I was the son of a professional Artillery NCO and was born in Market Harborough hospital during Dad’s short stay in his home county. It was in 1934/5 that the family moved South, mother my sister Lilly and me. It seems that dad was to work as a serving soldier on the erection of the new Bordon camp and our army married quarter was in the green Dome above the old Frisby’s shop. We stayed there until Dad was sent across the channel with the British Expeditionary Force. He managed to swim from the Dunkirk beaches to a ship after spending five days dodging whatever the Germans threw at them. In the meantime, mother had found far better accommodation on Beech Hill in Headley and we moved by donkey and cart to our new home, a two-bedroom cottage, complete with water, kitchen range, electricity and outside loo!
Father arrived home, filthy and covered with oil. Using the cellar copper boiler they got him cleaned up and re-kitted out and sent to Burma to join the late Orde Wingate's Chindits. He remained in the jungle until late spring in 1946 when he arrived home after hitching a ride in the bomb bay of an American Liberator. He was then a Captain in the Royal Artillery. He had completed the terms he signed for and subsequently retired from the army. He fully expected to return with his family to his home county Rutland, but no, mother - a strong-minded Geordie - had carved herself a comfortable life in Headley.
So the family stayed in the village with dad working in the civil service locally where he remained until retirement came. He played cricket in the I’Anson cup for two seasons then for neighbouring Grayshott until he retired from cricket. He was the long-serving treasurer and secretary for the Grayshott club until he retired from the civil service and he devoted his time to an ailing wife, our mother. His garden gave him much pride, as did his small greenhouse.
There was a certain difficulty for soldiers returning home after six years of war, new bonding had to be created. The men had to learn to cope with children they only remembered as babies and it was extremely difficult at times. Finding new jobs did create problems. There were ample opportunities in the construction business as most areas had suffered badly through persistent bombing. Those in engineering found that their former workplace had been destroyed along with all the equipment and there wasn’t the money available to purchase new machinery. Happily being British they seemed to overcome the problems and within a very short time we were producing goods that could be exported abroad and Great Britain regained its rightful place in the world. Apart from securing our own future, the nations that we had beaten in the war had to be helped in their recovery, this took many costly years.
A few years later at the start of my conscription I travelled through the Ruhr and Rhine valley in Germany and there was ample evidence of fury of war, whole cities still flattened. Their recovery was amazing – buildings seemed to go up overnight and by the time I left Germany nearly four years later there was little evidence that there had ever been a war, leaving me wondering “who actually won the war?”
Both Lilly and I were completely educated in the old Holme school building on the green. It was a harsh regime under Mr Amos, a very strict man who gave no quarter whatever – corporal punishment was the norm, and the recipient’s name went into his black book, forever to be referred back to. The toilets in the school can be summed up quite easily – unbelievably disgusting. The school dinners were adequate though not too tasty at times. We had to work in the school gardens growing green stuff for the kitchens.
The boys were segregated from the girls in class and in the playtime and dinner times, and woe betide anyone who broke the rules. All too soon the war was upon us with all its infringements, everything being rationed to very tight limits, blackout with its associate problems, strict penalties!
The gardens housed the air raid shelters; I recall there were three, one for girls one for boys and the other for infants. The air raid siren on top of the church would sound often. Then we would stop and assemble outside to be marched to our respective shelter, down the steps into a very dark underground room and stay there until the “all clear” was sounded. But happily the Air Raid wardens were very conscious of their duties. Often a pre-arranged test would take place and we children would assemble in the gardens, so we became well versed in the procedure.
Of course in my day we had a lengthy war going on in the background.
Soon the Canadians entered the war and equally as quickly they started to arrive in their thousands into our country. Headley became the home to thousands of soldiers and their equipment. Most of the large houses were impounded for officers’ accommodation and administrative offices. I can’t recall just where the owners went.
Large tenting areas were made. Some men made their own from materials that were natural to them, and scoured from the wooded areas. Following the end of hostilities the properties that had been taken over for the war effort had to be handed back to their respective owners in a satisfactory condition. Some required lots of restoration to bring them to the required standard.
Huge areas were concreted for hard standing for tanks, carriers, lorries, petrol dumps and wheeled light guns. History tells us just how good the concrete mix was as some of them are still in evidence around the village.
