Interview with Raymond George Goss


Interview with Raymond George Goss


Raymond Goss lived on the family farm at Westcott before, during and after the construction and occupation of RAF Westcott as 11 Operational Training Unit. One evening a Lancaster collided with a Wellington on the field and both exploded. The Goss family home was damaged and metal from both aircraft littered the field and was still burning as Raymond ran to check his grandfather was alright. A member of the ground personnel was killed by the explosion and his family paid for the new glass windows in the church to commemorate him. Raymond also recalls the prisoner of war nearby. He also watched as prisoners were returned to the UK. After the war Westcott became the sight of the Rocket Propulsion Establishment where both German and British scientists were employed.




Temporal Coverage





01:12:11 audio recording


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AGossRG170614, PGossRG1701


CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 14th of June 2017 and I’m with Raymond Goss in Grendon Underwood who used to live near Westcott. And the topic that we’re looking at particularly is the airfield of RAF Westcott. But first of all, Ray what are your first recollections of life and what did your father do?
RG: My father at that time was making chicken houses. He made chicken coops, chicken coops and dog kennels. Anything out of wood then. In fact, he built his own bungalow. Built his own bungalow and then he made a business of making chicken coops and things and that was my first life then sort of thing. Then he bought a lorry to transport them around. He was about the first one locally. And he started cattle transporting with the lorry. He made a box to fix on the back of the lorry to carry cattle.
CB: And you were living with your —
RG: We lived, my father built a bungalow.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Where we had this accident then.
CB: Right.
RG: [unclear]
CB: So, how many brothers and sisters did you have?
RG: I’m, I’m the third of eight. I’ve got, had a brother and sister older than me but they, I’m afraid they died.
CB: Right.
RG: Last year.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Very sad.
RG: I’ve got to go to one funeral this week.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah.
CB: It’s hard going. So, where did you go to school?
RG: Westcott. Yeah. I joined Westcott School. I must have been I don’t know whether it was four or five. I can’t remember. But yes, we went to, we used to walk then across the fields to Westcott School. Frightened us to death it did because there was always army things. Vehicles running up and down the road. You never knew what was about down there. So we used to start and run all the way to school [laughs] Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And after Westcott Primary School.
RG: After school.
CB: Then where did you go?
RG: We left Westcott Primary School at eleven years old and went up to Waddesdon where we carried until we was about, I don’t know, fourteen fifteen.
CB: So, you walked to Westcott school.
RG: Yeah.
CB: How did you get to Waddesdon School?
RG: Push bike. We had a bike. We had a bike. Leave our bikes. We used to leave the bike at the police station at Waddesdon. Mr Lines. Sergeant Lines it was then.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: That was so they were safe.
RG: Well, I don’t know that [laughs]
CB: Where was the school?
RG: The country was safe then.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Of course it was. I suppose it was more safe. Folks never used to pinch things the same as they do now.
CB: No. No.
RG: No. All the roads was full of service people. Either RAF or soldiers because Waddesdon of course was took over by the army wasn’t it? During the war. It was a fuel depot there. They used to keep all the fuel there. There was lorries going day and night from Quainton Station to Waddesdon with loads of oil on. Petrol. And they had petrol dumps all over Waddesdon Estate. And well that’s where they had all the barrels there. I suppose that supplied Westcott aerodrome. I don’t know. That was a big petrol dump there.
CB: Right.
RG: Rothschild’s.
CB: So, what did you do at school? Were there certain things that you liked doing more than anything else?
RG: Very little if I could help it. No. I weren’t very good at school at all. In fact, we used to have, we used to have quite a lot of time off to work on the farms. We used to have a little book. We used to have days off from school and we used to have to put a stamp in the book to say where we’d been. And we used to, well have days off school then to work on, in the fields. Haymaking or whatever.
CB: So that was seasonal. So in the winter you didn’t have so much to do.
RG: There weren’t much in the winter. No. There was always a certain amount to do you see because after my father finished making his poultry houses then the war came along. There was no trade for anything like that so he, he turned it into a farm. He started milking cows. So as soon as I was big enough to carry a bucket I was milking cows.
CB: How old would you be then?
RG: Oh. No more than about nine perhaps. As soon as we was big enough to carry a bucket we was out there feeding calves and pigs and milking cows. Yeah.
CB: So —
RG: Always at work.
CB: How many brothers and how many sisters?
RG: Had five boys. Five boys and three girls. Eight of us.
CB: Yeah.
RG: I was, I was number three.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah.
CB: So, everybody helped out.
RG: Everybody had a job.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah. It was either milking or feeding the pigs or calves. One or the other.
CB: Yeah. So when the war started —
RG: We was never allowed to go down the village playing very often anyway. My mates and that was at school and they’d be playing cricket or something at night but we were never allowed. We had to be at work.
CB: Right.
RG: We were still doing it.
CB: Yeah. So when the war started you were aged six.
RG: Yes. Yes.
CB: And you got brought in to help out on lots of things.
RG: Oh yes. As soon as he started keeping cattle and sheep and pigs and everything else then we was out there in the fields helping. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. So more on the background then. At what age did you leave school?
RG: I’m not sure. I think, whether I left at fourteen or fifteen. Fifteen I think. I had quite a lot of time off though working somewhere.
CB: Yeah.
RG: My first job was down here in Grendon actually. Working for the Cannons.
CB: Doing what?
RG: Building work.
CB: What sort of building was going on in the war?
RG: Well, it was mostly repair work. Repairing farm buildings and such like and sort of thing. It was mostly work on the farms anyway.
CB: And this was your full time job.
RG: Yes. Every morning I used to get up and get on my old bike and be down in Grendon here at 7 o’clock. Yeah.
CB: What, what made you go into building?
RG: Well, we’d got to work. We’d got to do something. We’d got to get a living. In them days you see there weren’t all this social or nothing like that and my father was running the farm but if he’d got about two of us working on the farm that was about all he needed. So the rest of us had to find a job where ever we could. So I got a job on the building which I did until I was eighteen. Then I joined the army. Everybody joined the army at eighteen then didn’t they?
CB: They did. Doing National Service.
RG: National Service. Yeah. I didn’t like that much but there it was. They put me in the Royal Horse Artillery.
CB: Did they?
RG: Yeah.
CB: And what did you do there?
RG: Training. Just about everything. We did, we had to do a lot of ceremonial drilling and that sort of thing. But of course then we had to — being as I was always brought up to work they give me jobs learning other people how to dig holes and trenches. Anything at all. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And you, you were good at riding horses anyway.
RG: I finished up a gunner. I finished up a gunner actually.
CB: Did you?
RG: We had twenty five pounder guns and that’s what were used. Twenty five pounder guns to fire the salutes then. Anyone who came out. I was stationed and they sent me out to Germany. General Eisenhower, he was the first one to come out there. We had to fire a twenty one gun salute for him. And then the Duke of Edinburgh. I remember him coming. He come out at night when it was dark and we had to fire a salute for him. But that’s what he did when ceremonial things then.
