Interview with Mick Kettleborough


Interview with Mick Kettleborough


Michael Kettleborough lived in Woodhall Spa during the war. His mother billeted RAF crew members in her home. One of them Jack Gibson asked for an early Christmas as there were some big operations coming up. Shortly before Christmas 1941 the Manchester in which he was flying was hit by flak and crash landed at RAF Woodhall Spa and he and his crew killed. Jack left personal items and valuables with Michael’s parents who duly returned them to Jack’s parents in Canada after the war. One night in August 1943 an enemy landmine was dropped on the town damaging properties, destroying the Royal Hotel and causing casualties.




Temporal Coverage





00:38:24 audio recording

Conforms To


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AKettleboroughML180905, PKettleboroughML1801


DK: That’s alright. Don’t worry. You’d be surprised. Some interviews have barking dogs and cats jumping on me and all sorts of things so don’t worry about that. What would be useful if that’s, if you’re all going to chip in at some point, you’re all quite welcome to, if you could all say your names. Is that ok?
AH: I won’t say anything.
MK: Yeah.
DK: Just, just for future references as to who was there. So, I’ll just start this. I’m David Kavanagh working for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing do you mind me calling you Mick?
MK: Correct.
DK: Yes. Ok.
MK: I’m known as Mick.
DK: Mick Kettleborough, at his home on the 5th of September 2018 and with me I have —
AH: Amanda Holland, which is Mick’s daughter.
VK: Valerie Kettleborough. That’s Mick’s wife.
LH: Lucy Holland, Mick’s granddaughter.
DK: And the dog?
LH: Is Merlin.
AH: Merlin.
DK: Merlin, the dog. Ok. Well, I’ll, I’ll put that there. If I keep looking over, I’m just making sure it’s still going.
MK: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So, if we can start off then perhaps you could recap what you were saying. Where you were born and —
MK: I was, I wasn’t born in Willoughby House. My father, my stepdad bought Willoughby House when I was about three.
DK: Right.
MK: He had a, he had a little practice in Woodhall. Down, down Witham Road and he moved from Witham Road to Willoughby House when I was about three and then it’s all a bit hazy for a start. And then when I was about four years old, we, my mum had the choice. She could either take Army or Air Force which was the Air Force was like a Lancaster pilot. She could, and she chose to take the RAF boys.
AH: Because she had a spare room, hadn’t she?
DK: Right.
MK: Because we had a spare room you see. Now, the thing is I can vaguely, we had one or two come and I can vaguely remember they didn’t last long so you can imagine what happened to them poor devils. We had one I can remember called Len Swire. I can’t remember what he did but mum’s favourite was Jack Gibson.
DK: Right.
MK: He was a, he was Canadian.
DK: Right.
AH: And he’s on the Bomber Command Memorial.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
MK: Yes. He’s on the Memorial. He’s also, he’s buried at Coningsby.
DK: Do you know where he was based then? Which airfield he was based at?
MK: Pardon?
VK? He was based at Woodhall, wasn’t he?
MK: He was based at Coningsby.
VK? Yeah. Coningsby.
DK: Right. Ok.
MK: Yeah. Based at Coningsby.
DK: So, the airmen that stayed with your, your mother then they were mostly from Coningsby?
MK: They would be all Bomber Command.
DK: Yeah.
MK: All what they called Bomber Boys and Jack Gibson, he was, I think he was mum’s favourite. And as far as I can remember I was told afterwards that sometime in November, what was it? 1942 would it be? Jack Gibson was shot. He was killed when? Nineteen forty —
AH: Lucy can tell you that.
LH: I’m just trying to look —
MK: Yeah. Just, just let Lucy have a —
LH: Carry on. You carry on.
MK: And he was, he came and asked our mum, mum told me years after, he came and asked our mum if he could have an early Christmas.
DK: Right.
