Monday, 13 July 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - July 1940

The Eton Wick cricket club continued to play their home fixtures in the rural setting of Saddocks Farm where the rivalry between the local teams attracted good village support. Wins were celebrated, as when the Wick played the visiting Windsor team ‘Victoria’ winning an interesting and entertaining match by 30 runs, having dismissed the ‘Vics’ for 52. The strong bowling combination of Stacey and Buckland took four wickets for 15 runs and 3 for 30 runs respectively. In reply Buckland and McGill soon achieved victory for the Wick. War restrictions and rationing brought a break with tradition. The serving of a cricket tea to the visiting teams ended when tea became rationed in July to 2 ozs per person each week.  

Saturday July 13th.

An explosion at High Duty Alloys on Slough Trading Estate killed three and injured more than forty men of which three died later of their injuries.  At the time the incident was attributed to enemy action, as HDA was a major supplier of alloy aircraft parts and incendiary bomb components, but later this proved to have been an industrial accident.  To manufacture many of the intricate aircraft components a heavy forging hammer had been installed.  The regular dull thump, day and night could be heard at times in the village, the countryside around Eton Wick being much quieter in 1940.
Enemy activity during June and July had been concentrated over the South coast with attacks on coastal convoys in the English channel.  July 10th  considered Day 1 of the Battle of Britain , saw  Dornier 17’s and Ju 88’s escorted by Messerschmitts 109’s attack shipping, ports and airfields. It was not until August 1940 that widespread night raids commenced  over Britain.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Old Days of Eton Parish - CHIEFLY TOPOGRAPHICAL.

AT the time when the little Chapel of Ease was built, Eton presented a very different appearance to what it does now. Only a few of the present College boarding-houses were in existence; several shops and the Christopher Inn (St. Christopher, it is called in a Baptismal Register, Sept. 22, 1721) still stood within the old College bounds.

In the High Street, the only house on the west side, between Barns Pool Bridge House and the little Chapel, was a timber house with a large timber yard adjoining. The ground now covered by the houses Nos. 126 to 137 was enclosed by a paling, and shaded by lime trees, and behind was a large meadow called Newman's Meadow.

Beyond the Chapel of Ease (Eton Church History), on the west side of the street, there were also several breaks in the line of buildings. The site now occupied by the Christopher Hotel was open ground.

Most of the houses were low, or at most one-storied, with high-pitched roofs and quaint gables. Many had steps leading down to them, and the windows were mostly small and filled with quarried glass. Some small shops of this character stood in front of the alms-houses, a little back from the road with lime trees before them. Close to Strugnell's Buildings, which are nearly the only surviving relics of the old picturesque houses, stood the parish stocks, in which offenders against the law were condemned to sit with hands and feet locked in, a warning to all beholders. These stocks remained there till the middle of the last century.

In 1811 there was no Post Office. Letters were left at Mr. Hetherington's in High Street and called for by a boy once a day at 6.30. At that date the only side streets were Hawke's Lane or King's Stable Street, once said to have been used for royal stables, and the first part of Brocas Lane. The last house on the right in this lane was the Eton Union Workhouse.

In somewhat later days the Union was removed to what is now the Sanatorium garden, and thence to its present position at Slough.

In what is now Eton Court, there were hatters' shops and slaughter houses. At the back of the east side of the street were extensive gardens.

Tangier Mill, built probably at the beginning of this same century' close to the present waterworks, stood alone and gave its name to Mill fields.

Among the industries of the time was the making of clay pipes, which is still carried on in King's Stable Street, although the demand has greatly decreased.

In many cottages women were in those days busy with their spinning wheels, spinning flax, and when the times were bad a supply of flax was a recognized form of charity.

The space now occupied by Eton Square, Meadow Lane, Baker's Buildings or Union Terrace, and Ernlyn's Buildings, was still either garden or meadow land.

Somewhere near the latter a cattle fair used to be held yearly in March. In South Meadow pony races took place in August and were joined in and enjoyed by the inhabitants generally, many of them riding as jockeys. This was of course before the coming of the railway, and there was no danger of this local event being vulgarised by the inroad of bookmakers and so-called gentlemen of the turf.

But now we must look a little more particularly into the topography of the parish generally. And first as to maps. No really ancient maps of the parish are to be found. Among the earliest is W. Collier's plan of Windsor and Eton, dated 1742. A copy of this hangs in the Cloister Gallery. There is also in possession of Eton College a plan of the parish of Eton, 1798, and a tithe map of the parish 1843 (with the commutation of tithe' as settled in 1839). A map by H. Walker, dated 1839, is owned by Mr. Howard J. Hetherington. From the last chiefly is taken the map printed in this volume.

