Interview with Frank Edwards


Interview with Frank Edwards


Frank was born in London. He describes V-1 coming over and taking shelter in the London underground.
Frank talks of his evacuation to the countryside near Croxton Kerrial when he was nearly five. He was accompanied by his two brothers and initially his mother. His sister was sent to Somerset. He enjoyed his time in the countryside and shares memories about the people who looked after him, his school, mealtimes and leisure time pursuits.
Frank reluctantly returned to Chingford in Essex two years after the end of the war. He missed the countryside and was bullied at school. At the aged of 15, he ran away to Croxton Kerrial, to which his parents subsequently agreed. He never saw his parents again.
He started work on a farm and met his wife. After four years in the Coldstream Guards, he married and worked on another farm in Croxton. Frank then moved to Londonthorpe to set up the shoot. The shoot rented the land from the Belton Estate. When the estate was bought by the National Trust, no shooting was permitted. He was taken on as keeper by Sir Montague Cholmeley. After retirement, the latter let him live rent free.
Frank has written a book, “London Evacuee to Countryman” and appeared in Sporting Shooter and Lincolnshire Life magazines.




Temporal Coverage





00:56:16 Audio Recording


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AEdwardsF2-220811, PEdwardsF2-2201


DK: I’ll just introduce you. So this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Frank Edwards at his home on the, what’s the date today [laughs] hang on. The 11th of August 2022. So if I just put that down there.
FE: Yeah.
DK: If I keep looking at it I’m just making sure it’s still working okay.
FE: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So put that there. So if you just talk naturally.
FE: Yes. Talk naturally to you. That’s alright.
DK: If I ask you first of all. Whereabouts were you born?
FE: I was born in London on the 28th of the 10th ’37. I was born at St, not Stephen. Wait a minute. I’ve put it down. I never can[pause] St Leonards Hospital, Shoreditch.
DK: So it’s Shoreditch. So you’re a Shoreditch man then.
FE: A Shoreditch man. I was born within the sound of Bow Bells so they call me a proper Cockney.
DK: A proper. A proper Cockney. A proper Cockney. Well, I’m originally from West London so —
FE: Oh, was you?
DK: So people refer to me as being a Cockney but I can’t claim that.
FE: No. No. No.
DK: Originally from Hounslow.
FE: Oh yes. Hounslow.
DK: That area.
FE: That’s more on the outside.
DK: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. It’s all West London and near to Heathrow Airport.
FE: That’s right.
DK: Yeah. So what was, what was it like then? Shoreditch in those days.
FE: Well, I was only four years old so I can’t remember a lot but what I can remember is the Doodlebugs coming over and the sound and the silence and then the explosion and my mother used to grab all of us boys because there were four of us and a sister and used to run us down to the Underground.
DK: The London Underground.
FE: The London Underground.
DK: The London Underground. Yeah.
FE: And we used to stop in there overnight if the raids were still going on.
DK: Can you remember which Underground station you went to?
FE: No. No. I can’t.
DK: So you stayed on the platform there.
FE: No, we went to the Underground.
DK: Oh.
FE: And laid all on the platform. There were all the sheets and blankets and everything there. Us boys thought it was good fun because we was running up and down.
DK: Yeah.
FE: With all the other children. Thought it was good fun and, yeah —
DK: So that would have been 1944 then.
FE: That would have been. Yeah. It would.
DK: So you would have been, well seven at the time.
FE: Wait a minute. ’37. No, I was just over four year old.
DK: Oh, right. Okay. Okay.
FE: Yeah. Just over four. And one time we heard the Doodlebugs coming and my mother grabbed us and we was running down to the Underground and there was the explosion and we sort of turned around and we could see the end of our house caving in. So it didn’t actually hit it. But it was —
DK: Yeah. From the blast.
FE: Very very close and —
DK: Do you actually remember seeing the Doodlebugs in the sky?
FE: No. No.
DK: Yeah.
FE: No. I can’t remember seeing them. We used to hear the noise of them coming and then there was a big silence before the actual explosion.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. As they dropped.
