My name is Anthony James BRIND, known as TONY.
I was born in October 1927 the son of William John Brind and Prudence Emily Brind, nee STROUD. I have no doubt that I was conceived, carried, nurtured and raised in Aldbourne but as I was born in a Nursing Home in Swindon presumably that means I am a Dabchick by adoption only.
I have two brothers, Ken who was born in a bedroom at the Blue Boar public house in October 1922 where our parents were the licensees and Francis who was born in a cottage in The Butts in June 1929. Francis was born on a Sunday morning shortly before 11.00 AM and mother has said that as he made his entry into the World she could hear the church bells ringing prior to morning service.
My father was a thatcher having been taught the trade by his father John James Brind. He was a very good thatcher and his work over a period of time featured in both the Picture Post and Illustrated magazines. He was invited to go to America to do some thatching but declined. He volunteered for Army service in the 1914-1918 war and for three years was serving on the Western Front at FLANDERS and YPRES. During these three years he had only one short home leave. He sustained lung damage when a warning of gas was late being given. There was a period in his life of some 15 years or so covering the 1930’s when he drank more than was good for him and as a family we were all affected by this. He was not a perfect man but then none of us are but he was a better and more principled man than the few who tried to denigrate him both before and after his death because of his periodic and occasional weakness where alcohol was concerned. For several years my father played a side drum in Aldbourne Band, possibly before the 1914/18 war and is featured in an old photograph of the band that I have. He loved military band music and his interest in Aldbourne Band remained constant until his death in 1968 aged 76 years. He was a monarchist and considered it everyone’s duty to fight for King and country should the need arise. My father set his prices for thatching to what he thought people could afford. If he was doing thatching for an estate or someone considered quite wealthy he charged the full rate but for someone considered not too well off then he lowered his prices accordingly. He would rather lose on a contract than rush it and do a poor job. There was one other thatcher in Aldbourne who had worked for my father for some 10 years to learn the trade before setting up on his own.
My mother was born in February 1892 the daughter of Charles and Mary STROUD. In total she had six sisters and two brothers but sadly two of her sisters aged six and three years died of PNEUMONIA the same night whilst the family were living at EWINS HILL. The girls were buried in Aldbourne churchyard and a small cross marks their grave. The grave and cross are under a holly tree to the east of the main trunk. It is perhaps a comforting thought that these two little innocents are now resting and sheltered under a canopy formed by branches and evergreen leaves of the holly tree.
I started school at what was known as the Little School at Aldbourne in September 1932.
Miss HAWKSWORTH was the infant teacher. She came from Swindon but had accommodation in the village during the week. She was a strict disciplinarian but a bit like some sweets one can buy with a hard exterior and a soft centre. I didn’t know it at the time but her father worked in the Railway Works in Swindon and as a family they lived in a house in East Street which is now part of the Railway Village. Miss Hawksworth had two brothers, one entered the service of the Church and became a Vicar, the other, Frederick followed his father into the Railway Works and progressed to hold one of the most senior positions within the Company. He also served as a councillor and Alderman of the Borough of Swindon. He died in 1977. I was then a Chief Inspector and Sub Divisional Commander in the Wiltshire Constabulary and I was invited to represent the Constabulary at his funeral. I was pleased to do so and felt that I was also representing Miss Hawksworth who had pre-deceased him. During the course of the EULOGY she was mentioned as was Aldbourne School. The Hawksworth Industrial Estate in Swindon was so named to commemorate Frederick Hawksworth.
Mrs. MOULDING was kindness itself. She also taught us in the Little School and her class was separated from that of Miss Hawksworth by a long heavy curtain which reached to within about two feet of the floor. Mrs. Moulding lived in a house just below the steps leading up from The Green to the church. Her husband, I believe, was a self-employed builder. She was also a church organist and played the organ when the whole school went to the church for services such as Lent, Harvest Festival and Christmas. I remember one occasion following examinations she was reading out our class positions before we moved up to Mrs. SHARP in the Big School. As she read them out I was getting quite concerned because mine had not been called. She then stopped and asked if there was anyone whose name she had not mentioned. By this time I was jumping to my feet and she said “Sorry you were joint third with Kathleen Humphries.”
