Interview with Keith Toule

Title

Interview with Keith Toule

Description

Keith was five at the start of the war and lived in a farm adjoining the airfield at RAF Skellingthorpe. He describes the airfield and how the trees were cut down in the farm belt. The airfield was closed soon after the war, bought by the City Council and was later turned into the Birchwood housing estate in the mid-1960s.

Keith recalls preparations for war as well as the many aircraft he observed before, during and after the war (Blenheims, Oxfords, Lightnings, Vampires, Meteors, Sterlings and Lancasters). On D-Day Keith witnessed, from the playground at Doddington School, some of the C-47s towing gliders on their way to France.

There were four separate wartime crashes: a Hampden, a Wellington, a Manchester and a Lancaster. A low-flying Ju 88 was also shot down by fighters. Incendiary bombs were dropped at the bottom of the farm. Keith also recollects the impact of two time-bombs.

There were very bad snowstorms in 1947. Life was hard on the farm during the war and the work was all manual, picking potatoes and sugar beet. Some German prisoners of war, stationed at Waterloo Lane in Skellingthorpe, helped to pick potatoes. In 1952 the farm acquired electricity and mains water although they still used the hand pump for drinking water. Keith had success in some thatching competitions. He eventually owned the farm, which became increasingly mechanised. Keith increased yields through experimentation, having particular success with strawberries.

Keith remembers playing sport and describes the impact of climate change.