They built a huge barbed wired compound [Erie Camp] on Headley Down and this was to house various Canadian delinquents. These men had been sentenced to various lengths of imprisonment for various offences. Most of them were there for simply fighting amongst themselves, damaging equipment, staying away whilst on leave or deserting. The regime was very harsh with everything done at the double; that included eating, shaving and moving. There were quite a lot of escapes from the compound which caused a few lads to cheer. We don’t know if they were ever caught, but there was a lot in their favour with the heavy wooded areas to hide in.
Whilst this was happening the children of the village became extremely friendly with these young soldiers so far from their homeland. The average Canadian would give away everything in his regular food parcels, as all he wanted was to read the enclosed letter from home. The camp kitchens provided excellent food, they even had ice cream.
The children could wander as they chose all over these encampments, talking and asking questions about their home, their families and the implements of war they carried. Me, when I went for my army conscription I knew just about every personal weapon in the British army. I could strip, clean and assemble, the Revolver, the Rifle, Sten and Bren guns. I’d fired and cleaned and learned the basics of most of them during the Canadian occupation. To put it bluntly “they spoilt us rotten” – nothing was too good for the British “kids”.
I remember the Canadians used to swim off the bridge at Headley Wood Farm. Thinking back, most of the camps, woodland and fields in the Bordon/Headley/ Lindford and Waggoner Wells area had soldiers camped in them and the same for the large houses. Broxhead Common would have had some as they built the huge Nissen hut laundry complex that was on the Lindford. Bridge/Bordon road.
All my mates had a similar story to tell as I did. Hatch House Farm on the “S” bend was the most remembered topic. The Canadians took over that and our Christmas parties were held in the barn building that runs parallel with the main road.
Of course we had no indoor entertainment apart from the daily newspaper and the regular six o’clock news, when all the family would crowd around our small mains set with its crackling and hissing and inwardly grab every item of news we could into our brain. When the invasion started I had been given an ordnance survey map of the European mainland by a Canadian and I would carefully pencil in how far our troops had advanced during that day. I first became aware of the invasion when I was standing out in the road and the roar from the planes towing their gliders was awesome. There were thousands of them heading East towards the European mainland – so many it seemed as though there were just inches between them. It took nearly an hour before silence returned. That evening whilst huddling around our radio set we learned that it was the start of a campaign to rid the world of Nazi oppression.
Soon the announcement of the war ending came over the radio and my chum and I rushed down to the green to light the huge bonfire, ever anxious to make everyone aware. But it had to be done officially following Winston Churchill’s broadcast some hours later, so the Canadians and local men built a bigger and better-placed one and our previous misdemeanour was hurriedly and conveniently forgotten! The celebrations lasted for days.
Many of our local girls had married Canadians during their stay in Great Britain and when the war ended their husbands didn’t return to Headley, as they had to return to their homeland to be demobilised before returning to civilian life. The then government commissioned the luxury liner the Queen Mary to take all these so-called war brides to their new home thousands of miles from their parent families. Happily most of them remained in Canada and in a couple of cases the bride’s parents followed their daughters to set up a new life over there.
The village had become a home for thousands on Canadians awaiting the onslaught on the European mainland, known to us all as D-Day. It was so often said that every bush in the village had a Canadian sleeping under it. Obviously friendships were struck up with these all so young soldiers so far away from their homelands.
Two such friendships were struck up within our family. They were eternally generous to us, so often leaving food parcels on our window ledge as they took an agreed shortcut through our garden on their way to the public houses.
Two men befriended us a lot, a Sgt Ronald Pitt and a private Walter James Booth, both of the Winnipeg Rifles regiment billeted in Windridge House and the wooded grounds opposite. They’d sit with us telling tales of that far-off country where seemingly everything thrived a-plenty.
Soon D-Day came and as quickly as they came they were off to join thousands of other troops for the invasion of the European mainland. No more was ever heard of these brave men and we just hoped and prayed that they had made it back to their hometowns.
When the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day arrived, I was spurred on by my wife to see if I could find what had happened to these two young friends. I sent many letters off to the respective regimental associations and it was some two years before a reply came telling me that Sgt Pitt had made it home safely, got married and raised two children.
Another year a letter arrived written by the Sgt’s wife telling me that he had died some short time earlier.
