supply of their candy which was wonderful compared to the meagre sweet ration of our own. I can’t remember their names now, but one was a Sergeant whose home was in Tennessee. He completely baffled Dad when he asked if our dog Jock was a good bird dog…
As the war progressed, the build up to the invasion of Europe saw the whole of the area become one huge armed camp.
There were American and British forces hidden in every wood and under the trees in the hedgerows. One American Division was stationed in the woods and fields between Allenford, Knoll Farm and Damerham. Many of their soldiers were Negros, the first real black faces that us country boys had ever seen. They were very friendly and kind to the locals, and many were the candy bars and chocolates that came our way whenever we cycled that way. Some of the local girls must have reciprocated as there were a couple of coloured kids in Damerham at the end of the war.
Along the road between Allenford and Damerham were huge piles of ammunition, land mines and petrol cans covered with tarpaulins and camouflage netting, hidden under the trees.
One day there was a terrible explosion as one of these blew up, killing a Sergeant and several men. It was of such force that tree trunks were hurled almost half a mile, and when we heard the bang at Martin School, plaster dust came down from the ceiling and every window rattled.
Today, fifty years later you can still see the gap in the trees where those soldiers died.’
When John left school in early 1944 he went to work for H&F Farris, Agricultural Engineers at New Farm, close to Grimsditch Camp. He remembers war time activity there…
‘As I said before as the War progressed most of southern England became like an army camp, and manoeuvres went on almost daily. A lot of these manoeuvres involved Paratroop drops in the open farmland around here, and of course this always aroused our interest and we always stopped work to watch.
One morning such an operation was taking place in the open fields sloping away from New Farm towards the Rockbourne road. It was midmorning tea-break time and we were standing at the rear of our workshops watching these paratroops dropping up to within a few hundred yards of where we were.
I had been detailed to help a fitter who had come down from Manchester to repair a tractor which had a faulty gearbox, and was still under guarantee. He was even more interested than we were as hundreds of parachutes floated down from the Dakotas, which was the plane often used for this purpose. I suppose coming from the north he wasn’t used to seeing such a spectacle as this.
As the planes flew over, one had just started dropping the paratroops and perhaps as many as a dozen had already left the plane, when without any apparent cause from about four hundred feet in the air the Dakota dived at a steep angle and plunged into the open field about three quarters of a mile away.
As the plane started to dive two more paratroops managed to escape from the open hatch, one whose parachute for a split second fouled the tail plane of the Dakota was extremely fortunate.
The plane just started to pull out of its dive and hit the ground almost in a belly flop, and a huge column of oily smoke arose. The chap from Manchester said ‘let’s go,’ and I said the quickest way is to go by car round to the Rockbourne road so he and I jumped into his car, raced around the road to the nearest point, then over the fence and into the field.
The shattered fuselage was well ablaze as several of the troops were trying to reach bodies still inside and others lying close by. We pulled a couple of the bodies away from the heat and flames and some of the men were having to restrain the Sergeant Major from trying to reach someone in the worst part of the blaze. Ammunition and other explosives started to go off and everyone had to retreat, none of the bodies we had pulled away showed any signs of life, and the sight and smell of those blackened and burnt corpses with their limbs twisted at all angles stays with me even now. Thirteen men died in that crash, two American aircrew and eleven British paratroops.
When we got back to Farris’s and told the others what we had seen the full horror of it all began to dawn on me and I just couldn’t eat a thing at dinnertime. I began to realise that until now I had been looking at the War as something of a game, now it was different.’
The Men and Women who served in the Home Guard and Auxiliary Services
The men who served in the Home Guard were:
Cpl Bert Ambrose Sgt Douglas Main
Charles Bailey Edward Marlow
Cpl John Baker Benjamin Melsome
Charles Baverstock Joe Melsome
Dennis Bowles Con O’Callaghan
Arthur Butcher William Penny
Fred Butcher Bill Pitcher
L/Cpl Reg Butcher George Poore
Ernie Case L/Cpl Jess Poore
Major Dowson L/Cpl John Read
George Easter William Selwood
James Easter William Shearing
L/Cpl Harold Frampton Jess Shering
Ron Harris William Stockley
Reg Haslett Charles White
Jess Ingram James Woodford
Richard Jeans Alan Woodvine
Bill Kerly Gerald Woodvine
Len Kerly L/Cpl Ken Woodvine
Cpl Charles Kimber L/Cpl William Wright
Others served in the supporting services of the A.F.S., A.R.P., N.F.S. and Red Cross, which was staffed by women members.