Creator

Date

2022-10-03

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:19:36 Audio Recording

Conforms To

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

ATouleK221003, PTouleK2201

Transcription

DE: So, this is an interview for the IBCC Digital Archive. My name is Dan Ellin. It’s an interview today with Keith Toule. I’m at his home near Doddington in Lincoln and it is the 3rd of October 2022. I’ll put that there.
KT: Yeah.
DE: It is recording. So Keith I’d like you to tell me a bit about —
KT: I was five years old, just turned five at the start of the war and the first memory of we didn’t really know what was happening but they started to cut all the trees down in what’s now known as the farm belt. The wood to the east side of the farm. These trees was all cut down and suddenly it opened a view up. We could see right across which was Hartsholme Estate in those days to fields from Hartsholme Estate right across to the Cathedral. We got a beautiful view of the Cathedral, the Castle and the water tower on the top of the hill and that’s my first memory of what was happening. Now I can’t remember how long it was before the first Hampden took off one Saturday afternoon because all this, well we could see across to the airfield. We wouldn’t be able to see. I’m not old enough to remember actually seeing the runways being put down. The perimeter. But this, I was on the stack one Saturday afternoon with a chap who worked for us for over fifty years fetching hay in to feed the cattle. This Hampden took over, took off. It would only be about twenty foot high over the field at the back of the time and I could tell its engines weren’t running properly so I says to Bob, I says, ‘He’ll not get far.’ And he carried on and I watched him. I was in a position where I could see him and he just cleared the tops of the trees and then suddenly disappeared. Up with a pile of smoke. Now, I’d said he wouldn’t get far and I was exactly right. It didn’t get far. No. We found out since that that crash was never recorded in any Air Force records. I don’t know how important that is. Whether it’s going to help you, whether it’s too far back for you to trace. Trace.
DE: We can have a look. Yeah.
KT: Yes. Yeah. Now the next part was —
DE: You told me earlier before I started recording about where it actually came down. That, that Hampden.
KT: Yes.
DE: And what happened then?
KT: Well, after the war a lot of my friends came with metal detectors.
DE: Right.
KT: And they was finding bits of car, bit of brass and copper that hadn’t burned out. Most of the engines and that I can’t remember too much about the site but a lot of bits of brass from carburettors and that sort of thing they were finding.
DE: What happened to the crew?
KT: Well, the crew was saved, you know. Who they were. There was no communications in those days you see. We never got to know much about the the airfield at all because as I said in the DVD there was the three rolls of wire between the farm and the airfield so I never got any communications or any, with any airmen. Now in 1947 this is another thing that had enabled us with the wood cut down and we could see across and you could see the tankers going around the airfield delivering the fuel to the planes and the dispersal points. Frying pans as they was commonly known in those days. And in ’47, in February ’47 I was going to the City School in Lincoln and in the second week in February the teachers came in and said all the lads in the country could go home early. And we looked. A lovely cold sunny day. We looked at one another. Didn’t know what was happening until I got nearly to Skellingthorpe where the ice cream farm was and we learned that the snow was drifting across the road and it snowed and drifted. We didn’t go back to school for nearly three weeks because all the, all the hedges and dykes on the farm you couldn’t see them. It just snowed. Snowed and blowed and snow and blowing and when we was working in the fields getting swedes and that in to feed the cattle all of a sudden you’d see a black cloud behind the Cathedral. It would disappear and three or four minutes later it was coming across with the east wind and we was in the middle of the snowstorm on the farm ourselves. These storms seemed to last about five or ten minutes and then a lovely sunny, sunny day again and it just kept repeating itself. Repeating itself these storms. Well, I can’t remember in detail how long but I’ve never seen so much snow in dykes. We could walk over every hedge and dyke on the farm and not know there was a hedge and dyke there.
DE: Wow. Was that worse than ’63 then?
KT: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Because that a bad winter wasn’t it?
KT: No comparison to any winters we’ve had since.
DE: Yeah. So you were sent home from school but it ended up being even more hard work than if you’d have been at school.
KT: Yeah. Well, I weren’t old. I weren’t old enough then and I mean the only hard work you had to do then was fetching the food, the swedes in for the cattle. All the rest of the stuff was already in the stack yard. The straw and that sort of thing.
DE: Right. I see.
KT: And oh, one of the things I found out or mentioned about the the sound travels faster and clearer on a cold, or if the colder it is the more the sound travels through the atmosphere. I remember cleaning the bottom field of the farm cleaning swedes one morning we could hear the cathedral strike ten. A strong east wind coming across. No storms. No snow storms that particular morning but you could hear them to one, two count up to ten and then at eleven up ‘til twelve. We’d got what swedes we wanted to so I wasn’t in the field in the afternoon to hear but it was so clear and that’s about three and a quarter miles away as the crow flies.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Never hear it now because there’s a wood between us and —
DE: Yes, of course. So that’s all grown up since hasn’t it?
KT: Yes. Yes.
DE: And there’s the bypass there yeah.
KT: And it’s been replanted with conifers with now.
DE: What were the trees that were originally chopped down then?
KT: There was oak. Mainly oak trees like the wood here. That’s mainly oak trees in there. A few silver birch. A few beech. There was a few beech scattered around the edges of the woods. Whether they’d been planted or what I don’t know but all the beech trees I know was on the dyke side right on the edge of the wood which is an interesting point. But they’ve all died since. They got, I suppose they got that old and they’ve all died with the, with the dryer summers. Can’t see them. Whether the roots aren’t so deep. But they’ve all died. Every one. No, there’s just one. There’s just one up on the drive side up there that’s still alive.
DE: So these, these trees were cut down I suppose some of them because that’s where the airfield were and some would be because they didn’t want trees in between you know on the flight path.
KT: Well, the wood was right at the end of the runway.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I mean when the, where they cut these trees down when the aeroplanes, the Hampdens to start with and I think there was one or two Manchesters. A short period of Manchesters on the airfield. But then the Manchesters weren’t capable of doing the the bombing trips because they hadn’t got this power and the strength of the engines. And then I can’t remember what year it was. Whether it was ’42 when the Lancasters but we was working down on the bottom of the farm one night cutting some low branches off the oak tree ready, getting ready for harvesting and this Lancaster took off and God it looked enormous. A giant of a plane compared to the little Hampdens that we had seen. Well, it would be wouldn’t it?
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: About three or four times as big I suppose. I’ve never forgot that happening.
DE: Yeah. A hundred and two foot wingspan I think. A Lancaster.
KT: Does it? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And when, when they’d got the trees cut down in the winter when there was no leaves on the trees G for George is dispersal point and I’ve got that. It shows you the dispersal points. [paper rustling]
DE: It’s a map of the airfield with the runways and the perimeter track.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. So tell me about G for George.
KT: We could see them when there’s no leaves on the trees because of a few silver birches and that started to grow around the frying pans as you might say. We could see them and see all the crew up and down on the wings you know for servicing up and they came back in the early morning. Three or 4 o’clock in the morning. Some of the planes you could hear the engines had been shot at you know. They were misfiring and that sort of thing. So it was always a relief when you heard them shut the engines down. You knew they weren’t likely to crash on the house. You knew they was in line with the end of the runway and they was going to float in to land. I can clearly remember that.
DE: So you got quite familiar with the, with the noises from the aircraft.
KT: Oh yes. Yes. Yes. Yeah.
DE: Could you tell you know which aircraft was which by hearing them?
KT: Oh, you could. You could always know a Lancaster. Yeah. Was it the Merlin engine was it? Yeah. They was different to all the others.
DE: But you say you never, you never got to interact with any of the crew or the ground crew.
KT: We no we never got any contact with one single airmen you know.
DE: Yeah.
KT: No.
DE: So it’s just from what you could see and and hear.
KT: Yeah.
DE: As they fly over.
KT: Yeah.
DE: What about when you know what time of day were they taking off and coming back?
KT: Generally about half past six to 7 o’clock at night. And when, when they was taking off from here you’d look towards Saxilby at night. That was, that was more or less north from here and there was a string of Lancasters coming down from the airfield. Yorkshire and probably further north. I don’t really know. And that would last for three quarters of an hour, up to three quarters of an hour and they’d be coming down and they would take off from Skellingthorpe. There was Scampton, Skellingthorpe, Waddington and surprise I’ve found out recently there was Lancasters at Swinderby airfield. I find that a bit surprising because there’s only one straight runway at Swinderby airfield and it’s not a big airfield. Whether that’s correct or not but somebody said.
DE: I don’t know. I would have to have a look.
KT: Yes. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. But there were more down at Winthorpe near Newark.
KT: Winthorpe was.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Near Newark. Yeah
DE: Yeah.
KT: No. There was Syerston the other side of Newark.
DE: That’s right. Yeah.
KT: But I’ve no details of knowledge.
DE: No. No.
KT: About what they were.
DE: That’s, that’s fine. Yeah.
KT: Then there was Fulbeck. There was an airfield at Fulbeck, I think.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Cranwell.
DE: Twenty seven operational bomber stations in Lincolnshire I think.
