Interview with Tim Schneider


Interview with Tim Schneider


Tim Schneider lived at Westcott before, during and after the construction and occupation of RAF Westcott as 11 Operational Training Unit. He tells of feeding the rabbits when he was four years old; leaving school at fourteen to help working on the farm because, in a family of five, everyone had to help out; at the age of twenty seven, left the farm and went to work in a pub. Remembers when the airfield was built in 1941. The airplanes were landing so close to his house that when he drew back the curtains, he could see the pilot in the cockpit. Tells of food rationing and how they supplemented by raising and eating their own farm animals; incendiary bombs being dropped in a field the same day Coventry was bombed; beer rationing in the pubs and the aircrews drinking all of it; children being evacuated from London to Westcott and accommodated in a local school; Anderson air raid shelters in people’s gardens; a Lancaster crash. After the war Westcott became the sight of the Rocket Propulsion Establishment where both German and British scientists were employed. Remembers how the local people initially didn’t at all like the German scientists working there and tells of one of these scientists wanting to build a bungalow at Westcott and the legal dispute around it. Emphasises how the Rocket Propulsion Establishment boosted Westcott’s economy, creating lots of jobs for people from the local area.




Temporal Coverage





01:08:15 audio recording


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ASchneiderT170428, PSchneiderT1702


CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is Wednesday the 28th of April 2017 and I’m in the village of Westcott with Tim Schneider, whose real name is Tony and he’s going to talk about his recollection of early days. So, Tim, what do you remember as your earliest days of life?
TS: My earliest days of life.
CB: What age were you?
TS: I can remember as a three, four year old, living in the house I was born in, in the Lodge Lane in Westcott, which was owned by Rothschild Estate, because that farm was with Waddesdon Estate, my father worked for Waddesdon Estates and he lived there as a rent-free employee. I remember my father being poorly paid with regards working, but he had a house rent-free so he had to dig an allotment outside the house to help [unclear] and he, to make ends meet, we had to live off the land so to speak and as soon as we was old enough we, as four, five years old, we was feeding the rabbits, to feed us sometimes the rabbit, we had rabbits as pets, my father also kept pigs which was a supplement to the household, I think once a year we killed one, and I can remember him going up there with his buckets to feed the pigs every day in the morning and as we got older, we had help come out but as my first four year old I can remember him taking his buckets up there. At five years old I went to school and walked almost a mile to the school up in the village and you started at five, you didn’t start at four years old, you started at five in those days, and you stayed at school until you were elven years old. You took your eleven plus, which [unclear] failed, and after you either failed your eleven plus or passed it, you moved on to Waddesdon School, as eleven-year-old. By that time you managed to scrame a bike or get a bike somewhere so you was out to peddle around the villages, as far as mum and dad would let you go in them days and I failed this eleven plus so I obviously went to Waddesdon School then, which was a secondary school, and you bored your mind a bit because you had some garden to do up there, they’d give you a garden plot and that brought you into your fathers regain that you’d gotta help with your family budget and help in the allotment, which you did, at fourteen years old, getting to go at the allotment to help feed the family, which not only that my family did but all the families in the village, was kept by allotments really. There was a greengrocer coming round, but he did very little trade whatsoever, it was a crime if any, the people in the village bought potatoes off them because they self-supporting the potatoes off their allotment. I was the youngest of a family of five so it had to be that we all had to muck in and do this gardening, which was probably forced up you when you might been kicking a football round but that had to come first, the garden come first and then you could go and have a game of football. At the age of fourteen I left school and the only, the only real reason for it was because mum and dad wanted you to contribute, you left school so you had to get a job, where you earned a few shillings, and the only employment round here apart from going to Aylesbury which mum and dad couldn’t afford to send me or I couldn’t afford to go, you took to the farming. And I worked on the farm, the field farm, I did that, I sat there working out. When I was fourteen, I left school, working for an uncle, who was a farmer and I did farm work right until I was about this, I was twenty-seven. I worked on a farm until I was twenty seven, and that time I had managed to go on a holiday and meet my wife and [unclear] this holiday when I was about twenty, eighteen, nineteen, we married when I was twenty-two. And [unclear] we went to a pub in holiday camp at Clacton I met my wife and only way of [unclear] married life to be able to support her, was down on the farm so if she came to Westcott with me and we set up home with my parents, we then moved to a little cottage down the road here and we just, I just worked on the farm, [unclear] just say I got security, which wasn’t a very profitable security at all, but it was a job that you could get, you could get your wife and then we had two children come along and I was happy to maintain our children and in 1969 the farmer who my uncle retired from the farm, so I had to change my occupation then, and I went down to the road then to just past the Westcott turn on the way to Kingswood there was a fertilizer depot down there, supplies for a loads of, to farms and I was [unclear] to go down there for eighteen years then, there again maintaining my children and brought them up and obviously as the years went on, they fled the nest so to speak. We moved from our little cottage, when we had the first children [unclear] which was a, went up one day with the [unclear] in the garden, after the first child was born, we was able to get the council estate across the road here, which was the only one [unclear] built in my lifetime in Westcott, because I worked on the farm, I was able to claim it, because I was a farm worker and I had it, and we lived there till our children fled the nest and we came across, the wife and I came across this old people’s bungalow some years ago, after the childrens fled, and but after, oh, after I’ve been down the fertilizer store for eighteen years, and I was just an ordinary stacker driver, I had got no trade so just a stacker driver truck and it brought a lot of heavy lifting and work and to make ends meet, I’ve always been a person that would do anything other than the job I was doing, I had many job during my life time, spare time. One was serving beer in the local pub and from that experience I was picked up the pub life which I enjoyed cause I was earning money and I was in a place where there was a bit enjoyment and I could increase my income of wage cause I was never a big earner at wages at all and I loved the pub trade and the one chance I took in my life was when the Westcott social club come up for a new club steward and I stood the one chance in my life and I took the Westcott social club on as a full time steward, going against my father’s advice a little bit which he’d always told me, never do anything that’s a risk, and I really didn’t do it till that time and I did take the Westcott club on and I worked there for, uhm, till five years ago. But I did resign when I was sixty-five from it after I had eight and a half years there and I must say that was the best job I ever had, thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and I did do myself a little bit of by going heavy cause I worked long hours, very long hours, seventy hours a week, and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I was sixty-five, I had saved enough money to say, well, I think I can’t do seventy hours more, I’m gonna retire. And I did retire and then I went back normally cause things went a little bit downhill, and I went backwards and forwards a little bit, helping out but I finally retired five years ago. I lost my wife elven years ago with cancer and I lived here now so there was, the past eleven years on my own, here in this bungalow, in this flat on my own and survived and here I am as a retired man and still living in Westcott. I’ve got no, I’m not an enterprising man at all, you’re talking to a man who is eighty-six in about three weeks’ time who’s never owned a motor car, never had one. I think that sums me up [laughs]. Is that enough [laughs]?