Then as to boundaries. These may be best described by quoting verbatim an account of the Perambulation or the Boundaries, or the Beating of the Bounds as it was popularly termed, held on Wednesday, August 2, 1815. But before doing so a brief explanation should be given, as to the origin and purpose of this perambulation.

It was a survival of a custom, more ecclesiastical than civil, which came down from the days of Merrie England. In olden times the perambulation took place in each parish at Rogationtide. It began at what was known as the Gospel tree, where the parish priest attended by the choir read the Rogation Gospel, and certain appropriate Psalms were sung. The purpose of the ceremonial was to pray for God's blessing on the land, and at the same time to secure to each tenant the rightful boundaries of his holding. Queen Elizabeth made an effort to retain this godly custom by her injunction issued 1559, and a Homily setting forth the double purpose of the observance was printed for use. in the Rogation season. Under gloomy Puritan influences, this institution met with little encouragement. Anything of the nature of a procession was regarded with suspicion and as unworthy of the gravity of the true Christian. But, as we have said, it survived in Eton, though held not in Rogationtide as formerly, but in August. How may we account for this change of date?

Probably it was to avoid any collision between the boys of the College and the town. The day chosen was after the breaking up of the School for the summer holidays, which took place then on Election Monday, and after the Election into College had been declared. The following is the account of the proceedings.

"On Wednesday the and of August 1815, the Parish Officers, Charity Children and Inhabitants, having assembled in the Workhouse yard, proceeded, with music playing and colours flying, down the street to the College Hall. Here, after having sung the first verse of the morning hymn, they were provided by the Provost and Fellows with a breakfast of roast and boiled beef, and ale. They then proceeded to Black Pots and fixed a bound mark on a withy tree at the water side; a verse of the Old Hundredth Psalm was then sung, and three cheers given. The procession then commenced, and proceeded from thence by the side of and through the ayte, along the ridge of the bank separating the Shooting Fields and Cut-throat Lane (in the Parish of Upton) to Beggars Bridge, and having here fixed a bound mark and observed the usual ceremony, they proceeded through the middle of Chalvey Ditch to Bell's Farm, making a bound mark as the procession passed by Little Park Close, opposite the Parishes of Upton and Burnham. From Bell's Farm they proceeded through the water to the Old Ditch, and having cut a mark they proceeded along the ditch and through the garden and house occupied by William Lanfear, and having nailed a bound mark over the door, they proceeded up the Lane, past Tilstone Gate, by the Boveney side of the hedge to Boveney Ditch, to a withy tree at the corner, where having nailed a bound mark they proceeded along the side of the ditch (leaving Biddle's Close on the right) to Boveney Bridge; they then took water, and having nailed a bound mark on the bridge, and cut a cross on a withy tree on the opposite side of the water, they proceeded and took half stream from thence to Barge-man's Bridge ; after having nailed a bound mark on that bridge, they passed over to the opposite side, where they entered Farm Ayte and continued their course across the ayte to a bound post. They turned by the side of a creek, on the left of Dabchick Ayte, leaving a small part of the ayte planted with withy stumps, in the Parish of Clewer. They took water in the creek, and proceeded by the side of that ayte and Snap Ayte to a division between Snap and Beck's Aytes, across to the Brocas, where a bound mark was driven in the ground ; and from thence by the side of the bank to Carter's steps at Windsor Bridge, they passed over the rails of the bridge to the Corner House, occupied by William Peltham, through the door-way and window facing the river, nailing a bound mark at each place. They again took water, and proceeded along by the side of the bank to the stile in the Back Fields, at the head of the creek, and after having cut a bound mark on a withy tree at the corner, they crossed the water and Mr. Cutler's Ayte to the opposite side of the ayte below the weir, from whence they proceeded by the side of the ayte to a new piece of ground made at the end of it, where having cut a cross on an old stump, and. likewise on the tree opposite, they kept close to the bank to Newark, and having nailed a cross on the post, they took half-stream from thence by the head pile in mid river opposite the oak tree in Wharf Close, where having fixed a bound mark they kept close to the Eton side of the new made • ground to the old head of Black Pots Ayte, where crossing they kept close down the river on the Windsor side of the ayte to the withy tree from whence they started, and thus the boundaries of the Parish were perambulated.

" God save the King' was then sung. The Procession landed, and proceeded to the Brans, where refreshments were provided for the children of the school by the Parish Officers.

 " N.B.—It may be necessary to observe that the Mayor of Windsor, the Chamberlain, and Town Clerk met the Procession at Beck's Ayte, and continued with it to the Head Pile at Black Pots, and likewise that three cheers were given at each bound mark. The Procession consisted of the Revd. Mr. Roper (as Chaplain to the Provost), the Steward of the Manor, the Parish Officers, Charity Children and inhabitants.

