Taste of TADS – 2

Gradually TADS is putting some of its older, out-of-print publications onto the website. A Taste of TADS 2, published in November 1993, was added to the website in November 2014. We are always eager to hear from anyone who has a local tale to tell; who knows, it might be suitable for inclusion in ‘A Taste of TADS 3’.

A Taste of TADS 2 contains articles on:


Tadley Schooldays in the 1940s, by Brian Gooch
An apprenticeship in the 1930s, by Joan Searing (née Fullbrook)
Four Years in Blue, by Mary Parker (née Potter)
The first new school in Tadley for nearly 100 years, by Roger Searing
Tadley memories, by Elsie Simpson – née West
About Basing House, compiled by Roger Searing

Introduction (1993 edition)

Founded nearly ten years ago, in November 1984, TADS (Tadley and District Society) local history group continues to publicise the rich past of Tadley and the surrounding area. The first ‘A Taste of TADS’ magazine was published in June 1990. Now, three and a half years later, it is followed by ‘A Taste of TADS 2’. Whereas the earlier edition was a selection of summaries from some of TADS regular monthly meetings,
this edition is comprised of specially commissioned articles.

Tadley today bears little resemblance to that of fifty years ago. Then a village of a few hundred inhabitants, the great transformation dates back to the Second World War when Tadley, like Greenham, was chosen for an airfield. After the war the village did not revert to its previous quiet existence; initially the airfield became a base for BOAC (now British Airways) before becoming the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (now Atomic Weapons Establishment). The 80s economic boom in the south-east, together with Tadley’s position mid-way between the M3 and M4 motorways led to the growth of housing. Tadley virtually lost its identity and past; newcomers may have no knowledge of these great changes. TADS aim is to record the local history which might otherwise disappear.

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Tadley schooldays –  the 1940s  by Brian Gooch

Brian was a pupil at Tadley School between the ages of 8 and 14, from about 1940/1 to 1948. After school he worked as a farm labourer for a while before becoming a butcher with Marks Butchers. A butcher for 32 years, when he retired his shop in New Road became the Morland Surgery.

Tadley Village

In the 1940s Tadley village looked very different from what it does today. The main road through the village was tarmacked but many of the side roads were merely gravel tracks – eg Franklin Avenue, Mount Pleasant etc.

‘Allen’s Garage’ (which was on the site of the ‘Circle K’ garage), was owned by Ambrose Allen, a local character. A corrugated iron building, with a wooden floor and inspection pit, it was a general garage servicing vehicles and repairing bikes. During the war it was one of the few local garages in the area that had access to petrol, which was strictly rationed. Next door to the garage, just along Fairlawn Road, there was the Thames Valley Bus Company’s depot. Buses from Reading would wait there before making the return journey back to town.

On the opposite side of the main road was the Post Office, run by Tom Stacey and his sister Mrs Evans. As well as being the Post Office it was also a greengrocers and fish shop. Tom used to fry fish and chips there on a Saturday evening. Further along on the same side of the road, on the corner of The Green and Tadley Hill, was ‘Thicks Bakery’ where home baked bread was sold.

On the left-hand side, going up Mulford’s Hill, Ted Hutchins ran a small general store and bike repair business (now ‘Tadley Instruments’). He also charged accumulators (6d a charge, equivalent to about 3p today). Many houses did not have electricity and used paraffin for lamps. An accumulator was used to power the wireless (radio). Similar to a car battery, one charge would power a wireless for about two weeks. Brian remembers being at home in Baughurst one evening listening to the wireless when ‘Lord Haw Haw’ (William Joyce – executed as a traitor in 1946) came on and said, ‘We know you have an airfield at Aldermaston’.

The area around the Green was also very different. Next to the school was the corrugated iron mission hall of St Saviours where the children went from school for medical checks. Beyond the hall was the farm of Mr Stacey and further along Mr Ward’s bungalow and coal depot. Gravelly Close was a field, as was much of the rest of the land around the Green. Brian used to walk home from school across the fields now occupied by the New Road development.

This was also the time of the black-out. If you went out at night you needed a torch – there was no street-lighting and many road signs were removed for security purposes.

Tadley School

There were about 200 children at Tadley School divided into 5 or 6 classes of at least 40 pupils each. The school at the time only consisted of the original 1876 buildings. Children attended the school from 5 through until 14 years old. The majority would leave at 14 and go straight into work, either locally or in Basingstoke, but a few continued their education beyond 14, going to either Queen Mary’s or Fairfields Schools in Basingstoke.

The Staff

The Headmaster at the school when Brian first went there was Mr Miller – ‘Wally’ to the children. He was very strict. Always well dressed, he wore a three piece suit with pocket watch, black shoes and spats: rather Poirot-like in appearance. His wife Mrs Miller taught in the infants. During Brian’s time at the school Mr Miller retired and Mr Wilmot took over as headmaster.

Other members of staff at the school during this time included: Mr Freddie Case, who taught Standards 6 and 7; Mr Ivermee, who carried the Olympic torch for one stage at the 1948 Olympic Games; Mr Elliott, a Welshman, who said he had sparred with Jack Peterson, the Welsh heavy-weight boxer; Miss Baker, a little woman who taught music, and Miss Creath.