Nothing at all about Walter Booth until, while my son and I were in France for the seventieth anniversary of the landings, we came across the Canadian cemetery and browsing through the register there was the name Walter James Booth. We placed a wreath and message on his last resting place and returned somewhat saddened to know our young friend hadn’t made it home.
On arriving back in the UK, I “punched” his details into my computer only to find that he’d been captured on day one and cruelly executed by the murderous Nazi Gestapo.
I have purchased the book “Conduct Unbecoming” which tells the whole story in detail. Last year (2017) I visited his grave and the murder site and again placed wreaths and messages, and on our return home I was delighted that one of his very distant cousins who lives here in the UK had left a message on my computer; we have exchanged many messages since and made tentative arrangements to meet at Walter’s grave site on the seventy fifth anniversary next year, 2019.
Note to John Owen Smith: “In your book All Tanked Up you didn’t mention the Bren Gun carriers or the huge four-wheeled Stag Hounds, a vehicle akin to a tank with huge lorry-size wheels. Perhaps no one mentioned them to you. It was all Bren Gun carriers behind our cottage in the Windridge tank park; they were the T16 type which had a steering wheel and carried about 8 infantry men and a mounted Bren gun.”
We have added stock pictures of these vehicles, see below.
Windridge house was a huge attraction to us lads. The catering was done in a huge wooden building and opposite was the dining room which catered for the many soldiers in the main building and the tank park opposite. On the way home from school we often dropped in for a welcome meal, given enthusiastically to us, as we were on near starvation rations as civvies. There was a huge radio transmitter in the loft above the large Windridge garage. We used to gaze in awe at it, making up all sorts of stories in our in minds. It was a wonderful period in our lives despite the heavy rationing and blackout.
At that time Ken lived on Beech Hill Road: “The fifth cottage down from Belton’s Field, where Mrs Farent kept her donkey. From Windridge I would just walk across the tank park and over the hedge into the top of our garden. We were directly opposite the old gate into Col Dudgeon’s wood, we were called then Rose Cottage. Being children, we’d often walk up the stony hill called “Bricky” onto the track that serves Windridge. I understand that “Bricky” is one of Headley’s public rights of Way. The cottage had a large garden with two cooking apple trees and the dividing hedge between us and Laurel Cottage was made up of fruit and rose bushes. The cottage is still there (Beech Hill Cottage), though a flat roofed extension has been built on the rear. If you stand with your back against the cottage, directly opposite is an old gate into Dudgeons property – I’m sure that it’s still there, one of the better places for chestnuts in the parish. We often used to go in, it was safe unless the famed “Buller” Monday the estate gardener was about – he would clip your ear. All those lovely memories of being a child in the parish, modern children will never have their equal.”
The late Peter Hodgson and I were part of a potato-picking squad from school in Mr White’s field which now houses the football pitches (potato and crop picking was part of the school curriculum in those days). One morning on stretching our backs and looking skywards, there above us was a parachute descending rather slowly and eventually it came down just feet away from where we were working. We rushed over and quickly noticed that he was a German and seemingly dead or unconscious.
Happily a few well-placed light prods brought him round and we stood guard over him while one of the lads raced off on his cycle to the police house and brought back our local policeman. I seem to recall it was PC King at the time. He quickly dealt with the situation and soon the police car, a Ford EOT 622 from Whitehill, arrived and he was whisked away. Later rumours stated that he’d been shot down over the Channel and drifted our way – who knows?
Enemy planes over Headley during daylight were a rarity and I personally can’t recall ever seeing one during those hours, though at night one could hear the drone of their engines as they headed on to London. A Doodle Bug flew over the green, high enough for me to be able to heart the strange puff, puffing of its rocket engine. I just ran for home, intending to hide under the table as it went merrily on its way, obviously off its scheduled route!
During the height of the war the parish formed a branch of the Observers Corps. They were a group of totally dedicated gentlemen who manned the post of top of the parish church in all weathers 24hours a day. Should an enemy aeroplane come in sight they would sound the wailing siren to warn the village. They were in radio contact with other observers around the area and were pre-warned should any hostile aircraft approach the parish. Notable amongst these observers were Ted Warner, the resident rector Tudor Jones, Jimmy Johnson and many others in full time employment.