Overseers: William Milward, Thomas Nason, Jnr, George Burgiss.”

A similar account was printed in 1825.

The custom was continued till the forties, when with the introduction of the maps of the Ordnance Survey this marking the bounds became superfluous. On the last occasion of its observance there was also a good deal of horse play, and a respected parishioner was pushed into Chalvey ditch and got an unpleasant soaking.

This is an extract from Old Days of Eton Parish by The Rev. John Shephard originally published by Spottiswoode and Co., Ltd. in 1908.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - June 1940

June 1940

Councils together with other public administrations, were given the responsibility of organizing civilian labour to aid the military in preparing local defence works to meet a possible airborne invasion.  Local signposts were taken away, business and shop names that gave the location were painted out and place names that may be of help to invading forces were removed. Church bells were silenced only to be rung to signifying that enemy forces had landed. Motorists were ordered to immobilize their vehicles when not in use. In the event of invasion, the civilian population was told to stay put less they inhibited the manoeuvrability of the defending armed forces.
Large open spaces such as the village common lands and Eton College playing fields were deeply trenched at strategic points to frustrate landings by German troop-carrying planes and gliders. The urgency with which the defences were needed necessitated the help of farmers, volunteers, Eton College boys, local contractors and military personnel.

Military 1940

Anderson Shelter
The occupation of northern France gave the German Luftwaffe bases stretching from Norway to Cherbourg. From these newly acquired bases they launched their first full bombing attack with seventy aircraft raiding eastern England during the night of June 18th-19th.  RAF fighter command, who were also responsible for operating barrage balloons together with the army Anti-aircraft Command, shared the defence of major cities and other strategic targets. During 1939 Dorney common had been selected as a possible anti-aircraft gun site for the defence of Slough Trading Estate, Windsor Castle and possible enemy approach to attack London. The site, code number SM7, had provision for a troop of four guns. Earlier some work had been done on the gun pits and the underground command post. Troop accommodation was tented but these were replaced by Nissen huts and other more permanent buildings by 1941 The house known as Fruiterers Gate, Boveney and adjacent to the site was requisitioned for Officer quarters. 

June 22nd.

German troops occupy the entire French Channel and Atlantic coastline. Imminent danger of invasion to Britain.

Courtesy of WW2 Today.
Friday June 28th

A fine summer’s day saw 262 Battery of 84th (LondonTransport) HAA Regiment R.A.T.A., moved from its two London locations at Wormwood Scrubs and Richmond Park to site SM7 Dorney camp, and Lent Rise, Burnham.  Battery Head Quarters and two sections arrived at Dorney Common with 4 x 3-inch 20cwt. guns firing 198 powder burning fuses. with Vickers predictor of 1920 vintage and searchlight, no Radar. One section of 2 x 3-inch 20 cwt guns went to Lent Rise, Slough, and one section of 2 x 3-inch guns to Wexham, Slough; these two latter sites had even older equipment. The Dorney site was already in being when the Battery HQ arrived with all accommodation being tented. The gun emplacements were already sandbagged and had obviously been in existence since 1939 or even 1938. The Command Post consisted of the standard A.A. command post with its small, below ground, concrete dug out which at that time housed the telephone line to the Gun Operations room and the plotting equipment that went with it. It also included one of the fixed Azimuth read out devices and a teleprinter type machine, but these were already out of use by the time we got there. I do not think the guns had ever been fired. (P.J.Barkham Lt.Col. RA)

On arrival we found the Dorney site in its infancy, so much so that Eton College boys came to help fill sandbags, a job they seemed to enjoy doing. To make the gun pits, sandbags were filled from materials dug on site, the soil being very stony.   If there had been an attack on the site, the consequences would have been unthinkable. It did not help at this time that a captured Focker Wolfe Condor huge reconnaissance plane was on test from White Waltham airfield. Our prime task was to guard against possible attack on Slough Trading Estate on which there was a huge R.A.S.C. Vehicle depot. The aiming point for lining up the guns to instruments, was the flagpole on the Round Tower at Windsor Castle. The standby bearing was over the Slough Trading Estate. These guns had a lot of brass including the firing handle and I remember an energetic artificer, forgetting the safety catch was off, putting a round of shrapnel over Slough with his duster. The guns were manned from daybreak, this being 3 a.m. until full daylight and again from early evening until dark. There was a compulsory rest period of two hours every afternoon. I do not think the German Luftwaffe was aware of this, as the guns were also manned on alarms during the day. The stream (Roundmoor Ditch) I remember, stored a stock of Molotov Cocktail bombs for safety, it is hoped they were all found!  At this time the camp lacked many amenities so the invitation from nearby local residents to use their bathroom facilities was much appreciated by many of the gunners. The large white gate across the road at the village boundary to Dorney common became a military check point during the days after Dunkirk when invasion seemed imminent. For security the gate was closed at night and often in the day during an alert. Having done guard duty at the gate many times, Gunner Dixon recalled that some local residents were indignant at being inconvenienced whilst going about their business.  Following the collapse of France and Dunkirk all privilege leaves for armed forces personnel had been cancelled, This order remained until the invasion stand down when 272 gunners were allowed occasional day leave from 6 a.m. until midnight.    (Mr. D.A.Dixon, Gnr. 262 Bty)