The Attendance Officer

One of the most feared persons to the school children was the Attendance Officer. Employed to make sure the children went to school, he would call on their parents to make sure absences were for a good reason. During Brian’s day he was Mr Merryweather. A stern man, he lived down near the Queens College Arms and was a familiar sight around the village on his motor-cycle and sidecar.

School Day

The school day was from 9.00 am to 3.45 pm in winter and 4.00 pm in summer. Children walked, biked or caught the bus to school. Bikes were expensive, and petrol was scarce during the war, so the buses were always crowded. Brian lived in Baughurst and usually travelled to school by bus. Children were segregated at school with the girls’ entrance being the present front door and the boys coming in another door around the back. The day would start with Assembly followed by an RE lesson. Assembly took place in the large room now occupied by Mrs East and Mrs Price. After Assembly a screen was drawn across the room creating two classrooms. School work centred on the teaching of the three ‘R’s. Most of the morning would be spent doing Arithmetic, with English and Geography in the afternoon.

There were morning and afternoon breaks. Children would get their free daily third of a pint glass bottle of milk supplied by Mr and Mrs Brocks who kept some cows in Fairlawn Road. Afterwards they had a break in the play-ground. Situated at the back of the school, this was divided by a four foot wall into the boys’ half and the girls’ half. During Mr Miller’s time ball games were not allowed; in Mr Wilmot’s time this restriction was eased and the boys were allowed to dribble a tennis ball. The girls were encouraged to skip. Lunch-times were spent playing games on The Green, if possible, though it sometimes meant muddy shoes coming back into the school in the afternoon.

Towards the end of Brian’s time at Tadley School, Woodwork was introduced as a lesson. Also during his time, there were Gardening lessons. The school ran an allotment opposite The New Inn. Classes from Standard 6 and 7 would walk down there with their teacher, Freddie Case, to grow seed potatoes etc. The aim was to introduce the children to the idea of gardening, rather than to make the school self-sufficient in vegetables.

As children progressed up the school they were given more and more responsibility: eg issuing the milk and banking-up the stoves. The school was heated by coal/coke stoves, one in each classroom. Senior children from Standard 6 and 7 would go around the classrooms at about 3.40 pm each day to bank-up the stoves for the night. In the morning they would go round again and put the coal on for the day. In Standard 7 some children would have the chance of becoming a prefect, helping the teacher by doing small jobs.

Discipline and Punishment

Discipline at Tadley School was strict and the punishment for any misdemeanour severe. Talking was not allowed in class; Brian remembers being sent to the headmaster for ‘six of the best’ for talking in class – punishment which was carried out in full view of the whole class. Fighting on school premises was forbidden, the penalty for being caught, once again, was ‘six of the best’.


Every year, towards the end of the summer term, the children took examinations – covering all the main subjects taught: Maths, English, Geography, Gardening etc. Children who did well moved up a class, while those who did badly stayed in the same one. If the teachers were fed up with you being in the same class for too long, they moved you up regardless of your exam results! When children returned in the autumn to find out which class they were in, those who did not do too well and didn’t go up breathed a sigh of relief – work got harder as you went up the school.

School Meals

Most children had their lunch at school; this cost 2/0d a week rising to 2/6d in later years. While Mr Miller was headmaster the meals were large, piled high on the plates. It was all good traditional fare: mince, potatoes, carrots, vegetables, haricot beans, corned beef hash, puddings of semolina and jam, sponge pudding and custard and jam tarts. During the war sweets were severely rationed and were a rare treat. Opposite ‘Allen’s Garage’ (‘Circle K’) lived Mr and Mrs Saunders. They sold scrubbed carrots to the children after school for half a penny each. Mr Miller used to tell the children that they were far better for them than sweets.


Mr Wilmot had a more positive approach to games than Mr Miller; the war was over by now and school-life was a little easier. On Fridays there were organised games sessions with fixtures against other local schools. The girls played netball and the boys football and cricket. Fixtures were arranged against Queen Mary’s, Fairfields, and other local Hampshire schools. Home matches were played on The Green. To get to away matches the children either, had to find their own way on buses or, unofficially they went in the back of Johnny Stacey’s ex-army lorry. This had a canvas hood over the back and the children all piled in keeping their heads down for fear of being seen.

Cricket was played on the main road with an oil can for the wicket. The roads were very quiet in those days; rationing reduced the small car population and the bus made so much noise as it approached that there was ample time to take the oil can away until it passed. Footballs were worth their weight in gold. Rationing during and after the war restricted the availability of rubber for balls and it was a sad day when a ball’s rubber bladder was beyond repair. Another item of every boy’s equipment was the catapult, but again ingenuity was needed as traditional square rubber catapult elastic was unobtainable. The children used to go to a garage and for a used tyre inner tube to use as a dingy to swim with. If a tube was obtained, it was swiftly cut up to make catapult elastic.

The War

Childhood memories of this time are filled with the war. Although Tadley was a small country village it was closely involved because of Aldermaston Airfield. War intruded into school life in a variety of ways. Mr Miller, the Headmaster, read out at Assembly letters from ex-pupils serving in the armed forces. A regular part of school life was the air-raid practice. There were about five or six air-raid shelters at the back of the school. Practices were held about twice a week, with all the children spending about 20 minutes in the shelters – a great excuse for fun, away from the classroom and lessons.