Other Headley memories
Following the end of the war and the departure of the Canadian Army rear party, life in Headley parish slowly started to return to normal. By the end of 1946 all the husbands had returned from doing their duties and started to settle back into civilian life. Sadly, a few had been killed and their names appear on the War Memorial by the church. Happily, the parish started to function as in pre-war days. The properties that had been previously requisitioned by the Canadian forces were quickly and efficiently returned to their former glory and the owners moved back into residence, very happy to be home!
The Canadian detention compound was empty following an alarming protest by the inmates that they should be freed following the end of the war. Reports told us that some had thrown blankets over the barbed wire and tried to abscond. They were soon brought down and caught, but this couldn’t safely continue and over the next few weeks they were shackled to guards and shipped back to Canada to complete their previous sentence in prison camps there. The camp was locked up securely and left empty, but this was to alter over the course of the next few years. A band of folk called amusingly “The Squatters” moved in. The Nissan huts in Mrs Kay’s and the Rectory field were taken over and families lived there for over five years in some cases. The prison camp huts were tastefully made into comfortable living accommodation by the council. These were for homeless families from areas even as far away as London. The closed cell blocks were unbreakable despite many and varied attempts. That smallish area was earmarked as a council dump and served as so for quite a few years until it had acquired the same level as the northern area of the detention compound and buildings were erected there.
There was large-capacity water tower in an area at the end of Wilson’s road and this served all the needs of the prison compound. It was removed some years ago as it wouldn’t cater for the needs of the newly-built social housing estate. The estate started to be built in the late forties, early fifties. There are all manner of accommodation houses therein, two and three bedroom and flats and garages, a community centre and a large shop that seemingly catered for the estate families’ needs at that time.
Mrs Kay’s house fell into dereliction and a small private housing estate was built on the land where a tank workshop was. That area now has the village scout hut on it and, if one looks carefully, there are still traces on the concrete hard standing for the tanks and heavy vehicles. This shows the strength of the concrete mix in war time. The automatic telephone exchange built for the war stayed working in the same position until the digital-controlled phones came into being. It is now a private house.
Cricket and football soon returned to the village and the two teams contested both the I’Anson and Miller competitions. In the early days the matches were played on a cricket square on the flat section in the rectory field opposite the church, with pavilion being [at the top]. Sadly, the cricket club the local and school football teams used same area for their games and this situation couldn’t be tolerable, and through the generosity of a local farmer the present Headley sports field was given to cater for all the parish sporting activities, the bowling, cricket and football clubs. Reg Thackeray built the first wooden pavilion and kindly donated it to the village sports club. This has since been replaced by a brick-built one, money provided by the sports clubs. The cricket club continued to thrive in the competitions and produced some fine county level cricketers, notable among them being Frank Kenward and Bob White.
The shops and businesses continued to flourish. There were some twenty-one of all sorts spread around the Parish. Among them were two post offices, two bakers, a fish and chip shop, a haberdashery business, Wakeford’s a good old fashioned Butchers who killed and prepared animals on site, two motor vehicle garages, a gentleman’s hair dresser, one petrol point in Arford where folk could purchase petrol at anytime day or night, three public houses and two working men’s clubs – and it’s hard to comprehend just how they all made a living out of the two thousand eight hundred people in the village in 1954.
Headley was predominantly a farming community with various small farms spread around its perimeter. All the farms grew crops, during the war not a field was left unploughed and sown – it was all for the war effort. Major Whitaker turned to pig farming following the end of the war. Capt. Thackeray raised chickens, and children from school were often employed to paint the hutches. They did potato and fruit picking there as well. The remainder continued growing crops, providing milk and butter, and farming soon returned to normal. Sadly, few working farms are left now, most having been turned into up-market houses. A million pound house is not unusual in the village now and Headley has become very much the place to live despite its lack of public transport. The parish is ideally situated close to the main routes and the railway. With the opening of the Hindhead tunnel London is just an hour away by road and Waterloo station can be reached in under an hour from the local railway stations, Haslemere or Liphook. The cross-channel ports are just a few minutes way, Portsmouth and Southampton.