MK: And she said, ‘Why do you want an early Christmas?’ He said, ‘There’s something big coming off. We’ve not had a briefing yet but something big is coming off. I’m not allowed, I don’t know so I can’t say but I shall be confined. I shall be confined to the aerodrome for quite a period.’ And apparently, it all came out afterwards that they were knocking the hell out the Ruhr Valley.
DK: Right.
MK: And the bomber boys went to concentrate at that time on the Ruhr Valley and, when was Jack killed?
LH: The 18th of December ’41.
MK: 18th of December 1941.
LH: That’s what we got. [Coningsby was said?]
DK: Right.
MK: So, Mum said yeah, so will remember everything was rationed in them days. Everything was rationed strictly.
DK: Yeah.
MK: So anyway, mum rustled up what we, what she could get and he had his Christmas.
DK: Right.
MK: And then he went. He went, he went back to Coningsby or where ever he was and mum never saw him again.
DK: So —
MK: But —
DK: Sorry. Go on.
MK: The thing is this he gave mum some of his that what they called valuables. Perhaps a watch, ring.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Maybe he had, I don’t know a wallet and such thing anyways. And then he was, a telegram came as far as I can remember being told that, saying that Jack had been killed in action.
DK: Right.
MK: And the story is after, the story afterwards what my sister told me I think my sister was very sweet on, on Jack Gibson and apparently, he came back badly shot to bits. Apparently, his radio, the radio was still working, so the radio operator got in touch with Coningsby. Asked him to land on Woodhall landing ground.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Because they didn’t want to blow up the main runways and he was coming back over the North Sea and he said to his crew, ‘As soon as you hit land,’ he said, ‘Jump. They said, ‘No way. We’ve done so many missions with you.’
DK: Yeah.
MK: ‘We’re sticking with you.’ And apparently, he put the plane down. It blew up.
DK: And was all the crew killed as far as you were aware?
MK: No. They was all killed. But I don’t know the names of the rest of the crew.
DK: No.
MK: I don’t know their names.
AH? That would be found outable.
DK: We should be able to find that. I’ll have a look in a minute because it should be on the IBCC’s database of the losses.
MK: Yeah.
DK: If we find his name it will actually list the rest of his crew.
MK: Yeah. Well, he, he, that’s the story I can remember. And then of course Jack, apparently the, well my sister told the story. Told it, that the MPs came to collect his things and they said to our mum, ‘Where are his valuables?’ Mum said, ‘I haven’t got any.’ He said, ‘You’re lying.’ She said, ‘I’m not lying.’ ‘He’s minus —’ this, that and the other, ‘And we want his diary.’
MK: Yeah.
MK: Mum said, ‘I’ve got nothing.’ And they said to my dad, ‘You realise we can search your house.’ Dad said, ‘No way.’ And that’s it. ‘You’re not searching the house.’ And they said, ‘Well, we can do.’ They said, ‘Well, you’d better come up with his valuables.’ They said, ‘We haven’t got any. We haven’t got any.’ And time progressed and mum wrote to his parents in Canada because you’ve got to remember everything was censored.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: That’s why she daren’t tell them.
DK2: Right.
MK: That she’d got some of his artifacts.
DK: No.
MK: She had got the diary and they were hidden somewhere away. She got it. She wrote to his parents in Canada. They wrote a lovely letter back saying fair enough and after, after things, after the war time mum did send them his things.
DK: Right.
MK: And they did write back and said thank you very much. And then there was no more contact made. No more contact made at all. But we used, Jack’s the one. Jack Gibson’s the one that stands out.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Because being Canadian he used to take me up to his bedroom and he’d go, he’d got tins of salted nuts. Salted peanuts.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And he had, sometimes he had a bar of chocolate [laughs] because we didn’t. I didn’t know what chocolate was because it was rationed.
DK: Yeah.
MK: You didn’t get that sort of thing.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And that’s, that’s the story of, he is buried in Coningsby cemetery. Down the bottom end.
DK: Right.
MK: And he’s on, he’s on the Memorial at Woodhall Spa.