FE: As they dropped. And —
DK: So, what, was there much damage to your house then?
FE: Well, not a lot. No. It was just more or less one end of the sitting room had gone out.
DK: So —
FE: And we carried on living in it because I can remember the boards.
DK: Right. I was just going to have a look. Yeah.
FE: That they had put these boards up at the end.
DK: Can you remember what sort of house it was? Was it a terraced house or a semi? Or detached?
FE: I think it was a terraced house.
DK: A terraced house. Right.
FE: Yeah. And my youngest brother he was born under the kitchen table in an air raid.
DK: Wow.
FE: And how I know that because my mother told me that that’s where he was born.
DK: Can you remember what year that would have been he was, he was born?
FE: He’s two years younger than me. Yeah. Yeah. Two years younger. That’s right. So that would have been what ’34, ’37. That would have been ’40. wouldn’t it?
DK: 1940.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Yes. Yeah.
FE: Yeah.
DK: So that would have been during the Battle of Britain as it were and the Blitz.
FE: Yeah. That’s right.
DK: The Blitz. Yeah.
FE: She was, he was born under the kitchen table and a neighbour came and grabbed all of us because there was an air raid going on and she took us down to the shelter and somebody came around to look after mother while she was giving birth.
DK: Wow. So I don’t suppose you really remember the start of the war then. You just really remember towards the end.
FE: That’s right.
DK: The second part. So were you actually evacuated at one point?
FE: Yes. When I was practically five all I knew was we were suddenly going somewhere with my mother. I didn’t know where it was or anything about it. But anyway, we all got loaded up on the train at Kings Cross and big excitement I suppose for us boys.
DK: So, so —
FE: We’d never been out of London.
DK: Yeah. No.
FE: In our lives. In fact, we’d never been out of the street I don’t think and as I say we got loaded up on the train and my mother came with us.
DK: So was your, your brother as well was he?
FE: Yeah.
DK: So it was just you and your brother and your mother.
FE: Two. Two brothers.
DK: Two brothers.
FE: Yeah. Two brothers and —
DK: So altogether three.
FE: Yeah. Three.
DK: You and two brothers plus your mother.
FE: And my sister.
DK: Oh, and a sister.
FE: Yeah. No. My sister went to Somerset.
DK: Oh okay, okay.
FE: Yeah. Now why she went to Somerset I never found out.
DK: No. So where did your mother and the sons go to then?
FE: We all came down here to Grantham Station.
DK: Oh. Right.
FE: We got off at Grantham Station. There was a coach waiting for us. Brought us all down to Croxton Kerrial where the water spout is.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: On this side of the road and anyway we had to line up outside the vicarage. All in a line. I’d got a label as everybody else with your name on it and I had a little suitcase with a gas mask.
DK: Yeah.
FE: I had a gas mask.
DK: That was a child’s gas mask was it?
FE: That’s right.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: And anyway, we all stood outside the vicarage and people from neighbouring villages came and said, ‘I can take one.’ ‘I can take two.’ And anyway, with us three boys and my mother we was the last ones —
DK: Yeah.
FE: To get picked. And there was a kind lady, Mrs Shipman, she said, ‘Well, I’ll take the three boys until we can find somewhere else for one or two of them.’ And so my mother came with us to get us settled in but after a couple of months probably she got so she wanted to get back to London. She was a proper Londoner.
DK: Yeah.
FE: She didn’t like it in the countryside.
DK: No. No.
FE: Couldn’t settle.
DK: Do you know, can you recall what your mother was employed doing? Was she, did she have a job at the time?
FE: No.
DK: Right.
FE: No.
DK: So she was just a housewife.
FE: She’d got four children so, so —
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: I presume she never —
DK: And can you recall what your father would have been doing?
FE: He was a firewatcher.
DK: Okay. So he remained in London.
FE: He remained in London.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And my mother said that she wanted to get back to him you know. His eyes wasn’t very good so that was the job he was doing. Fire.
DK: Right.
FE: Fire watching. And anyway, we went to this very kind lady. She was a farmer’s wife but her husband had died and we really settled in well except my mother as I say.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Which she went back to London.