The working men’s clubs provided recreation for the workers of the parish, selling beer and spirits and tobacco, all at a slightly reduced price to members. The games provided were snooker, darts, billiards and shove halfpenny. There were popular Christmas parties and seaside outings for the members’ children. The Beech Hill Club was behind the old laundry buildings and the Headley Working Men’s Club was situated at the top end of the village green – it has now gone and the site overgrown with scrub and nettles. Both clubs fell into receivership and closed, and houses are built on the Beech Hill site and the other has vanished with no notices to say it was ever in existence in Headley.
Gradually all the small trading shops in Headley closed. Alfred Whittle who had previously purchased the then redundant laundry and coal businesses from Reg O’Brian converted the laundry site into a smart retail outlet with off-licence facilities, a post office, a grocery and butchers. He continued with the coal delivery throughout the area until coal ceased to be as efficient a product as gas, and mains water had come to Headley in the late 40/50s. Ted Smith on Arford common who ran a civil engineering business also sold ready-cut logs at five shillings a bag to replace the need for coal, and he too delivered throughout the village.
Telephone communication was difficult – very few private houses had phones as the cost of installing one was so high. Of course, all the businesses and farms had telephones, and should a life-threatening incident come up, they’d let one use their phone. There were two telephone boxes in the main village, one at the bottom of Longcross Hill and the other was opposite Beech Hill Garage. They were money-in-the-slot machines – a typical three-minute call cost two pence, connections to, say Scotland had to be pre-arranged, then the caller arrived at the telephone box armed with many loose coins ever-hopeful that no one else was using it at that time. It was complicated in the extreme at times.
The school continued under the headship of Mr Amos until his retirement in the late forties. He retired to a lonely existence in Lindford following the death of his wife who was tragically killed by a Canadian lorry driver whilst out cycling. Following his retirement a new head arrived, a Mr Bark whose thoughts on corporal punishment were similar to his predecessor. About 1946/47 central government decreed that pupils should stay at school until they reached fifteen years of age. Those affected by this were somewhat distraught as they were eager to join friends in some meaningful occupation. A new teacher was sought to deal with these older pupils and soon the school benefited with the arrival of Mr L L Adams, an ex Physical Corps warrant Officer. Despite his lack of university training he turned out to be an excellent teacher who made lessons interesting and fulfilling. He was passionate about physical training and school sports, and introduced inter-school competition in running, football and cricket and the Holme school excelled in all of these.
There was little entertainment for the Headley children – of course television hadn’t yet arrived. There were two cinemas in Bordon, the Empire in the precincts of the Camp and the Palace in Bordon town. There were two play areas, one on the Down and the other on Arford Common – the Arford Common one has vanished but the one on Headley Down is still is use.
For water sports, we had two swimming places on the river Wey, one by the Boat House at the end on the lane called The Hanger, the other at the farm Marshall’s just along the river from Lindford Bridge. These were quite clean in far-off days. We had full use of Frensham Ponds and it was well worth the walk to enjoy playing in the water which had become known as London by the sea. Weekends it was packed with people from far and wide. It had at one time public toilets and an ice cream booth. Despite the many frightening rumours in the early post war days about the danger of using the pond I swam there and I’ve reached the age of eighty five and completely free of any manner of health problems. Sadly, it all changed in later years as protection of the environment became the norm!
During Mr Amos’s reign there was one pupil who came from a large and quite poor family on Headley Down, the father a labourer on the big builders Chapman, Lowry and Puttock and who regularly walked the four miles to work. John Heather excelled at everything, sporting and education and was destined for a great future in life. Mr Amos easily recognised his potential and fast tracked him into Churchers College in Petersfield. Sadly, John was injured in a rugby game and despite excellent care he contacted Gangrene and died. A small memorial wicket gate in the sports field was provided by the Petersfield college and dedicated to him – sadly with the passage of time the gate fell into disrepair and there is now no memorial to this great Headley lad.
The two garages continued to trade despite many changes in ownership over the years. The one in the village closed about 2014/5 and private houses were built on the site. The other at Beech Hill, first owned and run solely by Mr George Cotton, has ceased trading in recent weeks. The petrol point, an off shoot from the then Lickfold’s garage, was closed when the Miss Stenning’s shop finally closed in the mid-fifties. The nearest petrol station at the time of writing is either at Hindhead or Bordon both five miles distant.