MRS SHARP shared the large teaching room in the Big School with Mr. Jackson the Head teacher and once again the two large classes were divided by a heavy curtain which could be pulled back making one very large class. This happened when Mr. Jackson wanted to address us all or the Vicar came to talk to us.
Mrs. SHARP drove out from Swindon each day and I remember that she had a Morris 8 motor car. She had a reputation for being SHARP by name and sharp by nature. It seemed to me that she was harder on the boys than the girls but possibly that was because the boys were less well behaved than the girls. She was an excellent teacher and worked hard to get her message across to us. On one occasion she told us to come back the next day with a motto or saying and the best would be put upon the wall. The one I remember was brought by a boy named Billy HUNT who was a year or so older than myself. His saying was “Perseverance Wins”. I had never heard the saying before but I have not forgotten it since.
Mr. JACKSON was the Head teacher at Aldbourne School for many years. He was well liked and respected in the village. His hobby was bee keeping and two of his hives were in the grounds of the school at the top on the right hand side close to the wall of the churchyard. I remember our nature lessons had much more to do with bees than with birds. He had 12 hives in total and he told me that on the honey he had sold he had made £5-00 profit from each hive. He walked to school from his home in the Marlborough Road and when he reached the pump at the bottom of Back Lane about 8.55 AM he would wave his right hand as an instruction for the duty monitor to ring the school bell. This practise ceased during war time for the ringing of bells was a warning that we were likely to be attacked by the Germans.
Each child was entitled to a third of a pint of milk at morning break on payment of one half-penny. The money was payable on Monday mornings for that week. The milk was supplied by Mr. Arthur STACEY who had a farm in West Street not far from the pump. It was the duty of two of the older boys to use a wheel barrow and wheel the crates of bottled milk to school each morning.
Following the outbreak of war in September 1939 every child was issued with a gas mask in a small card board box and zig zag trenches were dug in the field behind the school for us to take shelter in the event of an enemy attack. Fortunately we did not need to use the gas masks or the trenches.
Our education consisted mainly of reading writing and arithmetic. No doubt it was somewhat different from the National Curriculum which now has to be followed. Our music lessons consisted of singing songs such as “The Farmer wants a wife” and “Bobby SHAFTO’S gone to sea when he comes home he’ll marry me” I wonder if my peers remember them. I was also quite impressed by a poem we had to learn entitled “The Highwayman”. It was written by ALFRED NOYES in 1913. In the mid 1960’s I used to recite verses of it to my children as we drove across such places as Salisbury Plain, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor until on one occasion my eldest daughter said “Oh, please Dad no, not again” I realised then that perhaps I had made too much of it. She did not forget it though for at Christmas 1984 I received a book from my grandsons then aged three and one years entitled “The Highwayman” which contains the whole poem plus illustrations of each of the scenes depicted in the poem. I wonder if the songs and the poem still form part of the education at Aldbourne School today.
ELEANOR BRIND nee BUNCE was my grandmother. She was a descendant of the family that produced Richard Brown Bunce who started Aldbourne Band about 1835. Richards father John Bunce was a carpenter by occupation and he married a farmers daughter named Ann BROWN. John and Ann included the name Brown into the names of their children. Richard was a carpenter like his father. He was also the church organist for some 24 years and Clerk of the Aldbourne Parish Council for a similar period of time. My grandmother was descended from a William Bunce who was John’s brother
My Grandfather John James Brind had died in 1923 and in the early 1930’s I attended church on Sunday mornings with my grandmother. I also attended Sunday school in the afternoons taken by Mrs. Elliott the Vicars wife. Ken, my elder brother had been a choir member for several years and when I was old enough I joined the church choir also. My younger brother Francis joined a year or so later. At this time the choir consisted of male persons only.