DK: Can you recall the lady’s name that you stayed with?
FE: Mrs Shipman.
DK: Mrs Shipman. Sorry.
FE: Yeah.
DK: So was she living on a farm or —
FE: She was on the farm.
DK: Right.
FE: A lovely farmhouse.
DK: Can you remember whereabout the farmhouse was?
FE: It was in between Branston and Knipton.
DK: Right. Okay.
FE: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, I think one of the boys Shipman still lives in the farmhouse.
DK: Oh, okay.
FE: And we settled in quite well us boys. We thought it was great running all around.
DK: Looking back it must have been a bit of a cultural shock coming from London.
FE: Going to —
DK: And a terraced house to all this open countryside.
FE: That’s right.
DK: Does that really stand in your mind then?
FE: It does.
DK: Open and —
FE: I can remember when the door was open because of course we wasn’t very old. We used to run. Run out and go all around the stackyard and everywhere and they used to come looking for us to get us back into the house and yeah it was great. Really really enjoyed it and anyway after a time Mrs Shipman found that she couldn’t deal with three. Three of us.
DK: Would you know how old she would have been roughly?
FE: She was getting on. Wait a minute. Let me think.
DK: In her fifties or sixties or perhaps a little bit older.
FE: I should say she was.
DK: I know it’s difficult looking back.
FE: Probably sixty.
DK: Sixty. Yeah.
FE: She seemed very old.
DK: I was just going to say.
FE: Yeah. But they would do to boys.
DK: Must have seemed ancient to you.
FE: That’s right.
DK: At the time.
FE: Yeah. But she was definitely getting on a bit.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: And what stands out in my mind really was the lovely meals that she cooked and she used to lay the table with all the silver and all the rest of it because they were a little bit on the posh side. And yeah that sort of stands out in my mind when the table, called us in for dinner or whatever and seeing the table all laid out which at home I suppose we just sat around an old table.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: And that was it.
DK: So how long were you evacuated for? How long did you spend at the farm?
FE: Well, she found she couldn’t deal with the three boys so at the end of the lane from the farmhouse was the farm worker’s cottages. There was two. And one of the farmworker‘s wives said she’d take one.
DK: Right.
FE: The cleaning lady from Croxton Kerrial she said she’d take me.
DK: Right.
FE: So we were split up.
DK: Split up. Yeah.
FE: My younger brother he stopped with Mrs Shipman.
DK: Right. Okay.
FE: Yeah. That was the one that was born under the table.
DK: Right.
FE: And —
DK: Just for the record recall your brother’s names? Your younger brother was —
FE: My younger brother was John.
DK: John. Yeah.
FE: My eldest brother was Terry.
DK: Terry. And your sister who’s gone to Somerset.
FE: Lily.
DK: Lily. And your parent’s names?
FE: Alfred and Lilian.
DK: Lilian. Okay.
FE: Yeah. Yeah. And —
DK: So you’re now being looked after separately.
FE: That’s right.
DK: In the —
FE: And as I say I went to Croxton and soon settled in. Very very good people. Treated me like a son. Just like a son and I started calling them mum and dad because well more or less forgetting about my parents.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: And as I say they looked after us very well and there was no problem. No problem at all. Mr Woods died and of course she had to look after me on her own. Her son and daughter they was in the forces.
DK: Right.
FE: So they was away.
DK: Yeah.
FE: From home.
DK: Do you know what they were doing in the Forces? Can you recall that?
FE: I think [pause] I think she was in the ATS.
DK: Right.
FE: Yeah. I’m not a hundred percent about that. I don’t know where he was or what he was in but when he came home after the war he was that thin and always said he wasn’t treated very well. That’s all I can remember what —
DK: So he may have been a prisoner of war then.
FE: Could have been.
DK: Yeah.
FE: A prisoner of war. I don’t know.
DK: You don’t know. No.
FE: But yeah, I can always remember looking at him and he was that thin.
[telephone ringing]
DK: I’ll stop there.
[recording paused]
FE: That was my daughter. And where had I got to?
DK: The son came back after the war.
FE: War.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Very thin.
FE: As I say I grew up in the village and went to the village school and got on well at the village school.