During the early fifties part of Hilland farm was sold to developers and two nice communities were built. The development at Church Fields was built as Council houses. They became Association houses and the majority of them were bought under Margaret Thatchers “right to buy” scheme instigated during the early eighties as is the case with the area Open Fields where the original sixteen three-bedroom houses were erected in the early thirties. Various flats were built on reclaimed land at the rear, and the area to the front of the original estate now houses the new Holme School. The old one on the green became too small to cater for the ever-increasing population, and at the time of writing it has become a bed showroom. The building has remained exactly as it was as a school, nothing has altered at all. The old school gardens and the air raid shelters are long gone and few folk in the parish actually remember them.
Building of properties continues on the popular Headley Down area which at the war’s end contained just few large house and four shops, the rest being paths and scrubland. Soon the developers moved in and as I write there are just two vacant plots left in that large area of land.
There were three small building firms in the parish, Collins in Arford, Fyfield and North in Open Fields and Whittles on the Down, though following the war they were very involved in camp demolition.
Most of the working men in the village were builders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and general building labourers and most of these worked for the firm Chapman, Lowry and Puttock whose headquarters were in nearby Haslemere. CLP had branches in most of the surrounding small towns, and they had the “Mill” in Haslemere where all the carpentry, plumbing and electricians apprentice off-site training took place. All the CLP apprentices did their technical college training at Guildford Tech. and they were all encouraged to take advantage of the college. Most did. It was often said that the tradesmen who went through CLP were the country’s best and this was so often proved by the standard of the work they did. Sadly, in the sixties the firm went into receivership and the local building sites suffered immensely with shortage of skilled men.
The church still plays a prominent part in parish lives. The old white square rectory was sold and a new modern and smaller one built just across the road. The church has a small community centre at the top end of the rectory field which serves as a village meeting place. The small church on Headley Down has been rebuilt and attracts all the Christian worshipper from the Down.
The parish has been administered by an enthusiastic parish council. This was made up from ladies and gentlemen who lived within the parish boundaries. Notable amongst these was a farmer Mr Payne who had a small farm at Standford – he chaired the council through the dark and difficult war days – and Mrs Thompson Glover, a notable Headley lady. More recently there was Mrs Joyce Stevens, a widow of a teacher who volunteered for pilot service early in the war and died in flying accident. Mrs Stevens continued her degree in English and became head of English at the Haslemere Woolmer Hill academy. She chaired the council for many years and retired some few years since.
The council are responsible for most things within the parish boundaries and liaise with both the district and county council before final decisions are made. They meet in the village hall just alongside of the green. It’s a beautiful single storey building that has remained still retaining its character over the many years since it was erected. There were three half-size Nissen huts in the grounds at the rear of the hall. Local, gossip had it that they were for ammunition storage, but that remains uncorroborated to this day.
In the fairs that came in the early post war years, about 1946, in my mind’s eye I can still see the huge wooden slats building that housed the wall [of death]. It was situated at the top end of the green, close to the junction of the road down to Arford. I recall we had Walls fairs in the early days. They included such attraction as the Wall of Death and a boxing Booth, which I myself had a go on and won thirty shillings for lasting the required number of rounds. My memories are quite clear on this as I myself was about to embark on a motorcycle riding career.
Whilst the parish was spread out over quite a distance, the folk were all friendly with one another, and would easily greet and stop for a “natter”. The large houses employed folk from the main village as cleaners and gardeners, some lived in tied cottages and were able to remain in them until their demise. There were so few cars that one quickly learned who owned what and their appropriate registration numbers. I remember the Vicar had a largish grey Standard, but usually folk walked around the area. During the war and immediate post-war years we had an excellent bus service. The Headley route, the number 18 bus ran to and from Whitehill to Grayswood and buses passed through Headley every half hour. The company which ran this service was The Aldershot and District Traction Company (known affectionally as the “the Tracko”) whose company headquarters was in Aldershot and our nearest garage and service depot was in Hindhead. The service was totally reliable, all manned by conscientious drivers and conductors, who were regularly checked at any point on their journey by inspectors, and woe betide anyone who infringed the company’s strict rule book.