Those who served in the Auxiliary Fire Service (A.F.S.) were:
Len Harris served in the National Fire Service (N.F.S.).
Those who served in Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) were:
Those who served in the Red Cross were:
Mrs J Bailey
Mrs S Bennett
Mrs E Elliot
Mrs D Main
This list of those who served is reproduced from the ‘Roll of Honour Book’ in the Church at Martin which was compiled by Lt. Col. Mike Richardson OBE.
Grimsditch Camp Dump
At the back of Grimsditch Camp was an army dump where many useful things could be scavenged by people of the village. In August 1948 the Vicar paid a visit to the dump which caused a stir and prompted him to circulate a letter with the Parish Magazine in defence of his actions. The letter itself can be seen in this archive. Transcription below…
A few copies of this comment are being distributed for information of those concerned. There is not a copy in each magazine because of paper shortage.
I regret to say that there are one or two members of the Parish who are engaging themselves in dangerous talk. I was not, & still am not aware that I must publish all my private affairs for all to know. A short time ago I removed from Grimsditch Dump a few articles of use to myself & these ill-disposed people immediately, with no reference or approach to me, began making accusations which unless they cease, may become dangerous to themselves. The M of W (Ministry of War) is quite aware of my action & there is no cause whatsoever for these persons to try & discredit the Parish Priest. It may be a disappointment to them that the M of W was consulted but nevertheless that being so, these people concerned in idle mischief are well advised to silence mischievous tongues.
From observation & from hearsay I am inclined to ‘rub in’ some of Our Lord’s teachings such as “Physician heal thyself” or “cast out first the beam that is in thine own eye, & then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”
I am sorry to have to write in this strain at all for the vast majority of people in Martin have been most kind, but I cannot overlook the chattering of these few misguided folk. I am thankful to say that as far as I know it is only a few who disgrace the Parish so.
Arthur Shering, who was born and grew up at Drove End Farm, also remembers the Camp at Grimsditch.
The following are extracts from his memoirs which can be found in this archive…
‘Grimsditch camp was built in 1939 – 1940. We would see the troops on manoeuvres and also the troops coming to the pub.
During the early war years, up to 1943, we had periods at night when the German bombers would come over and during the day we would see ‘dog fights’ or such things happening, spitfires and hurricanes chase off the bombers. A lot was going on, at Woodyates there was an anti-aircraft gun, barrage balloon and searchlight stationed. Also on Windmill Hill there was stationed a searchlight and anti-aircraft guns.
The Grimsditch army camp, which was partly on Swaynes Firs land where I live now, was an encampment with pre-fab huts and some Nissan huts. There were about 2000-3000 troops stationed here. The Canadians were the first to be at Grimsditch camp, after that it was the British recognisance corps.
In 1944 the American troops came, or the Gis as we called them. Life took on a different pace then, obviously the war was slightly starting to turn in our favour. There was a great build up then prior to 1944 and D-Day. I think the Americans had an armoured engineering unit here and they would be training in the area, on the rifle ranges, Martin Down, all around. We got to know a lot of the young Americans. The Coote Arms was such a lively pub back then. In the evening the troops and people of the area, including young ladies, would come to the Coote. There was a war on and people lived for the day as tomorrow might not come. Until D-Day there was a lot of troops in the area and many convoys would come by. It was nothing at that time to see a convoy of a hundred vehicles come by. There were no signposts, so dispatch riders would leapfrog the convoys to make sure they went in the right direction.
There were also manoeuvres and training going on all around us. On two occasions there were tanks and guns set up in our orchard and quite often a machine gun set up by troops on our lawn to cover the crossroads when on exercises. On some occasions in 1944 the American troops would do route marches from Grimsditch Camp all around Coombe Bissett along the chalke valley and down from Broad Chalke to the Drovend Crossroads. There would be a few hundred and some of the less fit would be lagging behind and have to be collected and put in the ambulances who followed along behind, as they had full kit and rifles to carry it was tough training for them.
As far as the airforce was concerned, from 1942 onwards we saw the large formations of our bombers flying to Germany, the British had Wellingtons and Lancaster Bombers. When the Americans came over we had the Flying Fortresses. There were airfields around, one near Fordingbridge at Ibsley, a large one at Tarrant Rushdon in Dorset.’