KT: Coleby was one of the —
DE: Yeah. Not all, these are not, not all bomber stations.
KT: No. No.
DE: So you would, you would see hundreds of aircraft.
KT: Oh yes. And another thing that when I was at Doddington School on D-Day when they invaded France there was, well I found out since there was seven hundred and sixty odd I think gliders, Dakotas towing gliders. We was out in the playground playing about 11 o’clock one morning and these Dakotas started to come over again going north to south. From the north to south towing these and we’d no knowledge at all of what was happening with these gliders, where they were going and I’m too young to remember whether it was you know heard anything on the radio at night about it.
DE: But it was sufficiently different.
KT: Well, to see so many aircraft and another thing that in those days there was always [pause] I can’t remember what we called them. There was long lorries, forty foot long lorries coming up down through Doddington village from probably the Sheffield area. I don’t know which way and that at AV Roe’s they were the people up at Bracebridge Heath and that apparently with some of the Lancasters. The AV Roe’s made the Lancaster, didn’t they?
DE: That’s right. Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. There was a repair shop up at Bracebridge.
KT: Was it? Yes.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. And they was, you’d see them. They’d always got a big wing, two wings that were wide enough and long enough to hold the wings bringing the wings through. But we’d no idea where they were taking them to and a few hours later you’d see them going back empty.
DE: Wow.
KT: That was a regular trip. So the wings would all of a sudden be constructed somewhere up north and brought here to —
DE: Yeah.
KT: Be assembled.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I suppose.
DE: Wow. Okay. Just going back a little bit about your childhood you have some stories that I have heard about soldiers and boxes of ammunition and searchlights and things.
KT: Yeah. When I first started school in the September the first week in September 1939 I went along the farm drive and turned right to go up towards the village and every twenty yards in the farm belt, sorry the long planting wood, the soldiers or somebody cut gaps in the hedgerow and across the dyke and there was boxes of ammunition about five to six foot all stacked up every twenty yards. And then around about the same time we always used to go to South Scarle for a supply of carrots for the family through the winter. I remember being with my uncle. We went to Newton towards Dunham Bridge turn left for Collingham.
DE: Yeah.
KT: To head for South Scarle and there was piles of bombs every twenty, thirty yards. A dozen bombs all piled up on like pallet forms at the side of the road. And I have found out since that Chamberlain who was the Prime Minister at the time got the war, the start of the war delayed about a year. There was talk with Hitler about starting the war and he got the start delayed. So while he was doing that they was obviously preparing the ammunition and the bombs ready. Getting a good stock in hand before it started wasn’t there?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Were they guarded, these things then?
KT: No. Now, these, this when I walked to Doddington School there was two soldiers at the crossroads and I’d no idea what there was and then they put a little pre-cast concrete hut in the, in the little wood at the corner of the crossroads. And then I found out through another daughter of Wagner that came to live here they were farming up towards Eagle at that same time and she said there was boxes of ammunition in the, what is now the Old Orchard Wood and there was two soldiers in a pre-cast concrete building at that crossroads. So we now discovered they were on guard guarding the ammunition. I don’t know who was going to pinch it in those days but they was the regular guards.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I walked past them every day going to school and back again.
DE: Yeah. You talked about searchlights as well.
KT: Yeah. The searchlight was it was just the other side of the [ Gilbert’s Plot ] with looking up the drive from where we are now and it shows the drive doesn’t it on the DVD looking up where we are there and the, the searchlight itself was about thirty yards from the wood on the other side surrounded by an eight foot brick wall about I would say thirty foot across this circle inside and to prevent the brick wall from being blown down with any nearby bombs they dug a deep trench around the outside and then piled the stone, the soil right up to the brick wall. So it was like a moat around because the water where they dug the soil out it was full of water all the time and then just one opening where they could get in and out to to get to the searchlight. And I mean one or most nights in the wintertime when it was dark you could see these searchlights fanning around all around the sky. There was I would think there was five or six around this area. We don’t, we’ve only discovered possibly one was at Sudbrooke. Now whether there was any at Norton Disney, Stapleford, Pocklington, Navenby we don’t know whether but there would be five, at least five where you could see the torches. The beams of light going up from them and I mean there was one particular night they all homed in on this cloud. You know, it was just like daylight under this cloud.
DE: Wow.
KT: They was, they was obviously there for spotting enemy air —
DE: Yeah.
KT: Enemy aircraft.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And there was a big gun. What you’d call the gun, anti-aircraft gun inside this ring with the searchlight. I never saw that but they talked about it, the soldiers about this big gun.
DE: Did you ever hear it fired?
KT: No. No.
DE: Right.
KT: Well, there was no, never needed to fire but the one night when I was around with my uncle because we lived on rabbits in the war time because meat was so short. We were going around with a twelve bore. On the north corner of the farm this German fighter came over the top of us. My uncle could have hit it with a twelve bore it was that low and it had come in at what they called hedge upping in those days and it had got in and if they had known it was coming the searchlight could have shot it down because it was only about less than a quarter of a mile away from the site of the machine gun and searchlight. But it apparently, we did find out later that it went straight over us, over the airfield and down through what’s the Lincoln gap where the Witham goes through Lincoln. We did hear that they scrambled some fighters and got it shot down before it got back to —
DE: Oh right.
KT: To Germany.
DE: Okay.
KT: So that’s an interesting point which there will not be many people around know much about that I suppose
DE: No. Do you know what aircraft it was?
KT: Junkers 88. That’s what we were told. How I know that I can’t tell you.
DE: You probably didn’t know at the time but you found out since.
KT: No, we didn’t.
DE: Yeah.
KT: We found out since.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: But you weren’t bombed or anything around here.
KT: Yes, there was four.
DE: Oh. Okay.
KT: I can remember being taken out of bed one morning. Woken up. I don’t think I actually heard the bombs drop but my mum, I remember my mum coming and taking me out of bed to carry me downstairs out the back door on to the causeway. And I looked down to the bottom of the farm and the wood was all ablaze with fire and they’d dropped, the Germans had come over first of all with planes and dropped incendiary bombs. The little round, have you seen an incendiary bomb?
DE: Yeah.
KT: And well I wouldn’t hear this so I can’t, but they say when these incendiary bomb there’s a fin at the back that they turn the bomb around to keep it spinning and it whistles. Makes a whining noise. Now the woodman from Doddington had just recently cut a beech tree down on the edge of the farm and one of the incendiary bombs had dropped on the top of this beech tree and it had bounced off and burnt out at the side but it had left the number of the incendiary bomb on the wood. You could read the, the number that was stamped on the bottom of every bomb.
DE: Wow.
KT: There will not be many people who would be able to tell you that.
DE: No.
KT: Sort of a story.
DE: Right.
KT: We did, we did find two incendiaries that hadn’t gone off that they’d dropped in dyke bottoms where there was a lot of leaf mould and that and there hadn’t been enough impact on the charge to detonate it.
DE: Oh okay.
KT: But the wood was on fire but they dropped four bombs just between the farm buildings and the wood across the bottom fields but they didn’t do any damage. If they’d dropped ‘em the other side. I don’t know which way they were coming from towards the coast when they dropped them but if they’d dropped them the other side of the fire the same four bombs would have landed on the airfield. So the, it’s difficult to imagine what was happening in those days on that type of thing isn’t it?
DE: Oh yeah. Definitely.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. I mean right through the war I mean there was just so many aircraft. Lancasters. Mainly Lancasters about but towards the end of the war the Germans sent over I think were they called Stirling bombers? Four engine.
DE: They’re British.
KT: Are they British are they?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: One thing that I can clearly remember after the war was you know when you was working in the fields there were so many aircraft in the, in the sky. All the fighters and all this sort of thing. And we saw one day when from south to north a six engine plane with the propellers at the back of the wings.
DE: Wow.
KT: Now, I have looked this up on the internet on the computer and it was an American plane. The six propellers at the back pushing it forward and at that time there was one of the British companies I don’t know which one it was down in Bristol, probably the Bristol Blenheim and they were starting to make one with six engines with the engines behind the wings but apparently it was never never finished off and —
DE: Interesting.
KT: But it’s a big sight when you see six engines.
DE: Yeah.
KT: At the back of the wings pushing it forward.
DE: Yeah. Mostly, mostly it was Lancasters so you got used to this. The sight and sound of Lancasters. Yeah.
KT: The Lancaster. Yes. Yes. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. So what was it? What was it —
KT: No. The Lincoln. The Lincolns followed the Lancaster.
DE: They did after the war. Yeah.
KT: Yes. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. It was the Lancaster that gets the history still isn’t it? They come back. Fly around with the Lancaster.
DE: Well, it’s the Lancaster that they have with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
KT: That’s it. Yes.
DE: Still flying yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. It used to come over when we was in the strawberry season. On the Sunday when they had the do at Skellingthorpe wasn’t it?