DK: Right. Yeah.
MK: Not that he took part in the Dambusters raid but he was, it’s got the list of names, hasn’t it?
DK: Yes. Yeah.
MK: Not that, he wasn’t attached to that. That was a, we don’t, we never had anybody, Petwood Hotel was the officer’s mess as you know.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Do you want me to carry on?
DK: Yeah. I was going to ask. His personal possessions then. Were they then sent to his family in Canada? Or did your mother hang on to them.
MK: My mum, my, you see my mum knew she, my mum knew that because she wouldn’t tell them.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Or made out she didn’t know and they apparently said, well he had got no wallet on his body. He’d got no, no rings, no watches. Well, they just say that sort of thing.
DK: Yeah.
MK: But mum had. He left them with mum.
DK: Right.
MK: Mum daren’t post them in the wartime because she knew she was being watched.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
MK: And she knew she’d be censored.
DK: Yeah.
MK: She knew that all post in them, most of the post in them days you had to be very careful what you wrote.
DK: I’m sure. Yeah.
MK: You had to be very careful what you said over the telephone if you had a telephone and that sort of thing. But after the war, after the war mum did get in touch with his parents and they was, his, what he left with our mum was sent.
DK: It was sent to Canada.
MK: Yeah. It was sent.
DK: I’ll just pause there.
[recording paused]
DK: So, for the recording then I’ll just speak to this from the Losses Database it’s Jack Lloyd Gibson. He was twenty nine years old. He died on the 18th of December 1941 flying on board Avro Manchester L7490.
MK: Yeah. That’s the one.
DK: Coded OFU, from 97 Squadron and is now buried in Coningsby Cemetery and all the crew were killed including Wing Commander DF Balsdon. So, he’s on the Memorial there in [pause] Lincoln.
MK: Yeah.
DK: On panel number 39. And his service number is R60253, Royal Canadian Air Force. So, the reason for loss is damaged by flak during a daylight raid and on return the aircraft stalled and crashed trying to land.
VK: Sad. To have done all those miles and then come home to that.
DK: Yeah.
AH: To get killed on home soil.
DK: So, he actually came from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
MK: That’s right.
DK: Ok. Thanks for that.
MK: You see the thing is with Woodhall, around there we was, Lancasters was all over the place because they used to be doing air tests. You had Spitfires, Hurricanes doing all the bits and pieces.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And —
DK: So, you can personally remember all the aircraft then all flying about.
MK: Well, you got you didn’t take any notice of the Lancasters.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Because they was, they was all the time doing air tests. They were doing low level flying across the fens and I mean bloody low. Pardon my language. They were doing low flying across the fens because, like practicing.
DK: Yeah.
MK: You didn’t take any notice of them. I mean, you might, you see my dad being, being a dentist he was allowed extra petrol because a lot of people in the outlying fens couldn’t get to him if they had raging toothache or —
DK: Yeah.
MK: So, he had to go to them. So, he was allowed extra petrol. And sometimes if I was lucky, he would take us with him. Take me with him and it was daunting to see a Lancaster coming about two or three hundred feet above the fens but you took no notice and you, because —
DK: You got —
MK: At night time —
DK: You got so used it.
MK: On a quiet night when they was all, I mean Coningsby is a fair way from Woodhall and I’m not exaggerating.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Especially on Woodhall landing ground on a still, on a still winter’s night you could hear them revving up to take off.
MK: Not one. Not two but perhaps thirty, forty of them and if the wind, the wind was a certain way they used to take off over Woodhall and I tell you what, they were scraping the house roofs because they were fully loaded. I mean two thousand gallons of aviation fuel on board.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Plus bomb load and so sometimes when we went out around about I mean the woods in Woodhall right down to Kirkby on Bain were absolutely, well they’re still finding things. It was absolutely full of ammunition. Crates and crates of bombs. Not detonated. Crates and crates of bombs all all with, all camouflaged netting on them.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Over them and they’re still finding bits and pieces down in some, down the wood near the cemetery. I can’t remember now the name of that wood. Down near the cemetery where my brother is. Where my brother is buried.
