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’. Alexandra hospital was over-run by the Japanese, patients were captured – the 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 traveled 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.
Tug of war was contested as a team event in the Summer Olympics at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920. It’s been a popular event in Aldbourne for decades. The earliest mention I’ve seen (so far) is in the North Wilts Herald 1 August 1919: that year, the competition at the Feast Sports was won by a team from Upham.
Years ago, this copy photograph of a victorious team was given to me for the Aldbourne Archive. Only very recently have the names and date been added to my file. Thanks to research by Graham Palmer.
There have been some fabulous reports on sports in the local press over the years. I would love to see photos of the pillow fights, and ‘musical chairs on cycles’ must have been a thing of beauty to behold back in 1927!
The tug of war team in the photo took part in the Coronation Celebrations on 12 May 1937 (King George VI). Graham spotted that ‘Eatwell’s team’ were the winners listed in a newspaper report after the events of the day.
Since the Olympics should have started this week, and George Scarrott & Sons Family Fun Fair are here in the village, it seems appropriate to dip into how Aldbourne has celebrated Feast. This is by no means an exhaustive study, so if anyone has any questions or information to add I’d be delighted to hear from you.
Maurice Crane’s ‘”Aldbourne Chronicle” (1974). “The Council of Oxford ordered all parishes to keep Feast on their Saint’s Day (in 1222).” Mr Crane’s time-line gives 1460 as the date when the present tower was built by Richard Goddard, the church remodelled and dedicated to St Michael.
22 July is the Feast Day of St Mary Magdalene. A quick dip into ‘Heart of a Village’ by Ida Gandy (1975) tells us that “Aldbourne Feast has always been held within the octave of Mary Magdalen.” In these interesting times, George Scarrott and the Aldbourne Parish Council have worked together to bring a fair for Feast on the 27 and 28 July 2020.
Mrs Miriam Orchard (nee Barrett) was born in February 1836 at Stock Lane, Aldbourne. An article appeared in the Evening Advertiser to celebrate the occasion of her 100th birthday.
About the only opportunity of organised amusement when she was a young girl, was Aldbourne Feast, and she spoke of seeing men ‘backswording’; which meant that they fought with sticks, and the one who first drew blood was declared the winner. This sanguinary spectacle used to be presented on a stage against the Town Pond.
Evening Advertiser 27 November 1936 – British Newspaper Archive
The next snippet of news I’ve gathered that mentions Feast (and backswording), is from 1853; whilst the writer appears to deplore the blood thirsty ‘relic’ of single stick, the conclusion of the article does seem to show a regard for the participants inferred ‘indomitable pluck and fearless courage’.
We observe that one of the relics of, if not the middle, certainly of the dark ages, is still kept alive at Aldbourn, where a revel was held on Monday and Tuesday last, at which, according to the published handbill, single stick was to be played.
It looks as though by 1895 the ‘Aldbourne Revel’ was a much more gentle occasion; with family re-unions on the Sunday and ‘on Monday the village bore the aspect of a large fancy fair. There were two large steam roundabouts, swingboats, coconut alley and stalls, and shooting galleries in abundance.’ Athletic endeavours seem to have replaced single stick, with foot races for boys and men held at Liddington Warren ‘an open and healthy spot’. There was also horse racing, betting and prizes (which I think also may have been the main attraction of the single stick fighting!). In the Reading Mercury 3 August 1895, there is mention of the ‘Aldbourne Cup, value 8 guineas, for horses of any height’.
It may well be that the Fairground in this photo was George Scarrott’s established in 1894.
In 1919, having lapsed during the war, the Aldbourne Feast was revived with much success on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the end of July. Sports, fete, a fancy dress Whist Drive alongside ‘the usual fairground amusements’. There was a fleeting, almost wistful, reference to the old tradition of backswording. I think the press missed the opportunity to recount such a blood thirsty story line, even after the carnage of war. Otherwise, the exciting character of the sports for villagers and the surrounding hamlets received much praise, including tug-of war (which in 1919 was won by a team from Upham).
THE MEANING OF THE MEMORIAL HALL
An interesting survey of the history of Aldbourne Feast, and of the spirit underlying the movement for the erection of a Memorial Hall, was given by Mrs Currie in opening the garden fete and Bazaar
The proceeds of all the efforts go to swell the purpose of building a Village Hall, in memory of the men of Aldbourne who gave their lives in the war. About £720 had been raised for this purpose prior to the Feast.
It was interesting to see that Scarrott’s traditional fairground organ (built in the early 1920s) was in attendance at the 2020 Feast; I wonder when it was last in the village to accompany the chair-planes prior to 1940.
Miss Muriel Foster used to treat the village children to a ride on the chair planes; an annual arrangement with George Scarrott. Very fondly remembered by many, many Dabchicks. You only have to ask the question ‘who remembers Miss Foster’ at a Heritage Group meeting and half the hands in the room go up – happy days!
A link between two Aldbourne Artists both exploring a theme removed from our downland landscape, and away from land locked Wiltshire.
Andrea West has included several studies of boats in her lock-down gallery, including this one:
Back in 1914, although she didn’t live in Aldbourne at the time, another watercolour artist, Miss Adeline Fox, exhibited ‘Fishing Boats’ at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (sadly, we don’t have an image of that painting):
The “Twenty Years of British Art” Exhibition, held here in Summer, 1910, showed a review of art as it had developed in this country in the concluding decade of last century and the first of the present century. It showed that artists had moved away from an academic treatment of history, anecdote, and sentimentality, and had gone in search of a more brilliant treatment of light in landscape, of more truly decorative treatments of subject, and of a more intimate treatment of human life generally.
The “Twentieth Century Art“ exhibition (1914) is concerned with the progress of art, since the absorption of the impressionist teaching, as shown in the work of the younger British artists and of artists of foreign origin working in this country.
Born in 1870, Miss Adeline Fox, who lived with her sister Evelyn at The Old Rectory between 1923-1945, was an accomplished watercolour artist. I have been able to find newspaper articles mentioning her work going back to 1910. During their time in Aldbourne, the Misses Fox were renowned for their generosity to village good causes; lending their grounds for fund-raising events, and most notably paying for senior citizens to be driven to the Annual Tea.
We were out and about yesterday, walking from Wilton Windmill and enjoying a different range of wild-flowers in the sunshine. To my delight, we spotted a patch of sainfoin along a field edge. So that’s another box ticked from Chapter Ten. I was on the look out for this elusive bloom after reading the blog post ‘Local Tastes’ – a family history blog that focuses on Firmin family research and ‘Finding the Wiltshire Relatives’ and which in the re-blogged article below talks about Ida Gandy’s book, and the many flavours of Wiltshire.
Sometimes you may meet a bit of sainfoin on downland verges, reminder of a time when rosy-pink fields added much to the Wiltshire landscape
I had the good fortune to taste some local honey the other day. The flavor of fireweed honey was simply marvelous. It reminded me that my Wiltshire ancestors would have eaten seasonally and locally (as we are so often urged to do). On the bright side this meant that they had access to some items that were exceptional; on the down side, this meant at times that their choices, and even their food in general was very limited. This post will explore a few of the things that have come to my attention that were notable about living in northern Wiltshire.