DE: Right. That’s the reunion.
KT: The reunion. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. So what was, what was it like? What was life like on the farm then?
KT: Oh, hard work. Everything was manual. There was only horses did the pulling power and everything else it was done manually. Hand picking potatoes. Hand knocking sugar beet to get that clean. Throwing it in carts. Leading it off and then when the lorry came to take it to the factory it’d be brute force and you had to throw it on and that was hard work. On a wet day it wasn’t a very nice job filling a twelve or fourteen tonne load of sugar beet with a coat, raincoat on to keep dry. Sweating cobs you were.
DE: I can’t begin to imagine. Yeah. Did, did you have any help on the farm?
KT: Oh, there was my uncle, myself. Well, I left school in 1950 so it was a bit different then but whatever I was doing in the wartime, whatever was happening I was always helping.
DE: Yeah.
KT: As best I could to the maximum that my strength would allow me to do really.
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Were there any POWs?
KT: Yes. This is an interesting story. I think it was the second year of the war, possibly the third the, the most of the potato harvesting the ladies who were from Jerusalem used to come and pick but they had all their husbands was away at war and they’d all got little children, one and two year old children so they weren’t able. There was one year I can remember clearly we had seven or eight probably ten German prisoners of war came to pick the potatoes for us which I was a bit frightened of to start with. But I know we were at war with the Germans but they turned out to be, you know nice and friendly towards us all in the end.
DE: Did they work alright then?
KT: Oh, they was good workers. Yeah. Yeah. Well, they didn’t want the war did they? A lot of them. They were, it would be a relief to be a prisoner of war and come over and one thing that they were very very clever at. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen them when they did this carving of a sailing ship inside a bottle. Have you ever seen one?
DE: I’ve seen the sort of thing. Yeah.
KT: Yeah, and we’d a, we’d a gate post that had rotted off. An eight foot by eight foot square gatepost that had rotted off at ground level and as soon as we took that out the ground and gave them this post they carved that into a fantastic sailing boat. Eight by eight and it was about four to five foot long and we did see that. A photograph of that. Very very clever, weren’t they?
DE: Do you know where they were? Where they were living?
KT: They were stationed down Waterloo Lane at Skellingthorpe in pre-cast concrete buildings and at Aubourn. Haddington near Aubourn. There was a lot of them there and at Wellingore up on the hill. There was a lot of pre-cast concrete buildings where the prisoners of war lived. I don’t know of any other sites around about.
DE: Yeah.
KT: That was three big sites.
DE: Wow. Okay. Well —
KT: Did you know they was down Waterloo Lane?
Other: I did. Yes.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. What were they wearing when they were out here? Were they —
KT: Oh, God. I can’t remember.
DE: No, but you knew they were POWs. You knew they were prisoners of war.
KT: Well, yes I suppose so.
DE: Yeah.
KT: They’d have some uniform on wouldn’t they?
DE: Yeah.
KT: They’d be given some uniform. Yeah.
DE: So, I mean you said you were frightened of them. Were you, were you frightened of the whole, the whole thing of being at war and —
KT: Well, the whole of the war time it was so frightening. I had to carry a gas mask to school. They gave me a gas mask to carry to school and we left school at about a quarter to four or 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I was always afraid that the Germans might come before I got back to my mum because they always said the Germans was going to invade the country. It wasn’t if. It was when. They were so convinced that the Germans were going to invade the country so it was a very frightening time for a young lad to be left in those conditions. And when I was six years old I had to, one of the workers had an accident and couldn’t sit down so I was asked to hand milk one of the cows in the morning and at night. So as a six year old hand milking a cow that was a difficult job. I was barely big enough to get around the teats but I ended up with some very strong wrists as a result of that.
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Which has stood me well in the rest of my life in cricket and sport. Yeah.
DE: Have you got any other, other bullet points on there you wanted to talk about?
[pause]
KT: I think I’ve covered most of that there.
DE: What about you’ve mentioned the Hampden? Were there any other crashes that you can —
KT: Oh yes. Now, I saw four crashes when planes came out the sky. We was in the stackyard one Saturday, just come out from having our dinner and a Wellington was flying over from north to south. And they were, they were all around the sky, there was, you couldn’t look up any time of the day then there were one plane or another flying around. And the fuselage from the back of the wings just exploded and we saw it all floating down to the ground and the engine and the wings just took a nosedive straight down to the ground and crashed on the road just opposite this side of the road where the Damon‘s restaurant is now. And apparently a Manchester bomber coming back from a bombing raid crashed on virtually the same site. And there was you went up there was a cinder plot about two hundred yards away I suppose. Two to three hundred yards away and I can remember seeing the, the framework from the wheel. It had blown one of these wheels off. Now whether it was from the Manchester or the Wellington that crashed I don’t know but it’s that part of the scrap thing was up in that wood for years and years. Nobody ever went to retrieve it.
DE: Right. Okay.
KT: Whether it’s still there to this day I don’t know.
DE: Yeah. Possibly not.
KT: Yeah. And then the other one I was walking home from school. This was towards the end of the war and there was a Lancaster coming in over from over Saxilby on the north to south runway and he just crashed straight out the sky on to Monson farm. Immediately crashed and a pile of black smoke goes up so that was my witnessing and the various crashes out of the sky which is there is always a lot of black smoke you know when the smoke from the oil in the engines set on fire. And I’ve got a photograph [pause] That’s the fuel tank. There’s two fuel tanks.
DE: Oh, this is, this is the farm and your house. Yeah.
KT: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Two. You got two fuel tanks out of a Lancaster bombers at the end of the war to store the fuel in, the paraffin for when we got a tractor. That was in the mid-50s I think when we got those.
DE: So did you have electricity here?
KT: We didn’t get electricity until 1952 and I think the same year we got on mains water. There was no, it was a hand pump for drinking water. You know, I said about how cold it was in the winter times in the wartime. That hand pump got frozen up with ice numerous times. Covered it with straw and that to keep the frost out but you’d go and pull the handle and it was frozen up. So a kettle full of boiling water to pour down the spout to free it off.
DE: Right. Whose job was it to fetch the water then?
KT: Well, my mother’s. And when they, when they got us on mains water in 1952 they come around and condemned the hand pump. Said it wasn’t fit to use but my mother kept going across. We didn’t like the taste of the mains water pipe for making tea so she used to go and fill the kettle from the hand pump for a year or two after we got on mains water. It tasted better.
DE: Yeah.
KT: It was the hard water you see.
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: The tap water unfortunately from here was quite a soft water. And I have been told and how true this is that the bore hole at Elkesley what it must be thirty miles away from us where the water comes from. It’s supplied from by underground stream from Norway. They’ve tested the minerals in the water and it’s the same minerals as in the rocks in Norway.
DE: Wow.
KT: And they did drill for oil after the war at Eagle. A little corner of a field there and they went through the same underground stream of water at Eagle. It comes the same as Elkesley which is probably twenty or thirty miles apart so where this stream goes to or where it ends up I’ve no idea.
DE: That’s interesting.
KT: Interesting point.
DE: Yeah.
KT: When they test for the minerals in the water you can fairly well imagine it’s the same source wouldn’t you?
DE: Yeah.
KT: I do know for a fact a lot of the water from the falls, heavy rainwater in Derbyshire comes up in the, near the Showground at Lincoln. There’s a spring there and that’s the start of the Nettleham Beck. And the water in the Nettleham Beck is always running. Running water. Dry, however dry it is and that’s the spring coming.
DE: Oh right. Okay.
KT: Rainwater.
DE: Yeah.
KT: In Derbyshire.
DE: Yeah. I’ve got just one other question about your wartime experience and then we’ll start talking about postwar. I think on the DVD you mention a couple of other explosions or accidents or there was an aircraft that landed with bombs on board.
KT: Oh.
DE: Something that went up in a —
KT: The timed bombs. The timed bombs. Yeah. There was two timed bombs from memory. We didn’t really know much about it at the time but between us and the Whisby side of the Old Orchard Wood I remember my uncle taking me across to see this and a massive hole. And apparently, it was a timed bomb that penetrates the ground and then the clock inside it and it can have a longer set of time for it to explode and it blows all the soil up. A pile of soil five or six foot high all around the side. But the depth of the hole must have been ten, fifteen foot deep and apparently we was told there was one dropped at the side of Waddington Church which demolished part of the church when it went off.
DE: Yeah.
KT: You might find that out from any old people at Waddington.
DE: No, that’s the bombing at Waddington is quite, quite well known about.
KT: Is it? Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Well, we got to know about it.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. And all right through the war there was a red flashing light on the Waddington hilltop so that was where the planes would find it. And Coleby Church was a very high spire about two miles from Waddington. There was always a red flashing light on that so that our own planes didn’t crash in to the spire. I suppose there must have been one on the Cathedral but I can’t remember seeing that from memory. They wouldn’t want any planes crashing into the towers —
DE: Definitely not.
KT: Of the Cathedral would they?
DE: Definitely not. Okay. So you sort of said half in passing that you played a lot of sport and a lot of cricket.
KT: Yes.