VK: I think it’s still cordoned off isn’t it? For some reason. I think.
MK: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. They keep finding various things.
MK: They’re finding stuff.
DK: They found some mustard gas.
VH: That’s right. That’s right.
MK: They’re still finding stuff down there.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Yeah. And a lot of the, a lot of the roadsides. Dad used to go and visit a family called Eldon’s in New York. Their daughter was in service with mum and as you went down there and back all the road sides were stacked. Crates and crates and crates. Bombs. One of the woods in Woodhall, back of Coronation Avenue. That was at one point that was absolutely full of petrol cans. Thousands. And they seemed to come and then they disappeared because we used to go and play. I used to go to play in the wood.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And all of a sudden, ‘Oi boy. Boy. Out. Go on. Off you go. Go and play somewhere else.’
DK: Right.
MK: So we, we used to run off. And then —
DK: So, looking back on it and obviously that time you’re looking at it from a child’s point of view. Was it, for a child an exciting time or could you really understand what, what the dangers were and what was really going on?
MK: No.
DK: Or was it just a lot of fun?
MK: You see the, no because it was [pause] it’s like when you’re young you, life’s a play.
AH: It’s like it’s your way. You’ve never known a different way of life really.
MK: No. You see it was —
AH: That you could remember before, could you?
MK: You see, we had, we had the Gordon Highlanders was based in Woodhall. Army. We had the Enniskillens. We had the, the Arnhem boys went from the Royal Hotel.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
MK: Which got flattened. Which got bombed. We used to go and play in the rubble which we never, I mean we never should have done but we use to play.
DK: Is that the hotel where the Memorial is now? On the corner.
MK: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
MK: That was the Royal Hotel.
DK: Yeah. Right.
MK: The Victoria Hotel got burned down. The Royal Hotel took a direct hit.
DK: Right.
MK: To get to know more about that that what’s his name [unclear] . The chap who writes about Woodhall.
DK: Yeah. I know who you mean.
MK: Yeah. He’s got the story of all that, but anyway, we used to, the Royal Hotel, that took a direct hit. I don’t think there was a window left down the Broadway. All our windows got blew out. My bedroom ceiling come down. I screamed because I couldn’t get the bedroom door open. So, my mum and dad at that particular time was in London. Dad was on business in London so there was only me and my sister. She come and barged the door open and snatched me and we went downstairs. The next thing some of the Army boys were there. One was called Tom. A big fella. They brewed some tea up and went out to clear the glass up. And we couldn’t shut the doors because they’d, they’d blown open.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And the Army boys I can remember the Army boys coming in and Tom was there. They brewed tea and they helped us and my sister clean the glass up and then it all quietened down and she said, ‘We’d better go to bed.’ I kept saying, ‘Pat.’ ‘What?’ ‘There’s a bit of glass in the bed.’ So, we had to go around picking glass out of the bed. And then the next morning we found out that Dr Armour’s, are you interested in this or not?
DK: Yes. Yeah. Keep going. Keep going. I’m just making sure it’s —
MK: Dr Armour’s place was badly damaged. Sleight’s house next door. I can’t remember now. Sleight’s house next door was very badly damaged and I think Mr Sleight was killed.
DK: Right.
MK: And apparently his wife died a few months later of a broken heart.
DK: Oh dear.
MK: That’s and there was Goodyear’s, A Churches, the butchers over the road. A Churches. Well, the whole of Broadway. I don’t think there was a pane of glass left.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Because they really shook Woodhall they did but that’s, there was no there was only, I think there was only one person was killed.
DK: Right.
MK: Which was lucky enough.
AH: And Auntie Pat, dad’s sister, she did tell me that after that particular night Lord Haw Haw went on the radio and apologised to his friends in Woodhall Spa.
MK: Yeah.
DK: Really?
MK: Lord Haw Haw didn’t.