The Men and Women of Martin who served in the Forces
1939 – 1945.
Ann Bailey A.T.S.
Jack Bailey Royal Signals
Gwen Baverstock A.T.S.
Jack Baverstock R.A.F.
Gladys Bleach W.A.A.F
William Bradford Royal Tank Corp
Gilbert Brown R.A.S.C.
Norman Brown R.H.A.
Percy Budd R.A.O.C.
Gilber Bush R.A.F.
Ron Butcher R.P.C.
Stella Curtis W.A.A.F.
George Dallimore Coldstream Guards
Florence Elliot A.T.S.
Raymond Fison Army
Pamela Flemington A.T.S.
Fred Hacker R.A.O.C.
Jack Haines R.A.F.
Edward Harris Royal Artillery
Norman Harris Royal Marines
Maureen Ings W.A.A.F.
Col. Bill Kaulback Yorks and Lancs Regiment
D.S.O., 2xM.I.D., M.A.
Des Kerly R.E.M.E.
Oliver Kerly Hampshire Regiment
Reg Mundy Royal Artillery
John Parkes Royal Navy
Penny Douglas Royal Engineers
Ernie Penny Army
Edward Perry Army
Flt/Sgt Hubert Scammel R.A.F.
Robert Scammel Royal Navy
Kathleen Shearing A.T.S.
Maud Shearing A.T.S.
P/O Fred Smith Royal Navy
Sgt. Charles Stockley Royal Tank Corp
W/O Leslie Symes Royal Artillery
Sgt. Victor Symes Royal Hampshire Regiment
Sgt. Margery Tilbrook A.T.S.
Gladys Willis A.T.S.
Flt/Sgt. George Witt R.A.F. (Killed in Action)
Percy Witt Army
Ronald Witt 9th Lancers Royal Tank Corp
Brig. Thurgar R. Anderson Royal Artillery
- 07.08.43 Aged 50 years.
Brigadier Thurgar Rolland ANDERSON MC
4711 – 32nd (Midland) Anti-Aircraft Brigade Royal Artillery
7 August 1943
Brig Thurgar Anderson was born in India in 1892, the son of Francis Philip and Sarah Anderson. He attended boarding school in England and in 1911 was commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a regular officer. He married Margaret Esme (née Knox) who was also born in India.
Brig Anderson had a distinguished military career. He fought in World War 1, winning an MC in Mesopotamia in 1918. Between the wars he served in L (Néry) Battery, Royal Horse Artillery in India, and had a number of postings in England including a spell at the War Office.
He served in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France at the start of World War 2 and was evacuated through Dunkirk. In June 1941, as a Brigadier, he took over command of the 32nd (Midland) Anti-Aircraft Brigade based at Derby and part of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division. The brigade covered a large area and was responsible for defending it against German air attack.
During this time, Margaret’s parents were living in Woodgreen, Hampshire and she moved to stay with them with their two daughters. Later on, she took Rose Cottage in Martin.
In August 1943, Brig Anderson was on sick leave in Martin when he died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 50. He is interred in All Saint’s Churchyard, Martin.
This list of those who served is reproduced from the ‘Roll of Honour Book’ in the Church at Martin, compiled by Lt. Col. Mike Richardson OBE.
Thirty-three children from Arundell Street School in Portsmouth were evacuated to Martin on 3rd September 1939. They were sent away with their master, Mr Jordan, and two teachers, Mr Johns and Miss Grout, and were billeted with families around the village. Mr Jordan set up school in the Blandford Hall.
They were joined later by children from London and Southampton.
The Portsmouth evacuees were…
Bernard Bartlett Ronald Halstead Bernard Towell
Donald Bartlett Rene Halstead Jack Towell
William Bean William Irvine Kathleen Towell
Gladys Bleach Joyce Newman Iris Towell
Robert Bleach Ken Owen Norman Towell
Geoffrey Bloxham Reg Connell George Wedge
Lawrence Bloxham Rex Rashley Iris Wedge
Phyllis Bloxham Pamela Rogers Jack Wedge
John Groom Edward Scammel Louise Wedge
Iris Groom Brian Symes Olive Wedge
Alfred Hore Edward Symes Harold Woodward
Elsie Hore Fred Symes Bill Woodward
George Hore Victor Symes Thelma Woodward
The teachers and children produced school magazines to send home to their parents, with essays, poems, jokes, drawings and reports of sports days with the village children. These can be found in the archive.