L to r.   Gnr. Dixon.  Gnr. Robinson.   Gnr. Tavener.
262 Bty HAA RA. TA. 
The arrival of 272 battery aroused great interest amongst the teenage boys but older people had their fears that the guns would attract the enemy bombs. John Powell, recounting his teenage memory of those days recalled that he would wait in the ditch for hours, always dark, always alone. In the stillness of the evening I could hear the air raid sirens in the direction of London being sounded, then closer as the local alerts were sounded until I was surrounded by the warning wail of many sirens. Then searchlights from various locations would be searching for the enemy. With blazing effect, the searchlight from the ‘ack-ack’ battery was put into action, lighting up the whole area. I have only to close my eyes and I can still hear the sound of the diesel driven generator and the officer in charge shouting out the orders....suddenly the light was doused, now there was a moment I had been waiting for. I heard the orders....Range....Height....and direction... then with blinding effect....FIRE....Never will I forget the recoil of the huge anti-aircraft gun, not the small Bofors, but the huge single shot  gun, being able to see the crew, searchlight, generator all illuminated in the blinding flash from the firing.... no more than three shots. The barrel had to cool off I believe. Myself as a young man being left in a state of bewildered satisfaction.
Dorney (SM7) site with other gun sites around the Slough-Windsor area were under the command of 38 Brigade forming part of the 1st. A.A. Division based on Langley. Independent batteries armed with 40mm Bofor guns were also included as a defence against low flying enemy aircraft. Slough Trading Estate, Windsor Castle and local military installations being possible targets vulnerable to air attack from enemy aircraft approaching London along the Thames valley. 

Saturday June 29th.

RAF fighter stations and aircraft factories were priority targets whose defence included barrage balloons. Under the command of 956 Squadron R.A.F, 24 Barrage Balloons were placed around Slough and Langley mainly for protection of the Trading Estate and the Hawker Hurricane Factory at Langley. The sight of Balloons and the number of heavy gun sites around Slough and Windsor brought apprehension and caused people to speculate whether this was a safe place to be.  Two weeks later another defence was added in the form of smoke screen lamps that were placed South of Slough on a line reaching from the Myrke in the Datchet road across Fishers fields, through the Kinross Farm (Datchet) to Chalvey and the Trading Estate, part of this line of lamps ran along the line of the Eton Wick Road. The smoke lamps were an adaptation of commercial orchard heaters used for protection from frost or forty-gallon fuel drums suitably modified. Smoke, usually dark brown, was produced by incomplete combustion of Diesel or heavy fuel oil and gave off a smoke containing oil and soot particles. Residents in the vicinity were warned by leaflet a few days before the big test to sleep with their windows closed. The resultant smoke gave a good fog but was dependent upon the wind direction for its effectiveness as a defence for the Trading Estate. The smell described as evil, was quite upsetting to many people.  If caught in the open when the smoke pots were operating faces became blackened and clothes smeared in the black oily substance of the smog. Initially the smoke pots were operated by the army but later it became the duty of the Home Guard. Italian POW’s were also used for this duty if the need arose. 

Two further defence measures for the Trading Estate were the building of two decoy sites. One to represent the industrial estate constructed on the bend of the river at Datchet, the other to the west of Boveney Road.  This was a ‘QF’ decoy fire site, manned by RAF personnel to be activated if the Slough Trading Estate was attacked in the hope that the bombing would be diverted. Visits to the site by Eton Fire Brigade officers supported the view that this was a Boiler Fire type with water flush that would cause explosive burst of flame when mixed with the burning oil.  Fortunately, it was never required for this, but it did ignite once by accident. RAF personnel under the command of Warrant Officer John Williams, constructed and maintained the site. There being no camp accommodation, the airmen were billeted with families in Eton Wick and Dorney. Having no calls to action the airmen other than guard duties and the military requirements of the site they turned their hand to keeping pigs, growing potatoes and keeping chickens which was also a good source of income. The only remembered contact with the enemy was to retrieve the body of a German fighter pilot from Thames field whose parachute had failed to open. 