DK: Yeah.
MK: He didn’t want any damage on Woodhall.
DK: Yeah.
MK: But he used to, he used to preach propaganda. I mean —
DK: Yeah.
MK: I can’t remember what was said but what, what I can remember was my dad he brought a sophisticated wireless for that particular time.
DK: Right.
MK: And on a nice night Churchill’s speech on a nice night he would turn it up loud, open the windows and all the soldiers used to sit on the lawn.
DK: Yeah.
MK: We had a lawn full of soldiers sitting and standing listening to Churchill’s - —
DK: Speeches. Yeah. Yeah.
MK: Speeches. And I can remember one particular night my dad come to fetch me up for some reason and he took me out, he took me down the stairs on the front lawn and there was wave after wave, after wave of enemy bombers and I heard my dad say to my mum, ‘By God, Lincoln’s copping it tonight.’ But it wasn’t. It was Coventry.
DK: Oh right.
MK: Wave after wave of bombers.
DK: Yeah.
MK: The ack ack guns were all, on the coast were all opening up. The ack ack guns on Coningsby and Woodhall. They were all, they were all barking away. You could hear them. Whether they hit anything I don’t know.
DK: Yeah.
MK: But that was, that was the night that Coventry copped it.
DK: Right. And you can well remember that then and vividly remember the aircraft going over.
MK: Oh, God. I can remember the aircraft. The aircraft. Yeah. And you see at night time it was dense blackout. I went [pause] My, I went to, I was, I think it was a chap, I can’t think of his name. Clive. His first name was Clive. He was my age and I think he had a birthday party and I think I was invited to the birthday party and that would be after school.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And my sister came to fetch me and I was terrified because Woodhall, you couldn’t see. I couldn’t see you. Blackout. It was, November. Pitch black. And I was frightened because you couldn’t see.
DK: Yeah.
MK: There was the odd Army lorry going by with the dipped lights. There was people about but you couldn’t see. You couldn’t see who they were. And thank God my sister knew where she was going because I wouldn’t have done. I just got disorientated because it was that, that pitch dark. That was the blackout.
DK: Yeah.
MK: You, you didn’t show. If you had the slightest chink of light in any, you got a bang on the door. The ARP. ‘Get that bloody light out. There’s a war on.’ And you did as you [laughs] You did.
DK: Did it. Yeah. Yeah.
MK: And that was the sort of thing that happened and we used to play. We used to have games. One of, one of the favourite games was when we saw a train coming, we used to run down to the station and then in those days there was a bridge over the Broadway.
DK: Right.
MK: So, we used to run up on the bridge and hang over the rail so when the train came by you got covered in smoke. So, you got all smuts. You’d got all the, well that was the highlight of the day that was. Things like that.
DK: Not like that now though, is it? Kids, kids don’t entertain themselves like that.
MK: Yeah. If you think I’m going off course.
DK: No. No.
MK: You just let me know. And —
DK: And if I could take you back a bit you said your parents obviously took in the RAF men as, as lodgers there. After Gibson died there, did they take in any more?
MK: I don’t think mum did. I think, I think mum put her foot, I think, I think, I think mum was very very fond of Jack Gibson.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Because he was, what I can remember of him he was a lovely chap. He was because he gave me salted peanuts [laughs] And you see things like that, things stick in your mind. We lived in Willoughby House. Across the road was the Methodist Church. This end of the Methodist church was an Army cookhouse.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Was an Army cookhouse. And I went home for a meal one day and I said to mum, ‘I’m not hungry.’ And my mum said, ‘Why?’ ‘I’ve had my dinner.’ Where?’ ‘In the cookhouse.’ ‘You’ve had your dinner in the cookhouse.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What did you eat it off?’ ‘They put an oilcloth down. A bit of rag down for me. Like a dishcloth.’ ‘You did?’ ‘Yeah.’ And anyway, that got stopped. I wasn’t allowed to do that anymore.
DK: You didn’t do that again.
