Tuesday 12 January 2021

World War 2 Eighty Years On - January 1941

The new year opened with a raid on Cardiff by 100 German Bombers on the night of January 2nd, this was followed the next night by a raid on Bristol with 170 aircraft. The following week, January 10th, Portsmouth was Blitzed, and stray bombs fell over Surrey, Berkshire and parts of Buckinghamshire.

Eton College having acquired Manor Farm offered the tenancy to James Kinross Snr., who having been a long-standing tenant farmer of the College with no farmhouse, took possession of the farm. Until then the farm base had been a double Dutch Red barn on the Slough - Eton Road. This barn was also known as the ‘Tramps Hotel’ and had the stabling for all the farm motive power, which at that time was twelve horses. The enclosed part of the barn was commandeered by a Government Department for the storage of supplies which at various times included such items as onions and confectionery, which was not a good idea given the rodent population. Military stores consisted of such things as Air Force blue shirts and foot powder, a medicated talc for feet, soldiers for the use of!!.

Clothes rationing made the shirts a desirable item on the Black Market and a temptation to thieves. One night, shortly after the end of the war in Europe, using a lorry, thieves smashed through the barn doors and made off with a quantity of shirts. The shirts, all one size, bore the size mark 22. German P.O.W.'s arriving for work the following morning at Manor farm espied the shirts lying around and proceeded to kit themselves out. Although Manor Farm must be over a mile from one end to the other, the news that Police CID and Military SIB had arrived at the scene of the crime spread like a forest fire. The P.O.W.'s aware of the consequences if caught in possession of stolen property, immediately set about disposing of their loot putting shirts down the toilet, into buckets and in any other suitable place. One German prisoner working out in the field had no alternative but to bury his shirt and carry on working stripped to the waist on a very chilly day. When questioned by the investigating officers, everyone swore that Willie never wore a shirt or coat when working.

The fate of the Dutch barn was sealed in 1958 when it was sold to the Slough scrap merchant W.N. Thomas, demolition being in the capable hands of Andy Skeels of the Wick.

Having learnt to drive one of the new-fangled Fordson tractors, James Kinross Jnr. set about ploughing up the hallowed turf of Agars Plough, Eton. Other recreational areas were ploughed and prepared for cereals including the recreation ground at Eton Wick. By September 1943 the Bucks War Agriculture Executive had designated many acres of grass land around the district including 150 acres of the Dorney common for cereal and vegetable cultivation.

Doris Bentley, Barbara Trimmings and Margaret McIntosh, to name three capable members of the Womens Land Army, worked at Manor Farm and Barbara became very skilled at driving the Fordson tractor. On cold mornings the tractor could be difficult to start, the engine needing to be cranked overusing a starting handle; this operation require a certain amount of strength and knack, both of which Barbara had acquired. Petrol used for starting was contained in a small section of the fuel tank, the larger section containing the vaporising oil on which the engine ran when suitably warmed up. Once her precaution of covering the engine with sacking against frost and damp almost ended in disaster; a leak having  developed in the petrol section of the tank dripped onto the sacking during the night. When endeavouring to start the beast the sacking ignited, and a jet of flame shot up; those around beating a hasty retreat whilst Barbara coolly extinguished the fire.

Harvest time.

Many P.O.W,s were sent to work on local farms and were available on a daily basis from the prisoner of war camp at Maidenhead, being generally allocated at the farmers request in gangs of eight. Max Schattke, a German prisoner of war came to the Manor farm during the summer of 1946.  He was an aerial photographer in the Luftwaffe who had been shot down over Caen in 1945 and captured by the Americans. Having been in captivity for some time on the continent Max arrived in England in late January 1946, going into the large POW camp at Reading; from whence he transferred to the camp at Ascot commencing work at Manor farm. Upon being discharged from his POW status in January 1948 he voluntarily stayed and worked on the farm for another year as a free man. During his stay Max was encouraged to converse in English with help from Mrs Kinross Senior and after having spent some time exploring England Max returned to Germany in 1951.

 “My daughter and I visited Mr and Mrs Kinross at Manor Farm in 1998 and have  memories of Doris Bentley who left in late 1945 to marry a Canadian Police Officer, Barbara who left the farm in 1946, and Margaret McIntosh who married Peter French”.

(Max Schattke)

For the first weeks of January there was no enemy activity in the sky over Slough - Windsor to disturb local residents but the Cities of Cardiff, Bristol and Portsmouth suffered from attacks by the Luftwaffe. This respite did not last, for on the morning of February 3rd., a dismal morning with snow falling, a German aircraft dropped bombs on Upton and Ditton Park, Slough. The sound of machine gun fire sent Eton Wick village school children to seek shelter under their desks and although the. damage was slight but the blast from the exploding bombs caused two panes of glass to crack at the school.

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

A list of Prisoner of War camps in the UK can be found on the WW2 P.O.W. Camps in the UK website.

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