Posters displayed warnings that German spies and Fifth Column agents could be active in the country and warned everyone to be on their guard against careless talk. Police and Home Guard patrols carried out Identity Card checks, especially at night. Any loitering by persons on or near to Windsor Bridge was challenged and questioned as to their business. Reports show that the patrols’ customers were mainly those who had something to celebrate or were under the influence of too much liquid refreshment.

Munitions works, aircraft factories and other important wartime installations had strict security. This was also the procedure at military camps. Reporting the lack of recreational facilities on gun sites and camps the Windsor and Eton Express begged its readers who had books, spare radios, gramophones and records to give them to the troops.

Responding to the appeal, Joan Ballhatchet and her friend on taking a gift of gramophone records to Dorney camp, encountered first-hand military security. Arriving at the camp entrance the sentry challenged them, ordering them to advance and state their business. At the same time the sentry sounded the alarm on a gong to summon the guard. To their consternation the girls were immediately surrounded by two soldiers who came running with rifles and fixed bayonets.

Recalled memories are told of an incident observed by A.R.P. Warden, the Reverend Morris and the village constable, P.C. Raynor, demonstrate the uncertainty felt at the time. A car approaching the common in the late evening was signalled by the sentry on guard at the white gate nearby the camp entrance to stop. This was for a routine identity card check, but the driver had other ideas and just drove past. A shot was heard as the sentry fired a round at the fleeing car either from fear or reaction, at the time the fear of German spies and infiltrating fifth columnist was very real. Two RAF men were also fired upon when making their way at midnight along the river tow path for duty at the Boveney QF decoy site. Neither the army nor the Home Guard admitted to the episode, but bullet damage was found to the trunk of a tree the next morning.

Numerous camps and gun sites were established in the Slough / Windsor area, Lent Rise, Burnham; the Polo Ground, Datchet; the Great Park, Windsor; Slough Trading Estate and at Twinches Lane, Cippenham. This camp overlooked the Slough Girls High School playing field. Senior girls doing physical training became an attraction for the watching young soldiers who, with ‘Wolf Whistles’ delighted the girls if not the teachers. 

With so many industrial and military targets and the close proximity of an anti-aircraft battery to the village, public air raid shelters were urgently requested. Raising the matter in Council Councillor Mr H. Bunce inquired how Eton Wick would go on in the event of an air raid pointing out that there was no shelter for the children or anyone else..... moreover, there were more children at school in Eton Wick than at Eton where there were facilities. Upon further inquiries, the Surveyor said that the nearest shelters were the railway arches along the Eton Wick Road. Mr Bunce thought half a mile was rather a long way for small children to run and if this was the best that could be done, why send the children there to school. In reply the Council Surveyor stated that consideration had been given to shelters but had been turned down by the Home Office for Eton Wick, also no application for a shelter had been received when the notice was sent around. Plans for air raid shelters put to the authorities by the council received a flat refusal as Eton Wick was considered a safe area. The Council considered the situation and applied many times before permission was obtained for the building of public shelters.

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham. 

Monday, 22 June 2020

The Eton Wick Newsletter - August 2017 - `Our Village' Magazine

Eton Wick at War 

I know of no record of our village's involvement in a war earlier than the two world wars of the last century. Before that time the village population was quite small and as a community was generally regarded as a part of Eton. To meet the threat of a Napoleonic invasion in the early 19" Century, Eton responded to the national call to arms with 200 volunteers of which forty-two were called into the Militia. Very probably this number included men from Eton Wick, but we cannot be certain. Again I know of no record of villagers serving in the Crimean War (mid 1850's) or the later African/Zulu conflicts. 

It was 1914, August 4th; that the Great War engulfed Europe and beyond. At that time the Eton Wick Scouts were at summer camp at Osmington Mills, near Weymouth, and the news of war would have been late in arriving in an era of no wireless or 'phones. At least two of these campers were to be fatal victims of the war, and another to become a P.O.W. of Germany. The photo tells us more than the image. Eton Wick had an established Scout troop within six years of the Scout Movement starting nationally

The Great War lasted four years and three months, and took thirty-four village men's lives. So horrific, it was believed it would end all wars; but not so, as a little under twenty-one years later WW2 was launched (never say never). Only now that WW2 was being fought, would The Great War become known as WW1. I am not able to say how many people served in the forces from Eton Wick in either of those wars. The village population had remained about 1,100 throughout that period, and it was post WW2 that the expansion and increased population came about in Eton Wick. Conscription; or compulsory military service; was first introduced in March 1916 when the flush of volunteers had begun to dwindle, but it was a reality from the onset of WW2. In fact it had been started several months before that war, with young men being mobilised for six months' service. Some villagers were thus 'called up' but were not released, as the war started before their six months had been completed. 