CB: Right. And what was the biggest ceremonial activity that you participated in?
RG: I think probably the last one when — for the Queen’s coronation. We fired a twenty one gun salute for that. I’ve got a photograph of that somewhere.
CB: And how did you feel about that?
RG: Well, it was just a job. They’d trained us to do it so we just done it then sort of thing. Yeah.
CB: For, for the coronation did people have a feeling of pride in being involved in it or was it —
RG: I think so. I think so. Yes. I was in, I was still out in Germany. We did this out in Germany actually but a lot of them there were regular soldiers then. They actually came back to London to line the route and do things in London. But we National Service ones we were just kept out there to do different parades and that out there.
CB: So —
RG: We were supposed to be peace keeping force but we caused more havoc then [laughs]
CB: Now, that was in the social life.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Rather than in the army life, was it?
RG: Yes. That’s right.
CB: And whereabouts were you stationed?
RG: Hildesheim.
CB: Where’s that? Near Hanover?
RG: Yes. Yeah. Not far from Hanover because we used to go there. Get on a tram. Go to Hanover now and again. Yeah.
CB: Right. So, in your army activities how did you — you’ve got guns to move around and fire so how did that fit in the countryside?
RG: Well, we used to try — they used to take over the railways and they used to load these guns and everything up on the trains. At night very often. They used to have these big long trains and we used to drive the tanks. The old Sherman tanks. That’s what we had. With the gun mounted on them. And we used to drive them. Drive them on at night. Frighten you to death but we’d done it. Yeah.
CB: And then you got on the train as well.
RG: That’s it. We got on the train and rode on, in the carriage behind. Yeah.
CB: So where would you go?
RG: What?
CB: You loaded the train. And where did the train go?
RG: Well, where ever the parade was. I can’t remember that now. It’s in Germany. Yeah.
CB: I was thinking of the training that you did because you’d go to the range at Paderborn or somewhere like that would you?
RG: Well, I don’t know quite where we did go.
CB: To fire the guns in earnest.
RG: We went all over the place actually. They used to be out in the forest and that lot because we used to find, we used to use live ammunition. Oh yeah. You had to be a bit careful but yes we did.
CB: Did you enjoy firing the guns?
RG: Not a lot. No.
CB: Too noisy.
RG: Yes. Very much so. Deafen you. Yeah.
CB: And the social life. How did that work?
RG: I quite enjoyed that. That was alright. There used to be a group of us perhaps. A dozen of us perhaps. We were all perhaps the same age and we used to be able to go down to the NAAFI or down the town or somewhere and have a few drinks at night and that sort of thing. That was alright. Went skiing actually when I was out there. Then I strained my ankle.
CB: Oh. But you enjoyed that. Yeah.
RG: I don’t know about that but that’s what we done.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. And then when I come out the army then I got, I got, went and got a job for a small builder then at Waddesdon.
CB: Right.
RG: Cripps and sons. EJ Cripps. They were the local builder and that sort of thing.
CB: And what was your job there?
RG: They learned me to lay bricks. I took over. I started laying bricks. I learned the trade there actually and I stayed there until they built this establishment over here. The prison. And I got, I joined a group down there. We went piecework brick laying. Building this prison.
CB: Grendon Prison.
RG: Grendon Prison. That would have been 1960 wouldn’t it? Crawford’s. Now — Crawford’s farm, they demolished Crawford’s farm didn’t they?
CB: Oh did they?
RG: There was a farm up on the top there. They demolished the farm to build the prison. Hector’s. Hector’s parents. I knew Hector Crawford.
CB: Yeah.
RG: That’s it. Well, his parents, they had a farm up on the hill there and they demolished that to build the prison.
CB: So piecework was lucrative was it?
RG: Yeah. Well, that’s what I done then until, until we formed this company, Grange Builders, in 1963.
CB: Right.
RG: October.
CB: So, how did you come to form Grange Builders?
RG: Well, we’d been piecework brick laying. We then went into gangs. About six of us worked together laying bricks and we did very well actually. We made money but of course we went out and spent it quick. So we decided we ought to have a go at building small buildings. And at that time the council decided to modernise the council houses. That’s when they started building bathrooms on to council houses. So we got a contract to go around putting, building bathrooms on council houses and that’s how we formed the company to do it. We done it properly. We registered it up in whatwasit House up in London. Company. We all put a little bit of money in to it and started it and we’ve carried on. And I’m the last one still here now running it.
CB: So, there were six of you who formed the business were there?
RG: Yes.
CB: Right.
RG: And one by one they dropped out for some reason.
CB: They weren’t related to you. They were all separate.
RG: They was all separate.
CB: Yeah.
RG: One by one they dropped out. That left two of us. Two. Myself and Colin Bradbury. And we worked together until we got to almost retiring age and then he was ill then. He had a couple of strokes and he had a bit of heart trouble and, well he had to pack up then. So, I retired and handed the company over to my daughter and she’s still running it now. And Paul’s, Colin Bradbury’s son he stayed with us and he took over and carried on. He had his father’s company shares and he’s still here with us now. You know Paul then perhaps. Do you?
CB: So, your your daughter owns half and Colin’s son —
RG: Yes.
CB: Owns half is it? What’s his name?
RG: Paul.
CB: Paul. Right. Ok. So that’s been running all that time.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Now, in your life you’ve got involved in lots of things but —
RG: Oh yeah.
CB: You’ve had an interest in Westcott all the time even though you live —
RG: Oh yes. Oh yes.
CB: You live in Grendon Underwood.
RG: That’s right. Oh yeah. I still kept in contact there. Well, all with the Cricket Club I’m a life member now. And I’ve always been involved with that and of course the church. My parents was always church wardens and that sort of thing. So when they died I carried on. I got on the Church Committee then.
CB: Right. So, going back to the early days what do you remember most about the war as a youngster?
RG: I don’t really know.
CB: You talked about all these vehicles.
RG: We was always at work. Oh yes. There was. I mean on the road there you couldn’t have no lights so there was vehicles running about all over the place with no lights. You weren’t allowed to have lights were you? The only lights there was was out in the fields there at which you said about lighting up the runways.
CB: Yes.
RG: And this sort of thing. The only lights you’d see and of course there were searchlights in different positions on the camp.
CB: Oh, were there?
RG: There were searchlights there and they was, you could see them at night trying to look for planes or whatever. Yeah.
CB: So, there were a lot of military people around.
RG: Oh, without a doubt. Yes.
CB: It was.
RG: All sorts. Canadians. New Zealands. All sorts. And of course Westcott that was there for training really. That’s what it was there for.
CB: Yeah. Number 11 OTU.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Operational Training Unit.
RG: And there were all sorts and they was only all young chaps you see. Twenty one and two. That sort of age.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
CB: So, at your age you weren’t too conscious of the pub.
RG: Not really. No.
CB: But —
RG: No. We weren’t allowed to go in.
CB: But they managed to drain the beer fairly quickly.
RG: Oh well. Well, the pub was always full of airmen or whatever.
CB: Yeah.