I was attending the Sunday morning church service on the third September 1939 and shortly after 11AM a person, I believe it was one of the sons of the Vicar, the Reverend John ELLIOTT, entered the church and spoke to the Vicar who then went to the Pulpit and informed the congregation that a state of war now existed between Britain and Germany. He ended this announcement by saying “Let us now pray for peace”. Many of the people in the congregation had lived through and served in the armed forces during the 1914/1918 war and as they left their deep concern was apparent but I don’t think anyone thought that it would be almost six years before the war would end.
UNEMPLOYED WORKERS One of my earliest memories, probably at the age of five or six years was seeing men walking through the village. I was told that they were unemployed, they had spent the night in Swindon and were making their way to London to lobby Parliament for work. They were from South Wales. This would have been about 1932/33 time. I seem to recollect that Aldbourne people were good to them and supplied them with food and beverages to help them on their way.
ALDBOURNE FEAST and the CARNIVAL were held in the 1930’s much as now and gave pleasure to villagers and visitors alike. Each year when the fair first started operating at Aldbourne Feast Miss Foster paid for children to have a ride on the amusements.
Another Annual event was the church outing during the school holiday which consisted of a day coach trip to the seaside. Those who had booked seats gathered near the pond to await the arrival of Rimes coaches (usually two) from Swindon. We had some very pleasant trips with a great deal of excitement for the outing was the only opportunity many of us had to visit the seaside.
As members of the choir we were paid one penny for each of the two Sunday services and one penny also for attending choir practise which was held weekly on a Friday evening. A total of three pence per week. This was at a time when there was 240 pence to a pound. We could leave the money and have it at Christmas each year or withdraw some for the church outing. I was pleased to receive the money but it was not an inducement for I would have attended the church services and choir practise without it.
The Reverend John Elliott and his wife were a super couple in all respects. I do not think that their pastoral care could have been bettered. Mrs. Elliott made my younger brother and I welcome at the Vicarage and I have a photograph of us taken in the Vicarage garden wearing our cassocks and surplices and each holding a prayer book. In the garden were two aviaries containing budgerigars and on a later occasion Mrs. Elliott gave us two of these birds.
BOMBS NEAR ALDBOURNE
About 1931 a Dr Hugh DALTON and his wife had a house built at West Leaze about half a mile Aldbourne side of Dudmore Lodge. The house was designed by a London firm of architects. It had five bedrooms, a flat roof and stunning views towards Aldbourne. It stands 650 feet above sea level and was visible from miles around. It was painted white and in the moonlight the house positively glowed.
I think it must have been the winter of 1940/41. I was walking from the Butts towards the village down the Marlborough Road. It was dark and about 6:30 PM. Just before reaching the side entrance to the Old Rectory I heard several explosions and they seemed so close that I thought they were a hundred yards or so away in the Whitley Meadow. I assumed it was bombs and discretion being the better part of valour I returned home. The next day it was confirmed that it was bombs and that they had exploded much further up the valley towards Hillwood. I took our dog for a walk up the Marlborough Road and some three quarters of a mile away it was possible to see four or five bomb craters going up the other side of the valley in almost a straight line towards Dr Dalton’s house but several hundred yards from it. Dr Hugh DALTON was a Doctor of Science and a Master of Arts. He was a Labour Member of Parliament and during the 2nd World War he was Minister for Economic Warfare – whatever that might entail. He was an ardent supporter of Winston Churchill in continuing the struggle against Hitler following Dunkirk when a number of senior Parliamentarians wanted Britain to negotiate a peace settlement with Germany. Clearly it would have been on Hitler’s terms. After the war Hugh Dalton became Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour Government under Clement Attlee but resigned his office in November 1947 following a Budget Leak for which he accepted full responsibility.
OUR TWO BOYS
I think it was January 1940 that my mother was asked by Miss Hawksworth (the accommodation officer) if she would foster two young boys under school age. Apparently the home the children and some 30 others were living in was moving out of London to remove them from danger in the war.