DK: Was it, was it, I’m imagining, I’m assuming it was quite a small school then.
FE: Oh yes. It was. Probably thirty pupils in the school.
DK: Right.
FE: There was a big room and a small room as we called it. Two teachers and we lived next door to the policeman and the schoolteacher lived next door to the policeman. So she was one side.
DK: Yeah.
FE: We was the other. And yeah, had a great time living there. Started to get into the countryside ways with a lot of farmers. Spent a lot of time on the farm. And blacksmith. There was a blacksmith, a village shop. There was everything in the village. A bakers, a butchers.
DK: So though although there was rationing at the time you don’t really remember —
FE: I don’t.
DK: Needing to struggle produce wise. Yeah.
FE: I don’t think that we struggled quite obviously because —
DK: It was all locally produced stuff.
FE: We had a big garden.
DK: Right.
FE: We grew a hell of a lot of vegetables.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And we kept a pig in the pigsty at the top of the garden. When you had your pig killed you shared.
DK: Yeah.
FE: With your neighbours.
DK: Yeah.
FE: When they killed —
DK: Shared.
FE: They shared with you.
DK: Oh okay.
FE: So really I don’t think we really struggled. No. I think we was alright for food and Mrs Wood was a very good cook and bottles in the pantry. There was all these bottles all on the shelves full of all the whatever. Blackberries, plums and all the rest of it. Yeah. She was very good. And anyway, I grew up in the village. Had a great time. Got on with all the children. There wasn’t football. We never had a football in those days.
DK: I was going to say you had sort of toys and things to play with. What, what were you —
FE: Well, we didn’t really because there wasn’t a lot.
DK: No.
FE: We used to have a hoop and a stick. Used to run around the road with this hoop and stick. Conkers when it was conker time.
DK: Yeah.
FE: No. We really didn’t have a lot to play with. We had a tennis ball. I can remember having a tennis ball throwing about. But as for a football. No. Whether there was a football in those days I don’t know.
DK: Did you spend a lot of your time during the day then out in the fields and —
FE: Out in the fields.
DK: Running around. Yeah.
FE: I started to get in with the keepers a little bit. There was a keeper in the village and I used to go across to him and he was going on his rounds so I spent a lot of time with him and the farm seemed to be very small in those days.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Just a matter of you know fifty acres that was.
DK: Yeah. They were then weren’t they? Not like the big —
FE: That was the farm.
DK: Farms you get now.
FE: And just up the road there was a farmer. I used to spend a hell of a lot of time with him. He used to let me drive the horse and the cart.
DK: Right.
FE: And of course that was a big thing for a boy out of London to drive a horse [laughs] a horse and cart. And yeah, I spent a hell of a lot of time in the hay field and that sort of thing. And anyway by the time I got to the age of ten my mother wrote a letter and said all the boys had got to go back to London. They could get a council house as long as they had the boys back.
DK: Right. Right. What year would this have been then?
FE: I can’t. Ten years old. ’37. 1940. ’46. ’47. Is that right?
DK: ’47 yeah. So this was after the war then.
FE: This was.
DK: So you were an evacuee then from the period after the Doodlebugs.
FE: Yeah.
DK: So the Doodlebugs ’44.
FE: Yeah.
DK: You’re then evacuated and you were there until 1947.
FE: Seven.
DK: So two years after the war in fact.
FE: Yeah. ’37, ‘38, ‘39, ‘40, ‘45, ‘46, ‘47. Yeah. So I’d be ten year old in ’47 wouldn’t I be?
DK: Yes. Yeah.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Right. Okay.
FE: That’s when I had to go back to London.
DK: Right.
FE: And of course I said I’m not going back and —
DK: I’m not surprised.
FE: And all the rest. I was a country boy.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: A proper country boy. Grew up running in the fields catching rabbits. They bought me a dog and I used to use that a lot rabbiting and I used to catch these rabbits. And coaches used to stop at the Peacock Inn in the village, that was a public house and I used to make sure I was down there as they was unloading the coaches. Used to say, ‘Anybody want a rabbit?’ ‘Oh, I’ll have one.’ I’ll have two.’ And just used to go with my running dog across the road, into some fields, catch these rabbits and wait there until they came and they’d give you sixpence, a shilling or whatever.