CB: That’s really interesting, thank you. Now, the reason for talking to you is because we’re in Westcott at the side of what was RAF Westcott number 11 Operational Training Unit.
TS: Yes
CB: When the war started, you were eight, because you were born in 1931
TS: Yes,
CB: The airfield was built shortly afterwards, what do you remember about the beginning of the war? What was the first thing you remember about the war?
TS: I remember them forming a home guard, I think in Westcott. I remember the big diggers and navvies and who were I think [unclear] devises, were the main contractors, [unclear]
TS: Sorry?
US: I got it down as Humfries
TS: Humfries, yes
US: [unclear]
TS: Yes, I think I’m wrong and you are right, yes, humfries. I remember all that coming in, the concrete being laid in the fields, much one or two of the farmers [unclear] being roughed up and concreted and I can remember the first aeroplanes coming in and going. I can remember the RAF, the fields, the billets where the aircraft, the airmen lived had to be away from the aeroplanes so they was dotted around in various locations away from the airfield in field, in billets, I got my rationing I was [unclear] in hindsight, I think there was tenth they called them, in numbers and the village was right past [unclear], we would [unclear], there was billets away from where the aircraft was on the site, remember that. I can also remember them building a WAAF site which was near the cricket field, I can remember that going on and I can remember it all taking place and lots of people, air, personnel of the air people around here, they just [unclear] by the village, hell of a lot and the aircraft started to fly and we assumed then that’s what it was, they was training aircrew, we was told that and obviously the blackout was here, everything was black tilled, and the house, the airfield I think had three runways if not four, three and one of them was coming in from, oh, east Sefton, Sefton North, East or something, it come by the house by the cricket pitch, which is where I lived, it come across that way, and went in and so [unclear]. And they’d come so close, that line was so close to our house that we could come our bedroom, plane come in, draw the curtains back and we could see the pilot by our bedroom window going in to land. It was that close when they come that line, that way because it depended on the way they landed, I believe, where the wind was. Sometimes they’d come in over the A41 and they’d come by [unclear], I can remember plainly seeing that pilot sitting in his cockpit [unclear] by my bedroom window [unclear]. And also the taking off, the same thing, when the wind ran the other way, take off you could see his pilot then, you could see the aeroplane landing cause it was only hedge high [unclear] or tree high, put it that way, coming in. The other things I can remember, which I don’t know whether you’re interested in that one or not, the air people around here obviously increased everything around here, and rationing was on, and even the pub in the village was rationed with beer but these airmen drunk the pub out in about three days and after they’d drunk the Westcott pub out, they rode their bicycles to God knows what, to Quainton, they’ve got five pubs and they drunk them out as well. So, a lot of the airmen in them days, went across to Quainton and obviously Quainton was a bigger village than Westcott, there was quite a lot of ladies around and then the airmen at Westcott called Quainton Hollywood, that was nicknamed Hollywood because of that. Is that making, is this interesting to you?
CB: Very good, very good. Keep going
TS: And that, that I can remember. I can also remember another thing, probably you’ve been told about the Lancaster going across the A41.
CB: What do you remember about that?