Probably between one hundred and fifty and two hundred villagers served in each of the wars with perhaps a little less in the 1939-1945 conflict, due to exemption for many local industrial workers on the Slough Trading Estate. The 'Estate' did not exist at the time of the Great War (1914 — 1918), having been created on a large war vehicle disposal or dump area; after that war. The term 'dump' stayed with the rapidly developing industrial area. Most of the men who were not called for military service in 1939 were however obliged to work very long hours in the factories and still serve as air raid wardens, fire service, home guard, messengers and other unpaid essential services. Younger citizens during the 1930's who were born between the wars were uncaring about the newspaper warning of impending war, but the middle-aged veterans of the past war were not so casual at what was becoming an increasing certainty. 

Several months before the September 1939 outbreak, all villagers were expected to report to the Institute (now Village Hall) to be issued with a gas mask. It had to be a personal visit, as the straps holding the mask to head needed to be adjusted according to one's head size. This issuing and fitting was carried out by the village Postmaster/Grocer, Harry Chantler, and Archibald Chew. Gas masks were issued in a cardboard box, and from the outset of war were carried to school and work slung over the shoulder. It was not long before a variety of inexpensive canisters were marketed to replace the boxes, and in many instances the gas masks were not taken everywhere. once familiarity had replaced caution. Service personnel had a different respirator that tidily fitted into a khaki canvas holdall. 

From the outset a 'blackout' was strictly enforced, and no chink of light was acceptable at night. Screens were made to cover windows, using special blackout material that was available without ration or coupons, or in many instances utilising thick tarred paper that was used industrially for sea conveyance of goods in the days before shipping containers. There were very few cars in Eton Wick, and mostly those would have been garaged for the duration, as very little petrol was allowed. Vehicle lights were of course mere slits of light on account of the restrictions. 

The village may have missed familiar faces that were away in the services, but numbers were not so affected. This being due to the anti-aircraft battery stationed on Dorney Common. One photo of the camp reminds us of its size, showing fifty seven men and forty seven women equipped with a battery of four 3.7" heavy guns. When in action they certainly rattled many windows in the village. To protect Slough's Trading Estate from night air raids the area was lined with smoke emitting chimneyed stoves. Eton Wick being south of Slough was well lined with these and the black oily smoke would drift toward the Estate on prevailing winds. Cycling through this smoke gave sore eyes, black nostrils, and filthy curtains. In the event Slough was not targeted and did not suffer the effect of being bombed, whereas Eton did. Probably by accident, and not an intended target; Saville House in Weston's Yard was destroyed on a December evening, 1940. Quite a number of incendiary bombs were dropped locally, and on one occasion many fell in Sheepcote Road. Mostly they burnt out on allotments which covered the area now used for blocks of flats in Sheepcote. An incendiary did go through the school roof causing limited damage. As a seventeen-year-old I was with several others trying to cover the fires which of course could be a bright beacon to bomber planes still overhead. As we moved from one covered bomb to the others, the bomb recently covered quickly burned through the soil and needed more attention.

Promptly at the threat of war, London children were evacuated and although being near the city, many evacuees were billeted locally. Their schooling was arranged for the Institute (village hall), and initially they had their own teacher. Of course most peace time functions at the Institute were stopped for one of many reasons. Very dark evenings; adult organisers in the armed forces: or doing essential work; nervous leaving the house, or the evacuees in their homes. Many established groups stopped functioning for the duration; some never to be revived. These included the Tilstone Tennis Club. sports groups and the Boys Club. The latter became the Youth Club for both boys and girls in 1946 when the war was over. 

The recreation ground was used for growing cereals but was not very successful. We must not forget that during WW2 Eton Wick had no main drainage, and no electricity. This meant no refrigeration, no central heating: only accumulator powered wireless sets, and most mobility depended on cycling. 

Many years later I visited Harry Chantler and he told me that in the late 1930's there were only four telephones in Eton Wick. As the village postmaster he had one, Burfoot the local builder had one (now the site of a golf buggy business), Archibald Chew of Moores Lane had the third and lastly so did Roland Bond, road contractor then living in Palmer Place. 