There were two main types of evacuees: relatives of local people sent to get away from dangerous areas, and families who had been bombed out of their homes and who were billeted in the village. Evacuees stayed in the village for varying periods. Families would be billeted in households with very little notice. Some would move on within a few days to more permanent homes; others remained for some time. For the local children, many of whom rarely travelled farther than Basingstoke or Reading, these newcomers might as well have come from another planet. Quite a few attended Tadley School. At any one time there were about 50 out of the school roll of 200.

Aldermaston Airfield

The other major influence on the everyday life of children was the airfield. The American Army Air Force flew glider-towing Dakotas from Aldermaston Airfield. Much of the north end of the village was ‘out of bounds’. Initially the present AWE perimeter fence marked the edge of the airfield and the American servicemen would show the children over their planes. As the war dragged on security tightened and the airfield grew, encroaching more and more into the village. There was a sentry box at the top of Mulfords Hill, and another one at the Calleva Industrial Estate roundabout. American personnel were housed in a large hutted camp in the area now roughly bounded by Franklin Avenue, Bishopswood Road, Wigmore and Huntsmoor Roads (after the Americans left these huts were taken over by locals, such was the shortage of housing).

At the peak of activity, during preparations for D Day on 6 June 1944, movement around Tadley was severely restricted. If you wanted to get to Aldermaston village you had to go to The Pineapple, then through Wasing and into Aldermaston by The Hind’s Head. People living inside the restricted zone – eg Franklin Avenue – were issued with passes; anyone wishing to call on them, or deliver anything, had to go to the sentry box and wait for a Military Policeman to escort them in.

An area of interest to small boys was the American’s dump. This was on the land opposite the present Community Hall in Newchurch Road. Children always seem to be attracted to rubbish tips and dumps. Brian remembers some of them finding a mortar shell, taking it back to Baughurst and planting it in the woods by the Baughurst Road before going and telling the local policeman that they had found an unexploded bomb.

The Americans

Aldermaston Airfield was an American service base. Apart from a searchlight battery sited behind The Wellington Arms Baughurst, all the servicemen locally were American. The film Yanks gives an accurate picture of what they were like. They always seemed to have ‘candy’ or gum to give to the children; items which were strictly rationed for British children. They were always asking whether you had an older sister. Children from the top of the village were at a distinct advantage in this respect. They were in more regular contact with the Americans and always seemed to have sweets and comics in the school playground. The Americans organised parties for the children in village halls with unheard of things like ice cream and coca cola.

Brian remembers German planes flying over Tadley strafing buildings along the Baughurst Road by the Venture Garage – maybe they were returning from bombing missions in the Midlands. He also remembers a doodle-bug passing over the Newbury Road.

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An apprenticeship in the 1930s

 by Joan Searing (née Fullbrook)


I was the same as many other girls of 14 in 1930; I was fatherless. My mother had reared me without my father ever seeing me. A war widow’s pension was meagre, and it had been a struggle for my mother to pay the rent, feed us, keep us warm and clothe us. Fortunately my mother was a good needlewoman and dressmaker, and I never looked as poor as we actually were.

The world of work

Leaving school at the age of 14 and commencing work meant that many girls plunged into a commercial world, feeling shy, unsophisticated, lacking in confidence and frightened of authority. We were nothing like the teenagers of today; we were children and it was some time before we reached maturity.

When I sought employment in Reading, my mother would have been forgiven for seeking an easy way out from her responsibilities. I could have been put into service, earning about £20.00 per year and getting ‘keep’, starting as a scullery maid; it would have relieved my mother of the expense of maintaining me. I could have started at Huntley and Palmers, packing biscuits or feeding a machine, or at Huntley, Bourne and Stevens stacking biscuit tins coming off the machines. There were jobs at Simmonds the brewers. I could have worked with a coarse apron around my waist and clogs on my feet, taking bottles of Simmonds Best off the bottling plant. There were boring repetitive tasks at Suttons, preparing packets of seeds. All of these might have paid me the equivalent of 50p per week.


Luckily my mother was just a little bit of a snob; she wanted her daughter to have a nice clean lady-like job and mix with ‘nice girls’. It must have been a great ordeal for her but she went to the manager of Heelas, Broad Street, Reading, to discuss the possibility of my becoming an apprentice. Some apprentices ‘lived in’, especially milliners, seamstresses and some senior sales girls, but my mother wanted me at home. So she signed a contract. I was to be an apprentice sales girl, to work in all departments for three years, supplying my own black frock and black stockings. I was to be paid 2/1d (10.5p) a week the first year, 3/2d the second year and 6/4d the third year, and I was to have a free midday meal.

First day

And so, as soon as I was 14 in January 1931, I presented myself to Messrs Heelas. There were three other new girls starting that morning, rather frightened, shy and tongue-tied, unworldly children, dressed like adults. We were each directed to a different department with a buyer, a ‘first’ sales and a ‘second’, and it was made painfully clear that we were the juniors, only apprentices. Near at hand was the floor manager, a disciplinarian and a fearsome figure.