MK: No. And when, when the cookhouse got a delivery of canned meat, tinned meat, sort, sort of corned beef, Spam and all that sort of thing coming in tins Tom used to come across with his apron on and he was holding his hand like that. ‘Here you are mam. Here’s a tin of bully beef. Here’s a tin of Spam. Keep it quiet. Don’t, not a word.’ And off he’d go and they’d bring us this and then the bread lorry used to come. A big lorry full of bread and they used to have a chain. A chain across inside. And in, in the actual cookhouse there was a massive coal range that they used to cook on and there was some field kitchens outside.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Where they used to put all the vegetables in and stir it around with a stick. And yeah, it was, it was good. It was good times and it was, it was good times actually. Well, it was. It was good times for us.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Because we didn’t know.
DK: [unclear]
MK: And you know, any different.
DK: When the war’s come to an end and I know rationing went on for a bit longer but do you think that period that you were growing up has in any way affected you? About how you feel about food and waste and that sort of thing. Do you —
MK: Well, you see you ate what you was given.
DK: Do you think about that now?
MK: You ate what you was given because of rationing. I had a gran, my grandad he was head forester and gamekeeper on the Hotchkins estate.
DK: Right.
MK: So we had plenty of rabbits. You had plenty of rabbits because meat was rationed.
DK: Yeah.
MK: If you got a bit of beef, if you got a bit of beef you were lucky. So therefore you only had, everything was rationed. Tightly rationed. So if you had, if grandad shot some rabbits we were lucky.
DK: Yeah.
MK: If someone killed a pig it was shared. In those days it was shared out. So we actually, I’ll put it this way you ate what was you was given and if you didn’t you went without. There was not like there was today. If you go in, ‘I don’t want that, mum. Can you cook this?’ No. It was was put on your plate.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: You either ate it or you went without so you actually ate it.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Whatever it was and you and it was like you had a lot of greens. Everybody grew greens. Eggs were very very scarce. But people had the black market. People had chickens and the black, and you used to say perhaps, ‘I’ll give you half a dozen eggs for a bit of corn for the chickens.’ And all that sort of thing went on. But no, you didn’t actually. No. It didn’t. The war didn’t actually worry me. You got, you got used to seeing the Army about and the big Army lorries and I tell you we had the Gordon Highlanders. That was the highlight because on a, some Sundays they had a full parade with full pipe band. Am I boring you?
DK: No. No. I’m just making sure it’s still going. Keep going. Don’t worry.
MK: We had. We had that. They used to come down Woodhall with a full pipe band.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Drums and band. And that used to be the church parade.
DK: Right.
MK: Well, I used to run like hell to the end of Iddesleigh Road to watch them coming. You’d stand and wave to them you see. Not that they acknowledged you because they couldn’t. And that used to be church parade. And I can’t think who was billeted in the Golf Hotel. I can’t remember who it was. Anyway, I got to know one or two. I got the Golf Hotel car park as it is now.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Was the parade ground and I used to get woke in the morning because the blasted bugler used to stand right at the end of our garden blowing Reveille. So, some days I used to get up some times and draw the blackout back and peep out in the daylight and you’d see them out there doing their PT. As time progressed, they’d be on there doing rifle, rifle drill and all that sort of thing. I got to know one or two of them and I got, I used to sneak in to the Golf Hotel up in to the bedrooms and the soldiers took no notice of me. They used to show me how to clean a 303 rifle.
DK: Yeah.
MK: I didn’t get, and they used to show me how to polish the buttons. Put those things on a button.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: Polish all the brass buttons and blanco the belts and spats. You know the —
DK: Yeah.
MK: Spats. And how they used to bull the boots up. They used to go, I learned that at a very early age. I used to say to mum I’ve been to watch them bulling their boots and spit and pad. I used to go up and they’d be sitting out. The only thing was if somebody important was coming, an officer or a sergeant, ‘Scarper boy, quick.’
DK: Yeah.