Here are some extracts, including the headmaster’s foreword to the parents from 1939 and 1940.
We have entitled this the “Blandford” Magazine, since “Arundel St Boys Senior School” has ceased to have any corporate existence. But it is, none the less, the Christmas issue of our old magazine, compiled by the little band of evacuees – now resident in Martin, Hampshire. You will scarcely recognise it in its new guise so woefully shrunken, but this being war time and we far from home, we have to economise on materials.
When we were evacuated Fate led us to Martin, and Fate could scarce have been kinder.
Picture a real English village, the houses, mostly thatched, straggling along three quarter mile of road; every third house a farm; beyond the houses, on each side, fields, just fields, reaching away to the downs that rise in every direction; the nearest railway six and a half miles away; the nearest regular bus service one and a half miles away on the Blandford-Salisbury road.
Remote! Isolated! “How awful”, people say. “What do you do with yourselves?” It would fill this book to tell you what we have “done with ourselves”. We spent our first week enjoying the beauty of the surroundings. The next week we started “school” in the village hall, known as the Blandford Hall, thanks to the kindness of the owner, Mrs Hibberd and the Trustees. And forthwith we started on a survey of Martin – geographical, geological, industrial and historical. For the next few weeks we were busy surveying, measuring, drawing plans, writing essays, making models, visiting the downs and museums to search out all the history of the district.
It was a task of absorbing interest and was supplemented by journeys to Salisbury that were both pleasant and profitable educationally. When the dark evenings came, we opened the hall for recreation on three evenings a week, and some of us are becoming quite expert at darts and table tennis, not to mention Draughts and Ludo.
Besides these organised efforts, the children have found interests of their own in the farms and cottages where they are billeted. Far from finding the country dull, they have found their days full of activity and interest.
Their healthy surroundings, the peace and safety of this lovely place, good country food, early bed-times and happily spent days have wrought great improvement in their health and physique. Many are obviously putting on weight and the freedom from illness of any kind has been remarkable. Parents doubtless have many reasons for taking children back to the dangers of Portsmouth, but consideration for the welfare of the children can scarcely be one of them. The future will show whether evacuation was wise or necessary, but at any rate, the evacuees here are receiving the benefits which will affect all their lives – the sort that cannot be got-out of books or bottles.
I could write reams on this evacuation business, its merits and demerits, and the difficulties we have had to face, but space forbids, and I might end by being arrested for using bad language or sued for libel, slander, defamation of character, sedition and goodness knows what else – all at once!
I have left it to the children to write of Martin and their experiences here, but cannot close these remarks without paying tribute to the good people of the village. In every direction the children and staff have met with kindness and care. This evacuation has been described as ‘the greatest social experiment of our time’. The villagers will probably echo, “You’re telling us!” We have had our troubles and difficulties, but experience has shown that these were not very terrible when tackled with determination. Now we feel that we have put our troubles behind us; the children are undeniably happy, and if they lack some of the advantages of life at home, they are receiving compensation of lasting value.
I have to thank Mr Johns for the most enthusiastic help in all that we have done or attempted to do. Together we have plotted and planned like a couple of conspirators to keep our group happy and contented, and to maintain our entity as a part of Arundel St School. Mr Williams, our head teacher, has had no enviable task in backing us up. But it’s a long lane etc etc, and we are beginning to feel really settled at last.
What does the future hold for us? What will happen at Christmas? Shall we be here to produce another mag. Next July?
We cannot answer these questions – but we can hope. We send Christmas greetings to all past and present scholars of Arundel St School, and to all readers of this magazine.
And in case any are tempted to feel sorry for us, “exiled” in the out-of-the-way spot, let us say that we are very much alive and kicking, having a good time, and getting on nicely thank you, with a good job of work. Come up and see us some time – but don’t come often!
- That Dick Byng last saw his feet about three weeks ago.
- That Bob Bleach likes a good blow.
- That Mrs Kerly is not quite sure whether her house is a common room, inquiry bureau, first aid post or universal supply stores.
- That the householders of Martin will not store quite so many apples this year as they usually do.
- That W.I. stands for Wriggling Imp.
- That some boys love their Wellingtons so much you can’t part them!
- That mud sticks most down Tidpit way.
- That the song of the moment is “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
- That some of us wish that Martin was still more “off the map” than it is.
OUR EMERGENCY SCHOOL
By H. Woodward. Aged 11.