My duties

Then there was the fussy shop-walker who also made the girl who could only just see over the counter, ill at ease. I did not serve customers; I dusted, polished, tidied up drawers, rolled up materials, brushed hats, fetched and carried from the store room. I took hats to the milliners for extra decoration, I put away the vast selection of goods which were shown to ‘madam’. My big moment was when I could show off the newly learned skill of making a neat parcel of goods, wrapped in tissue paper, brown paper and string. I soon realised that I was the lowest of the low, as everyone in the shop, the milliners, the work room girls, corsetieres, the cashiers, the window dressers and certainly the black coated men were all of a higher status than me, so I remained shy and subdued. I blushed frequently – when the floor manager or shop-walker instructed me to do something or when a customer asked me a question, and even when a fellow employee asked me to pass the salt in the dining room.

At last

Eventually, at busy times, I was allowed to serve a customer – but not until I had had experience of materials, hats, handbags, haberdashery, lace, stockings etc. This was quite worrying because if one failed to make a sale, the floor manager would ask irritably why one had not done so, as it was one’s duty. Queen Mary was one of our customers, and every other customer was treated in the same way. The uniformed commissionaire opened the door of the car or carriage of the customer, escorted her, with umbrella if necessary, to the door. The shop walker would greet her, ask her needs and escort her to the department and proffer a chair. We would bow and scrape and show her the goods and hopefully make a sale. Even small parcels were delivered and usually nothing as common as money was used, mostly it was ‘put it on my account’.

An end and a begining …

Three years later, I knew a great deal about the goods sold in the Heelas shop, what they were made of, which colours went together and how to wash and clean items. I could also suggest and advise about purchases. I believed that I had become a very useful salesgirl. And what was my reward? At the age of 17, we were all given the ‘sack’ and were replaced by another batch of 14 year olds. Still, there was the boy who waited outside the shop for me every Saturday evening …

Joan moved to a job at Wellsteads (now Debenhams) adjacent to Heelas. She stayed there for 4 or 5 years and then worked in several other shops. In 1939 she married the boy who had waited outside the shop – Roger Searing.


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Four years in blue by Mary Parker (née Potter)

Mary left school in 1934, at the age of 14, and worked mainly in a flower nursery. In 1940 she became a gardener at a munitions workers’ hostel and in 1942 she joined the WAAF.

Leaving home

My home village of Collingham Bridge is in West Yorkshire, about 10 miles north of Leeds, and about 2 miles from Wetherby. My parents’ house was just across the road from the railway station. The station, which once resounded with the clatter of shunting and steam trains, has now gone. It was from here that I took my first steps towards actually joining the WAAF (Womens Auxiliary Air Force).

At that time I had a choice of either working in a munitions factory, the Women’s Land Army, or in the services. I certainly didn’t fancy munitions which were much too dangerous, but the services appealed to me, especially the RAF.

The first posting I had was to Innsworth in Gloucestershire, and the journey was a real adventure for me. I joined the train at Leeds station to find several other girls, who looked at me and said ‘Innsworth’. When I said ‘yes’, they said ‘join the clan’ and so I travelled down in their company. It was a long, and as far as I was concerned, a very beautiful journey. The scenery surprised and delighted me as I had never travelled outside Yorkshire before. We were met at our destination by WAAF personnel, and taken by lorry to the camp, where we spent a week or so being kitted out with everything we would need. I don’t think we stopped for more than two minutes all week, we were chivvied to hurry up, morning, noon and night.


After being given our identity number to memorise (465441) (it was always the first question you were asked even before your name) we were kitted out, had medicals, and received pay books etc. We were moved on to the other end of the country, to Morecambe, where we were destined to do our square-bashing (marching drill).

We were billeted in various lodging houses, where summer visitors would normally stay. Our little lot were in the attic rooms, four to a room, and we had to take turns helping in the kitchen with the washing-up. We were not allowed to wear our out-door shoes in the house, and had to change into plimsolls in the hall.

Every day we were marched through the town onto the sands, and there we spent hours learning how to march properly and how to, and who to, salute. We were paraded to receive our pay. I can’t remember if we had to sign for it, but we did have to salute the officer who distributed it.

Vaccinations and inoculations were given while we were in Morecambe, and some people were quite ill for a few days. The Medical Officer came every day and decided if you should stay in bed or if you were fit for duty. We were in Morecambe for several weeks; I can’t remember exactly how many, but we got our first leave at the end of that period.

Balloon training

After the leave period I was posted to a station just outside Manchester, and was directed into Barrage Balloon training, which commenced straight away. This was a large permanent station, and the barracks were centrally heated, which was nice. There was a plague of earwigs at that time, and they were everywhere, in the beds, in our clothes – we used to sleep with cotton wool in our ears to stop them crawling in.

This wasn’t a particularly happy time for me. I didn’t like the training we were having and I was scared stiff of the winding part which entailed winching the balloon up and down. I always felt as if the balloon was going to come down too far and too fast which made me panic. The going up was all right but not the coming down. We were taught everything about balloons including how to repair them.