MK: ‘Go and hide.’ So, I used to go and hide and when they’d gone I’d go back again [laughs]
DK: So —
MK: I’d go back again.
DK: So, when the war has ended did it seem a bit strange that all this life ended without all the soldiers there and the bases closing and —
MK: Well, it was surprising how quick Woodhall changed.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Back of St Hugh’s School, to the side of St Hugh’s School there was loads of, loads of Nissen huts with slab paths for the Army boys, and there was a lot more stationed up Horncastle Road.
DK: Right.
MK: That’s where the prisoner of war camp was. Up Horncastle Road on Tor o moor, on Roughton Moor. That was where it was. No. It was, you sort of, it’s funny really. No. It never made any impression on us but you were sorry too. I mean you’d been used to seeing a mass of khaki.
DK: Yeah.
MK: I mean if you were lucky enough if there was [unclear] film on at the Kinema in the Woods because that kept going.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
MK: Mam said, ‘Would you like to go?’ ‘Yes, please.’ So, and you sat in deck chairs and there used to be all the Army boys in there. I mean, you could hardly see the screen through fag smoke and some of them were sleeping and some of them were smoking. It was, yeah it was good fun.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Good fun. It was. No, it didn’t have any, no it was, it was surprisingly quick how things seemed to get back to normal.
DK: Yeah. Although it wouldn’t, it wouldn’t be a normality that you would have been used to.
MK: No, because rationing was still on after the war, yeah. I think it was 1950 before proper rationing was stopped.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And we used to have to make our own entertainment. I mean I had a whip and top and I got a hoop from somewhere. A bit of a stick and a hoop so you played with that. You’d spend hours playing with that because there was no traffic about. Used to go up the Broadwalk. Up and down the Broadway. You wouldn’t today. With a hoop and your whip and top.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And then living down Iddesleigh Road there, there was some railway gates. I was out there one day and this woman was struggling to get through the hand gates with a wheelchair so of course I went and helped. ‘Oh, you are kind.’ She gave me a penny. I thought, Christ I’ve got a penny. So, I went and told my mum, ‘I’ve just been given a penny.’ ‘How?’ ‘A lady gave me a penny.’ So, I thought, right, I’d wait for the old dears to come down from the Spa baths and I used to open the gate for them. Sometimes I got a penny. Sometimes I got tuppence so, and I used to scoot around to Waterhouse’s bakehouse and get two ha’penny buns and they were like that. Two ha’penny buns. And things like that all stick in your mind. I mean Johnny Wield. He lived in that, he lived in what is now the Woodhall Museum.
DK: Right.
MK: And he used to loan out bath chairs for the people at the Spa baths and things like that. He was also a watch repairer so I used to, and I used to go around to see him and if I was good, he would let me stand and watch him repair a watch. And then you’d go outside and he’d be greasing, and you’d go outside and he’d be greasing the wheels on the wheelchairs in places like. A very, very nice chap, Johnnie Wield. A very well read, very clever man and things like that stick in, stick in your mind.
DK: What do you feel now? Presumably you’ve been back to Woodhall Spa since. What do you feel when you go back there now?
MK: Nostalgia. Woodhall always had a pull on me.
DK: Right.
MK: I live in Barnet. I married a Barnet girl. This is my home.
DK: Right.
MK: But when I used to go back to see my brother and relations at Woodhall I wanted to go. I wasn’t made to go. I wanted. I still want to go.
DK: Does it —
MK: Amanda still, my daughter very took up with Woodhall.
DK: Yeah.
AH: We like going to Woodhall.
DK: Yeah. Does it feel like home?
MK: And Amanda —
DK: Does it feel like home then?
MK: No. Because it’s not like home there.
DK: No. No.
MK: It’s not like home anymore because there’s nobody I know.
DK: Right. Yeah. Yes. Yes.