In the village of Martin there is a hall, called the Blandford Hall, where we have our school. Inside the hall there are three rooms: The largest of the three is the middle one, and the other two are small. The senior girls and the junior girls are in the two small rooms. The boys are in the largest room. There are designs on the wall, which were painted by the children. We do the same work as we do at home, and do all our work on trestle tables. The girls do knitting and sewing in the afternoons. When it is time to go home at tea time we all help to clear up the room and pack up the books and everything else. Some evenings the master opens the hall for amusement, and we play games, darts and table tennis. In the largest room there are four lamps hanging from the roof, and two beams. Sometimes during the week we put the trestles against the wall and then we have gymnastics and physical exercise. We are very lucky to have this fine hall lent to us to carry on our education.
Since our last magazine was produced in December, 1939, the little community of Portsmouth (Arundel St) children in Martin has experienced a few changes in its composition and numbers, in its staff, and in conditions outside itself, but on the whole has gone steadily and happily along with the task of maintaining the safety, education and welfare of its members, helped by the unfailing kindness and co-operation of the residents of Martin.
Soon after Christmas we entered a period of winter recorded as the most severe experienced for many years. The rigours of frost and snow affected us but little. True, we hugged the fire when in school; we also derived some enjoyment from the conditions in morning walks over the frost-bound hills, tobogganing expeditions and snow fights. Some of these “mornings off” were forced on us by necessity, for our hall fire frequently smoked so badly that it was quite impossible to remain in the atmosphere it created, particularly as it was only possible to clear the hall by having the front door wide open and consequently risk being frozen to death! But we survived, and it is worth recording that of the 23 children then with us, it was rare for one to be absent from school. Considering the severity of the conditions the health record was really remarkable.
The spring brought renewed life and fresh interests. It also threatened to reduce our little band to vanishing point, for the continued calm on the Western Front and the absence of air-raids deluded many people into thinking that the dangers of the war had been greatly exaggerated. One child was taken home at Christmas and four at Easter, in each case after being allowed to go home for what was promised to be only a holiday. In vain Mr Johns and myself, by letters and by personal calls, tried to persuade these foolish parents that it was impossible to foresee the course of the war, and that their children were happy and safe at Martin. How much wiser were the parents who denied themselves the pleasure of their children’s company. They now reap the satisfaction of knowing that their sacrifice was not in vain.
Since Easter, 21 more children have joined us, and we thus now number 39, with myself, Mr Johns, and Miss Grout as staff. (Miss Sandy left at Easter and Miss Jarvis in June.) Most of the additions came in early June from Harbridge and included all that was left of the Arundel St Girls’ Dept, with younger brothers and sisters, so that now at Martin we have all that are left of the original party evacuated from Arundel St Schools.
Mr Williams was recalled to Portsmouth as the time the Girls’ Dept moved here, together with Miss Webley and Miss Chambers, and we understand that he was posted to Binstead Rd School. He arrived there just about in time to superintend the second evacuation. Whether he has again gone out into the country we do not know.
Throughout the winter, on three evenings a week, the hall was opened for recreation, under the supervision of Mr Johns and myself. Boys and girls attended, enjoying a variety of table games, darts and table tennis and paying a penny a night to defray the cost of oil for the stove, new games and other expenses. The “Club” was greatly appreciated and attended by most of the children. The provision of electric light enabled us, through the kindness of Mr Johns, who lent the school his wireless set, to enjoy Schools’ Broadcasts and other suitable items, both during school time and in the evening.
At Christmas we gave our first concert, consisting of two plays, a musical burlesque, and a play by the tinies. The object was to establish a fund from which to give a party and provide for other school activities. From the concert collection and subscriptions we realised about £6, and the sale of calendars and other novelties made by the children brought the total up to £8. We were enabled to give a very successful party during the Christmas holiday, to which we invited all the village children – a return for a party which they gave us.
Our second concert, given at Easter, was a more ambitious affair, consisting of two one-act plays, an operetta “The Idea” by Gustav Holst, a play by the tinies and a display of gymnastics by the senior boys. As we had only 21 children at the time, many of them too young to give much help, it can be realised that our few “stars” had a strenuous time, some of them having to learn three different principal parts. However, they managed to avoid entangling their roles, and gave an excellent show. This time the concert was given on two nights, and the proceeds amounting to £4-7-0, were given to the trustees of the hall, as a little return for their kindness in granting us its use.