This didn’t appeal to me at all so I asked to remuster, which would mean training for another trade or job, and was eventually allowed to do this, changing to instrument repairing. My training as regards balloons was now terminated and I was posted to Hurn aerodrome (now Hurn Airport).


The instrument section there dealt mainly with Horsa Gliders, which only had altimeters, and horizon indicators. The gliders were used as troop carriers and were in action at Arnhem. They were stood out amongst the heather and we would get bitten to death by mosquitoes. We were billeted in Nissen huts which were on the primitive side. There was very little for me to do there unless some kind soul said ‘you can come with me today’. Really I think they weren’t keen on having this WAAF foisted on them, although they were decent to me, and I was quite happy there.

While at Hurn I had German Measles and was in the Isolation Hospital in Southampton for two weeks after which the kindly old doctor there gave me two weeks leave, which was very nice of him. It nearly scared my poor mum to death when she received a letter from the RAF saying her daughter was in hospital with Rubella. She was all for leaping in a taxi and coming down to see me, but the lady next door said, ‘Let’s go and ask the doctor what it is’. So they did and it gave them a good laugh.

Three weeks slipped by and I was no nearer my new training course, or so it seemed, so I asked for an interview with the officer, which was granted, and I told her my little tale. She listened patiently, then looked through my papers and said, ‘So you live in Collingham, do you know anyone who lives in School Lane because that’s where I live?’ After we had talked of one or two people known to both of us, she decided that, yes, I had been hanging about there rather a long time and she would see what she could do.

The real job

She did, because I got my posting to Melksham, a week or two afterwards on a Group 2 Instrument Repairers course. This taught me the basics of instrument repairing. It was a hard course, but I enjoyed it, and managed to get through it satisfactorily. It was very pleasant generally there, we could get into Salisbury and other nearby towns at week-ends. We visited Bradford-on-Avon from there, a lovely old place, with a very tiny Saxon church. At the end of the course, we were all given leave, then posted off to really start working.

I was posted to Ternhill in Shropshire, which was a Maintenance Unit, where Lancasters were serviced. They would come when they were due for service, or had been shot up. Our part in the proceedings was to replace and sometimes repair instruments generally – except for the big gyro, which was sent away, to somewhere like Henlow. We also checked, and repaired, or replaced parts of the oxygen system that consisted of miles of aluminium piping which went all over the aircraft and loved to leak. The leaks were traced by going all round the piping, under tables and what have you, painting any joint, or any likely looking leak areas with soapy water and a paint brush. If it bubbled you had hit the jackpot, so to speak.

I was part of a fairly large section at Ternhill, and was taught by another (male) instrument repairer, who I went out on jobs with. I learned a lot of new swear words because if I was lying on the floor with only my legs showing (we wore trousers), there were times when the fact that I was a WAAF didn’t register.

There was one bitterly cold winter at Ternhill when we were allowed to wear our scarves over our hats because it was so cold and windy. It was very bleak indeed, and quite a way from the billet to the work site, so we used to cycle. The toilets and ablutions in some cases were frozen up and the WAAFs in those blocks were sent home. Unfortunately for us ours was all right.

It was while at Ternhill I had a spell in the Cookhouse. There was some moaning from the Cookhouse people that those who were in trade jobs didn’t do any Cookhouse duties, so it was decided we should all take a turn, and I had to do two weeks. My duties consisted mostly of frying dozens of eggs, breaking them into a large pan of hot fat and taking them out again when they were cooked. The only good thing was the availability of food. We had to get up in what seemed like the middle of the night to be on duty at 4.00 am. We were free by lunch time but everyone else was at work and it was very dull.


Once I had gained some experience at Ternhill I decided to go on to the more advanced (Group 1) Instrument Repairs course which was also at Melksham. In time I got on to the course and went back to Melksham where I met a girl from Shrewsbury and we became friends. After a few weeks she had the very sad news from home that her brother, who was a flying instructor, had been killed in a crash with one of his pupils. She was absolutely distraught and went on compassionate leave, which left me at rather a loose end. That was how I came to meet my future husband, Alan.

We often went down into Melksham village. It wasn’t far to walk. I decided I might as well go down there as I would probably meet some of the other girls. There was a little tea room run by a charity group, where we used to go, and we were always amused by the fact that they had the only teaspoon on a piece of string. When I went up to get some tea Alan was busy stirring his tea with the spoon and started talking and so we sat together while we had tea and walked back to camp together. We started going out together from that day. Alan finished his course before I finished mine and he was posted to Cosford on an instructors course.

At Melksham there was a group of about five of us who would hire bikes and go out on Sundays, cycling to Salisbury Plain and spend the day hanging around and picnicking, returning in time for the evening meal. It was while I was at Melksham that one night we heard aircraft going over every few minutes; although we didn’t realise it at the time, they were taking part in the invasion of Europe.

Tying the knot

Alan and I decided to get engaged in the New Year 1944 and to get married at Collingham in September of that year. Alan had taken me to meet his parents previous to this, they were living at Sonning near Reading. On our engagement day (4 January) we travelled up to Collingham but the station at Paddington had been bombed, so we had to go via Birmingham. The ladies on the station at Birmingham were serving tea in jam jars because they had run out of cups; it is very difficult holding a jam jar of hot tea. After this leave together we went our separate ways again, Alan to Cosford and me to Melksham.