DK: Wow.
FE: And hand over to you.
DK: You don’t do that sort of thing in London do you?
FE: No. Crikey. No. No.
DK: Just, just going back to the period of, of the war while you were up in this area. Can you recall anything of the war? The aircraft or anything going on. The troop movements.
FE: I can remember a plane crashing.
DK: Right.
FE: Along the Saltby Road. In fact, the fence is still there where it went through.
DK: Oh, okay.
FE: There was a hedge.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And then I think it landed one side, came across the road into the next field. That’s where the first fence is. I can’t remember seeing the plane.
DK: Right.
FE: No.
DK: You saw the damage afterwards.
FE: Saw the damage. That’s right. And it wasn’t far from the village in fact.
DK: And that’s out at Saltby.
FE: Yeah. On the Saltby Road.
DK: The Saltby Road.
FE: Yeah. And —
DK: Was it, was it a large aircraft? Do you know? Or —
FE: I don’t know —
DK: No.
FE: Anything about it. No. It was just that people said a plane had crashed.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And the only other thing really I can remember was the Yanks.
DK: Right. Okay.
FE: When the Yanks came.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Because they used to run after the vehicles and shout, ‘Any gum chum?’ [laughs] and they’d throw you candy or —
DK: Yeah.
FE: You know, chewing gum.
DK: Do you recall them being quite flamboyant then?
FE: Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s right.
DK: Did you, did you get to speak to any of the American soldiers at all?
FE: Yes. I did because they used to stop and say, ‘What are you doing?’ And all that sort of thing and yeah it was their accent that sort of baffled us a little bit being boys. But yeah, that was quite interesting with the Yanks —
DK: So they were —
FE: Because they had these open jeeps.
DK: Right.
FE: Yeah.
DK: So you saw them in the jeeps and they’d sometimes stop and chat to you.
FE: In the jeeps. That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Yes. But anyway, we had to go back to London and I cried and cried and half the village turned out to say goodbye because I got on with everybody in the village.
DK: Yeah.
FE: They used to make cakes for me and God knows. Give me sweets and —
DK: Did you and your two brothers all go back at the same time?
FE: Yes.
DK: Right.
FE: Except one. One brother went back. The other one stayed on the farm.
DK: Oh, okay.
FE: And he never did go back.
DK: Oh right. And he was your older brother.
FE: He was the youngest one.
DK: Ah. Right.
FE: That was born under the table.
DK: Right. Right. So he never went back to your mother then.
FE: So we went back.
DK: Yeah.
FE: To Chingford in Essex.
DK: Just the two of you.
FE: Just the two of us.
DK: You and one brother. Right.
FE: And my sister from Somerset.
DK: Yeah.
FE: She also joined us. But I hated it. Couldn’t settle at all because we were used to country life and —
DK: Presumably you went back to school in Chingford did you?
FE: Went back to school in Chingford. In fact, I’ve still got two or three of my old school books. Yes. Went to the school in Chingford.
DK: And was this a bigger school than—
FE: A massive great school.
DK: Yeah, and you —
FE: Massive great school.
DK: You didn’t settle in I assume.
FE: Didn’t settle at all. My accent was country as you can tell and I used to get bullied. Started getting bullied.
DK: Oh dear.
FE: Anyway, one of the teachers one day he said, ‘What’s the matter?’ Or something. And I said, ‘Oh, I’m getting bullied,’ and all the rest of it and anyway he told me to go to the gym and start boxing.
DK: Right.
FE: So that’s where I used to go three times a week and started boxing and I wouldn’t say I was good but I got quite good and one day I decided. Right. This bully. I’m going to have him today. And he came along the corridor and as he went by you know, like that. And I called his name and he turned around and I got stuck in to him and really gave him a good hiding. His mate stopped me in the end and the teachers got to know and they said, ‘You did a good job there.’ [laughs] I was chuffed to bits.
DK: I’m not sure teachers would do it that, sort that out that way.
FE: That’s right.
