Leeds Art Gallery has this year received generous treatment from the Contemporary Art Society. “Aldbourn”, a landscape by the late Derwent Lees is a study of the little Wiltshire village in the rich colours of dawn, when the sky is already brilliant but the trees and buildings of the village are still slumbering in the half-light. One of the largest pictures Derwent Lees painted, it was exhibited in Australia and New Zeland in 1934-35. It was then the property of Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 26 March 1938 – British Newspapers, Find My Past
Derwent Lees (1884–1931) Australian painter, active mainly in Britain. As a boy he lost a foot in a riding accident. He studied at Melbourne University and in Paris before settling in London, where he trained at the Slade School, 1905–8. From 1908 to 1918 he taught drawing at the Slade. He was a close friend of J. D. Innes and Augustus John and often travelled and worked with them. His main subject was landscape and he shared with them a lyrical response to the countryside; usually he worked on a small scale, with fluid brushwork in oil on panel or watercolour. He travelled widely, visiting Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. In his biography of Augustus John (1976), Michael Holroyd describes Lees as ‘a copycat of genius…He could paint McEvoys, Inneses or Johns at will and with a fluency that sometimes makes them almost indistinguishable from their originals—though his figures with their great dense areas of cheek and chin do have originality.’ In about 1918 Lees began to suffer from mental illness and spent the rest of his life confined in an institution.
Text source: Art UK/A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art (Oxford University Press)
Way back in 1999 I was puzzled by a photo of a postcard. It was part of the preparations for the Aldbourne Civic Society exhibition in the Old School Room, Millennium Festival 2000. This coloured image appeared in the brochure for the exhibition. I don’t recall ever seeing an actual old post-card, so if anyone has it tucked away in a shoe-box …?
Matters became a little clearer when I spotted a newspaper article this morning (as usual, I was looking for something else!)
Another Wiltshire Railway Scheme – On Friday a private meeting was held at Aldbourne to hear explanations of a scheme for a new railway between Hungerford and Swindon, via Ramsbury and Aldbourne. Explanations were given by Messrs. Kinneir and Tombs, of Swindon, and the meeting supported the proposal. It is intended, it is stated, to solicit the help of the Great Western Company for the scheme.
Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette 12 July 1883
In other news, on the same page of the newspaper:
Proposed Railway Bridge across the Channel – a bill brought forward by M. Achard, the object of which is to obtain powers to make soundings preparatory to the construction of a railway bridge over the English Channel from Cape Grisnez to Folkestone, was distributed yesterday to the members of the French Chamber of Deputies.
The hawk-eyed amongst readers will have noticed that there is a bit of a time-lapse between the article in the newspaper and the possible date of the postcard. It may well be that discussions continued about the project for some time. With a spot of on-line research, it seems that Martin Anderson designed postcards from the late 1890s, and then formed his own postcard company in 1902.
Memorial stone in St Michael’s Churchyard with the engraving “Death is swallowed up in victory”. Edith was killed, aged 53, on 12 November 1940 in the Sloane Square tube bombing.
At the time of writing (April 2020) we aren’t sure why Edith is remembered in Aldbourne. Research will continue and hopefully by the time this scheduled post appears, a little more will be known about Edith and her connection to the village.
Aldbourne Nostalgia has arrived on You-Tube (and Facebook wherever Dabchicks gather – including the Aldbourne Archive). Ron Morley has digitised and uploaded films of the Carnival Parade, Memories from WW2, the Winter of 1963 – the list goes on – and there’s more to come!
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Irwin Bishell, DSO, TD – Royal Artillery Commanding 94 (The Dorset and Hampshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment Died 01 October 1944 aged 45 – Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Awarded 17 August 1944
Distinguished Service Order
“Throughout the operations carried out from the ODON bridgehead between 1 and 15 July he has displayed the highest qualities of leadership, meeting all emergencies with calm and resolute action and setting an example of devotion to duty and contempt for danger which has been an inspiration to all those in contact with him. The efficiency and morale of his Regt under the most exacting conditions have been of the highest order.”
Awarded posthumously 19 October 1944
Much of the information I use for the Aldbourne Archive, here and on social media, comes from the internet – Ancestry, CWGC, Museums, The British Newspaper Archive etc. But one of the great joys of living in Aldbourne is that people often have memories and stories to share.