While I was out one Sunday later in the year, Alan came to Melksham to see me. He was waiting in the NAAFI to tell me that he was to be posted to Burma, and suggested that we got married by special licence, before he went. There wasn’t very much time but Alan managed to get the licence and then rushed around making the arrangements. I couldn’t do anything as I was in the last week of a course and was due to take the exam that week.

I took the exam on the Tuesday afternoon, and we were married at 12 o’clock in Sonning on Wednesday 2 August. None of my people were able to come at such short notice, so Mr Read, who was a friend of Alan’s parents, gave me away and Colin, Alan’s brother, was Best Man. We both wore our uniforms. I had bought a wedding dress, but it was at Collingham so it was no use. I was able to have one or two days leave while Alan was at Blackpool, so we had a little time together, and my return train went from the same station as Alan was leaving from, so I was able to see him go.


Things at Ternhill were much the same as they had been previously, except that I was now able to carry out work unsupervised and did more responsible work. In November 1944 I took a board for my LACW (Leading Aircraft Woman) and passed. Some months later in 1945 I was recommended for a Corporal’s course and having passed this was posted to Henlow, which was a well established Maintenance Unit with very good equipment and facilities.

My work there consisted of cleaning and repairing gyros used with the automatic pilot (George). Each piece of equipment was stripped down, washed with white spirit using a small paint brush and then dried by compressed air. It was then re-assembled and hopefully would work within certain tolerances. If not, I would try to find out why – the smallest speck of dirt could upset it. Sometimes it would take all day <h1?to find the fault, and at other times it was quite straightforward. If it worked I passed it on for inspection and went onto the next gyro. If the inspector wasn’t satisfied I got it back again and had to re-do it.

While at Henlow I used to go to see Alan’s parents at week-ends. It was quite simple to get a train into London, and from there out to Reading, and then a bus to Sonning. Once or twice, when there was bombing, the train from London to Henlow on the Sunday night was held-up in London with neither heat nor lights, and we would eventually arrive at Henlow in the early hours of the morning, frozen stiff.

WAAFs were billeted in married quarters at Henlow, and got about one bag of coal a month to heat the house, which had several girls in each room, so you can imagine how long the coal lasted. We didn’t get warm until we got to work.


Alan wrote in his letters that he had been taken ill, and he was eventually flown back to hospital in Singapore. He was there for some time and was then brought home by hospital ship, and went into hospital at Halton in Bucks. He was suffering from Sprue and Amoebic Dysentery. I was allowed to visit him at the hospital and he was looking very thin but otherwise not too bad.

On VE night (8 May 1945) I was on guard duty, which meant I had to sleep in the guard room and was awakened if needed. I also had to go round with the duty officer during the day and deal with the belongings of anyone who was absent without leave.

After hearing about Alan’s illness, and while he was travelling home, my demob number came up and I was demobbed at Birmingham in 1946, before Alan arrived home, which all worked out very nicely.

Travelling around in war-time was quite interesting, if a bit long winded sometimes. I would invariably end up at Leeds in the early hours of the morning and not be able to get a bus home until after 6.00 am; there were always plenty of people in the same situation and sometimes there would be someone going my way and we could share a taxi.

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The first new school in Tadley for nearly 100 years

by Roger Searing


Burnham Copse Junior School was the first new school in Tadley this century. Tadley School had educated the children of Tadley for the whole of their school lives, and only became a Primary School as a result of the 1944 Education Act. Then came the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. At first, when a few houses for the staff of AWRE were occupied, the new children in Tadley attended the village school on the Green at the other end of the village – more than a mile away from their homes. The number of children involved grew steadily. To solve the difficulties, accommodation at the southern end of the Tadley Cinema became an annexe to Tadley School. At first only one class, and then two and soon it was a ‘school’ of 100 children aged between 5 and 11. Eventually, being too big to be the responsibility of Mr Wilmot, the headmaster of Tadley School, it became a school in its own right. Just to complicate matters, the buildings were in Berkshire, so the Berkshire County Education Authority had to take it over from Hampshire. It was not long before the building was bursting at the seams, and parents were complaining of the lack of proper facilities in the school.

Chivers Hostel

At the beginning of 1955, Messrs Chivers Ltd were still building parts of the AWRE and had started in earnest on building 1,100 houses in Tadley and Baughurst for the AWRE staff. To cope with this vast project, Chivers Ltd had established a hostel (‘Chivers Hostel’) to house and feed many hundreds of building workers. ‘Chivers Hostel’ was all around what is now Newchurch Road, and the administrative centre of the hostel was housed in what is now the Community Centre, which had been the gymnasium for the Americans. It happened that they had a dining room and kitchen surplus to their needs in a building almost opposite, between Southdown Road and Newchurch Road. This provided a solution to the local education problem. In July 1955, this building was vacated by Chivers, although the notice ‘Meat & two veg and pud – 2/6d’ remained outside for several weeks. The Atomic Energy Authority took over the building and leased it to the Hampshire Education Authority (continuing to heat it from steam pipes fed from ‘behind the wire’). A host of Chivers workers descended on the building, stripping it and re-organising it into a school with 6 classrooms, a kitchen, toilets, store-rooms and a headmaster/staffroom. The playground was prepared at the last moment with about 100 men being involved (the games markings in the playground can still be seen).