Our principal interest during spring and summer, has been the school garden, a most successful venture which I will leave to Mr Johns to tell you about. The work there, together with surveying and outdoor sketching, has meant a good deal of work outside the school building, while we have also helped local farmers by ridding some fields of ragwort.
With the money still in hand in our school fund, supplemented by that realised from the sale of garden produce and field weeding, we hope to raise enough to run a day trip for the children, probably to Cheddar, taking in Stonehenge and Wells Cathedral en route. If war-time restrictions make this impossible, we shall devise some other activity for the benefit of the community.
We hope, too, to hold a sports meeting in conjunction with the village school. More of that may be found later in the magazine. Our relations with the village school remain most cordial, and we co-operate in some activities.
In conclusion, it can be said that the children who have remained with us have benefited enormously from their country life. Most of them are now brown as berries, have gained in height and weight, and are obviously as happy as is it possible for youngsters to be. The early troubles of evacuation are forgotten and their foster-parents now in many cases freely confess that they dread the day when the children will return to their homes. As one resident remarked to me lately “Won’t the village be dull and quiet without them.”
If Martin will be sorry to lose the children, it is certain that all of us will be very sorry to leave Martin. We have received here unceasing kindness and goodwill, and we have made friends that we shall never forget. The prospects of an early termination of the war are not at the moment very rosy, but if it does end before we produce another magazine (at Christmas) we should like to take this opportunity of saying how much we appreciate the kindness shown to us and the patience and sympathy extended to the children.
MY HERO! (Or Heroine!)
Most of us have a hero (or female of the species), often someone we greatly admire for qualities we ourselves lack. On that assumption the senior class have selected suitable heroes and heroines for their fellows;-
For Sidney Hore: Joe E. Brown
Victor Symes: Don Bradman
Margaret Upshall: Gracie Fields
Bob Bleach: Lord Haw-Haw
Elsie Hore: Donald Duck
Billy Irvine: Teddy Brown
George Wedge: Wee Georgie Woods
Alfred Hore: Fred Astaire
John Wedge: Bing Crosby
Iris Wedge: Jack Warner
Bill Woodward: Vic Oliver
Iris Towell: Stan Laurel
William Bean: Henry VIII
Donald Bartlett: Clark Gable
Jeffery Bloxham: Mercury
Charlie Clements: Convict 99
Kenneth Owen: Tom Mix
Ron Halstead: Apollo
Dennis Irvine: Harold Woodward
Harold Woodward: Dennis Irvine
CALLED TO ARMS
By Lawrence Bloxham. Aged 11.
There was no song nor cry of praise
In by-gone dreary days
When Napoleon fought his ways
And tried to conquer England
In by-gone days.
But up sprang Nelson to the fight
Saw the horrors of England’s plight
“Men to my side, and God my right!
Strength and faith are what we need
In England’s plight.”
At the last stand the Frenchman failed
At Waterloo Napoleon quailed
With pompous pride his troops he railed
To conquer England
At Waterloo Napoleon quailed.
A century gone and now again
The foe will strike at us in vain
Bitter the struggle, sharp the pain,
To guard our land:
The foe will strike at us in vain.
PRESENTS WE WOULD LIKE TO GIVE!
To Mr Winston Churchill – health and strength to continue
leading the nation.
To Mr Herbert Morrison – the old iron from Goering’s “chest”.
To Lord Haw-Haw – A pot of glue to stick him to the truth.
To our First Aid Squad – A practice patient who isn’t ticklish.
To Mr Main – Unlimited supplies of petrol.
To Mr Barter – More carts for evacuees to ride in at will.
To Mussolini – A “rise” in the world.
To the L.D.V’s. – Warm woollies for the winter.
To Hitler – A cup of coffee, flavoured with rat poison.
To Gladys – Mending wool that will never run out.
To the R.A.F. – More planes and odds of not more than 5 to 1.
To Our Air Raid Wardens – No shortage of breath.
To our Hall – a chimney that doesn’t smoke.
The full contents of these evacuee school magazines and the magazine they produced in 1941 can be read elsewhere in this archive.
At some time after the war, probably between 1946 and 1948, Grimsditch was converted to a Polish Resettlement Corps Camp for Polish servicemen unable to return to their country. It was then known as 500 Basic Unit PRC Grimsditch Camp.
‘The political settlement between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill meant that when the war ended the Soviets annexed Eastern Poland and incorporated it into the Soviet Union while the rest of Poland became a puppet state with a communist government imposed by Russia.