RG: But we weren’t allowed in the pubs. Not until we was, well eighteen then I suppose.
CB: Yeah. But your father had the small, the small farm effectively.
RG: He run the farm there. He run the farm.
CB: At the end of the runway.
RG: Yes.
CB: And he went, the family went from peace and quiet of the countryside.
RG: That’s right.
CB: To two things. The construction of the airfield.
RG: Exactly.
CB: And then the running of it.
RG: They used to hire our horses and carts off the farm to move materials about on to build the aerodrome that sort of thing. They used to come and hire a couple of our horses and carts to carry cement and ballast and whatever to build the aerodrome. That was a regular thing like.
CB: How long did it take to build the aerodrome? Do you remember?
RG: I wouldn’t remember that.
CB: So we’re talking about 1940/41.
RG: Yeah. That’s right yeah.
CB: And obviously you were very young then.
RG: I was very young then you see.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
CB: So it’s just perceptions of a child are really interesting in these things.
RG: Yeah. Well, yeah. All I can remember is that we, as young boys we used to go to school and we used to run as fast as ever we could to get to school. So, to get off the road like sort of thing. And of course we used to get — I mean there was no proper fence around the Air Ministry place then. There was just a string of barbed wire around. That’s all. So we boys used to go in there and have a look at the old aeroplanes now and again. There was one stationed just outside the school. We could sit in school and look at it just outside. Yeah.
CB: Right.
RG: I bet Tim would know that.
CB: Yes.
RG: Yeah.
CB: So —
RG: The old Wellington bombers.
CB: What, what did that do to your clothing? Going through the barbed wire.
RG: Probably got ripped to pieces. Yeah. We used to crawl through it anyway.
CB: Yeah.
RG: It was like coils of barbed wire. There was like three rows. Two and then one on top. That’s all there was and see, and when these aeroplanes when they overran the runway they just took the wire fence with them. They just went. Played straight through it. I remember that happening several times.
CB: So, it wasn’t unusual for a plane to overrun the runway.
RG: Oh no. No. No. That was, that was a regular thing. Because I mean a lot of the pilots and that what was driving these planes they was only young chaps come there for training.
CB: Yeah.
RG: They weren’t experienced that much at all and of course they just used to run over the runway.
CB: Yes.
RG: Run straight off it.
CB: Right.
RG: And that’s what happened this particular night. There was a Wellington ran straight over it and it landed over in a field just the other side of the A41 and there it stood. They used to leave a couple of chaps there to guard it. I don’t know what happened. I should think this chap Bulmer must have been one of them.
CB: So, what we’re talking about now is the overshoot of a Lancaster.
RG: Yes.
CB: A bomber. On runway 07.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Which was fully loaded.
RG: Yes.
CB: So, what do you remember about that?
RG: Well, all I remember is being blown out of bed. I mean we didn’t know anything about it because this all happened at 3 o’clock in the morning.
CB: Right.
RG: And of course we was all in bed asleep then you see. And all I know, remember then was being woke up with an almighty bang like sort of thing. And there was five of us boys sleeping all in one bedroom and of course the walls was made of asbestos. Sheet of Asbestos. The cavities filled with a sawdust. And well we just woke up with all sawdust and asbestos all around us.
CB: So ten of you in this house.
RG: Yes.
CB: That your father had built.
RG: That’s right.
CB: And it didn’t look too well after the explosion of the aircraft.
RG: Oh no. What it, what it did I realised afterwards. I couldn’t work it out because after we all got out of bed you see and dad got us dressed and he sent me and my brother, my elder brother, he said, ‘You’d best get down the farm. See your gramp. See as he’s all right.’ So, we did of course. We started to go out the farmyard and we went by our back door. Instead of blowing the back door away it drew it back towards the aeroplane in the field. We couldn’t understand that but that’s what happened. And the windows. The windows at that end of the bungalow. Took the windows and the doors out and drawed it up the yard towards. —
CB: Because the explosion created a vacuum.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
RG: That’s what happened. Me and my brother then we set off and we had to run down two fields down to my gramps place to see as he was alright. And I remember going down the field and of course the field was alight then with all little bits of metal sort of burning. Frightened my brother to death. We got him down there and he was ever so sick and bad. So my gramp sent him back. He said, ‘You’re not much good to me,’ he said. ‘You may as well go back home.’ And that’s what we done.
CB: And what had happened to your gramps house?
RG: It took the front door off. There’s a photograph in here of that. And they took the front door and one or two of the windows out. Not so bad as ours I don’t think up the top but certainly took the door off and the front, a couple of front windows. That’s about all like. That was brick built of course that was.
CB: What about the farm buildings?
RG: Well, they were back behind the house so I can’t remember too much about them but they, well they was still there intact anyway.
CB: And your father was doing milking so he had cows.
RG: Yes.
CB: Where were they?
RG: My grandfather was still living down there then and my grandfather was actually looking after that bit down there.
CB: Right.
RG: Well, I’ve an uncle. Uncle Ralph. He used to help out and he used be down there with him when he was there. He lived in the village at the time and he used to bike up there but my gramp sort of run the place then sort of thing.
CB: What did you gather afterwards about how the aircraft had come to explode?
RG: Well, it was just common knowledge I think. The old Wellington bomber stood there and then this Lancaster this night apparently there were several come back to Westcott that night and this one over run the runway and run straight into it. And that at 3 o’clock in the morning. And then it was half past three when the explosion apparently. It blowed up. And everything went all over. There was bits of aeroplane well within a half a mile radius then of the explosion. One of the engines off the aeroplane, I don’t know which one it was, went over the top of our bungalow and landed in a field behind our bungalow. That was laid at the side of a pond down there. Yeah. I remember that.
CB: Did you hear it land?
RG: No.
CB: But were you aware of what was going on before the explosion?
RG: No. We were all in bed asleep.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Because on the other side on the, actually on the edge of the airfield was Eddie Barnett who we also interviewed a little while ago.
RG: Yeah.
CB: His family had been cleared from the house and an engine landed behind them when they were sheltering outside the house. What about the man who was warning? Who’d warned them.
RG: Bulmer.
CB: Bulmer.
RG: Yes.
CB: Yeah.
RG: He was on duty. I presumed, I don’t know for sure about this but when the Wellington went over the runway they always left a couple of chaps to guard it. To look after it overnight like sort of thing. Because then the next day they would go in there with a tractor and pull it back. So I presumed he was there when this Lancaster run into it. So he knew what was going to happen. So he started to run towards the Barnett’s. He run to the Barnett’s to Eddie Barnett’s then to warn his family that it was going to blow up which he did and they got, they got out of the house I think. And then he, from there I think he was going then towards Mr Adams.
CB: Right.
RG: And I think he was on his way there when it went up and that killed him.
CB: That was the next farm.
RG: Yes.
CB: What was that one called?
RG: New House Farm.
CB: New House Farm.
RG: Yeah.
CB: On the A41.
RG: Yeah. Just, just below the Barnett’s then. Yeah.
CB: Right.