DE: Yeah. Do you want to talk to me a bit about that?
KT: I started, I started to knock about with the cricket bat at Doddington when I was seven or eight I suppose and I was always interested in that. During the wartime there was a, Doddington kept the cricket team going for well I think right through the war because all the farm workers all strong blokes they were all good at playing cricket and I can remember going to watch them one night. This, this Army lorry from RAF Skellingthorpe pulls up into the field and a big canvas van. Eleven or twelve of these airmen got out and one chap was as black as the ace of spades and for an eight or nine year old lad I’d never seen a coloured person. Shiny black skin. Anyway, they, Doddington batted and this chap measured his run out about twenty five yard run, come running in and our batsman never saw the ball and apparently his name was Edwin St Hill. He was a test bowler from, played for the West Indies. And a lot of good cricketers Freddie Trueman he was stationed at Hemswell apparently.
DE: Oh right. Okay.
KT: In the RAF. Maurice Leyland from Yorkshire and England, opening bat from Yorkshire. He was stationed in one of the airfields around about. So, you know there was quite a lot of good sportsmen about. I can’t, I think I’ve heard of another chap who was in the RAF but I can’t tell you his name. But I never forgot this black man from the West Indies. And then when I got to be eleven years old I started to play in the Doddington. Got into the team and started to hold my own. Just bowled a bit slower to start with.
DE: Right.
KT: I was eleven or twelve and when they found out they couldn’t get me out by the time I was thirteen or fourteen I was just as good as the others and getting as many runs.
DE: Fantastic.
KT: I went to play at Lea, Lea near Gainsborough. And on one Sunday afternoon that made fifty not out. So that was the start of my career and I carried on with Doddington and in 1952 Hartsholme, a good club side in Lincoln were short and I went and play for them at Woodhall and got a rapid fifty in my first innings. Fifty not out and that, that led me to be a member of the Hartsholme Club for the following year. And within four years of playing for them the county got interested in me sent me to Trent Bridge for coaching and within four years I was playing for the county side.
DE: Fantastic.
KT: Yeah. First century I scored was playing for the Hartsholme club side against Forest amateurs when I put a hundred and two not out at Trent Bridge.
DE: Wow.
KT: I scored over twenty centuries in my lifetime. Hartsholme I got a century for Lincolnshire. That was the only century I got where I was ever dismissed. All the others were not out. DE: Right. Okay.
KT: The highest one of all was a hundred and fifty two not out playing for Lincs Gents against Burghley Park. So I had a fairly successful season. A career at cricket.
DE: Yeah.
KT: At seventy eight I decided I’d started to play golf and I soon got very good at golf so I packed up cricket and played for Lincoln Golf Club at Torksey. And when I was fifty five I got into the county seniors team. Played off six handicap below for twenty years. So I was just naturally gifted. A good timer of the ball and if you’ve got that natural gift it’s a big help.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Where the natural gift came from I can’t tell you but I always enjoyed the cricket and football. It was part of my life.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Mind you working hard on the farm all the week you looked forward to a bit of relaxation.
DE: Something to do yeah at the weekend.
KT: All work and no play was what they said was made a dull boy. So I was never dull.
DE: Excellent. Yeah. And this was all when you were working on the farm because you came to own the farm. Yeah.
KT: Yes. In the end.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yes. Yeah. And when I was thirteen or fourteen we always used to thatch the stacks in the wintertime to keep the wet off so that all the corn was dry.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And at eighteen I’d thatched this, this stack and made a nice neat job. Trimmed it around the bottom and a rep came in and he said to my uncle, ‘Who’s done the stack?’ He said, ‘Oh it’s my nephew there. He’s only eighteen. He’s done that.’ Seventeen or eighteen at the time. ‘He’s done that.’ And without me knowing he went off. There was a local thatching comp, ploughing, [plashing] and thatching competition up at Whisby and they came and I got second prize in the junior section.
DE: Wow.
KT: Well, that whetted my appetite so I took a lot more attention to detail and when I was twenty [pause] twenty one I won the junior section but then that’s the photograph of the stack up there.
DE: Okay. Right. I might have to take a photo of that.
KT: Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Before I go. Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Well, it’s in, but the one thing you’ve got to be careful about is not to get the Lincolnshire Echo bit across the top.
DE: Right.
KT: Because it’s copyright isn’t it?
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Sure. Yeah.
KT: I mean that shows that stack on the, and the report’s on the side so he said to do that a bit cross fingered.
DE: Right. Fair enough. fair enough. Okay.
KT: I don’t think there’s many people around from 1955 is there that’s going to pick that up?
DE: No. I mean the Echo’s archived. I know we’ve got copies of them.
KT: Well, we tried to get a copy in, of it says 1955. September, I think. We went there. They weren’t prepared to look for one for me.
DE: Oh, okay.
KT: So disappointing.
DE: So you’ve always been quite competitive then.
KT: Yes. I always enjoyed the sport. Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. [pause] I suppose the one thing which we haven’t played on was mentioned is all the amount of aircraft prior to the start of the war. There was the Bristol Blenheims, Airspeed Oxford, the Lockheed Lightning. That impressed me. That was very similar to the Vampire. Twin fuselages. Just one engine in the middle and it was, it was the fastest plane in the sky. The Lockheed Lightning was. So we were told at that time. And then towards the end of the war when the jet engines came on to the scene there was the Vampire and the Meteor. The Meteor. And they did ops from Wigsley to Swinderby. Up and down practising landing and that and one of the Meteors crashed into a house in Harby village. Killed one or two people.
DE: Oh dear.
KT: I can’t think of anything else. I think soon after the end of the war all the Lancasters, they closed Skellingthorpe airfield where the Lancasters all went to I’ll never know.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I think there’s, is there one at at Winthorpe? In the museum. Or is that the Vulcan? No. It’s the Vulcan isn’t it there?
DE: Yeah. There’s, there’s the one with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and there’s another one at East Kirkby.
KT: Yes.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I intend to go to the East Kirkby sometime or other.
DE: Yeah. Yeah. You should. It’s good.
KT: Yeah.
DE: They’ve got a Mosquito there as well now.
KT: Have they?
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Oh that, that was a pre-war plane. Twin engine the Mosquitoes aren’t they? They were quite —
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
KT: Quite rapid. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: From memory. The Lockheed Lightning was the one that’s I always loved to see with the twin fuselage.
DE: Twin booms yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. I think I’ve crossed off lots of things on my list here so you know do you want to tell me a bit about your, your life on the farm post-war and some of your successes?
KT: Post war.
DE: I mean it seems to me there’s so much that has happened around here after the war.
KT: Yes. Yeah. Well, I’ve mentioned on the DVD about the party at the end of the war on VE Day. Victory in Europe. That was a big relief that was. And during the wartime and after the war all the farmers they all helped one another which on a thrashing day you wanted about eight or ten men so you all came from the various farms and switched to help one another. The community spirit then was just unbelievable. I know I’ve mentioned in the DVD about the whist drives when I was twelve years old. The whist drives at the end of the war. There was one at Doddington one Thursday night, Harby the next week, Eagle the next and people came on bikes. There was no transport. Everywhere you went on bikes. I mean I biked from Doddington to Aisthorpe one night to play cricket.
DE: Right. Okay.
KT: Which is twelve miles.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And you thought nothing of it you know. There was no other mode of transport so you set off. It took you a fair while but you got there and you played. You did a hard days work, biked twelve miles, played the game of cricket and biked back.
DE: Wow.
KT: I suppose I’d be ready to go to sleep [laughs] when I got back.
DE: I expect so. Yeah.
KT: Kids won’t go five yards now will they without being taken in a car.
DE: I know. No.
KT: A different world altogether. No. Farming. When I left school in 1950 we were still doing most of the work was chopping sugar beet out by hand, hand picking potatoes. Harvesting was all done by hand. Cutting the stack and the sheaves after the binder and leading them and stacking them on the [unclear] them on the [unclear] load at night and teaming them because in those days September was when you did most of the harvest and the, the weather then was so much different to what it is now. Virtually the whole of the September we always considered the best month of the year. You got foggy mornings. By half past nine the sun had got up. All the fog had cleared and you’d get three wagon loads of sheaves at night. So you could put those up the elevator and put them into the stack. By half past eleven or so you’d got them in the stack and then you went off [unclear] before lunchtime and there was enough of us to have two people in the field fetching the sheaves in. Three of us in the yard. One team in. One stacking and one taking the sheaves away, stacking the sheaves around and building the stacks up.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Which was quite a skill. I mean I started to be what they called a binder taking the sheaves from the elevator and my uncle as he was stacking around the outside went around and around. Then I put what they called binders it’s like putting slates on a roof. One sheaf overlaps the others to tie them in to stop them falling apart. And then I think when I got to be about sixteen I started to do the stacking around the side. And there is, there is a big skill in that. You only, you only to get to know that with the experience of doing it. You know, if you’re stacking what as the stack goes up and if you, if you’ve gained that much from four feet down when you get the weight of this the sheaves on the top that area goes to there. So that doubles the angle of it going out. Do you see where I’m coming from.