TS: Well, I remember they used to have various [unclear] going across there, and there was a Wellington bomber had gone across there and I’d been in the field and they hadn’t removed it but they were guarding it, this Wellington bomber, and then, soon after that, seven months after that, I don’t know how long it was, I can’t tell that, after that, I remained in the field on the A41 and across the A41 and they were guarding this plane over night before they removed it and seven nights went by, I think it was, and then, for some reason other there was a Lancaster bomber, due to arrive in Westcott with bombs on, why I don’t know, you probably do, I don’t and this, this was warned about, there was gonna be danger with this and this Lancaster bomber surely did land, went across the field near where this Wellington bomber was and the guard posting on duty at the time went along to the houses, along the A41 just away from the Westcott turn to tell the people they knew what was gonna happen to take their air raid shelters which we all had our Anderson air raid shelters because this was gonna be dangerous and he went to warn those people in those houses and coming back, that poor man caught the blast and he was killed. I’m sure you’ve heard of this. And you have to be [unclear] to [unclear] man and he was killed and there was a lot of damage done to the surrounding properties that night with these bombs going off. The aircrew was all killed, were New Zealanders and I think they will find someone up in the church yard now, there’s a New Zealand crew, they’re up in the church yard now I believe, you’ll find but this [unclear] gentleman was killed. There was an old lady in Westcott who every village had them and they still got them or of course gossip for the village know if you like to call it whoever it was, this old lady called Mrs Evans, wrote a letter to [unclear] to say she sorry, she wasn’t very of being killed one thing and another, at night the stained glass window in the church got blown out on that explosion and because of her writing out letter [unclear] it probably transpired from that perhaps, that stained glass window got replace by [unclear]. Her husband, Mrs [unclear] Evans husband, also they got one son called David, who is my age, every week before Christmas, almost sent a crate of cider to that man’s house every week, every, just before Christmas they received a crate of cider every week and died the son had it until he died as well from [unclear]. The house where the farmer lived, named Peter Cripps, there was a [unclear] called Victoria Cottage, that was a Victoria house I think called because it was his, Peter Cripps’s grandfather he lives there now, is his grandfather, Ernest Cripps, a lovely old gentleman, who we all respected, was smartly dressed like yourself is now, we always taught to respect people like that, and he was a respected man, Mr Crips, and he lived in a house with his wife and as I said, he got home guard round here, we also got ARP and I think it was their job to, if anything like this happened, to go and see if people were ok. This gentleman, Burt Saunders, tells a lovely story and that was a true story that he goes along to Victoria House halfway up where the farmers house is now to see if they were alright. The door would been blown off, open and he could hear murmur upstairs and he shouted up to, are you alright Ernest? To this gentleman, he couldn’t make nothing of it and he was worried, so he went up the stairs and this is a true story I’m telling you, he said, there was Ernest, crawling around the bottom of the bed, his poor old wife was laid in bed, with [unclear] past the ceiling, all round around the [unclear] bed, and he said, oh, he said, you’re alright but I can’t find my colour stand [laughs], he was looking for his colour stand [laughs]. He wasn’t got the ceiling round and he was worried about his colour stand [laughs] and that is true. Also, the house that took a fair bashing that night also was where on your bike is now, that was a wooden home built bungalow by Mr John Goss, he built his own bungalow up there and that was a wooden one and that was all damaged that [unclear]. The other, my other, going forward then is when the war finished, we had all the Germans prisoners, all the prisoners of war going back here and they came in Dakota aircraft and they’d done whatever all the various people, in fact my sister went across there in the hangars to manoeuvre repatriated back to, if you want a better word, delouse them and give them tea and coffee and everything else before they repatriate, and we used stand at the end of the road, waving to those boys in open back army lorries as they went to wherever they was going back home. The thing I suppose, [unclear] tell you some.
CB: You talked about the reception and local people helping out
TS: Yes
CB: So, what exactly did they do?
TS: First of all, they were there to, the WVS, so they were all voluntaries people, they, I think all their contact was, was to give them refreshments before they went but I think these boys was medically examined. The various things, I mean, people say the common word was their delousing, whether that was, I mean, that’s not a good description not I don’t know, yes, and I think and then, they made sure they was fit to go back to where home or wherever they took them, they distributed them from here to different places and then they went home, I think. Yes. That’s about
CB: So, after the war, the airfield was closed and then it changed to something else, what was that?
TS: Market research, yes, do you want me to carry on? Yes
CB: So, that brought in a different type of person.
TS: Certainly did, it certainly did, I mean, to add to that, if you like my sister married an aircraft man, he was stationed at the Westcott and she married one of the aircraft boys from Westcott, he came from High Wycombe, he was just, he fuelled the aircraft, that’s all he’d done, but after the war, yes, all this opened up and along came this massive industrial thing, rocket, making rockets as is so, am I right in saying that? I think I’m right in
CB: Rocket research
TS: Rocket research
CM: Yeah
TS: So, it brought lots and lots of people and it, it just went, well, went from the airfield [unclear] crazy almost, you know, you had troll fourteen busses coming in from Aylesbury, all various, all year round, to employ people, it employed a lot of people, and it opened up this rocket research [unclear] all these, concrete and things, they had big noises, we still get noises now but it was Chester rocket fuels and not lots of noises, there was a big important thing that was that made the village because it brought houses here, it doubled the size of the village, it’s not troubled, with houses and I’m right in saying that one in every, one in every three [unclear] was building houses in the time immediately after the war was commandeered by Westcott workers, you know? [unclear], I think he does. And so there was a lot of people coming from Aylesbury to work at Westcott. And they were Westcott workers and it developed the village immensely and we had the social club and everything not we were allowed into it but that would all come along at the time and it developed the village into something massive, yes, it did, it all caused, caused a bit of a storm, a stir because they brought American German scientists back here to work and that wasn’t very acceptable in them days to people in the village and there was one particular man who was called Doctor Basky, who was a German scientist, rocket scientist what they called him, and he helps at the neighbourhood by applying for a bungalows we built, the top end of the village [unclear] in Westcott, am I right on this? Have you heard this? You haven’t. There’s a bungalow built up there, he applied for a bungalow, but he hadn’t got access, and he got a go across Westcott Village Green, reckless he applied, to the Westcott village council if you like to call it in them days, to go across the Village Green where we’d played all our lives, and my dad had played his life a suppose, access, to this bungalow, there was uproar, a German in a bungalow in village green, yeah, have we not, not enough for this, [unclear] with the people, my father was one of them and there was a gentleman in the village called Mr Bricks, he was supposed to be a bit of a solicitor, come what, a lawyer or whatever you like, and he formed a [unclear] to stop this, they all paid thirty pounds and they went to London court and Mr Doctor Basky, because he was working for the government, he won the day on that, and he got his room, the bungalow was built. It went across Westcott Village Green and that bungalow is still there today and where Mr Clap lives, you know, that just sold me neighbours six hundred thousand pounds that bungalow and they still got the access through Westcott Village Green. The reason they won the day there was because they had, they came back with was, that it was common land, the Village Green [unclear] common land and the boss of the common land was the lord of the manor. Nobody could find the lord of the manor, whoever he was, but it turned out to be the priest. And he still is. Hence the bungalow went up. Against a lot of wishes. This caused a stir but [unclear] the rocket research, everything else, yes, it made this village, yeah, yeah, it’s still there, it’s still there, isn’t it?