The buses interconnected with others on different routes, for an example: one could catch the number 18, say at Carlton Road, and get off at the Bordon fire station cross roads and with the minimum of waiting jump onto a number 6 bus which ran via Farnham station destined to arrive in Aldershot about 75 minutes later. Buses on our route coincided with the trains on the London to Portsmouth line and one could calculate if you came down on the last train out of Waterloo you could get off at Haslemere station and catch the last bus to Whitehill, and yes it worked, it had to, no matter how severe the weather was. Coupled with this in the immediate post war years the Traction Company would promote sea side trips for any organisation or club that had arranged a trip to the sea – in fact they could take passengers to any place of interest, a good supplement for any driver anxious to increase his income.
The Headley teenage girls were well catered for in entertainment, with many choices of dance halls within easy reach. Bordon had two, the Brownlow Hall next to the post office and across the road was the Catholic community hall, both served by regular buses. Girls could walk easily to Bordon with no fear of anything untoward happening and the same coming home after the midnight end of dancing. I can’t recall anything happening. Just a couple of miles further they had regular weekend dancing in the then Kitchener Theatre building in the old Longmoor camp. The corrugated tin building is still in the same place, a little rustier now! There was dancing to really good music played by top musicians. Come midnight everything stopped and it was time to start the journey home – this was a little more difficult. Across the road was the infamous steam “Bordon Bullet” train as it was affectionately called. It would be waiting to make its last trip to Bentley. Girls and men would clamber on and the train would steam into Bordon station in about twenty minutes. The girls and their dancing partners walked the few miles home with little chance of “hitching a lift” – Headley and its few cars had long since retired to bed.
The annual fair brought comparatively cheap and amusing entertainment to the parish, the fair was so much bigger than the ones we see nowadays, they filled the whole green. We had boxing, the Wall of Death, large and exciting rides. The children of Headley had saved hard over the preceding weeks, having enough to be ensured of plenty of fun. Few children had part-time paid jobs and needed to rely of their parents for pocket money and as wages were usually poor it related to the amount of money they received from their parents. Of course some of the boys in their final year found meaningful jobs, like Wally Courtnage and I – we held the job of carrying the daily food rations for the school kitchen up from Mrs Bellinger’s shop in Arford and on those mornings we happily missed the assembly. For that, we received the princely sum of eight shillings a week each. That money would pay for our weekly trip to Aldershot, a cheaper seat in the picture House, a fish a chip meal in Reeves restaurant, and we would return home with a good percentage our wages still in our pockets. We always walked or ran to Bordon to catch the number 6 bus on the Aldershot route, another saving.
The whole parish was policed by just one constable who lived in an attractive police house on the Liphook road. He worked out of the main police station in Whitehill. This building also housed the local magistrates’ court where normal run of the mill cases would be dealt with on the Monday. Should anything more severe crop up a special court would be hurriedly convened and the case would proceed. Our local policeman toured around the parish on pedal cycle and in the evening would be expected to be at one of the two parish telephone boxes to receive a call from the sergeant in Whitehill. He would need a good valid reason for not being there. One notable Headley gentleman, farmer and Justice of the Peace was Mr R Thackeray J P who farmed at Wodehouse on the Liphook road. He often chaired the Bench at the Magistrates’ Court and if a Headley person was brought into court he or she wouldn’t be granted any special favours, they would probably receive a more strict telling off than was the norm.
The police car would drive from Whitehill through Headley and on up to Grayshott meeting that village constable to exchange notes, and the car return on the same route and the two constables would then stand down for the day. There was never a situation where it could be said that “there’s no constable available” because they as policemen were to serve the community twenty four hours a day, every day. There was little socialisation between the constable and persons in the parish, they’d always be referred as Mr King or later Mr Walsh. Children treated the constable with the utmost of respect, no answering back or disobeying of his orders. If he said go home lad, you went faster than ever before. It was not unknown for the constable to slap a child for some misdemeanour. He was always right, and the average parent would hurriedly agree with whatever action he’d taken.
There was a slight class barrier in the public houses that had a private and public bars. The Gentlemen and their Ladies usually used the private bar with its soft seats and plush fittings, peanuts on the bar and a roaring fire in winter time. Of course they paid for this, with the extra few pence put onto the price of their drinks. The public bar where the workers spent their leisure time was sparse in comparison, bare walls and wooden seats but with the attractions a dart board, shove halfpenny and dominoes. There, the drinks were a little cheaper. If for instance a person had bought his drink in the public bar and noticed a close friend or perhaps a relative drinking in the other bar and asked for the drink that he’d just bought to be passed over as he intended joining them, he would be expected to pay the difference in the price – yes that happened.