DE: Yeah.
KT: So you’ve got to keep them only just showing a little bit [unclear] you’ve got the nice shape look at the bottom.
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: And it’s you’ve got to go out like that so when the rain comes off the thatch it drops clear of the sheaves in the —
DE: Yeah.
KT: Walls. Yeah.
DE: So that’s why it’s at that angle at the bottom.
KT: That’s it. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. Of course, there’s none of that now. It’s just —
KT: No.
DE: It’s just baled and —
KT: It was a sad day when I remember going to a dance at Skellingthorpe one Saturday night. I would be eighteen or nineteen probably. No, I’d be a bit older than that and there was a bright frosty moonlight night when I came back on my bike down the drive and the [rime] on this, on this thatch the golden colour of the straw was like the domes in India when you see these yellow [pause] it’s a pity I never had a camera then because that was once. Once in a lifetime.
DE: Wow.
KT: All, all this straw just showed the golden tops.
DE: Yeah.
KT: With the frost on it. Yeah. [pause] I’m trying to think what else might be of interest to you.
DE: No, I’m just thinking that you’ve seen some changes because I mean you know when you were a little lad there wasn’t the, there wasn’t the airfield at RAF Skellingthorpe was there? And then that was built. And then that closed. And now of course it’s, it’s the housing estate.
KT: Yes. Yeah.
DE: When did that, when was that built?
KT: It would start in the [pause] I think Birchwood was started somewhere the mid-60s possibly. I can’t, I can’t when I first played when I first got my first car to go and play cricket at Hartsholme I used to go across the main runway of the airfield. The nearest way to the Skellingthorpe Road to get to the ground.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And then when they started to build on it you could still get across. And then they took all the runways up. Crushed them up for hard core for making probably the A1 when they did the dual carriageway of the roads. A big demand for aggregate.
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: I remember seeing it and the, now then that that plan we can come to that plan because apparently the second frying pan down there is just across the road from Damon‘s. It’s still, still there. They left one frying pan.
DE: Oh right. Okay.
KT: Did you know that?
DE: I know there’s a few bits left.
KT: Yeah.
DE: But yeah.
KT: The main thing which sorry Pete which that’s not on the for those who had failed to return there were six seventy two thousand gallon fuel tanks in the, that’s where they were look. Marked it out there. If you wanted to take this and if you want a copy of this photograph it. Now, we’ve always been puzzled since the war. How did they get the fuel to those tanks?
DE: Yes. Right. Okay. I’ve got you.
KT: For this. I mean there was what twenty odd planes flying from everywhere out most nights. There weren’t a lot of fuel. And we’ve discovered my patent agent, I’ve got several patents and he’s, he was interested in this. He went on, you’ll probably have to do the same and we found out you know the railway crossing down Doddington Road?
DE: Yes.
KT: To the left, about a quarter of a mile to the left there was a siding. He found a map which show where there was a siding came off and the fuel had come with tankers on this siding. The tankers that took the fuel around to their planes on the ‘drome and you could see them clearly all the day backwards and forwards. We think they must have left the fuel from those tankers in the siding and put them in to the six seventy two thousand.
DE: Right. Okay. Yeah.
KT: They were well hidden. All covered over with soil.
DE: Yeah.
KT: But they’ve all been removed.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And taken away.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. No that is interesting because yeah it’s marks as —
KT: But you see, Mick. You’ll know Mick Connack won’t you?
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: Who’s done the Skellingthorpe site.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And he said they’ve walked around the bomb dump but there’s no mention. You see I’m probably the only person alive that knows about them.
DE: Fuel storage.
KT: Fuel storage there.
DE: Oh okay.
KT: But we was quite pleased when we found this siding because you had to link one thing with another.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Don’t you. Common sense to —
DE: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
KT: We knew there was no one well nobody I’ve asked various people around about we couldn’t find an underground fuel supply.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Now when they play golf at Torksey there’s a fuel supply pipe goes underground from the Gainsborough side going across towards Newark. Now, whether the fuel was coming from Gainsborough going to Swinderby or Winthorpe or something like that we don’t know but there’s certainly a fuel pipe underground.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. But not necessarily here. That’s interesting.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah. So how did you feel when they started to, you know rip up the runways and build houses on it?
KT: Well, I can’t. I mean it was progress wasn’t it? I remember them saying on the wireless or on radio Look North probably one night they said the Hartsholme, the Birchwood Estate was going to be the biggest estate in the country. Housing estate. Was there six hundred houses originally planned? Early days. There’s a lot more than that now isn’t there because I think they’ve more or less stopped building now haven’t they?
DE: I think they have there. Yeah. Yeah.
KT: I don’t think they’ve much room left. Yeah.
DE: Yeah. And then there was the ’46 the bypass was put in as well.
KT: Yeah. The bypass. That was ’80, ’82 I think. Damon‘s restaurant was opened in ’85. We have done a bit of research on that. After the, after the war the City Council purchased the airfield from, from the Ministry of what did they call them?
DE: Ministry of Defence. Yeah.
KT: The government. The government wasn’t it? The government. Yeah. They bought the airfield from the government but it was all farmland before the war you see. Stones Place Farm. We, we got to know the game keeper. The [pause] from the, from the Hartsholme Estate and they used to come around what’s now the perimeter of the farm belt and the wood at the back of it. Hospital Plantation I think. They put long nets around there at night after harvest time and they’d get two or three hundred rabbits. There were so many rabbits in those days.
DE: Yeah.
KT: We would have got, I mean we every time you finished an harvest field cutting with the sheaves the gamekeepers used to come with the twelve bore and a gun. When you get to the middle all the rabbits come out. It was nothing for us to get twenty, thirty, forty rabbits from the middle of a field.
DE: Right.
KT: Just scores and scores of them. Every wood was full of rabbit. And if you went out in the car at night it was aim to run over, blinded them in the lights run over them with your car and try to kill them off. But when myxomatosis came I remember going to Skegness playing cricket once and I went past a field Wragby way just between Wragby and Horncastle and there must have been thirty or forty rabbits. They’d had come out of the wood across the main road onto the grass field at the side. Of course, when they got myxomatosis they can’t see can they? They’re blind.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Hopping around and people had run over them to put them out of their misery because they do suffer when they’ve got it.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I shall think of no end of things when you’ve gone.
DE: Oh, of course you will. Yeah. Do you want to tell me a bit more about your, your farming and I know you’re quite keen to talk about that.
KT: Yes, I mean the biggest change was to start with when we got rid of the horses and got one or two, got a little David Brown tractor on the farm. That meant you could, you could do more work in a day with with a tractor and the power then. I got a corn drill that drilled corn and fertilizer at the same time. That helped increase the yields because there was no fertilizer on the farm when I was young. Only the [unclear] manure from the cattle that went to feed the plants. And as, as a [pause] I find it difficult because of my age to put this into some form of pattern for you. We started, it would be mid, late ‘50s when I started to get fertiliser and drill with the corn. That increased the yields quite a lot because you got more plant food available.
DE: Yeah.
KT: But —
DE: Yeah.
KT: And then we started and got a combine in 1956. There’s a photograph of me up the drive here with a combine. A [flash] combine. Self-propelled combine. So that all the hard work that was in the harvest field all was taken away because all your corn was put in sacks.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And then when you got a self-propelled combine it came out of the spout into the trailers and we had to get a proper, to convert the cart shed into a proper grain store.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Where you could dry the grain on the floor. On the floor for drying as they called it.
DE: Yeah. And I suppose you got balers as well.
KT: We had to get a Bailey, yeah. Yes.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. The Dutch and the new Dutch barn which I put up in ’70, 1977 I think because we’d got about nine thousand bales of straw and hay and no means of keeping it dry. So we put six telegraph poles, we got all the telegraph poles off the side of Waddington Hill. From the bottom of the hill right up to the Grantham Road. Bought those off a referee friend of mine for a pound each and put them in the ground and put the roof on the Dutch barn.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And we could, we stacked, put the posts in the ground. Six posts each side. Stacked the bales up to the about twelve fourteen foot high and then stood on the bales to put the frame for the roof on.
DE: The frame of the roof. Yeah.
KT: No health and safety men about in those days.
DE: No. No.
KT: But it worked and thats —
DE: Yeah.
KT: That building is still there to this day.
DE: And that’s yeah that’s just because you’re not you’re no longer doing the —
KT: The thatching.
DE: The thatching, yeah.
KT: When the, when they started to combine there’s no sheaves.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And no stacks or anything. It was a sad day really because it was something everybody took a pride in. In putting the sheaves in straight lines. It was hard work but you you just took it on you know.
DE: Yeah.
KT: There was nothing, no other way. You just accepted it and got on with it.
DE: Yeah. I know as you said the other difference is the tractor and then.