CB: Just on that topic, are we talking about the church priest or the local chapel priest?
TS: The church priest.
CB: Right.
TS: Yeah.
CB: The Church of England man.
TS: Yeah.
CB: So, what was the public reaction to his support for the German?
TS: Well, he didn’t have to say yes or no, they’d already decided, there is all the aftermath I’m talking about
CB: Right
TS: That was sold, there was no question that man wasn’t going to get our permission
CB: Right.
TS: No question
CB: He wasn’t involved
TS: No, no, no
CB: Going back to the war,
TS: Yes
CB: What was the, the two parts, one is the construction of the airfield
TS: Yes
CB: The next is its occupation by the RAF. In construction, where did the workers come from? Were some locals and others imported?
TS: [unclear] but they was, they was transported in from Aylesbury, they lived in hostels in Aylesbury, they wasn’t all local by any means and there’s too many to be local. They was in hostels in Aylesbury and they brought them in minibuses [unclear] I could see the coaches bringing them in, they just transported wherever they could lodge them and obviously there was [unclear] Aylesbury, a lot of them there
US: Did they build a camp to [unclear] them?
TS: Sorry?
US: Did they build any sheds for them at all?
TS: No, I didn’t think they did, did they? Can’t remember that.
CB: Were they, were they all British or were they other nationalities?
TS: There wasn’t [unclear] nationalities, a lot of them was Irish, yes, yes. Yes, lot of them was Irish. Yes.
CB: So, the airfield opened in 1941
TS: Yes
CB: And then the RAF people came, what effect did they have on the locality?
TS: They was welcomed, I mean, was happy to see them, I think everybody was pleased, yes, they was accepted without doubt, yeah, there was not, they was accepted as something, well, just Westcott, they’d never seen Westcott like it before, I mean, me father was, yes, they was all happy about that, all happy about that, yes, and they thought it was helping, it was helping, was it?
CB: And on the airfield, they would have had various social events, how much did they incorporate?
TS: [unclear] social events on that, no, no, they wouldn’t, they didn’t incorporate the village on that, no
CB: Right
TS: In fact this social club where I worked and had known so much about was the officer’s mess [unclear],
CB: Right
TS: That was the officer’s mess, yeah. [unclear]
CB: So, when they drank all the beer in the pubs, what was the local reaction to that?
TS: Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing nasty, no, nothing nasty at all, no, we, I would say, when they drank the beer it didn’t take long to drink it because it was only a small community and [unclear] joke but they did [unclear] what I got for a pint of [unclear], they’d drink it dry and we [unclear] next week and that was it, and when they finished, the pub didn’t open the next couple of three nights, so they, they got off to Quainton, yeah
CB: And in, locally in the pubs did, in the evenings, did you, you were still at school age, so you didn’t get out.
TS: No, my father, my father did, yeah.
CB: What about your brothers and sisters, what were they doing?
TS: My brother went to war, my sisters worked in, I don’t, the brother only a year older than me but I had two sisters older, they worked in, they lived in, with my mother, they worked in the factories in Aylesbury, they got a bus on the A41 to Aylesbury, yes, yes, they worked in various factories in Aylesbury.
CB: And your brother, older brother, what did he do, when he joined the forces?
TS: He was in the RAF. Yeah, yeah.
CB: What did he do?
TS: [unclear] say, say that, wasn’t [unclear] but he wasn’t
CB: Wasn’t round here
TS: No, no, he wasn’t round here, no. Where was he now? I think he went to Surrey, someway that somewhere, yeah. I honestly can’t tell, [unclear] that one
CB: So, your father was working on the farm, during the war
TS: Waddesdon estates
CB: Waddesdon estates
TS: The other bit about my father, now you’ve brought him up, the name being Schneider,
CB: Yeah
TS: I’m sure you wondered,
CB: I was just going to ask you, so thank you, go on
TS: My father was an American. He came to Waddesdon when he was three years old with his family from [unclear], German Jews they were, they came, Rothschild imported labour to build Waddesdon manor and he came with his father then as three years old worked at Waddesdon manor his father did and he was only three years old then when he came. It cost a lot of money to be naturalised and he never did it and when war broke out, my father was passed as an alien, he couldn’t vote, he was American, he was American till he died. He couldn’t vote and every month the policeman come for him to sign a paper to make sure he was still there, and he wasn’t spying or anything like that, he had to sign a paper every month. The policeman came to [unclear] him every month. My father signed that paper cause he was not naturalised, he [unclear].
CB: How did he feel about that?
TS: Beg your pardon?
CB: How did he feel about this approach?
TS: he didn’t worry, he didn’t worry, yeah, he didn’t mind, yeah. He couldn’t join the home guard, he couldn’t do anything.
CB: No. So, what was the reaction of the local population to him, with his name like that? Oh, Schneider?