I am unable to remember the names of our two little lads but Derek and Donald seems to ring a bell but I am far from certain. We were told that one boy was an orphan and the other had a dad who was serving in the Army but his mother was dead. As the weeks and months went by they became very fond of us and we of them. Speaking for myself it was like having two little brothers. It must have been late August or early September 1940 when we were told that all the children from the home would be gathered together and taken to Canada for safety. When the carers came for our boys they clung to my mother and cried. They did not want to leave us and we did not want them to go. The escorts for the boys tried to coax them to their car by offering them chocolate and other inducements but the boys would not go and clung to my mother crying. It was heartbreaking for in the end the escorts picked up the boys and carried them out to the car and away. Possibly something similar was happening in other houses of the village.
Apparently my mother had an address to send things on for the boys so she knitted each a pair of gloves and for a keepsake included a new penny with each pair. These she sent to the address she had been given for onward transmission to them in Canada. We heard nothing more about them.
Over the years I have wondered what happened to the boys and what sort of life they had had.
Then a few years ago I was reading a book about happenings in 1940 and there was a story about a former cruise liner named the City of Benares which sailed from Liverpool bound for Canada on Friday the 13th September 1940 with 90 children, teachers, nurses, a doctor and carers on board.
Some four days out from Liverpool the City of Benares was torpedoed by a German U Boat and sank fairly quickly. Of the 90 children on board only 13 were saved, most likely the older rather than the younger ones. Of the 406 people on the ship 256 died including 77 of the children.
Until this happened the British Government had encouraged the sending of children to Canada but the official overseas evacuation scheme was immediately cancelled.
If there are any records in Aldbourne with the names of the two boys that we had staying with us it might be possible to check if they were on the City of Benares and if so if either survived. Without their names I think any enquiry would be fruitless.
THE SOUTHWARD AND COMMON
During the early years of the 1930’s I spent many hours going for walks and picnics over the Southward. My mother was brought up at Ewins Hill and until the age of 13 years she walked each school day to Aldbourne in all winds and weather carrying a packed lunch. At the age of 13 she left school and went into service. She knew the Southward very well and could tell many stories about life as it was seen through the eyes of a child. She was in service in London during the 1914/18 war and then obtained a situation as Head Cook at Crowood House where she remained until her marriage in 1920.
The Southward was a veritable nature’s garden but many areas were nothing but brambles, Gorse, Fern and bracken. At that time the whole of the 50 acres of Common land was one mass of dense undergrowth, Fern and Brambles. Some five acres of this at the “Bottom of the Common” had many large trees including Oak, Beech and Chestnut. The north end, the village end of the Common was marked by a long bank of earth some two or three feet high on which a border of Broome was flourishing. The earth bank contained many rabbit burrows.
This is how the common remained until 1940/41 when the now cultivated area was cleared and the land ploughed. The first crop planted was potatoes which are known as a crop to clear the ground of weeds. I believe the harvest exceeded expectations and when gathered some were taken away and others put in clamps along the side of the track way. Much of the work was carried out by Prisoners of War brought from a P.O.W camp just the other side of Baydon. The second crop grown there was wheat and this was also very good. I have an original poster published in 1810 giving rights and restrictions of Parishioners to gather Gorse from the Common.
When I was a child there was a man named Daniel Barnes living in the Butts. We knew him as Dan. He went for a walk almost every day over the Southward and carried home wood to burn on his fire. Dan was always ready to stop and talk to us. There were Adders upon the Southward and if he saw one Dan would try to kill it and if successful he would bring it down to where the roads fork and hang it by its throat on a barb of the barbed wire fence as a warning to the unwary.
I know that Dan served in the Army during the Boar War and that he was at MAFEKING but I don’t know if he was one of the defenders under Colonel Robert Baden-Powell or if he went there as one of the relief column. I wish now that I had encouraged him to talk more about his life for I am sure that he had some interesting stories to tell.
Apparently the shooting rights of the Common land are vested or were then, in the Lord of the Manor and Captain Brown: with one or two others went there on occasions each winter for that purpose.