RG: And of course that shook that house up. That sort of ripped some of the tiles and that off the roof and all that sort of thing. The same as with the Barnett’s, sort of thing.
CB: So, Mr Bulmer.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Was a ground officer at the airfield.
RG: Yes. That’s right. Yeah.
CB: And he was killed.
RG: Yes.
CB: Right.
RG: He was killed and then as I say there was a woman in the village. A Mrs Evans. Nancy Evans. She actually wrote to his family and explained to them what he did. All about it. And they wrote back and thanked her for writing and every year from then on the family sent a crate of cider to her family for writing the letter and explaining it all to them.
CB: This is because he was son of the Bulmer family.
RG: Yes.
CB: From Herefordshire.
RG: Yes. That’s it. Yeah. Yeah. David Evans. He was the last one to receive the crate of cider but he died about, I don’t know, three or four, perhaps five years ago now. And I think the cider stopped then.
CB: Now, what else did the Bulmer’s do in commemoration?
RG: I think, I think they commemorated — they actually renewed because it blowed the church windows out. That’s one thing that happened you see. That must have been a half a mile you see to that but that that blew the windows out of the church. There’s a big stained window in the south window. South east isn’t it? The window there. So the fact that the Bulmer family replaced it. Paid to have it put in and they had his name put in the bottom left hand corner. It’s still there now.
CB: So, this is the main window above the altar.
RG: Yes.
CB: Which is coloured stained glass.
RG: That’s it.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. They renewed it because the old window was all — well blown out then. That’s what it did. That blowed a lot of the windows out of the properties, you know. Well, within a half a mile of the explosion anyway.
CB: So the next day what was the reaction of everybody?
RG: Well, I don’t really know. I know there was a hell of a commotion. There was sort of servicemen all over the place looking to see what was going on. They was walking about in the field then seeing what bits and pieces were laying about there. And within a couple of days then they, instead of going out in the fields with the lorries or trucks to pick up the bits and pieces they borrowed our horse and carts. The horse and carts walked about in the field. That was corn field. Wheat growing. And they used our horse and cart to pick up these little bits of aeroplane which were littered all over the field.
CB: Why did they do that instead of using trucks?
RG: Well, because that damaged the corn. Crops you see. If you drove a lorry across it that would flatten the corn you see but they went across with a horse and cart that did little damage then. Oh yeah. I remember doing that.
CB: So, when local farmers, including in this case your father did work for the RAF at Westcott.
RG: Yeah.
CB: How did they get paid?
RG: I wouldn’t know that. I wouldn’t know. They were contractors. There were contractors in there doing the work you see. The Ministry weren’t actually doing it. There were different contractors in there doing the work and they’d be hiring the horse and carts to do the work. To move the materials about then.
CB: In those days —
RG: I think all the farms around Adam’s, Adam’s farm, they had a couple of horses there. And the Cripp’s family they had a couple of horses working there and my father had a horse or perhaps two down there.
CB: Did your father have any arable land?
RG: Oh yes. In fact this field where the, where the plane crashed. That was arable. That was a wheat field.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah.
CB: And that was his field.
RG: Yes. Well it was my gramps field.
CB: Right.
RG: My father was running it.
CB: But the family field.
RG: Yes. Family. Yeah.
CB: And to what extent were horses used rather than tractors?
RG: Just about everything. We hadn’t got a tractor. Not at that stage at all. It was all done by horses. In fact I don’t know where it is now but I’ve got a photograph. Combining. That particular field. There were three horses with the combine. Yeah.
CB: So this was —
RG: It was done by horses but we boys was out there and that’s when we used to have one or perhaps three horses on a machine pulling the cart or whatever machine you were using and the boy had to be in front leading the horses then.
CB: And when you say combine you actually mean a reaper.
RG: Yes.
CB: Rather. Because there weren’t combine harvesters in those days were there?
RG: Oh yeah. No. There weren’t combine harvesters as such. No.
CB: Yeah. So this just cut the corn and laid it.
RG: Cut it and tied it in bundles.
CB: Yes.
RG: Yeah. Sheaves. Yeah. And then we used to have to go around and pick the sheaves up and stand them up together. Shock them up together.
CB: And then what?
RG: Well, leave them out there a few weeks to dry out and then pick them up and put them in a rick like.
CB: Right
RG: In a big heap. Then when the winter come along they’d pay a contractor to come along and thrash it.
CB: So, the contractor would have his own thrashing machine.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Thrashing machine.
RG: Yes.
CB: Yeah. And they’d do that in one of your barns would they?
RG: Yes. Well, it would be out in the fields actually.
CB: Oh, would they?
RG: Because the ricks would be outside in the fields and they’d stand it.
CB: Put it next to the rick.
RG: They’d stack. Yeah.
CB: Right.
RG: It would stand. Stand the combine, what was the machinery right side the rick then sort of thing.
CB: Yeah.
RG: So they’d just throw it straight in it.
CB: Yeah. So going back to this incident. The reason there was such a big explosion was because the Lancaster landed with a full load.
RG: That’s right.
CB: Of bombs.
RG: Exactly. Yeah.
CB: And the effect of that was large because of the huge load the aircraft had.
RG: That’s right.
CB: The Lancaster had four engines and it was on top of a Wellington with two.
RG: That’s right.
CB: We’ve talked about two of the engines. Where did the rest go?
RG: I wouldn’t know. I don’t know [laughs] All I remember was seeing this one engine down, down the bottom of our field then. That went over the top of the bungalow and landed in the field.
CB: And did the RAF come and recover it or —
RG: Oh yes. Oh yes. That was a grass field so they drove down there with a lorry to pick that up. Yeah.
CB: Right.
RG: They did. It was just the cornfields they used the horse and carts to pick up bits and pieces. I remember running down that field with all of these little bits of aeroplane. All like a lot of candles on, like in the field then.
CB: Extraordinary.
RG: Yeah. Frightened us to death.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah.
CB: So the air, there were ten of you as a family in this house.
RG: Yeah.
CB: What happened next? Did you go and stay with your grandfather? Or —
RG: No. No. We stayed there. We stayed there. I think I stayed down there with my grandfather. I probably stayed down there now for a night. A couple of nights. But they got the builder which was Cripps at Waddesdon at that stage. He come, he come the next day and they boarded all the doors and windows up for us. Then eventually they come and renewed them. Oh yeah. We stayed in there. Well, I think I stayed down with my gramp for a couple of nights. My brother. He sent him back. It made him ill. He was sickened bad. Frightened him to death.
CB: Yeah. Because we didn’t think of asbestos in those days but to what extent were people —
RG: Never give it a thought.
CB: No.
RG: I mean we used asbestos for just about everything. Even the roofs on the buildings. I mean even the Westcott, well the club, the Cricket Club then had asbestos until we took it off the other year. And what’s his name? Barry Raynor’s bungalow where he lives now still has asbestos hasn’t it?
CB: It’s a radio station.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. There was asbestos. They used it for anything. Never had any trouble with it. The sheet asbestos for lining ceilings and walls and everything and the corrugated stuff was put on the roofs. And then they had another one then which they used then for insulating pipes. That’s the one. The asbestos which caused trouble isn’t it? But in the hospitals and where ever. Yeah. All asbestos.