TS: He, no, no, no reaction, whatsoever. No, no, he lived the village all his life. They knew him, was hard working people all those people in them days. No, he was accepted, he was not an outcast for any reason, [unclear], no, no, he just, he did things for the village [unclear] like I did.
CB: So, his father had come over
TS: He was [unclear], yes,
CB: Yeah. And with the Rothschilds, they of course looked after him anyway.
TS: Well, they’d give a house, that was [unclear] Rothschilds that was the little thing, you work for me and you can have a house for nothing. It’s all [unclear] in them days, what they call them nowadays
CB: Yeah, ok, and your mother was obviously busy looking after her children
TS: Yes
CB: But did she do an extra job as well?
TS: She, no [unclear]
CB: Right
TS: She didn’t do anything
CB: There was plenty to do anyway
TS: There wasn’t [unclear] and going back to, these, war, I mean, that school up there, they were inside overnight with evacuees from London, you know, when he was there and we just had to bring all chairs and tables in sitting where they wanted, we couldn’t have any of them because we were five in family, we haven’t got room. There was quite a lot of evacuees brought from London down to Westcott and that doubled the size of that school, you know, I’m talking about from twenty to forty overnight and those [unclear] very few children around here.
CB: So you, in your school you had these evacuees, how did you liaise with them?
TS: Very well, very well, very well. Yes.
CB: And they were used to being in a city and they were now in the country? What was their reaction to that?
TS: Well, for my recollection of that, the children was happy, their parents came to see them as often as they could, and the people who was looking after them was happy to accommodate them in somewhere other and I think it all worked out pretty well, it did, yeah.
CB: Did they stay throughout the war or did they return to London, some of them, after the Blitz?
TS: After the Blitz, they returned, yes
CB: All of them or just some of them?
TS: Some of them. Some of them still remained here and they made a life here, yes. Oh yeah, not many of them but they did, yeah. There was no mossy about that whatsoever, no, no whatsoever. No, as wartime it was accepted, wasn’t it? You know. Oh yes.
CB: Where would they be accommodated mainly? Would they be in the villages?
TS: In the village.
CB: In the village here.
TS: Yeah, if you got a spare bedroom
CB: Yeah
TS: You could have two.
CB: Right
TS: We hadn’t got any spare bedrooms there cause were’ five in the family so we couldn’t have any but
CB: And did the people who were putting them up get an allowance for looking after them?
TS: I can’t tell you that, sorry
CB: They would have had extra food ration of course but
TS: They got food ration, yes, I’m sure they would but I can’t tell you that. I don’t know what situation that was.
CB: Ok.
TS: Right.
CB: Now, at the school, which is on the edge of the airfield,
TS: Yes
CB: Everybody is conscious of the flying and the people there
TS: Yes
CB: How did the school handle explaining what was going on in the war?
TS: They just, I think they accepted it as something that’s got to happen and they just accepted that way. They welcomed it basically, say they welcomed it, they appreciated what was going on, but there was no objection whatsoever, none whatsoever.
CB: Did the RAF occasionally send somebody to talk to the schoolchildren, both the primary and secondary?
TS: No
CB: About what was going on?
TS: I can’t remember that, no, can’t remember that.
CB: And of course, secrecy was very important,
TS: Yeah
CB: But to what extent did people talk about what was going on at the airfield?
TS: Well, they said well, there’s night flying tonight and then daytime flying, training these aircrew, it was about all there was to talk about really. That was what it was for and that’s what people talked about. They said, oh, you know, I don’t know what number they had here a dozen of Wellington bombers, more?
CB: Oh, they had about twenty-six.
TS: Did they?
CB: Yeah, or more. Yeah, and the number of RAF personnel was two thousand two hundred.
TS: No, nobody, nobody ever complained about the thing at all in my [unclear], no
CB: You said, you said that your house was right beside one of the runways
TS [unclear], yeah
CB: So, uhm, the flight path, the planes going past were close. Did you get any sleep on those nights?
TS: Yes, because they, you know, I’m talking about when it getting dark at eight o’clock, probably finished at twelve o’clock. They didn’t go one night, no, they didn’t go one night, no.
CB: Except in the summer where they had to
TS: Well, yes, right, yes, yeah
CB: Fly later
TS: Yeah, you, we [unclear] of it, in fact we were happy [unclear] locally, quite honest
CB: Exciting for kids
TS: Well, it was, yeah, but my dad never complained, no. Everybody accepted it. No, everybody accepted it because this thing was got to be done and helping to win the war so to speak, I suppose in a way if you’re thinking about it.
US: There’s a question from me.
CB: I’ll just stop for a mo.
TS: One thing, sorry
CB: Go on, go on.
TS: Well, another thing that I can remember too, looking at that window, was the night Coventry was built, bombed, they, some [unclear] rather thought that field there was Coventry
CB: This is November 1940
TS: Was it?
CB: Yeah, [unclear]
TS: They must have thought they got to Coventry one of those bombers, you could hear them going over, you could hear them [unclear] they called them, going across, within the flight path of Coventry put it that way. And all at once, that field was alight with incendiary bombs
CB: The airfield?
TS: No, the field
CB: Just the field, where you were
TS: Yes, yeah and we felt [unclear] cause that field [unclear] and we were looking out to the fireworks, lighting the [unclear] field up it did, it really did, no bombs to drop, we thought, we ran down and got [unclear] and everything but nothing, no bombs had dropped but there was a bit of a false alarm but they thought that won’t protect the bomber or whoever it was, thought it was at Coventry but it wasn’t. So, nothing was dropped
US: This is before the airfield was built.
TS: No, during the war. 1940.