MK: I mean all my uncles, I mean my mum was one of, my mum was one of one, two, three, four, five. My mum was one of eight. There was four, five, six. I think there was four boys. Or was it five boys and three girls? There may have been five boys. Anyway, there was eight. So, they’ve all passed away. Moving away from Woodhall I mean I was out with my brother one day. We were going to the [unclear] for a drink and this posh car stopped and my brother went across and was talking to him. So when, when my brother come back, I said, ‘Who the hell was that?’ He said, ‘That’s your cousin.’ Cousin so and so. You see, you don’t know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: Because you’ve moved on.
DK: So, you moved to Barnet then.
MK: No. I moved to Stamford.
DK: Stamford. Right. Ok.
MK: Dad sold up. Dad sold up in Woodhall.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And he bought a place in Bourne.
DK: Right.
MK: He didn’t like it. So apparently this little shop down the High Street became vacant in Stamford. He went and bought it. My mum, she wanted a wool and baby linen shop.
DK: Yeah.
MK: So he bought this. It was called Rs and Lee, and they did babywear, knitting, all that sort of thing. So my dad bought that for mum.
DK: Right.
MK: And it kept him occupied. It kept mum occupied. My sister, she used to work for [unclear] the chemist in Woodhall.
DK: And what, what career did you go into then? What were you doing?
MK: And I left, when I was, what? I was eleven and a half when I came to Stamford so I did my last four and a half years at Stamford School.
DK: Right.
MK: And then I never [pause] I hated school. On my report it was lack of attention. You know, if somebody were playing football outside I used to sit and watch it.
DK: I think I’ve got something similar.
MK: Never mind. As we and so I finished and I went into I always wanted to go in to poultry.
DK: Right.
MK: I fancied poultry. So, when I left school, I went into, I worked on a big poultry farm and then the boss, I was there seven years. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and the boss decided to sell up. He wanted, he wanted to retire. Then I went on different farms.
DK: Right.
MK: And then I got eventually went in to the, got in to the building trade.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
MK: And I spent the rest of my life in the building trade but no its, I’ll tell you there’s a lot of things that if you really sit and think about it in Woodhall you could, certain things come to your mind.
DK: I was going to say we’ll probably wrap up there. I think we’ve got most of that period. I’ll ask finally how do you look back on your childhood now in Woodhall Spa, and all that you saw and the experience of the change of wartime?
MK: I enjoyed it. I knew there was a war on. I know things were tight but I had a carefree youth because there was no, no pressure like today. I mean you made your own entertainment.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Dark nights you only had one fire to sit around. There was no central heating. You had. You had a, you sat around a coal fire.
DK: Yeah.
MK: Or whatever you got hold of to burn and you played games. You played Snakes and Ladders. You played, you played Lexicon and you played Draughts. Your parents played with you.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: It was a family concern and then some nights I mean good God I mean right up to being ooh nine, ten you was in bed by 7 o’clock and your bedroom was pitch dark because it was all black out. You couldn’t, you couldn’t see what was going on outside. I mean, you see in those days, in the 1940s you had double summer time.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
MK: The men were still working in the fields at 11 o’clock at night.
DK: Yeah.
MK: And that, as I say you went to bed early. You played games and if it was, if it was summertime you were allowed to play out on the lawn a little while. You weren’t allowed outside the gate. I was allowed to play on the lawn a little while and then you went in. You was washed, night clothes on and bed. That was you settled for the night. You woke up occasionally. You heard the planes. You heard Lancasters taking, you heard Lancasters going over and that sort of thing. We used to take no notice.
DK: Yeah.
MK: It was part and parcel of life. I mean as I said you’d be playing outside and you’d see Lancasters doing an air test but you never, you never looked. Now, Christ if you see one it’s an event.
DK: Yeah.
MK: You’d go miles to see a Lancaster now.
DK: Yes. That’s true. Ok then. I think we’ll pause and stop it there. That’s marvellous. Thanks very much for that. I’ll stop the recorder now but thanks. Thank very much.
MK: I mean, I could tell you little bits and pieces.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Mick Kettleborough,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 21, 2024,

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