In 1936, the then Major Bishell acted as an adjudicator for the special prize offered for the best entry in the Aldbourne Carnival. The winners were Mr and Mrs C Stacey for a ‘satirical representation of the 1936 summer’. Apparently, the float was an ingenious sprinkler system spraying rain over the occupants of the vehicle, who were endeavouring to harvest crops in ‘various stages of decomposition’. (There’s bound to be a photo somewhere. If I find one, I’ll add it to this article!).
Mrs Bishell was very active in the Women’s Institute and held meetings at ‘The Southward’, with competitions and events such as ‘flower pot racing’, ‘clock golf’, and an egg & spoon race – again, if I find a picture ….
By July 1939, Major Bishell, a Veteran of the Great War, was in command of the 217th Battery, 112th Field Artillery Regiment, R.A, T.A, with headquarters at Prospect Drill Hall Swindon’s Own Regiment – North Wilts Herald 21 July 1939.
Andrea West’s father, Eric Barrett, was stationed in Gibraltar when his son Tim was born. Eric was called to the Governor’s House to receive the news. The message was organised via Lt Col Bishell.
Alddbourne’s War Dead and Easy Company’s Band of Brothers
US National World War II Museum ‘Band of Brothers Tour’ June 2017
Getting the story out there is vital for archaeology, and there are so many benefits if it’s done well. A case in point came following the Operation Nightingale ‘Band of Brothers’ dig on the football field. It’s a really lovely story from David Shaw-Stewart who lived in Aldbourne during 1944 and who saw us on Digging for Britain. He got in touch thanks to Professor Roberts whom he contacted after the programme. Never will there have been a more suitable site mascot too!
As a family, Father, Mother, myself and older brother, we lived in Hadley Wood in North London. I was born in 1936. Sadly my Father died and with the outbreak of war we moved to Wiltshire to the village of Aldbourne to live with one of my Mother’s sisters, Aunt Peggy.
It was here that we were neighbours of the camp of Easy Company known as the “Band of Brothers”, Southward Lane. Residents of the house were: Owner: Lt Colonel T. I. Bishell, 94th Field Regiment, Royal Artilley. Killed in action at Arnhem. His wife, Mrs M Bishell (Aunt Peggy); Daughter, J Bishell, (Joan) Son, J Bishell, (John). My Mother, Mrs E A Shaw-Stewart, (Betty) My Brother, C A Shaw-Stewart (Colin) Myself, D E Shaw-Stewart (David).
The grounds had a large kitchen garden as well as ducks and geese providing eggs and being good “guard dogs” for security. We used to get our milk every day from Mr Hawkins’ farm that was across the road from the camp. I used to watch the soldiers marching up Southward lane every day to go on their training exercises up over the downs and also on to Pentico Wood. They would throw sticks of chewing gum to me. They also would go along the valley, opposite from the drive up to the house, to fire live ammunition into the hillside. They discarded belts of empty machine gun bullets which we picked up and used as bandoliers. We also collected belts, water bottles, mess tins, helmets and bits of ammunition such as rocket grenades. The house looked down the valley across the road to Hungerford so that we were able to watch much of their training across the farmlands including parachute drops. On one occasion they set fire to a hay stack. Unfortunately the village fire engine was still horse drawn and the horses were out ploughing a field.
My Aunt Peggy and Mother were very involved in helping the war effort in the village and were friends with many of the military personnel in Easy Company and also with the large Airforce base at Membury nearby. They would have drinks parties for officers of Easy Company. I remember the well- dressed soldiers coming to the house. My Mother was friends with one of the officers called George. I never knew his surname. He gave her two badges which my Mother sewed on to my Brother Colin’s chimpanzee teddy called “Switzy”. The two badges were the 101st Airborne and the eagles head. I am not sure where the badge for the Anti-Aircraft Company came from. Switzy is still a companion today.
On “D” Day the camp was deserted. My cousin Peter and I went down to the camp. All the doors were left open and there were open boxes of live ammunition on the tables. The end of an era.
Exploring #AldbourneinArt again this morning. Two watercolours by D.M.Pimm. With thanks to John Brown and family.
‘Dobs/Dob’ Doris May (Mary) Pimm.(1889-1970) was a granddaughter of George Dunkerton Hiscox (1830 – 1901). George Dunkerton Hiscox was a school art teacher, artist, sculptor and drawing master to the daughter of Queen Victoria.