CB: 1940
TS: Yeah
CB: They were building it then, weren’t they?
TS: Yeah, building it, yes, right.
CB: Yeah
TS: That, that was that, that was a lovely sight, I can assure you, me and my brother were looking at it incendiary bombs. When we went next morning there was like a big wood, metal stick, like a firework had gone off, you find a firework, bit of wood but that was metal, these things were metal, those bombs they seemed to us, and we picked them up, two or three of them.
CB: And these were, were these landmines that they’d sent?
TS: They were incendiary bombs
CB: Oh, they were incendiaries, right.
TS: [unclear] told they were incendiary bombs
CB: Yeah, the spike
TS: The, [laughs] the blame that for that went on a guy who made a living during the war, who worked on the farm [unclear] catching rabbits and he had a rabbit round on a Friday night, he came with carrying a bicycle [unclear] rabbits on a Friday night cause for rationing and we’d eat rabbits and he was making the money rabbits and he got the blame for that for flashing a [unclear] catching these [unclear] rabbits, he got the blame for that, whether it was true or not, I don’t know [laughs]. He used to do it, he used to flash his light [unclear]
US: Speaking of lights, referring back to your senior aircraft landing out your bedroom window?
TS: Yes
US: Were there any runway nights
TS: There was
US: Yeah? By your place?
TS: Yes, [unclear] across the field
US: Interesting [unclear]
TS: Sorry?
US: The [unclear] lighting system
TS: Yeah, there was poles
CB: Poles
TS: A lot of poles
US: Yeah?
TS: Every so many yards, back across those fields, towards Quainton, yes, there was, yeah
US: Was it in all the runways or just [unclear]
TS: That one, yes, yeah, cause that was on our field, one thing or two, there might be some, [unclear] I’m not sure about that
US: [unclear]
TS: Yeah. There were lights, yes, there was lights and lights, yeah.
US: And the other question I have on related, there was a dummy airfield down the road at
CB: Grendon Underwood,
US: Grendon Underwood
CB: By the A41
TS: Yes, I know what you mean [unclear]
US: Do you anything about that?
TS: No, I don’t. No. Wasn’t Oakley, brother and sisters at Westcott.
CB: Oakley was
TS: Oakley, Yes, yes
US: [unclear] Westcott
CB: This other airfield is a dummy airfield just beyond Kingswood, down on the A41.
TS: No, I’ve got no recollection of that. I’ve got visions of here and about it but no, I can’t [unclear]
CB: Did you, as youngsters you would walk a bit but you could a bike you could cycle around. Did you cycle around much as a youngster during the war?
TS: Yes, yes
CB: And where would you go?
TS: Kingswood, Kingswood. Yeah. Kingswood or Waddesdon. Yes, yeah.
CB: Just for something to do.
TS: Just something to do, yes. And then you got this thing on your portable lamp if you were out at night that shone down on the ground so [unclear] wouldn’t go up in the air. But not much, I mean, yeah, there was a bit security form my parents on that they wouldn’t, well, we did have air raids so [unclear] just said, we all had Anderson air raid shelter and if you, if the air raid siren went, you didn’t always go in it, I was there [unclear] if you wanted it, it was in our back house.
CB: Describe the Anderson shelter that you had in your garden.
US: [unclear]
CB: Four feet high.
TS: Four feet, it was [unclear] like that, very solid [unclear] and the net [unclear] it and a solid piece of metal on the top
CB: Right
TS: Yeah
CB: Then, what was on top of the metal?
TS: Nothing.
CB: Oh.
TS: So, the [unclear] was that, square, get six in it, laid on it, and the object, the story of that was we got a direct hit of a bomb [unclear] top of that table, you’d be safe under it
CB: So, where was this cited?
TS: In here
CB: In the house
TS: Oh yeah.
CB: Right. So, this was the inside Anderson shelter.
TS: That’s right.
CB: What about outside the house, what sort of arrangements were there?
TS: There was people dug, dug things in their garden, we didn’t but it was
CB: And what sort of shelters did they make?
TS: They made them with wood or concrete.
CB: On a dome shape.
TS: Yes. Yeah, yeah.
CB: And covered with what?
TS: Earth.
CB: And what, what did they have inside them?
TS: Oh, nothing, [unclear]
CB: Just a bench
TS: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Ok. How many people could get into those?
TS: They dug as many as [unclear] family, if it was five or if it was four, six, [unclear] family, a big family [unclear]
CB: And who paid for those?
TS: The people dug themselves, oh yeah.
CB: Was it with material that was supplied, or did they have to buy?
TS: They had to buy it, oh yeah
CB: Right.
TS: That’s what everybody [unclear], they gave you these air raid, these Anderson things
CB: In the house?
TS: Yes
CB: Yes
TS: Yeah. I think situation if there was children which we was
CB: Right. You talked about rationing but you, your diet was supplemented by what you grew
TS: Yeah
CB: And what you could catch
TS: Yeah
CB: Did you also get deer?
TS: No. No. No rabbit sort of thing, no
CB: Hares?
TS: No. Not very often anyway.
CB: What about pigeons and things like that?
TS: No, what, no, we didn’t.
CB: But you kept chicken I presume.
TS: Oh yeah, chicken, [unclear] pig, [unclear].
CB: So, how would you describe the family’s diet?
TS: Old-fashioned but good, eggs and bacon and meat, when Dad killed the pig hung up on the wall [unclear] load of bacon and you had two of them off the pig, you got two hams as well and every now and again Dad would get the cow and get it off the wall [unclear] cut a piece off and that would [unclear] bacon, we had that.