KT: Yeah. The tractor and then.
DE: With more horse power.
KT: Yes.
DE: That’s when you can start doing the things like subsoiling.
KT: Yeah. Yeah.
DE: That we were talking about earlier yeah.
KT: Yeah. That was a big step forward when I found out from, “Arable Farm” was a magazine we used to get once a month and they did a lot of experimental work and I was always keen to read that every month it came out. And we got a [tomb] drill. They found out in Finland that if they drilled the fertilizer instead of down the same spout as the grain put the fertilizer down as a separate spout about four inches deeper than the grain. As soon as the grain starts to grow the roots naturally go down and with by the time they’ve been growing about a fortnight they’re plant food which gives them a better, more strength and higher yields.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And there’s still a [tomb] drill in Hughes’ shed at Jerusalem to this day.
DE: Right.
KT: Harold Hughes, he was always if I was doing any work on the side of the road here he would always stop. ‘Now what are you doing? What are you doing?’ Because I got the reputation of being the first. I was always experimenting and all the time. I was always trying to get better. If you can eliminate a mistake all you end up with is an improvement isn’t it?
DE: Yeah.
KT: Whatever you are doing.
DE: Yeah.
KT: You put out a fault you get better.
DE: Did you, I mean it’s easier to talk about when you were successful. Did you have any times when it went wrong?
KT: I made mistakes. I will admit. I sprayed the strawberries once with some Betanal and it they always said if you spray Betanal you don’t do it when it’s going to be frosty at night. And that was on the sugar beet. It could damage the sugar beet when they were little plants and I sprayed this Betanal on the strawberries but they was big plants. It didn’t kill them but it damaged them and I lost quite a bit of yield. So that was a mistake. I never made that mistake again.
DE: As long as you’re learning from them.
KT: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Yeah, I mean if you want me to go through the strawberry season. I mean —
DE: Oh yeah. Yeah. That would be interesting. Yeah.
KT: Well, I found out that [pause] I came down one Saturday afternoon and I decided that if you could ridge the soil up for sugar beet on sandy land you got a lot of you drilled the sugar beet and it was flat and it would blow and it would be drift and it would cut the sugar beet off when the plants got got strong winds. And I thought well if I can ridge this soil up and drill the beet on top of the soil then when it comes through it’s not flat to drift. But not only did you drift it up like that you increased the depth of the quality soil under the seed.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And that, that made me, I got a lot of praise for that because it had got higher yields and I think if you look on that DVD it shows I was getting ten tonne, ten tonne hectare more than the average around the factory. It was all due to the ploughing the fertiliser down.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And getting the, if the plant food’s down in dry weather the roots go down to the plant food. When it dries out that’s the last place to dry out. So you know I was always searching for what if it was plant, leaf feeders and that sort of thing. Trace elements is very important and I was only talking to some friends a couple of days ago, I played cricket. To start with the first sign said of how important lime was with some sugar beet and I was only very young going to school. This sugar beet came through and it was yellow and we got some advice and it wanted four tonne of lime to the acre. We were short of lime. But we were told to put two tonne on this year and two tonne next. Go from one extreme to the other. Too fast and the crop can’t compete. So we did that and I mean I played cricket on several years later on the Ruston Hornsby ground on the Newark Road which I’ve mentioned and went to field the ball on the boundary and where they’d marked the football pitches out with the lime, the burned lime for the line.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Each side of that the grass was green and that told me that the Ph level of that soil was right. It had washed the lime down and the roots of the grass was deeper down and had to get enough moisture just to keep green.
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: I was talking to some friends a couple of nights ago from the cricket club and they said that the same thing now all where it had gone to the sports field where they marked the pitch, the white lines out with lime. It’s, it’s they’ve seen it so it shows how important lime is. Particularly in this climate change now.
DE: Yeah.
KT: It’s going to get —
DE: So it’s tiny little things that totally change the balance.
KT: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. You see nowadays there’s all the farmlands is deficient in sulphur. Now in the wartime when there was coal fires you got your natural sulphur fall out on to the, on to, on foggy days. You never get any fogs now because there’s no sulphur particles going up from smoke from coal fires. Now, sulphur not only is it a trace element it also works as a fungicide. A fungicide, put on a spray fungicides on corn and that to keep the diseases off. The first when I started to grow all my cereals on contract for seed. [Pages] was the plant breeding station at Billingborough I think. The other side of Sleaford. And I went to see these trials and they’d sprayed the the trials, the winter wheat trials with sulphur and that was to keep used it as a fungicide. But now there’s no, no such smoke from coal fires. All the manufacturers are putting sulphur in the fertiliser to correct the imbalance so all people’s lawns [pause] have you got a good lawn at home?
DE: No. I wouldn’t call it good.
KT: No. No.
DE: It’s grass but —
KT: All the lawns around about are poor because they’re short of sulphur and the Ph is, there’s no depth of root. So I’ve always worked. I’ve always been a big user of fertiliser. If any plant, you look after the plant and it looks after you. It’s as simple as that as far as I’m concerned.
DE: The trick is knowing what it needs isn’t it, I guess.
KT: Well, yes. You can do soil tests you see for analysis.
DE: Yeah.
KT: And like I said with the, with the strawberry plants the spray rep, he used to, as soon as the plant started to grow take the small new leaves off. Send them away to a laboratory and do what they called a tissue test. And they come back it tells you. They know what trace elements a strawberry plant needs to give the best results. And if it was, if it was above the level required I mean magnesium was, was quite short on one but of course we got a lot of cow muck from the neighbouring dairy farm. [unclear] on the farm. A lot of magnesium in that. And so that, no. No, copper. If you recycled the straw back into the land it keeps the copper levels right. So they’re all, they’re all forty or fifty parts per million they probably only want but if they’ve got ten they’re thirty short.
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: Which is a big amount isn’t it?
DE: Yeah. Yeah.
KT: It’s quite technical to go into this but with the strawberry, with the strawberry leaves it told you what they want and then the advisor that was looking after me told me what to put in the fertiliser. What trace [unclear] are needed to spray on the leaves. And that’s why we got the reputation. We got the reputation of the best strawberries in the country. Which is something to be proud of isn’t it?
DE: Definitely. Yeah.
KT: What have we got from these?
DE: I think, I think we’ve —
KT: Well, I could go on forever and a day but you know just to catch me like that you need a bit of time and a bit of preparation. That’s the [pause] that’s the bypass. No. I’ve got it the wrong way around. That’s, that’s the bypass down near Damon‘s.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Comes across the road there. Ah, now in the wartime because this main runway came over the road there where are we? No. This one. That came over the road. There’s the start. That’s where Damon‘s is.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Came over the road. There was an eight foot wall built in the woods down there to stop any cars or anything and a lot of people that worked from Skellingthorpe worked at Hykeham Malleable they used to go to work on a bike.
DE: Yeah.
KT: So they had to get off the bike, carry the bike around the wood to get around the wall and then —
DE: Oh right. Okay. Yeah.
KT: If there were any planes taking off they would let them get past, I suppose. They wouldn’t bike down the road.
DE: Yeah. Give way to the aircraft.
KT: Yeah.
DE: We’d always advise. Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
[pause]
DE: Yeah, it has really changed hasn’t it?
KT: It has. Yeah. Have you seen that, Pete?
Other: Yeah.
KT: I want to get a few more of those photocopied.
DE: Yeah. I’m just going to press the button on here for a minute.
KT: Yeah.
DE: We can start recording again if you think of something.
[recording paused]
DE: So we’re recording again and we’re going to talk about landing lights.
KT: The landing lights for the east west runway. There was three posts across the ground and they came with the subsoil and subsoil the wiring where it came on to the farm from or not but they would have come from the control tower so that they could switch the lights on. There was three on the farm, two on the next farm and when I played cricket for Doddington there was one in the cricket fields about ten yards off the square and if the cricket ball hit this this fenced off post you got two runs. That was, that was directly in the line with the western, east west runway so that when the planes were coming in, coming in at night they could. They wouldn’t need them to take-off would they? The lights. The landing lights.
DE: No, it’s you know when they’re coming back. I mean before —
KT: Yes.
DE: They had those lights there would be some poor erk out with a truck and —
KT: Yes. Yeah.
DE: A paraffin lamp.
KT: Yeah.
DE: Lighting the little —
KT: Yeah. You see we never got many strong winds from the east so the planes, the Lancasters never, I can’t ever remember one coming in against a strong east wind to land on the east west runway. They was all taking off over the fields and they would be no more than fifteen or twenty foot high the Lancasters when they were taken out. They’d put their hand up and you’d wave to them when you was working in the fields. They’d all wave back to you.
DE: Wow.
KT: Which was a nice thing to happen when you was that young.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Waving to the crews. And I’ve told the story about Decoy Farm. One of my friends he, his auntie and uncles lived there and there always used to be a card school there on a Saturday night and they said it was often sad. You know they have a regular card school for three or four Saturday nights and then the next Saturday night there would be two changes. Two fresh airmen would come and two had been shot down and lost their lives.