CB: I know you were young but what impression did you get about the construction of the airfield? Because they, were they all local people working?
RG: Most of them. Yes.
CB: Or who else was there?
RG: Well, just anybody who was able to work then was brought in there to work.
CB: To build the airfield.
RG: To build it. Yes. They used to fetch men from miles around. They’d run buses. They’d run perhaps a dozen little buses running about there. Funny little things but they got all these little buses and they were picking up labour. Women as well. They’d got women working in there as well. Diane Hickman, just down the road here she worked down there for years didn’t she. Still there. She isn’t there now is she? No. Yeah.
CB: And heavy equipment would be quite novel for you so what did you see?
RG: There weren’t no real heavy. Nothing much. Mostly done by hand.
CB: Bull dozers?
RG: Well, there was one or two bulldozer type tractors they used for levelling the ground and that sort of thing but all the concreting and that was all done by shovels you might well say. They had the concrete mixers but had to be all shovelled in like. All the runways and and that was all concreted you see and that was all done by hand then.
CB: Do you remember how they built the runways?
RG: Not really. No. Well, I remember seeing them out there at work with their heaps of ballast and concrete mixers out there and they were shovelling it in the mixers to mix concrete in to it. Yeah. Different to what it is now.
CB: How did the concrete mixing work? Did they move the mixer itself down the runway as they progressed?
RG: Oh yes. Yes.
CB: Or —
RG: Yes. It was on wheels.
CB: Right.
RG: And they could just drag it along a bit. They’d do a bit and then drag it a bit further on and carry on along through the fields. Yeah.
CB: Because the runway was built in square sections.
RG: That’s right. Yeah. Well, it was all shuttered up and done. Yeah,
CB: Shuttered. Yeah,
RG: Oh yeah.
CB: Now, around the airfield when it was running —
RG: Yeah.
CB: They had a system called the Drem system for helping aircraft find the airfield and line up for the runway.
RG: Oh yeah.
CB: That had posts.
RG: Little posts. Yeah.
CB: Do you remember that?
RG: Yeah. I remember seeing the lights around the outside. Yeah. They were like little, little posts then. Only about two foot high. They weren’t very high. With little lights on. Yeah.
CB: They would be switched on at night wouldn’t they?
RG: Well most of, thinking about that, the electric, most of the electric come from our place because I remember them laying the electric on. They brought electric down the A41 from Aylesbury. A big cable. And then they put the transformer in our yard actually at lower south, Upper South Farm. We had a big transformer put in the —, in our yard. And that supplied the camp. They got, my father gave them permission to build this transformer in his yard providing the wired his bungalow up and supplied us with electric. That’s, that’s how we got electric into the bungalow.
CB: And the —
RG: It was all oil lamps until then.
CB: Right. And did they do your grandfather’s as well?
RG: No. I don’t think so.
CB: Just your father’s.
RG: He certainly — no he had oil lamps all through the war. Yeah.
CB: Going back to the explosion when was this incident? Do you remember? Do you know?
RG: I remember. I do remember. Yeah. 31st of May.
CB: 19 —
RG: 1944.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah. And according to the letter it was 3 o’clock in the morning.
CB: Yeah.
RG: And the explosion was 3.30.
CB: Right.
RG: That’s about all I can tell you about that. And then the next thing I knew I was running down the field then to tell me gramp.
CB: Yeah.
RG: To see that he was alright.
CB: Of course.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Apart from your brother did anybody else feel emotional effects from this?
RG: I don’t think so. No. My sister, I’ve got an elder sister she was, my mother would get her out of bed anyway and she’d have to start getting the place cleaned up I expect. At the time she’d be about thirteen perhaps. Yeah.
CB: And when your sister got older did she leave home or did she stay at home and —
RG: She was at home until she got married. Yeah. Yeah. She was at home. Yeah. Well, folks that’s what folks did do at that time of day didn’t they?
CB: What age did she get married?
RG: I can’t remember.
CB: You yourself did National Service after the war.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Royal Horse Artillery.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Then you came back. Did you know your future wife then or did you meet her afterwards?
RG: I met her after. Yeah.
CB: Was she local?
RG: Yeah. Well, she lived in Aylesbury at the time but she lived at, used to come down to Kingswood and that quite a lot. Yeah.
CB: How did you meet in the first place?
RG: I think I first met her in Kingswood. They built a little village hall in Kingswood. Well, I helped build it. And they used to have little dances and things in there. The same as they did all the villages. And I think that’s where we met up. Yeah.
CB: And how many children have you got?
RG: Two. I’ve got a daughter and a son. My son, he’s got cancer. He had cancer. He’s had it now and he’s been having treatment now for five years and he at the moment he’s a lot better. It’s all working. He’s had chemo and all sorts of different treatment and they’ve kept him going. He’s not well enough to go do a full days work or nothing but he’s still with us like. My daughter’s here now. Well, she out in America at the moment. She’s running the Grange Builders. And then she’s on holiday at the moment out in New York.
CB: Did your son not come into the business?
RG: No. Because he weren’t well enough. He couldn’t cope with it. He weren’t feeling well. So I thought well there’s no good having him here. My daughter’s different altogether. She could cope with anything. So I gave her the company shares and she’s been running it ever since.
CB: Going back to wartime what was the most memorable event would you say of your knowledge of the wartime?
RG: Well, I don’t know really. I don’t really know. They, they used to have things. There was always things going on at Westcott of course. They was always raising money for airmen and soldiers coming back from the war and that sort of thing. We used to have, run sort of dances and whist drives and whatever in the school. Used to use the school for that sort of thing so we was always involved with that. And then of course we was always at work.
CB: Now, you’ve always kept your link with Westcott even though you don’t live there.
RG: Yes. Yeah.
CB: What? What have you done in [coughs] excuse me, what have you been involved with there in later years?
RG: Later years. I used to be involved in everything just about. Well, there isn’t much in Westcott. Only school, church and a cricket club. That’s all there is. So, we have fundraising things. We have a fun day there every two years and I chaired the first one we done. I don’t know how many years ago that is now. And after that Tim carried on. And we’ve always included the three of school, church and the cricket club and they split the money. Whatever money we make we split between the three of them. That all works quite well. I still get involved with that a little bit. Not so much this time. I’ve sort of stood back a little bit and let the younger ones do their bit. But I still go down there. I went down there yesterday and planted the flowers in the pavilion. Yeah.
CB: But in the Cricket Club you helped out with that. What did you do?
RG: I built it. They’d got a picket hut. There was a picket hut there from back from the war time then sort of thing. There was a little picket hut there which they used and there was just about room for them to get in there and change their clothes in. That’s about all. There weren’t no room for nothing else. And over the years Eddie Barnett and one or two more did actually put a little extension on it. What they called the kitchen. It was a bit Heath Robinsony sort of a job but it was there. Anyway, when I retired which was twenty years ago now I said to Tim, I said, ‘Well, now I’ll build you another pavilion.’ So we did. I got an architect chap to draw some plans up. I’d done it. He drew the plans up and got planning permission to do it and then we went, set about then raising money. We got grants from different people. Calvert here. We got a nice good grant from them.