CB: And when a slaughter, when an animal was slaughtered, there was a lot of meat and you’d wanted to spin out, so how did you preserve or how did he preserve the carcass?
TS: You salted it, so pork became bacon.
CB: So, how was it salted? Was there a big trough or how did?
TS: Yes, you had a lead, lead thing like that, [unclear] they were done in leads, pure leads, you could done it yourself, you [unclear] the salt on it, yeah and that was for about six weeks. Then it came out of the salt and you hung it up and [unclear] three quarters of a year sometimes, yeah
CB: Because of the salt in it
TS: Yeah, I kept
CB: So, where did you keep?
TS: Bacon
CB: Yeah, where did you keep it in the house?
TS: Hung up on the wall. Yeah. There would be one hung up there on a hook and that was it.
CB: So it,
TS: It was salted
CB: It lasted a long time
TS: It did, yes, it did.
CB: Was there a larder in the house?
TS: Yeah, sometimes it was outside, yeah, there was a larder in our house. We was lucky with the house down there [unclear] the damage to the when my Dad, if you go down and look at the house now, that was made [unclear] brickwork, [unclear] loads of work if you look [unclear] anywhere
CB: Yeah
TS: Solidly built, my father said no [unclear], I won’t this bloody [unclear], me swearing but that was his words, and this bloody Einstein [unclear], you [unclear] going out [unclear] I’m not [unclear] and he was right against others that just as [unclear] brickwork, yeah, yeah.
CB: Just pause again. So, if we move now Tim, to post-war,
TS: Yes
CB: The rocket research establishment was set up here in 1946
TS: Yes
CB: And these people you talked about who came in were scientists. Who were they and what was the local reaction to them?
TS: Well, as I said, the local reaction to them was not very good. We fought the war, they come here and they give them [unclear] jobs, it wasn’t a very good reaction at all, so no, it wasn’t. Hence the man getting in trouble building his bungalow.
CB: Yeah
TS: It wasn’t a very good reaction and at the same time they said it was needed and, I mean, he was an exception, that man having his bungalow cause the rest of them made do with the old ex-Picket huts, buildings what the RAF had lived in, they lived in, they were squatters in not very good conditions, four or five of them, they was, probably eight, if I say eight I might be overdoing I think.
CB: These were men on their own, they didn’t have families with them?
TS: Oh, they’d got wives.
CB: Oh, they did?
TS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And they squatted where, they [unclear], they [unclear], they wanted to be here but they wanted a job, I suppose, but, I mean, they lived in not very good conditions at all, this man made his money and he built this bungalow. Oh yeah, one of the family called Jessons, I mean, they had family here and they went to school with my children.
CB: Oh, did they?
TS: Oh yeah. Oh yes, oh yeah, yes. They were accepted in the long run.
CB: So, gradually they were accepted, were they?
TS: Oh yes, yes, yes,
CB: But immediately after the war, what was the public reaction? How did they express themselves?
TS: Well, they didn’t mind, the first reaction to getting these German scientists was, oh, they bloody German scientists here, they we fought against the war [unclear] and all that but they did get used to them but the bigger majority of the people in Westcott welcomed that place because [unclear] all at once everybody got a damn good job, everybody worked at Westcott. In fact they called it Holiday Camp, that was known as Holiday Camp that was, when Westcott, I mean, everybody went there to work, they wanted workers and everybody went there to work and it was easy work, and you know, I mean, if I think of these scientists wanted a piece of metal carried or some carried, there was an old [unclear] in the village, he got a damn good job carrying it to them and he’d never had a job in his life like that, before he worked round the farm or round about to Aylesbury, people used to [unclear] to Aylesbury, they used to work and now at once we got Westcott here, oh my God that was, you know, there was, you know, money was no object it seems and they got a better job with a pay and they, a lot of people accepted that and that wasn’t only at Westcott [unclear] I mean. My brother in law, who I said was an RAF man, he immediately got a job there, he was an MT driver on the site and he was going to Buckingham, when he was at Buckingham with a bus in the morning and picking up all the villagers on the way back from Buckingham, coming back with a busload of workers. Westcott was, well, wonderful to people that was, Westcott. It was well thought of. I didn’t work there because I wouldn’t take chances, I was [unclear] workwise but there’s a lot of people and not only that, they had the benefits of, I had an uncle, my mother’s uncle worked out there, he [unclear] course [unclear] say he was living in benefits, he was sort of man he was in them days put it that way and when Westcott came along, he got a job as a laborer [unclear] just in his element, not only that, when they had a sick pay scheme, they had a sick pay scheme and for thirteen weeks he’d go to the doctor and get a [unclear] in them days which he’s still doing now [unclear] if you go to the doctor and get a certificate, you sign out cause he’s not allowed to be [unclear] that was and he go and get a certificate and for thirteen weeks he should have a full pay, he was working for the government, he’d never had that [unclear] life and a lot of people round here, by God they made [unclear] out of that, and after thirteen weeks he went down on half pay so he turned his [unclear] you know, he did have some, [unclear] I tell you he did and there’s a lot more who did as well, not only him, and it was so easy for him, it was [unclear] paradise to Westcott when that opened up that place in Westcott. Oh God yes, there’s people round here now, went there half time, living on lovely, healthy pensions, believe me [laughs]
CB: Meanwhile,
TS: [unclear], you’re not saying anything [laughs]. No, no, it’s true what I was saying, I mean, it was paradise for Westcott when that rocket place started, yes. And the surrounding villages, I mean, people. So, as I say, it was queued, I’m not joking, from the A41 to where the pub was in Westcott, there was a queue of traffic, with busses to get out of Westcott to go home. I’m sure you’ve got photographs of that perhaps, yeah. You know, there’s a lot of people working in Westcott, I don’t know many, probably [unclear], but a lot of people,
US: [unclear] very few people worked at Westcott
TS: Sorry?