Not being able to return to a free Poland the Polish army, which was the third largest allied army in the West after Britain and the US that took part in defeating Hitler, was given sanctuary in Britain. To this end a Polish Resettlement corps was raised in 1946 by the British government, as a corps of the British army, into which Poles were enlisted for the period of their demobilization – which would be completed by 1949.
Grimsditch was one of over 200 camps in the British Isles where units of the Polish army were stationed after their demobilization. The units stationed at Grimsditch were: 10th Regiment Carpathian Rifles and 8th Squadron of Military Police. By 1949 most of these camps were closed as the Poles now in civilian life moved on.’
The above account was sent to me by Zosia Beigus, who is collecting information and stories of the Poles who came to England at this time. You can read more in her book – ‘Polish Resettlement Camps in England and Wales 1946-1969’ by Zosia and Jurek Beigus and also at her website; http://www.northwickparkpolishdpcamp.co.uk/
The two units were –
8 Szw. Zand – 8th Squadron of Military Police
10 Pulk S.K. – 10th Regiment Carpathian Rifles
In January 1948 the ship SS Otranto arrived in Southampton from Port Said. She brought displaced Poles from Lebanon. One of the female passengers, J. Czekalinska, a farmer, came to Grimsditch Camp. There may have been more.
Johnny Bradford remembered one particular Pole from Grimsditch Camp who became a member of the village football team…
The Martin team used to be chosen on a Tuesday. One week they were two players short. So Fred Smith, who managed the team, decided to go up to Grimsditch Camp, where he did some work, to see if he could find a couple of players from amongst the Poles. Fred found one chap interested in playing, but as he didn’t speak any English they had to communicate with gestures. Fred explained that he would pick him up for the match a few days later.
When the day of the match arrived Johnny remembers being curious to see this stranger, who arrived with two odd boots and old socks and kit that he’d managed to find about the place. They set off in the coach for the match against Woodgreen. Woodgreen had a good team and on the way there was some discussion amongst the men as to whether this Pole was going to be any use to them.
However, when the game began they soon discovered that he was not only a good player, but had played for the Polish National Team!
As time went on, Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth football teams all came to see the Pole to try and sign him up, but he wouldn’t play for any of them.
He continued to play for Martin.
Johnny remembered a tournament in Verwood where there was some muttering around the goal about the stranger on the Martin team. But the Pole noticed this and set about showing them what he was worth by putting seven goals straight into the net. Martin won the game and the tournament with ease!
Those who were called up for National Service between 1946 and 1963 were:
Anthony Baverstock R.A.F.
John Bradford Royal Artillery
Gordon Budd R.E.M.E.
Tony Budd R.E.M.E.
Joe Bush R.A.O.C.
Michael Cox R.A.F.
John Flemington R.A.F.
Bernard Gray Royal Artillery
James Harris Royal Artillery
Sydney Harris R.A.F.
Sgt. Victor Harris Royal Hampshire Regiment
Dennis Hacker Royal Artillery
Mervyn Ings Royal Artillery
Brian McLoughlin R.A.F.
Ronald Perry R.E.M.E.
William Shearing R.E.M.E.
Arthur Shering Royal Navy
John Shering R.A.F.
Ron Shering Royal Marines
Richard Smith Royal Marines
W/O William Smith Royal Marines
Brian Symes Royal Engineers
Sgt. Edward Symes Royal Signals
Fred Symes R.E.M.E.
Gerald Woodford Royal Artillery
The list above is reproduced from the ‘Roll of Honour Book’ in the Church at Martin, compiled by Lt. Col. Mike Richardson OBE.
Around 1953-54 RAF Grimsditch was in use as a billet for personnel working at RAF Tarrant Rushton, where there was no accommodation. Personnel were transported to and from Tarrant Rushton each day by coach.
An enquiry was made for information about RAF Grimsditch, which can be read on www.airfieldinformationexchange.org
This is an extract from the replies.
Richard Drew wrote;
‘As a kid we used to drive by the old hospital buildings, it was extensive. There was a (I think) double Braithwaite tank and a considerable hutted camp. I cannot remember what huts they were. If it was like Odstock Hospital, Salisbury they would have been brick…There was a Nissen hut and a TB hut until quite recently…There is a lot of concrete left in heaps in places and a large MT style building on the north side of the road behind modern factory units. It was a very extensive camp and in the valley is a disused water pumping shed in red brick which supplied it from a bore hole.’