FLOODS IN VILLAGE CENTRE
I believe it was the winter of 1939/40 that we had a very severe winter with much snow and hard frosts continuing for many weeks. The ground became rock hard and wires and tree branches became coated with thick ice. When the weather changed it did so quite quickly and a rapid thaw set in. The ground was still frozen hard and impervious to water with the result that it all ran seeking the lowest level which brought it to the centre of the village. The Brook was unable to cope with such a volume of water with the result that flooding occurred. I have two small black and white photographs taken of the floods, one taken from the bottom of Back Lane looking in the general direction of the Marlborough Road and the other from near the Blacksmiths premises looking towards the village centre. Both photographs show an expanse of water more than one foot deep in places.
PRE EMPTED SCHOOL LEAVING DATE
I had no wish to attend Marlborough Grammar School and stay in Marlborough throughout the week. Our family circumstances were such that I considered my place was at home and that I should get out to work as soon as possible to assist with family finances. This would help mother and make her life that little bit easier.
I was 14 in October 1941 and at this time Membury Airfield was being built. The main building contractor was a London firm named GEE, WALKER, and SLATER.
A number of workers from the airfield were in lodgings in and around Aldbourne including a man who drove a bus owned by Gee, Walker and Slater to and from the Airfield development each day. I knew the driver and he obtained employment for me on building work at the airfield assisting the Surveyors. I started employment within a day or so of my 14th birthday. I was aware that I had pre-empted my school leaving date for I should have remained at school until the school term ended at Christmas. I thought with the war on no one would worry about me missing a few weeks schooling. I was wrong for a few days later the School Attendance officer saw my mother and I was required to return to school until we broke up at the end of term. The few work days mentioned, some four or five at the most was my sole contribution to the construction of Membury Airfield.
SOME VILLAGE RESIDENTS
For about a year before I left school I worked Saturdays for Mr. Bert STACEY delivering groceries and bakery products to a few of the village residents. Some of these could possibly be described as “of independent means”. I delivered fairly regularly to some and much less frequently to others.
So to name a few that I delivered to
- Reverend John ELLIOTT and Mrs. ELLIOTT
- Captain William BROWN and Mrs. BROWN
- Doctor and Mrs. VARVILL
- Miss TODD
- JACKSON (Head teacher) and Mrs. JACKSON
- and Mrs. DUFFIELD (Mrs. Ann Duffield was an author)
- WILSON (Resident in Farm Lane)
- and Mrs. PURVER of Ford Farm
- TAYLOR and her daughter Rosemary
- Miss FOSTER
- The MISSES BICKHAM
Mr. STACEY was renowned for the quality of his lardy cakes and cottage loaves, something that I can vouch for.
I remember thinking that there were a number of unmarried ladies living in and around the village of whom my father’s sister Edith Emma Brind was one. I believe now that this may have been contributed to by the fact that so very many young men were killed in the 1914/18 war.
Aunt Edith was born in the 1890s and died in 1963. She was a loyal and considerate person, undemonstrative but always willing to help others in need. A Gentlewoman in every sense of the word.
For a few years she was Governess to a family in Bath and later returned to live in Aldbourne
She became Companion/Housekeeper to Major Inkpen who lived at “One Ash” on the Hungerford Road. She looked after him for many years until his health so deteriorated that it was necessary for him to go into a Nursing Home for full time nursing. Aunt Edith then went to live with Miss EVE on The Green also as companion/housekeeper. Miss EVE had been a very close friend of Major INKPEN over many years. Major INKPEN had three brothers all of whom were killed in the First World War. At the end of the war (and I hope I remember the terminology correctly) he became Secretary General to the War Graves Commission in France. A position he held for some 15 years. Upon retirement he came to Aldbourne and spent much of his time researching the history of Aldbourne and its people. I know that he told Aunt Edith that he had traced records of BRIND’S in the village back to 1637.