CB: The brickworks.
RG: Yeah. Well, no it was the waste.
CB: Oh, the waste disposal.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
RG: We got a grant from them. And the council, we’ve always been very friendly with John Cartwright. The council man.
CB: Yeah. The County Councillor.
RG: County Councillor. He, he got us a little grant from the council. And, well different ones then sort of thing. We raised money we raised money to buy the materials and then I set about and built it. And that’s there now. They’re using it now regular.
CB: And the picket hut is actually on the edge of the site that the WAAF accommodation.
RG: Exactly. Yes. That’s it. Where those houses are now, the Ministry houses we call them, that was all WAAFs huts there. Yeah.
CB: So, they took down did they, after the war the WAAF.
RG: Oh yeah. They were all demolished and they built houses in place of them then. Yeah.
CB: Now, you said the Ministry. So what was that?
RG: Well, now that’s still now — the council’s never actually took over. They’ve sold the houses now. They’re privately owned most of them. I think all of them probably are. But the footpaths and the sewers and the lights that’s, that’s still theirs. They have to maintain it themselves. The council’s never ever adapted them then.
CB: Oh right. So after —
RG: And the same as at the top by the school. There’s a few Ministry houses up there aren’t there?
CB: They used to be.
RG: The back of the church. That’s it. But they’re the same then. They’ve never been adopted by the council. They have to maintain the lights and everything themselves.
CB: The significance of what you’re saying is that this is, this became, RAF Westcott became the Rocket Propulsion Establishment.
RG: Exactly.
CB: Where they did research into rocket propulsion.
RG: Yeah.
CB: With British and German scientists.
RG: Scientists. Yeah.
CB: So what do you recall about the German involvement in this area?
RG: Well, all I can remember about it that the scientists then running this, doing these rockets they were Germans. Yeah. They must have been involved in that sort of thing in Germany and they they, just took them over and brought them over here to run the — well set up this establishment at Westcott. And there was explosions. That was a regular thing. I mean you could hear. They were testing the different fuels and that weren’t they? And there was explosions regular. All the while.
CB: When they went wrong.
RG: Yeah. And there was one particular day that the whole thing blew up. It burned out and I think one of the scientists got killed. And another one got very injured. Two or three of them I think in fact. And in, what they did the Ministry gave them, the family there were bits of ground to build themselves a shop. There was a shop in there behind the school then. Where the school is now that was a shop. That was they actually gave the chap there a bit of ground there to build a shop to start his own business.
CB: A German.
RG: He was an English chap actually.
CB: Oh.
RG: But he lost his arm and he was invalid then. He had to give up his work so they give him a bit of ground to build a bungalow and he opened up a little shop there. That’s gone now but the house is still there. And then another one up Church Farm you see there was. They gave another one a bit of ground up there to build himself a bungalow. “Caroline” they call it now. I think. And they tidied it up and built a bungalow up there. That’s still there.
CB: What was the local reaction to these Germans? Bearing in mind it’s immediately after the war we’re talking about? What was the local reaction to that?
RG: I think, I think most folks accepted it. I mean there was all sorts of people. I mean a lot of local girls married airmen and that that was on the camp. And that’s what happened. Even Tim’s sister did. Yeah. Yeah. I think folks just accepted it because when the war came along that changed everything didn’t it? I mean at one time local folks done everything locally and that was it. Once the war came along they was doing all mixed up with everybody and everything. Yeah.
CB: One of the effects of war is —
RG: War.
CB: Different intermarriage.
RG: Yes. Without a doubt.
CB: Dilution of the local heritage.
RG: Yeah. That’s right.
CB: And what happened to these Germans eventually? They lived in the community didn’t they?
RG: He lived down there until he died. Yes. He must have died there. I don’t know. Well, I do know a chap because I met him. Another chap just moved in down there now. There was a chap named Clapp who used to be in there. He was there for a long time. He was a good chap. He done a lot for the school and the church. Yeah. That’s Westcott.
CB: Thank you very much, Ray. We’ll take a break there.
[recording paused]
CB: Now, when the war came to an end then there was a repatriation of prisoners of war. What do you remember about that?
RG: Well, they, there were some sent home. And quite a lot of them stayed here. They got jobs on farms. But in Aylesbury now there’s the Sasso family’s now involved with the ice creams and that in Aylesbury. There was a John Sasso. He was a prisoner of war. He was down at Wotton actually. Down there. And then after the war he got a job on the farm down in Grendon Wood. There’s a farm just there inside the wood. Just alongside the wood. And he brought his family over here. His wife and mother.
CB: From Italy.
RG: From Italy. And they stayed on the farm for a little while and then eventually they moved in to huts around at Wotton and they got integrated and married girls locally. And different chaps. Yeah.
CB: Where was the local prisoner of war camp?
RG: There was little ones dotted about everywhere. There was one around at Quainton. There was one around at Wotton. I think there was a little camps everywhere and they had to send them out on the farms and out to work in the daytime. But they were just ordinary chaps the same as what everyone else were really.
CB: But the purpose of dotting them around was because there was a need for farm work.
RG: Farm work.
CB: Workers.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
RG: That’s right. Yeah. As I say, the Sassos. They all started. Marcello’s over here now, you see. Their mother is a Sasso. And Derns down here. Their mother’s a Sasso. Yeah. She still lives around there actually. She’s the same age as me. She lives around at Wotton. Yeah.
CB: But old man Marcello was one of the prisoners was he?
RG: Yes. He was a prisoner. He was out here. Yeah. He came over after the war.
CB: D Marcello.
RG: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Now, literally at the end of the war then Westcott and Oakley.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Were used for receiving POWs from —
RG: Yeah. I remember that.
CB: Prison of camps in Europe. What do you remember about that?
RG: Well, I remember the Americans bringing them back in with little Dakota aeroplanes. A little, a bit like a Wellington bomber only a bit smaller. And now landing on that, they seemed to come in the other way around because they came over the top of our bungalow and landed there. Now, they was coming in there and landing three at a time all across the fields.
CB: Oh side by side.
RG: Yeah. They didn’t stick to the runways. They just come down. Landed everywhere.
CB: Is that right?
RG: I remember watching them come in there. Three abreast sort of thing. Straight over our bungalow and landed on the camp like. I don’t know how many they put in them. They weren’t very big aeroplanes was they?
CB: Not a Dakota. No.
RG: Two engines.
CB: Yeah. But they carried quite a lot compared with what they could get in a bomber.
RG: They was running, they was running day and night. A couple of days. I remember that. And they landed their aeroplanes and they went straight in. There were lorries there. They jumped out the aeroplanes. I watched them doing it. And they took them down the hangars, down the bottom where they gave them a change of clothes and a good feed. Then loaded them in lorries. Took them home.
CB: To the railway station.