Bernard Howard wrote;
‘I was at RAF Grimsditch late ’53 until near closure in ’54…Believe Guard Room was on border of 3 counties. Coote Pub House nearby.
Strange set up, RAF billetted at Grimsditch, operational at RAF Tarrant Rushton (210 AFS Jet Conversion, Meteors and Vampires) about 20 miles away, near Blandford.
Tarrant Rushton was a civvy drome run and staffed by Flight Refuelling.
I was working in ground floor ofice of Control Tower, which I think was the main building used by the RAF.
Two or three Civvy coaches took us from Grimsditch, after breakfast, to Tarrant. Late afternoon coaches took us back to Grimsditch for tea. How jolly!!!
…Believe RAF Grimsditch was short lived, 3/4 years, solely as a base camp for Tarrant Rushton jet conversion training. Grimsditch as I remember, was very Basic, wooden huts mainly, mind you I only spent nights there as during the day I was usually at Tarrant. Believe it had been an American Hospital during the war and after the war a camp for displaced Polish servicemen.’
Eric Hartup was an RAF Nursing Attendant who worked at RAF Grimsditch. He wrote about his wartime experiences in his life story. It can be read at www.PastTimesProject.co.uk.
This is an extract.
‘RAF Grimsditch certainly lived up to its name. There was one house and a garage within sight of the main gate and we had passed the nearest pub about two miles back at the crossroads. The camp had been an American Hospital during the war and had then been left derelict. It was being done up so at least the quarters were quite fair. The first person I met was Corporal Martin Brind, a ‘Snowdrop’ (RAF Policeman) who actually came from the next village to me and was the son of a the local butcher. After going to the Administration Office and signing in, I was shown my bed space in the airmen’s quarters and told to report to SSQ (Station Sick Quarters).
The staff at SSQ consisted of a Medical Officer, one Corporal, one other nursing attendant and myself. The camp had just been opened and although flying was taking place from Tarrant Rushden the sick quarters staff were still unpacking equipment, looking after the needs of the station staff but not yet staffing the crash crew at Tarrant Rushden. Our MO (Medical Officer), Pilot Officer Hobbs was a recently qualified doctor who was doing his National Service. He was more a doctor first and an officer second. He was billeted out in Salisbury and came to the sick quarters every morning by sports car. Often he would come in on a Saturday and we would go up the woods at the rear of the camp and shoot game, after which he would take us back to his lodgings where the landlady would prepare a meal for us. We only called him ‘Sir’ when others were around – the rest of the time he was addressed as ‘Doc’. The following week another three nursing attendants arrived as well as an ‘Admin. Assistant’, whose duties were to keep the sick quarters clean and tidy…
Once the strength of the sick quarters was at this level one of us had to be the duty medic at Tarrant Rushden. The duties were to undertake any treatments required by RAF flying and ground personnel on the site and to be ready with an ambulance and driver for any crashes that might occur. Eventually a decompression chamber with a qualified operator was based with us and so we all had to take turns in accompanying pilots in instruction in the chamber. In this chamber they were shown the effects of flying at altitudes over 25,000 feet without oxygen and how the ‘bends’ could be prevented during descent from altitudes above 48,000 feet.
RAF Tarrant Rushden was an Advanced Jet Conversion School under Flying Training Command where pilots did a conversion course to change from flying propeller driven aircraft to jet aircraft. It was also unusual as, not only were the RAF staff accommodated some way away; most of the aircraft maintenance and routing handling was done by civilian staff employed by Flight Refuelling. In the Fire Station I was the only member of the RAF, the rest of the Emergency staff including the ambulance driver were civilians. As a member of the crash/rescue team I had to learn how to fight fires as well as save lives! The whole of the section worked as a team and backed up everyone else. The aircraft used where Gloucester Meteor 3 and the De Havilland Vampire T11. Flight Refuelling had a contract with the Royal Air Force for the refurbishment of Meteor 8 aircraft, which were one of the most modern fighters in 1952. Flight Refuelling were also developing the mid air refuelling system, the brainchild of Sir Alan Cobham, himself a pre-war member of the RAF and one of the pioneers of early aviation. Not only did I meet Sir Alan in his office but also I actually gave him first aid for a minor cut. The civilian works nurse, with whom we shared a nissen hut, was away on another call when Sir Alan’s secretary phoned to say he had cut his finger and would I go immediately and treat it.’