Burnham Copse Junior School

The school opened on 5 September 1955 – Burnham Copse Junior School – with 155 children. The staff included the headmaster, Mr R Searing (stayed for 24 years) and Mr F Fabel (retired in 1965 and died in 1975). The remainder of the staff were straight from training college. Mr C Winter (later became an officer in the Australian Army Education Corps), Miss L Taylor (became the deputy head of Kingsclere School, but sadly was killed in a motor accident outside the main gates of the AWRE – she was Deputy Head of Fort Hill, Basingstoke at the time of her death) and Miss J Stewart (transferred to Middlesex and married). Burnham Copse Infant School spread more comfortably in the cinema building and remained under the control of Berkshire Education Authority. This caused some problems as the holiday times were different in the two counties, and an infant and a junior in the same family were not always on holiday together.

So the school started. There were early problems, of course. There was rivalry, for a while, between local children and groups from Scotland, the North East, the Midlands and so on. Lady Penney, wife of Sir William Penny (Director of the AWRE), helped to convince parents that educational facilities were on the up. PC Wells smoothed out some of the difficulties of being surrounded by all kinds of men living in the hostel. A parent/teacher society was formed. The very active Residents Association organised a bus service to and from the school. Sports Day was held at the AWRE, and carol concerts were held in the Community Centre. There was a polio scare! And soon three temporary classrooms had to be added.

There was a grand official opening of the two schools, held in the cinema on 15 November 1956. Rarely do officials of two counties attend the opening of an infant and junior school, but there was some kudos to be gained on this occasion. Mr J F Wolfenden, Vice Chancellor of Reading University performed the opening ceremony; he was yet to become renowned for his report on sexual behaviour.

Another move

This situation remained until 3 June 1960, when the new Burnham Copse Junior School was occupied and the Infant School moved into the vacated school building. The Junior school developed quickly. The parents supplied the school with a swimming pool which was opened in July 1961 (in a few years’ time 96% of children leaving the school could swim). This was followed by yet another official opening, this time by Lady Penney, and a dedication by the Revd P Simcock. The school grew and grew, absorbing Baughurst Primary School and new classrooms had to be increased to 14 to accommodate the 500+ children living within a very strict catchment area.

Burnham Copse Infants were provided with a new school in 1985, when a building of striking architectural design was opened in Newchurch Road. The opening ceremony was performed by Kathy Smallwood, an Olympic champion and former pupil.


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Tadley memories

by Elsie Simpson (née West)

In the begining

I was born in 1918 at 32 West Street, which is still my home. My earliest memory is of my Grandmother, Mrs Elizabeth Monger of Burney Bit, Pamber Heath just before she died. She had been to Basingstoke market with her pony cart, as a carrier. This was a weekly event. Much to my surprise she had brought me a doll, a wonderful gift in those days. I well recall her funeral, my Grandmother being pulled on a bier to Tadley Old Meeting with the mourners walking behind in pairs, no hearse in those days, and not many cars.

What is now called The Treacle Mine pub was our nearest shop run by Mr Lowe. I remember being taken there by my sister sometimes, to have a pennyworth of sweets. These would be put in a piece of paper, which Mr Lowe would shape like an ice cream cone. In retirement he sold the shop, which became a private house. Then Mr Lowe’s son bought the shop at Mulford’s Hill, which was later sold to Whatmores and then to Budgens. Like his father he sold almost everything in the shop.


Most men worked on the land, coppicing or broom making. The wages were small, but people grew most of their own vegetables, in their gardens, or on allotments – no allotments were down to grass in those days.

Stripping willow rods was another industry in Tadley. They were not grown here, but at Woolhampton by the Bath Road. My uncle rented rod beds there. These were cut in the winter, put in water and stripped in the spring, by a gadget known as a brake (steel bands attached to a piece of wood); some retained their skins so were known as brown rods, the stripped ones as white rods. Rod stripping was an annual event. A lot of women went to Brown’s Rod Yard at Heath End where the stripping was done. They were paid 3d (1.5p) for a ‘bolt’ of rods. Hard work! The area around what is now known as the Rowan Road Estate was always known to us as the Withey Beds, although I can never recall rods being grown there. The demand for English rods died out, as they could be bought cheaper from abroad (Belgium).


Money was scarce so we certainly did not have the toys we would have liked. We made our own , such as a cricket set – three sticks and a piece of board for a bat. Yes we did have a ball! Another toy was Slippery Cap, a stick, split down about six inches from the top with one half of the split length cut away. This half was the cap. The stick was set in the ground, the cap replaced loosely and the stick was then hit with another stick to knock the cap off. The winner was the one who hit it farthest. Hoops, marbles, skipping ropes, and spinning tops, all had their season. Many a day I have run with a hoop down Tadley Hill from school.