US: According to you, very few people worked at Westcott, there’s a Holiday Camp?
TS: That’s what they called it [laughs], that was known as [unclear] camp, down at Westcott, Holiday Camp.
US: [unclear]
TS: [unclear] Holiday Camp, yeah.
CB: Meanwhile you are working for the fertilizer depot. How did you enjoy that job?
TS: I enjoyed it cause I was, I enjoyed all my work because I provided for my family. I had a boy and a girl, I had a family to lead, I was a family man, and I wouldn’t take big chances [unclear], I never had a car, [unclear] luxury if I wanted one, and I couldn’t afford it and I wouldn’t have it and that’s been my life [unclear] and so against other people having the Holiday Camp or whatever you like to call it, I’d never interfered me, it was just, I was always a very cautious man as regards my family. And that’s how I live my life. And I was able to save a bit of money although I worked [unclear] hard and whatever say that, anybody [unclear] talk to you will tell you that. But I was able to save a bit of money and I, I don’t got no secrets, I [unclear] this house and I have four hundred and twenty five pound a week and [unclear] for my investments and my pension which I paid in for and I think I care [unclear] and that’s how I ended up and I’m happy, I’m not boasting when I say that, I’m pleased I’ve done it. But I was never ambitious, no. Westcott working, it didn’t appeal to me, no, because I was trying to [unclear] but I mean, yeah, I’m saying, these people, got good jobs there, they didn’t, they weren’t all scientists, they were only laborers but they’d got a damn good job if you needed one, you know. I mean, I can tell you the story of a man who used to live in Ashingham, you remember what we were talking about, it was there again, you get back to the benefits people today, he was one of them in them days, you see, pack out [unclear], doing the job [unclear], packing up, packing up, he got a job at Westcott, best thing he’d ever done, and he was just an ordinary laborer digging the waterworks, pipes and if there was any digging, trenchwise digging, [unclear] his name was, he would be the man to dig the hole, ok, he was the digger, well, he was nothing but [unclear] and they knew it and they would try to get rid of this man and this is a true story again and the foreman knew he [unclear] and the only way you’d get a sack at Westcott if you refused to do anything, they could dismiss you for that, but they set a trap for this guy, and he said, ok, [unclear] was the foreman, he said, ok, we’ve got no digging today, [unclear] he said, we want, can you paint? We’ve got to do some painting, they wanted him to say, no, I’m bloody ain’t gonna do it, but he didn’t, he went the opposite way, he said, [unclear], he said, he said, of course I can paint, anybody can, [unclear] can paint, [laughs] he [unclear] was [laughs], he’s [unclear] gonna sack me, he don’t know [unclear] him, [laughs] he wasn’t gonna say no, to get [unclear] that was [unclear] trying to explain really and nobody, they put a lot of people, they put a lot of people. Yeah, my sister worked there at the laboratories, although she was inspecting this, inspecting that, scientist, he wanted this, he wanted that, she ran that, [unclear]. Not done wrong with that rocket research, there was never wrong, [unclear], can’t see nothing wrong with it, but it did put in a lot of people, I suppose, I suppose it done its job as well [unclear] he ain’t [unclear]
CB: There is still research going on there.
TS: Yeah
CB: I’ll stop the tape now. Thank you very much indeed Tim. Fascinating.
TS: My pleasure. [unclear] three laborers. So, they were doing his work, so to speak and if he wanted another one, they employed somebody. So, he did get a job at Westcott as a laborer, if you hadn’t got anything up here, you could get a job.
US: But it was, it’s true because alter the war, you couldn’t get anything so the only way they could do any work was to make it themselves.
TS: Yeah.
US: So, they had to have a full range of people there,
TS: Yeah
US: To do everything,
TS: Yeah
US: [unclear]
TS: Yeah
US: So, that’s why you got any [unclear] skills there.
TS: Yeah
US: And
TS: Yeah
CB: The companies were the same
US: Yeah
CB: In, they, what they’re now called vertically integrated.
TS: We, after you know, I mean, I first took [unclear], that was still very much subsidized by Westcott and there was open [unclear] just store [unclear] and night, I used to cringe cause he come in, what have you done this morning? I ain’t done nothing, you know, [unclear], you remember him? [unclear] he was, typical one he was, I’ve done nothing this morning, you know, used to cringe,
US: [unclear] comes down to our meetings
TS: I know
US: [unclear]
TS: I liked him, I liked him, [unclear] yeah [unclear], I liked him, but it was easy job [unclear], you know, I’m not saying there’s no, was it wrong? I don’t know, they seemed to, get [unclear], you know, yes. Yeah, well, I mean, [unclear], say where you’ve been, you lied, you know, you got to, you had to find some, and I said dinnertime, this isn’t or I got tied up with the Morgan, he was the union man, Mr Morgan, he was the union man and everybody, he got tied up with him, you could get away from him, this [unclear], where you’ve been? I got, Morgan stopped me, Morgan, [unclear] for? He said, I did and he said, in a minute [laughs]. Yeah, that was the sort of thing that we’re on.
CB: It was the system.
TS: It was, yeah [laughs].
US: [unclear]
CB: This interview, this interview with Tim Schneider was part of the “We were there too” series of people who were in the war but not in the forces and in this case next to the airfield.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Tim Schneider,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 22, 2023,

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