In 1939 there was no Colenorton Crescent (c) Stockdales (c) Boveney New Road (c) Haywards Mead (c) Wheatbutt Estate (p) Bunces Close (p) Tilstone Close (p) east side of Tilestone Avenue (p) Princes Close (c) Housing West of and lining the Eton Wick Road between Vaughan Gardens (built c.1939) and the Roundsmoore Ditch (c). Also Sheepcote Road, Common Road and Bell Lane have been extensively added to and bear little resemblance to earlier images (c and p). Victoria Road has also changed by building on its numerous gaps (p). The bracketed (c) and (p) denotes Council or Private development. Previous to these post WW2 developments Eton Wick was very much more rural and during WW2 several households took advantage of their larger gardens, keeping chickens, ducks and even a few kept pigs. This of course led to an occasional unauthorised killing, and more meat than the allowed ration. This did in fact lead to an Eton Wick reference by Flanagan and Allen in their Crazy Gang show at the Victoria Palace. All good humour, but perhaps best left to rest. Looking at war time photos we surely notice how slim everybody was; no sign of obesity so perhaps those uninteresting and small rations were not so unkind. 

Frank Bond 

This article was originally published in the Eton Wick Newsletter - Our Village and is republished with the kind permission of the Eton Wick Village Hall Committee. Click here to go to the Collection page.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

T. McMurray Royal Army Service Corps - 51st (Highland) Division

Thomas Alexander McMurray (Private No. 105151) - Royal Army Service Corps - 51st (Highland) Division

Tom was born in Scotland on March 4th 1915. He had two older half brothers and three sisters. His early schooling years were in Glasgow, until, when he was 11½, the family moved south. At first, they all lived with the grandparents in Boveney Court Cottages. These houses have long since been demolished and undoubtedly, as was the custom in the 1920s and 30s, the old bricks were used in the building or extending of Dorney's old style properties. The Boveney Court Cottages in question, are believed to have been beyond Old Place in Boveney. Accommodating six children, their parents and grandparents, was not a very satisfactory long term arrangement in the small cottage, so in a short while the McMurrays moved to 5, Castle view Terrace in Victoria Road, Eton Wick. 

Tom registered at Eton Porny School on October 18th 1926 where he completed his elementary education. On March 27th 1929 he left school, at the age of 14 years. When he got older he found employment working as a steward at the rather exclusive Moor Park Golf Club in Rickmansworth. The work was much to his liking, but it did mean living away from his family home and this, together with his early years spent in Scotland, all contributed to his being less well known in the community. Tom was an enthusiast of both classical and jazz music and had in fact taken classical music lessons.

His father was killed in a cycle accident in the Autumn of 1933, while cycling home from his work on the Slough Trading Estate. His prized possession, a violin, was given to Tom, now an 18 year old. The violin had previously been given to his father, following a tragic fatal accident to its first owner. When, some years later, Tom's life was abruptly ended, his mother destroyed the violin and declared that three owners, all dying violently, was more than enough.

Tom McMurray on holiday
at Barrow in Furness with relatives
When war was declared in 1939 Tom quickly volunteered his services in the R.A.S.C. serving with the N.A.A.F.I. (Navy, Army and Air Force Institute). In due course he was posted to France. In the spring of 1940 the German Army invaded the Benelux countries and thrust the allied forces back to the sea. Tom was not among the 338,000 troops successfully evacuated from Dunkirk during the first week of June, which had led his family to conclude he was either killed or drowned while attempting to leave the beaches. For 2½ years Tom's mother understood he had been listed as missing, and then came notification he was presumed killed. In fact, for two weeks after Dunkirk, British and allied forces were still resisting the German advance, many miles so of the earlier evacuation.

In mid June 1940, France surrendered and British, Polish and other troops withdrew to the ports of Brest, St Malo and St. Nazaire in a desperate attempt to board any available vessel able to sail to England. Service vehicles were dumped into the sea and vast N.A.A.F.I. supplies were shipped or dumped. The Commonwealth War Grave Commission reported:

McMurray, Thomas Alexander, Pte; 105151, Royal Army Service Corps, lost in S.S. Lancastria (Liverpool) Died 17th June 1940 Age 25 (buried) La Bernerie en Retz Communal Cemetery; Department of Loire, Atlantique France. Grave No. 11 in Row A.

The Bernerie en Retz Cemetery
Many thousands of troops were successfully evacuated from these ports between June 16th and 18th. On the 17th the luxury liner Lancastria, just returned from evacuating men from Norway, was sent to St. Nazaire. It lay outside the harbour and embarked at least 5000 troops, some estimates quote as many as 7,000 troops, when enemy aircraft successfully bombed the Lancastria and she sank within an hour. Most men jumped into the sea but many perished in the choking oil, or were strafed by German aircraft. Approximately 3,000 lost their lives. Amidst so much gloom during June 1940, Prime Minister Churchill asked for this shock disaster to be kept temporarily from the public. Many sailors spoke of a navy superstition of misfortune to a ship which changes its name. The S.S. Lancastria had done just that.