We always had, as many people did, a pig reared at home every year to kill for Christmas. We children were well taught in dissection, watching Mr Nash cut the pig up. The liver, and something not heard of today – the crow – made a lovely meal.

Christmas was the time we liked best, to go carol singing round the houses, often to be told, ‘Come a little nearer Christmas’. No electric torches for us in those days, we had half a candle in a jam jar, secured in the jar by half of a ‘tater’. No one called them potatoes in those days. With a piece of string round the top for a handle we had a lantern. We had no fear in those days of walking the roads, after all we knew all of the children  and the grown-ups we met. We were often told, ‘Time you children should be getting home’.

I well remember May Day at Tadley School. We all took part in the dances, often performed on the rectory lawn at St Saviours, and included the crowning of the May Queen.  For our efforts we were rewarded by a tea party at Christmas.

Hop Picking

We used to break up from school at the end of August. The reason, nearly everybody in Tadley and the surrounding villages went hop picking. There were several farms in the Bentley area near Alton. I went to Coldrey, which was in a beautiful setting. We children thought of going there as our holiday.

The mission men used to come from London for the hop picking season with scripture texts and first aid. Best of all were the ‘Magic Lantern Shows’. Of course these were out of doors, so they would fix a white sheet up anywhere they could tie it. At Coldrey it was to the branches of an oak tree. To this day it is known to us as the ‘magic lantern tree’. A friend and myself recently had our photograph taken under this tree.

Mr Lowe from Tadley used to come to these hop farms with a van full of groceries once or twice a week. Mr Kelsey, a Tadley man, was not a very good hop picker so he was the baker, buying the bread from the bakery to sell to us. We were well catered for with a fish & chips man calling several nights a week.

At the end of hop picking, on being paid, every member of the family was given a large oval fruit bun known as the ‘Hopping Bun’. Those were happy days.

Teenage years

My aunt and uncle Mr and Mrs L Ford kept a small-holding in West Street – Brookhurst Farm. It is now a private house. I went there during my teenage years to work making butter, feeding the chickens and separating the milk. I will always remember the big oven, heated by burning wood in it. After the ashes were raked out and the oven wiped clean with a damp cloth, it was then ready for baking. As well as baking her own meat, cakes and pies my aunt would also bake for her neighbours.

My uncle was also a rod grower and I helped with the rod stripp-ing, but the work I liked best was cutting up the hay in the chaff cutter and the mangolds in the mangold cutter. These came out like chips and were mixed with the chaff for the cow’s evening meal.

My childhood over, I remember Mr Miller the Headmaster of Tadley School  saying to us who were leaving school, ‘There is a big wide world out there, go and see what you can make of it’. Little did we know that in a few years the boys would be fighting a war, we girls doing war work, and Tadley would be becoming a completely different village from that we had grown up in.

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About Basing House

compiled by Roger Searing

Extracts from the ‘Penny Magazine of the Society for the -Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’,  4 June 1840


Old Basing was the scene of a severe battle fought in 671 between the Danes and the Saxons when the latter under the Command of Alfred and his brother Ethelred were defeated. However, the small village is most renowned for the gallant defence of Basing House.

There appears to have been a castle here at a very remote period, for in a grant made to the priory of Monks’ Sherbourne, in the reign of Henry II, mention is made of the ‘old castle of Basing’. This appears to have been rebuilt by Paulet the first Marquis of Winchester who lived during four reigns from that of Henry VIII, to that of Elizabeth. He enjoyed royal favour and explained the secret, ‘I am like a willow and not an oak’. The splendid mansion was so costly to maintain that the Marquis had part of it demolished, but it remained suitable for entertaining the Queen for a week or more on several occasions and caused Elizabeth to remark ‘By my troth, if my Lord Treasurer (The Marquis) was a young man I could find it in my heart to love him for a husband before any man in England’.

In 1643, Basing House then very strongly fortified by the current Marquis for the King, was invested (laid seige to) by parliamentary troops and for two years who continually harassed it. Under Sir William Waller, repeated attempts were made to carry the house but ultimately he was obliged to retreat.

Later combined forces from Sussex and Hampshire were collected under a Colonel Norton and the Marquis was summoned to surrender. The answer was ‘If the King had no more ground in England than Basing House, he would maintain it to the utmost’. Famine now promised to accomplish for the parliamentarians what its soldiers could not. However a Colonel Gage, volunteered to convey them provisions. He succeeded with the loss of 11 men killed and 50 injured.

Cromwell became impatient of there being a successful assault on Basing House and took command of three regiments of foot and three regiments of horse, and numerous pieces of ordnance. A letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons from Cromwell dated 14 October 1645 records the successful assault. It records that many occupants of the House ‘were put to the sword’ and ‘our soldiers took a good encouragement, which was considerable and valued at about £200,000’, but ‘the Marquis had his life spared at the request of some of the noble prisoners he had taken’. Cromwell had Basing House’s defences destroyed and it was finally made (un)inhabitable by a fire caused by the carelessness of the occupying soldiers.

The Marquis lived long enough to taste the bitterness of ingratitude; the Restoration came, but brought no recompense for his immense losses; the exertions, the anxieties, the gallantry and the fortitude produced no acknowledgement from the son of the man for whom so much was done and suffered.


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