Edith remained with Miss EVE for several years and moved with her to Speen near Newbury. Unfortunately in the late 1950’s an attack of Influenza left her with severe asthma and she returned to live in Aldbourne in her cottage in The Butts.
A few years before she died we were looking through a large family photograph album and she was identifying people to me. She turned a page and there was a smart good looking young man in uniform. She said nothing for a minute or so but I noticed that the tips of her fingers were gently touching the photograph in almost a caress. She then identified him to me and told me what was known of the circumstances of his death in the 1914/18 war. His name is engraved on the village War Memorial. Although I have no knowledge of a formal engagement I believe Edith considered this young man as someone very special. I know that she remained close friends with his parents until their death and I think their friendship was firmly cemented by a bond of affection for the young man so tragically killed.
I believe it was during 1943 that Uncle Will, my grandmother’s brother decided to provide a tea for family members. Because food was rationed it was necessary to go to a tea room and so he booked the meal and invited us all to join him at the tea room in Aldbourne kept by Mrs. Ada Barnes. The tea room adjoined her house at the entrance to the Carriers Yard
We all duly arrived and the table was laid. It was then realised that we numbered 13. as you know 13 is considered an unlucky number and the origin goes back to Biblical times when at The Last Supper Jesus sat down with his 12 Disciples and was betrayed by Judas ISCARIOT. When she realised that there were 13 of us to sit down Aunt Edith was quite adamant that she would not sit down if we numbered 13 and was quite prepared to leave if necessary. My brother was flying with Bomber Command at the time and we also had other family members serving in the armed forces. In fact Mrs. Ada Barnes herself had at least one son in the army. Possibly Edith was thinking also of her own loss from the earlier war. However the matter was resolved by inviting Mrs. Barnes to sit down with us and have tea which she did thereby making 14 of us. In the main the food had already been prepared and it was brought to the table by ENA the daughter of Mrs. Barnes assisted I believe by Nellie SIMS who later married Jim Barnes and has only recently died. The tea was excellent and much enjoyed by all.
PUBLIC HOUSES, SHOPS, BAKERIES ETC
During the 1930s/1940s there were five public houses in the village. Licensing hours as set by statute were from 10 AM to 2 PM and 6 PM to 10 PM Monday to Saturday inclusive and 12 noon to 2PM and 7PM to 10PM on Sundays. I believe the Sunday hours were set to avoid a clash with church services which were 11AM to 12 noon and 6PM to 7PM.
We also had five grocery shops and five bakeries. Three of the businesses were Baker and Grocer combined.
A fresh fish and fruiterers shop plus a fish and chip shop were owned by a Mr. Clifford Brown. The fish and chip shop was open several evenings each week and also Saturday lunchtimes. In those days it was possible to buy a piece of fish for two pence and a portion of chips for one penny.
During the early years of the 2nd World War Clifford Brown ran the Army Cadets. I became a member when I was 14 years of age. Some Sunday mornings we went up onto the Southward and participated in military style exercises with the Home Guard. I found it interesting and exciting but looking back now if the Germans had observed what was going on I do not think they would have been too concerned.
After the children from the Children’s Home had gone mother agreed that we would take in a mother and her two young daughters from Dagenham. Mrs. Russell and girls duly arrived and mother gave over one of the downstairs rooms and one of the bedrooms for their exclusive use. My brother and I shared the other bedroom and mother had a bed on the Landing. We all got on well together and mother and Mrs. Russell both made every effort to ensure that things ran smoothly in particular where preparation and cooking of food was concerned. Mr. Russell was a lorry driver by occupation and drove a large box type vehicle delivering food to international stores. On occasions he was able to deliver goods to Wiltshire and visit his wife and children whilst doing so. The Russell family lived at 45 Manning Road, Dagenham, and on one occasion Mr. Russell took me to London and showed me all around the London Dock area and the damage caused by the German bombing. We stayed overnight at his home, loaded up and returned to Wiltshire the next day.