The Bernerie en Retz Cemetery is a communal (civil) cemetery, with an extensive plot for military use. It is situated on north east side of Bourgneuf Bay, eight kilometres south east of Pornic and about 30 miles west south west of Nantes; 400 yards from the main road and south west of the local church. Most of the 121 soldiers and six airmen buried there were casualties of Lancastria.

One of Tom's sisters is still living in Eton Wick 60 years later. He was not married. Locally he is commemorated on the Village Memorial in the Churchyard and on the Memorial tablet on the Village Hall. Ex-servicemen generally remember the N.A.A.F.I. for its mugs of tea and cakes, but the sober wartime statistics record the deaths of over 550 of its personnel during W.W.II.

Grave Registration and Headstone records 

courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Private McMurray's death was reported to the War Office Casualty Section on 12th December 1942: National Archive reference WO 417/55.

Monday, 8 June 2020

About the Memorial and Their Names Shall Be Carved In Stone

The Memorial is 14 feet high and it is made from stone quarried at Clipsham in Rutland. It has at its apex a quadrant, or Greek cross, bearing in the centre the sacred monogram, carved in relief and enclosed by a quatrefoil label. The cross rests upon a moulded capped shaft rising out of a pedestal, with plinth and weather moulding all in one. Two steps form the Memorial base. The upper step bears the wording "Their Names Liveth For Evermore". The plinth was used after World War II to bear the 12 names of village men killed in that war. The square form of the pedestal bears the names of the 34 men killed in the Great War and these are recorded in cut relief on the rear and both side panels. On the front panel is inscribed "In memory of the Parishioners of Eton Wick and Boveney whose names are recorded on this cross. They gave their lives for their country in the Great War 1914-1919, passing from the strife of the world into the peace of God". The men engaged in making the Memorial were all ex-servicemen working for Sargeant's (a local stonemason)

In the book the men are listed in the order they appear on the Memorial. All are in alphabetic order except for Peter Knight and Harry Quarterman. For reasons already stated, their names were added after completion of the Memorial and therefore appear at the foot of panels. It has not been possible to always establish as many facts about individuals as I would like, but as far as I can tell, the story of each has been accurately written. Some may be commemorated in other places not mentioned here, perhaps old schools, clubs, churches or places of work. However, this is a record of "Wickers" honoured on the "Wick" Memorial, situated in the front of the "Wick" church, and the last building most of the boys and men would have seen as they walked away to war, leaving their village and homes behind them. 

The first two lines written for each serviceman's biography is the village memorial inscription (V.M.I.) and this is followed by a fuller service description. Some details may be repetitive, but this could not be avoided as the intention throughout has been to present each man's story as complete as possible. They lived in Eton Wick, and in many instances members of their families still live in the village, many of the homes they lived in are still standing today and for this reason it has not been thought appropriate to limit the facts to where the men served and died. In his unveiling speech the Provost said "Pass by 80 years from now...", yes the village service survivors have all rejoined their comrades. In the section devoted to the Great War casualties, the figures given for the number of dead in respective cemeteries are the numbers for that war and do not include any additions that may have been made as a result of W.W.II. 

As we reach the beyond 80 years, later generations of villagers still attend an annual service in front of the Memorial on Armistice Sunday each November. A poppy wreath is laid, silence is observed, and finally the bugle sounding the haunting notes of the Last Post keeps the faith. 

Eton Wick, and Boveney with Boveney Newtown, had approximately equal populations, and the fatal casualties were equally divided with 17 from each of the two areas. Alma Road and Common Road each lost seven men. At least 10 of the 34 men left widows with young children. The homes of most of the men from the old Eton Wick have either been demolished or appreciably modernised, whereas those in Boveney and Boveney Newtown are all standing and show very little structural alteration. 

Note about the republication of Their Names Shall Be Carved In Stone on this website. The biographies of the 34 men from First World War whose names appear on the Village War Memorial were published mostly on the 100th anniversary of the day they died. Where new information had become available particularly from The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website this has been added to the original biography. The biographies of the 10 men who died between 1940 and the end of Second World War will be added to this website on the 80th anniversary of the day they died.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Coronation Fancy Dress Party, 1953

Coronation Fancy Dress Party, 1953

Vaughan Gardens, June 2nd 1953

It is now 67 years since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation at Westminster Abbey. The people of UK was still living under rationing, but Street Parties were held across the country. The residence of Eton Wick joined the celebration as this photograph illustrates. Can you help to add the names to these children photographed on the green in Vaughan Gardens on Coronation Day, 1953? 

If you have photos of the events in the village on June 2nd 1953 or personal memories please share them by using the comment box below this article.