DE: Oh dear.
KT: So that was a bit of a turmoil for them to put up with as a young lad because he was about my age. I remember his aunties and uncles telling me that story. And Bob Scarborough he’s a bit older than me farmed at Skellingthorpe. He tells the story about there being a crash somewhere and there was human remains in a tree somewhere. Have you heard of that Pete?
Other: I have.
KT: Yeah. I mean Bob’s ninety four or five now. I don’t think he’s very well so not worth, fair to sort of go and ask him.
DE: Fair enough.
KT: To contribute on that side of it.
DE: I don’t think we’ve got the jam story on the tape either.
KT: Haven’t you?
DE: No, I don’t think so.
KT: Oh, about the strawberry jam.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Didn’t I mention it earlier when I said about Joe Alsopp?
DE: I don’t think it was recording.
KT: Wasn’t it? Oh sorry. The one of the things in the early part of the war while all the soldiers were across at the searchlight they used to go over to Tuxford for the rations every once or twice a week and the one of the soldiers Joe Alsopp whose name was I remember him from Notting, a chap from Nottingham used to come and stay with my Auntie Stella at nights when we were listening to the radio. There was no telly or anything in those days and he said they’d got fed up with strawberry jam. They was going to bury it in the wood. So we told him not to bury it. Bring it to us. And we ended up with three or four tins of strawberry jam and what I can’t understand I mean I always went to school with, with jam sandwiches and we all, my mother used to get pineapple jam sandwiches. Pineapple jam.
DE: Right.
KT: Now, where this pineapple jam came from, whether it was made in this country but I’ve always been a lover of pineapple but the strawberry jam was good.
DE: And there’s a bit of weird circularity with the starting out with eating strawberry jam and then being successful at growing them.
KT: Growing them towards the end. Yeah. I suppose. I never connected that up but I can remember him saying one night when he got out the Army he wanted to go over to South Africa and grow tobacco.
DE: Oh right.
KT: That was one of this aims. We never never, we lost track you see when when they moved on.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Never had more communication with him whatsoever so whether he fulfilled that ambition or what I don’t know.
DE: Yeah.
KT: I haven’t got into pig killing if you do want to know anything.
DE: You can, you can tell me about that. Yeah.
KT: Yeah. Well, in the, in the wartime I mean when meat and everything was rationed we always used to kill two pigs. One in November for the family and one in March and they were about twenty five stone so there was plenty. Never short of meat for breakfast. Cold boiled bacon at breakfast every morning. So we were, and it was my delight when I was old enough when you killed a pig my uncle used to, he had a licence to kill pigs in the wartime. Early part of the war he used to pull the pig‘s head and stick them in the throat. And then the government somebody said it wasn’t humane. So then he had to go and get a little stun gun, put a little cartridge then fire this tube into the brain to knock them out and then bleed them when they was laid down. As soon as he got them on the two wheeled flat cratch to scald them to scrape the hair and the scurf off I used to, my first job when I was about seven or eight was pull their toe nails off. And there was a proper little handle with a little hook on the end. They showed me how to push this hook under the the toenail and work it from side to side and loosen. When you’d got it loosened you give it one sharp pull and I was thrilled to bits with all these pigs’ toe nails off. But for a young lad I’d actually achieved something on my own. We was always trying to do something like that. Something that showed your strength and keener and enthusiasm I suppose.
DE: Yeah.
KT: To do it. Yeah. And Boxing Days in those days was always ferreting rabbits. Go around with ferrets for rabbits and the gamekeeper used to go every Boxing Day morning when I was young and it was my job to handle the ferrets. A little box and a strap over your shoulders. Walk around and you’d come to the rabbit hole. All the hedgerows were full of rabbit holes.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Put the ferret in. Put the ferret in and if he, if he didn’t bolt the rabbit and he got to a rabbit and got eaten then you, know. You’d put the doe ferret in. the female ferret and she would flush them out and if she got down then you had to put the buck ferret in with a collar and a line on. So then you had when you had to dig a hole where the line went from the ferret to find and see which way he had gone.
DE: Right. Okay.
KT: That’s something you probably didn’t know.
DE: No. No. I thought you know I thought they just came straight back out again.
KT: No. You see some of the rabbits was at the dead end so if they, and they’d get tucked up at the end of the burrows and they couldn’t [pause] So the doe rabbit would start to eat the ferret from the back. From its back end. And then once it was eating the meat then it didn’t bother to come out again. It wouldn’t come back.
DE: Right.
KT: But they went in and if they bolted the ferret, the rabbits out you see and they’d come back out the hole to you. Then you moved on to the next rabbit hole.
DE: Oh, I see. Right. Okay.
KT: But it was the buck ferret that went in to find her and then you followed the line. You had to dig a hole about every two foot down to find the hole and you’d put your arm down to see which line the line went and then decide where you was going to dig the hole. You had to keep doing that every two foot until you got to the, to the rabbit.
DE: Crikey.
KT: Down the hole. That was hard work digging.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Holes like that.
DE: The hedgerow with all the roots and stuff.
KT: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve told you the story about the rookery haven’t I?
DE: Rookery?
KT: The rookery.
DE: No. You haven’t, no.
KT: Well, the farm, the long plantation between the farm and the Lincoln Road there was about a hundred and twenty rook nests about every spring and so on the second, 14th of May that was the date when they was just coming out of the nests. So it would be about ten or twelve guns. We’d walk up and down. Walk from one end of the wood to the other and the rooks had just come out their nests so they couldn’t fly see. You shot the rooks and picked them up. We’d get two or three hundred rooks out of these, these nests. And then the following morning the following day we had rook pie for dinner. Now that was a different flavour. Nice and tender. And the following day all the gravy that was in the bottom of this rook pie turned to jelly. We had it cold for breakfast the next morning. Fried potatoes. And rook was different to cold boiled bacon.
DE: Aye. Wow. Okay.
KT: Yeah. That happened for two weeks and by the time you’d got to the next week they could all have come out of their nests and they could all fly so you didn’t get a chance to shoot them when they could all fly.
DE: So that’s a thing that doesn’t happen anymore either does it? Yeah.
KT: No. No. No. No. There’s not the same number of birds about. There is a few rooks about but nothing.
DE: No.
KT: It’s sad really. The change of farming. All the Yellowhammers and all the other birds we don’t get because of the global warming. We don’t get the winter visitors like Siskins and Waxwings, Redpolls, Redwings. What was the other main one? And every winter when you was working in the fields you’d, you’d be working away cleaning the food for the cattle and that and you’d hear the wild geese. Proper sort of flying south. And if you saw them flying south that was an indication there was some cold weather.
DE: Yeah.
KT: They was, they was weather forecasters the wild geese was. You never hear them now because we don’t get the cold weather you see.
DE: I’m trying to think. I saw some flying over my house the other yeah at some point but yeah.
KT: What just recently?
DE: No.
KT: No.
DE: I’m trying got think what it was and if it —
KT: Well, you heard them before you saw them.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Because they was always honking while they was flying.
DE: Yeah.
KT: They were going from north to south. You see it was so cold in those days that the winters was was sometimes it would be freezing all day long. Down to minus twenty degrees of frost in the middle of the night lots of days. And I mean there was ice on ponds from the middle of December right through to the middle of February when it started to become a bit warmer and it started to rain. Rains coming. So global warming as far as I’m concerned is just where they say one and a half degrees you know above normal I mean it’s massive. It’s, I would say the the winters are probably ten or fifteen degrees warmer now than what they used to be.
DE: Yeah. Because didn’t you were say about something freezing over and the teacher testing it and walking on it.
KT: Oh the schoolteacher.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yes. At school. At the back of the school a big pond and she would go. We weren’t not allowed as kids seven or eight years old we weren’t allowed to go on it until she had cracked it. If she stood up and it cracked that was it. It was danger. And she’d go again the following day after there had been more frost and put her foot and if it, if you could see it bending, if it bends it bears. If it cracks it swears. And if it cracked you weren’t allowed on it.
DE: Yeah.
KT: But once it had beared you’d would be two or three months because it never melted again. It was so cold during the day.
DE: Wow.
KT: And at night. Sometimes freeze all day. So this global warming is you know did you see Simon Reeve last night in America?
DE: I didn’t. No.
KT: Did you see it?
Other: I didn’t. No.
KT: It’s brilliant. This global warming it is, it is bloody serious. There’s millions and millions of acres over there and all the icebergs and all the snow up on the mountains are melting isn’t it and it’s flooding areas. Theres’s millions of acres now under water because all this frozen ice and snow coming down and the rivers can’t cope.
DE: No. I watched David Attenborough last night and he was showing glaciers in Antarctica which are doing the same thing.
KT: Yes. Yeah.
DE: Yeah.
KT: Yeah.
Other: Right. I’m just going to get some [stone] I’ll be back.
DE: Okey dokey.
KT: Yeah.
DE: I think seeing as we are now talking about the environment and global warming I’ll —

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Citation

Dan Ellin, “Interview with Keith Toule,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 25, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/39901.

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