RG: Well. I don’t know where they took them to but they went. Left Westcott in lorries. I remember them being, they used to be coming up through the village waving their arms. Enjoying themselves. And in fact there was one chap — he was a Westcott chap. One of the Beattie families. Tom’s brother. What was his name? I forget now. Anyway, he was, they brought him back and he jumped out the lorry at Westcott. Yeah.
CB: Made a run for it.
RG: That’s it. Yeah. He was home. Yeah. I remember that alright. We boys went down there and watched them all coming in these huts and now they were running about in there enjoying themselves they were. They was having a good feed and change of clothes and then they loaded them up and took them home.
CB: Most of these POWs were flown in by the RAF in bombers.
RG: Oh yeah.
CB: And the total number was about fifty six thousand.
RG: Quite likely to be.
CB: Which was a fantastic number.
RG: Yeah.
CB: And they had to close the airfield for a while because the runway and taxi way were breaking up. Do you remember that?
RG: No. In here? At Westcott?
CB: At Westcott. Yes.
RG: Did they? No. I can’t remember that. I can remember these Dakotas coming in three abreast.
CB: Amazing.
RG: Yeah. And they was landing on grass. In the fields like, sort of thing.
CB: Because we’re talking about May 1945.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Final thing I didn’t ask you is your family was farming.
RG: Yes. At that time.
CB: They were. But the nation as a whole was really on limited rations.
RG: Oh yes. Very much so.
CB: In other words there was rationing.
RG: Yes.
CB: To what extent did your family of ten —
RG: That went on for a long time.
CB: Deal with that?
RG: That went on for a long time. Because I know going back to the time when I went in the army, eighteen we still had ration books.
CB: Yeah. 1954 it finished. Yeah.
RG: Quite likely.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. We had a ration book. We went, well, we had a chap from Aylesbury used to come and deliver our groceries and that and he used to go through the book and he’d take so many stamps out of the book each a year. Or a stamp. I think he had to put the stamp in and sign it. Yeah.
CB: Did your father grow vegetables on his farm?
RG: Yes.
CB: During the war?
RG: Oh yes. Very much so. He, we, we lived quite well actually because we used, he had his livestock there so we used to keep, we was always killing a pig then sort of thing. He used to kill a pig each year. And a sheep if we wanted one. And of course we’d grow all sorts of things.
CB: Plenty of chickens.
RG: Local. All everything. Yeah. So we lived quite well actually. We never went without anyway.
CB: And the road was busy with military vehicles.
RG: Yes.
CB: Was there a café or anything around nearby?
RG: Yes.
CB: Where was that?
RG: My father’s place. There was. He started a little café there. Back just before the war then my mother started a little café. The main reason for it was to accommodate cyclists on bicycles. There was a lot of cycling clubs set up just before the war. And she set up a little café so they could stop there and have a cup of coffee, a cup of tea. She opened a little tearoom. And then when the war come along that was all shut down and well the café was turned in to a, stack the corn and everything else in there. And then after the war they reopened it. I think one of the chaps, one of the chaps come back from the war actually, rented it and opened it up as a café again. And they run it from, my father carried on running the farm and he let the café to a chap to run it for some time. And then eventually my father gave up the farm. It got too much for him and he took the café over. And it was called John’s Café for years. He got two or three women from the village to run it. Worked with him like. Yeah. it was always a café.
CB: So when did that close?
RG: I don’t know. I can’t remember when it closed now.
CB: What happened to the farm? None of your brothers or sisters ran the farm did they?
RG: No. No.
CB: Although your brother Frank runs one it’s not that farm.
RG: No. He’s round at [unclear] now. He’s just, just about to retire now. He’s just had a sale. No. Roger, my older brother he took a farm around at Stewkley. Run his own place there. Frank, he — but most of us we had to find jobs wherever could. Subcontract. Anything. Cutting hedges. Doing anything. Frank and my younger brother Stan they started a dairy. A milk supply. They used to buy the milk and they were delivering milk around Quainton and different places and he finished up Wendover Dairies.
CB: Right. But what happened to the farm in the end?
RG: Which one?
CB: Was it sold? Your father’s farm.
RG: No. It’s still there. Still there now. My sister’s still living there.
CB: Oh, she lives there. Right.
RG: The bungalow where we was all was all brought up then that was sold off. I was trying to think of the name. It was sold off to a restaurant group. I forget the name what it was called. They ran it for a little. They couldn’t make it pay so they shut it down. And then this chap come along then and bought it and turned it into motorbike sales place.
CB: Yeah. “On Yer Bike.”
RG: Yeah.
CB: It’s called. Yeah.
RG: That’s it. And he demolished the bungalow and built workshops in place of it. And my father, before that he actually built — after he sold that off he built himself bungalow. A brick one. And my sister’s still living there now and she has the fields to go with it.
CB: So she farms the fields.
RG: Well, she don’t. She’s got the fields but Frank my brother actually farms them.
CB: Right.
RG: Yeah.
CB: So, how did the family feel about the family bungalow being demolished after such an historical —
RG: That’s right. I don’t think anybody really thought too much about it. We’d all got our own homes. We’d all set up and running our own business of whatever it is. Like Frank and Stan. They were dairyman. They was doing — Frank got a farm, Stan got the dairies. My sister June that’s there now she had, her husband run a couple of lorries. My eldest sister she had a farm at Stewkley. So, we were all doing our own thing then sort of thing. So, we didn’t worry too much about it until my parents died. When my parents died then something had got to be done with it. So my sister, younger sister they wanted me to stay there but my wife preferred to come to Grendon. So, I come to Grendon and my sister then, she bought the bungalow off the family as you might well say. She’s still there.
CB: Going back to RAF Westcott. What effect would you say on the countryside did the construction of something, an operation of something like this have?
RG: I don’t really know. Effect on the countryside.
CB: Well, people.
RG: Well, certainly in terms there was a lot of folks employed there for a long long time. But as I say when they were building it you see they were fetching people in from miles around in little buses and that. And they carried on even for years then sort of thing. Little buses running about all over the place. Aylesbury. Bicester. Miles around. Picking up people that was employed there. They weren’t doing nothing but they was there [laughs]
CB: This is the post-war you’re talking about.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Yes. Under the government.
RG: Yes.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. Oh yeah. Anybody. Didn’t matter. They’d say. Well, you’d better go to Westcott. Get a job down there if you aint fit for work.’
CB: There was a huge shortage of labour at the time they were building the airfields so they brought—
RG: Oh yes.
CB: Brought in a number of Irish people.
RG: That’s right.
CB: So, to what extent were they obvious in the area?
RG: Well, they used to cause quite a bit of trouble I think but —
CB: In what way.
RG: Well fighting. They used to get in the pub and get drunk and get fighting and all sorts of things. Oh yes. Without a doubt. Oh yeah.
CB: And did they settle?
RG: It was a recognised thing actually.
CB: Was it?
RG: There would be fights going on in the pub. Yeah. How they managed to find the beer I don’t know but they did. There was always, the old landlord used to have to keep a good stick behind the counter to square them up. Frank [unclear]
CB: Pick handle.