I can remember when the Worcesters were stationed in Aldbourne. They were in Powell’s yard, by the Blue Boar. There was a big house there. There was a front entrance from The Green and there was an entrance round the back, then you go up the lane, to the playing field.
John Fisher – Aldbourne Oral History Project 2006
The troops came to Aldbourne. First of all the Worcesters; I don’t quite know where they were stationed apart from Lottage Road. The Harrison’s had a poultry farm, just below the Foundry and they were actually stationed in those chicken huts, which people would probably never believe. They were round the village but, because I was only 11, you don’t take much notice; but I know these men paraded every morning with broomsticks because there were no rifles, and so they paraded and marched up and down the road.
Audrey Barrett – Aldbourne Oral History Project 2006
The accounts book for the Aldbourne Memorial Hall has many entries for receipts and outgoings for soldiers stationed in the village. The two officers mentioned in the following extract were both 67th Field Regiment Royal Artillery.
The regiment left Worcester in the summer of 1939 to camp out near Lyndhurst in Hampshire, then moved in the autumn to Aldbourne in Wiltshire, on the edge of Salisbury Plain. Both were conventionally picturesque places: Lyndhurst was in the middle of the New Forest, and wild ponies often wandered into the streets; Aldbourne was an unspoiled village with the usual accoutrements of church, five pubs, cottages, a green, a duck pond and a purling stream. It might be nice to think that the War Office picked these locations to provide the young recruits with fresh memories of the peaceful and bucolic country they’d be fighting for, but the nearby artillery ranges in both places were the more likely draw.
At Aldbourne the troops learned that in January they would set sail for France, where they’d become part of the British Expeditionary Force, which had been assembling across the Channel since the declaration of war.
VE and VJ Day 75th Anniversary commemorations have been vastly different to those originally envisaged. On 15 August 2020 there will be national events to mark the occasion, including a two-minute silence at 11am. Listen out for St Michael’s Church bells after the silence. Many of us will remember relatives or friends who died; and those who carried, or will carry, the effects of physical and mental suffering for the rest of their lives.
This is a huge and emotive subject to explore, and I hope that anyone reading this who would like to add to the stories told here, will contact me via the comments box at the end of this article. Once again I must say thank you to the folk who have helped me to tell these few stories. One of the trips I was hoping to make this summer was to the National Memorial Arboretum but instead Ive found their VJ Day activity pack, virtual guided walks and on-line exhibition really useful. These resources can be found at http://www.thenma.org.uk/events-at-the-arboretum/vj-day-75/
I’ve taken as my guide some articles from The Dabchick magazine in 1991 and 1995. Firstly, an account by Barbara Sowerby of her experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese – please click on the small image to open the full article.
Broadcast for the 70th anniversary of VJ Day
Rouse Voisey, RAF veteran, worked on the Sumatra railway as a prisoner-of-war. Barbara Sowerby was a civilian internee at Stanley prison camp. Follow the link to listen: BBC Radio 4 Today – 15 August 2015
Thanks to Ian Warrington for posting his family photo on my Aldbourne Archive Facebook page.
VJ Day 1945 – “A very happy day for my Mother. Dad would be coming home after 4 years in India. When Dad was called up it meant that Mum was left alone in London with a new baby (Chris) and she did not see Dad for the 4 years as there was no home leave all the way from India.”
Thanks to Ishbel and Annie for access to Andrew Sewell’s vast and fascinating collection of photos, diary notes and artefacts. In February 1940, and his 19th birthday, Andrew was in Scotland helping the Lanarkshire Yeomany ‘convert from horses to guns’. A year later the regiment travelled to India, which provided all the arms and equipment needed to move to Malaya in the late summer. Andrew was wounded in ‘a typical engagement between a battalion just landed at Singapore, a highly professional Indian Army unit and the Japanese’. In February 1942, Alexandra hospital was over-run by the Japanese, patients were killed and captured – Andrew’s diary is not comfortable reading and I can’t do justice to such a full and informative account here. Shortly after the capitulation by the Emperor, Russian forces entered Mukden. Andrew travelled first to Sian in South China, then to India in a USA bomber. Eventually arriving at Liverpool in early September 1945 in good time for his 25th birthday.
It is my privilege to bring the stories full circle, and return to the exhibition and coffee morning held in August 1995. The photos tell the story, and aren’t we fortunate to have them to help us remember the past.