I believe the village children and the Dagenham children associated reasonably well. The number of extra children created a problem with school places and as a result some of us had to attend a school room at the Lottage Road Methodist Church. A male teacher had come with the children from Dagenham and taught us there until leaving and I understand he had joined the Royal Air Force. A few children had left school and others moved away and there was now room for us to be accommodated in the Big School once more and be taught by Mr. Jackson.
Much effort was made during the war to collect scrap metal, newspapers and almost anything that could be recycled or used again.
Miss Foster played a leading part in organising this in Aldbourne and was assisted with the collection by a few of the older children. I remember seeing on one occasion a pile of scrap metal put out by Mr. Tommy LUNN who had an Ironmonger’s Shop near the centre of the village. Included in this were several brand new aluminium saucepans in which he had obviously knocked holes in the bottom of them. Aluminium was badly needed for the manufacture of aircraft as it is a strong light weight metal.
Shortly after the war started in 1939 Army huts were built on the football ground in Farm Lane and existing buildings in the village utilised to accommodate British Army personnel.
Later additional huts were built in a meadow on the opposite side of Farm Lane.
When the British army moved out men of the 101st Airborne Division moved in. This was about autumn of 1943 and they then commenced and continued their training for the assault on Fortress Europe.
The American troops got on well with the local residents although it was something of a culture shock for both.
The airborne troops knew that because of what faced them a lot would either be killed or seriously wounded.
Like soldiers everywhere at that time they set out to experience and enjoy life as much as possible in the time they thought they had left.
They soon developed a liking for English Fish and Chips. They didn’t like queuing up for them though and gave some of the village boys a few pence to fetch them.
The Americans were well fed on a Cafeteria basis and a sign in the Mess Hall read “Take all you want but eat all you take”. I know that they disliked the powdered egg they were given.
My younger brother became friendly with one young American and he came to our home on several occasions. We knew him as Mac but I do not know his surname. We had our own poultry and my mother cooked eggs for him on occasions. He must have told his mother about us for she wrote from Arkansas to my mother thanking us for inviting him into our home and my mother for cooking eggs for her son in the way that she did when he was home.
It was a very friendly letter couched in terms that one mother would write to another when both had a son facing considerable danger.
I hope that Mac made it back home safely.
A year or so ago my brother in Canada sent to me a magazine called “Band of Brothers” It was about the making of the television series “Band of Brothers” and the 101st airborne division from D Day to VE Day. A number of the veterans were interviewed and asked questions which were published in the magazine along with their replies.
Sergeant William J GUARNERE was asked “In late May 1944 when word came that you were being sent out did you know that this time it was not a training exercise?” and he replied “We knew it was time to go, We went out on problems all the time but this time when we left we could see tears in the eyes of the people of Aldbourne where we had been stationed. They knew D Day was coming. I don’t know how but they knew. There was a lot of military traffic in the town and all of it was moving to the South.”
I think it was believed that with Dakota aircraft of the United States air force based at Membury and Springshill airfields that Aldbourne Paratroopers would fly out from one or both of these. However when the time came for the invasion of German occupied Europe they were taken to UPOTTERY in Devon and flew out from there.
The magazine also contains a list of the names of some 350 men who served in Company E of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment between 1942 and 1945.
It is probable that some of these were replacements for men killed or seriously injured in the early months of the operation.
Also recorded are the names of 49 men from E Company who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and of course for ours.
One man, RUDOLPH R DITTRICH, was killed in England whilst on exercise on the 8th March 1944 when his parachute malfunctioned.
From the Names recorded in Band of Brothers magazine it would appear that out of every six or seven men serving in E Company one was killed.
Before the 1939-45 war the population of Aldbourne was fairly static and in general young males found work on farms or in the building industry. The war changed this and widened peoples horizons.
Looking back to the 1930s I could name many decent hard working family men who were something of a beacon for youngsters of my generation to try to emulate.
I am not saying that everything in the village was all sweetness and light but I consider myself very fortunate to have been raised there and to have known the people that I have.
Full Dabchick or not, despite my travels and the passage of time, I still regard Aldbourne as home.