The landlords were hard-working folk who had to manage their pub through extremely difficult war time days. They had to manage the outgoing drink carefully as when two dozen Canadian soldiers entered the establishment, drink had to be available. Margaret and John Smallbone were the Crown landlords all through the war and onward until the late fifties. They had just the one son Geoffrey who was in Burma during the closing stages of the war.
Likewise with the Hutton’s who ran the long-gone Wheatsheaf. They catered more for the men from the main village and staff from the prison compound and was so often the scene of heavy fist fighting amongst the Canadians and men from the village, the Canadian Provost would soon arrive and with their heavy batons peace would soon be restored.
Things at the Holly Bush run by Mrs Stevens were similar, but she was a strong character whose voice commanded respect from all therein and most arguments were quickly settled and a free drink handed out!
Lots of the local lads chose motorcycles as their mode of transport following the war’s end and the usual meeting place for them on a Sunday morning was the small café in the high street known to us all as Ciss’s café. Some discretion was exercised by the lads so not to disturb the Sunday Communion service and at times we were frowned upon, but it continued long after I left Headley to get married in 1956
Two famous motorcyclists lived in Headley. One was Phil Mellor an Ariel factory works rider who competed in all of the main factory supported events, lived on the Down and continued trials riding until his untimely demise about fifteen years ago. He worked as an army motorcycle instructor at the RMP depot in Rousillon Barracks in Chichester. The Farnham motorcycle club run a trial dedicated to Phil’s memory.
The second was a famous gentleman racer Jim Kentish who lived in the large house at the end of the then Rogers Lane. Jim was a theatre manager in London and lived with his mother Cicely. The house had a cinema room where invited guests were able to watch the latest releases in comfort.
During the off season Jim would garage his brace of racing machines in the house, and often when I was there employed in picking apples from the orchard I would spend ages gazing in awe at these beautiful racing motorcycles. Jim regularly raced in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races. He was no mean racer and as a privateer, with little or no works support, he usually finished high in the results. Coupled with that he competed in the International Six Days Trial, the ultimate test of man and machine. I often met Jim at the Motorcycle Show in Earl’s Court and would introduce myself as the “man who picked your mother’s apples”, later to become my only claim to fame. He always invited me into the socialising area for a drink and a bite to eat. He remained connected with motorcycles becoming the sales representative for the Royal Enfield marque and after that he was a tester for the German BMW until not too many years ago.
As with most small communities Headley had its share of characters. The first one who easily springs to mind was the late Tony Upfold, the village “steam man”. He owned and ran a steam roller and could regularly be seen driving his machine through the village lanes.
Other “steam men” worthy of a mention were the Walker brothers, Larry and Johnny. They lived in the Hollywater area and owned steam traction engines for ploughing, tree stump removal – in fact just about anything that required the ultimate power of steam. They did work for many local farmers. [See Kerry Hawkins’ memories]
Next on the list is Bern Parham who lived with his sister in a property high on the bank opposite Eashing Cottages in Arford. Bern was a World War One veteran, a staunch supporter of the Headley branch of the British Legion. Bern could be seen most evenings making his way slowly to the Wheatsheaf where he would spend the evening talking to whoever would listen about his time in the battle fields of the Somme. Whenever I was home on leave from Germany, I always seemed to bump into him sitting somewhere waiting for a good listener to come his way – a great man, devoted to Headley and the folk therein.
Amongst the school there were many lads who “stuck out” from the others. Pride of place goes to Alan “Ginger” Gandy. The family, his mother and brother Ritchie, had arrived in Headley at the start of the war and rented a cottage next to Miss Stenning’s shop. Alan was a great lad, who excelled at most sports, even boxing. He was immensely popular throughout the whole parish and the area was saddened when the family moved back to their beloved Liverpool. Sadly none of the family are still alive – Alan died through health issues some twenty years ago.
National service came to all of my age group in the early/mid fifties. A good few were involved in the Korean War, the Campaigns in Malaya and Egypt and few like myself went to Germany with the British Army of the Rhine. Happily all returned unscathed and quickly picked up the threads of their lives, married and raised families. Most still live in the parish declaring it to be the only good place to live.