RG: Yeah.
CB: And did many of them settle in the area to your knowledge?
RG: One. There was one particular. He married a local girl. They moved to Waddesdon I think but I don’t know where he — I think he’s probably dead now. Yeah. There’s none there now as I know of.
CB: Right.
RG: Not Irish ones. No.
CB: Ok.
RG: Tim’s sister married an Irish bloke. She did. Yeah. That caused a bit of a stir that did. But anyway. Yeah.
CB: In what way?
RG: He fell out. I don’t know. I think Tim’s parents fell out with him or summat. I think what it was, I think what it was Tim’s sister married and they started a family just before the war. Then her husband went off in the war and she met up with one of these Irish chaps. That was it. And that upset the whole family. In fact Tim’s father chucked him out. Chucked her out as well. He said that was the wrong thing to be doing.
CB: Because her husband was still alive then was he?
RG: Yeah. He was in the army then. Yeah.
CB: He hadn’t been killed in action.
RG: No. No. No. He come back. He come back and he’d got one son. He had his son here. He was about the same age as Tim I suppose. He lives at Wendover now I think.
CB: Oh.
RG: Yeah. Pretty sure he does.
CB: Such are things of the countryside.
RG: Yeah. That’s what happened during all these things happened after the war didn’t they?
CB: Yeah.
RG: I don’t know what happened before the war but —
CB: Just one other thing. The railway system around here was fairly well developed.
RG: Yes.
CB: And Quainton is still, is a Railway Historical Centre.
RG: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: And it was an important station. But also at Woodham there was a station there.
RG: Yeah. But that was mainly —
CB: Where there was a bridge over the A41.
RG: That’s right.
CB: What happened there?
RG: Well, that was mainly a coal dump.
CB: Oh.
RG: There wasn’t much going on there. Only coal. At Quainton they had just about everything going on there. We used to go there with a pony and cart picking up all sorts of different things, sort of things. And Quainton was a regular thing. We used to go and pick things up and bring them back for our own cattle food and that sort of thing. And also pick up parcels to bring into the village because very few folks had got any transport you see. So we used to go to Quainton pretty regular. Most weeks then. We used to be around there with a pony and trap picking up parcels or whatever there was then to bring back to Wescott. That was another job we had to do then sort of thing. And Woodham was another thing. That was more like a coal dump there. We used to go there. That was another thing my father done. He decided to be a coalman. So he started. He bought — he supplied all the village and one or two villages with coal. So we used to have to go down there to collect the coal from that station then. Woodham. But they used to bring trucks in there and we used to have to shovel it out the trucks, then into bags and deliver it around to wherever. That was another job we boys had then.
CB: Enjoyed that did you?
RG: [laughs] That was a dusty dirty old job.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Yeah. I can’t remember. There were no passengers. Nothing like that in there. Not as I can remember anyway. All I can remember is the coal being delivered there. And then when they stopped, when they closed the station down they still kept the line going because ICI used the brickyard then as his where is now, that’s still up there now. The depot. Isn’t it? They used to bring fertilizer in there.
CB: Oh right.
RG: Tim worked, Tim worked there.
CB: Yeah. Yes.
RG: That’s right. Well, they’re coming now by rail to the place. They never come along to the station. That was the old brick works.
CB: And the brickworks was closed.
RG: The brickworks closed I should think [pause] well around about 1963 time I should think. They were making bricks right up ‘til then.
CB: Right.
RG: But I remember when we started building we actually bought some bricks from there. So, that must be going after ’63 anyway.
CB: With, in the war time people did need to move about. Was there a local bus service? Or what was there?
RG: No.
CB: For getting about.
RG: They started an old bus. That was an ancestor of ours actually. He’s in Westcott Churchyard now. He, he started a bus from the Hay Binders. You know where the Hay Binders are?
CB: Yeah. The farm.
RG: Westcott.
CB: Yeah.
RG: Well, an ancestor, one of our ancestors anyway. A Goss. He decided to start a bus up from there and he bought an old bus then. I don’t know. A funny old thing.
CB: Coal fired.
RG: He used to run it in from there into Aylesbury then every day. Taking folks in and fetching them out then sort of thing.
CB: Was that a coal fired bus?
RG: No. That was a petrol engine. Yeah. They did. There was an old bus there but going back to that time we used to run around into Quainton Station picking up all the parcels and things there. We also used to drive a horse in to Aylesbury once a week. My uncle that was mainly the one that done that. Picking up anything from Aylesbury. Picking up folks whatever they wanted then. He used to pick them up in Aylesbury and bring it back and deliver it around the village. And if they wanted taking in he would take them in on the horse. We used to have to drive a pony to Aylesbury every day for the cafes. To collect up the food stuff from the cafes. An aunt of ours, a couple of our aunts they started running a little café tearooms. Grundy’s Tearooms in Aylesbury. We boys used to have to drive the pony in to Aylesbury every Saturday morning to collect the rubbish. Yeah.
CB: How did the milk get distributed from the farm?
RG: Well, back to the time my father was milking there was a lorry came from Nestles in Aylesbury. There again that was a funny old lorry. Only a little old thing. They used to bring, they used to come out, they used to bring churns of water out from the depot so as we got drink. That was our supply of drinking water then. Churns. And then we dumped the water out the churns and put the milk in them. And then they’d come and collect them up each day and take them to Aylesbury to Nestles. The milk place.
CB: Was there no well at the farm?
RG: There was but that weren’t very reliable.
CB: Right.
RG: There was one there. There was a well around behind the back of the bungalow which we used which had a pump on it and we pumped the water up but that weren’t very reliable. But we used it. Yeah.
CB: What was the surface of the roads like in those days?
RG: Well, I suppose it’s similar to what there is now but it was a bit rough. They talk about the potholes now. I mean that was all potholes then. That was just stones really. Going back to my, when my grandfather and my grandfather used to run the council. Westcott. And he used to have to pay somebody to go and fetch loads of stone from Blackthorn to fill up the potholes in the roads around the village. As I remember now we used to drive the ponies and that in to Aylesbury. That were tarmacked roads then. But yeah, the road and of course they did because they used to put these chippings on the road a lot then didn’t they?
CB: They did. Yeah.
RG: Now they’re all steamrollers roll it down and that. Yeah.
CB: I was thinking because of the amount of military traffic.
RG: That’s right.
CB: That that would churn up the roads unless they were properly surfaced.
RG: They were. They was rough up until the wartime and then I think that’s when they started laying this tarmac on the roads then. Yeah.
CB: So one of the effects of having these airfields was to improve the —
RG: Improve the —
CB: The road structure.
RG: That did. Yeah. Well it improved everything. Actually the roads and the water and the electric of course. I mean they brought water into Westcott for the camp didn’t they?
CB: Right. Where did that come from?
RG: Ashendon.
CB: Right.
RG: Still comes down from there. Yeah.
CB: I think we’d better stop.
RG: Yeah.
CB: Thank you very much indeed.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Raymond George Goss,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 13, 2024,

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