DK: Today. Would they, no.
FE: But —
DK: Suggesting or say boxing lessons and [laughs] whack the bully.
FE: That’s right. Boxing lessons.
DK: But sorted the problem out then did it?
FE: That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Sorted it out and I never boxed again.
DK: Right.
FE: That was the last time —
DK: Okay.
FE: I ever did. And we couldn’t settle. We used to go my brother and myself we used to go out, for long walks. Epping Forest. We used to go to Epping Forest and spent hours in Epping Forest just walking through the wood and all the rest of it. And one day we came to this public house and outside was a massive great tank. And it said on the wall above it, ‘Pull the chain and see the otter.’ So of course we’d see the otter. Pulled the chain so we pulled this chain out very very gently and there was a kettle at the end of the chain [laughs] Isn’t it funny how things stand out.
DK: How bizarre.
FE: In your mind isn’t it?
DK: Do you think then that your walks into Epping Forest you were trying to recreate living in the countryside?
FE: I think we was, you know and it was to get away from our parents as well. We could not get on with our parents.
DK: No.
FE: No. They was completely different to Mr and Mrs Woods. I couldn’t get on with them. My brother, he started to get on with them a little bit and my sister did. But no. I couldn’t get on with them at all. And —
DK: Did you think you were perhaps a little resentful then that you had to go back to the, I suppose your parents are strangers now aren’t they?
FE: That’s right. They’re complete strangers. In fact, I didn’t even recognise my mother.
DK: Really.
FE: No. No. I didn’t know her at all.
DK: That’s sad.
FE: And anyway we had to stand it. We went to the, to school and when I got to, we used to come down here for holidays back to Croxton and really enjoyed it. Never wanted to go back but had to go back and —
DK: How did you get up here in those days? Did you come by train or —
FE: Came by train.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Yeah. And I used to get pocket money while I was down here to pay to get back and also pay for me to come back next time. Summer holidays. And when I got to fifteen I decided to run away —
DK: Right.
FE: And to come back down here. And I told me brother and my sister and anyway I packed a few things in a case and when my parents were wherever out the door I went and away I went. I knew the way roughly because I’d done it a few times. Got to King’s Cross. Got on the train. I thought it stopped at Grantham. It went straight through Grantham to Doncaster.
DK: Oh.
FE: So of course it was panic stations.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And I got off at Doncaster. Didn’t know what to do. Saw a policeman and I went to the policeman and said, ‘I want to get back to Grantham.’ And of course they started enquiring, ‘What are you doing?’ I told them that I’d run away from home. I wanted to get to Coxton Kerrial on the way to Melton Mowbray and anyway after a while they loaded us up in the police car. Took me back to Grantham to get on a bus. Put me on a bus to Croxton Kerrial.
DK: So the police didn’t think about sending you back to London then.
FE: No.
DK: No.
FE: No. They was going to get, well in fact they did get in touch with a police station in London —
DK: Yeah.
FE: And said, ‘We’ve got your son here.’ What they said I can’t imagine but anyway, I ended up at Croxton and walked through the door because in those days you didn’t knock at the door you just walked in. Everybody’s house you just walked in. Walked in and they were sitting around the old black lead grate. I can see them sitting there now. A big fire. A kettle on and anyway they looked and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I’ve come to stay. Can I?’ And they said, ‘Of course you can but what about your mum and dad?’ I said, ‘They don’t know where I am but the policeman’s rung them and I think he’s told them.’ And anyway, they got in touch with my parents or the police or whoever and my parents knew that I couldn’t settle with them so they said, ‘Alright. He can stay with you.’ So that was the start of it. I soon settled back into country life again.
DK: So you never went back to London to live then.
FE: Never went back to London. Never saw my parents again.
DK: Really?
FE: No. I just did not like them.
DK: Oh wow.
FE: And I made sure that I didn’t see them again.
DK: Right.
FE: My father died crossing the road in London. He worked as a cabinet maker.
DK: Right.
FE: And he was crossing the road in London got knocked down and killed and nobody came forward and said, ‘I saw what happened.’ And all those people yet nobody came forward. And yes, my mother I think, I think she, I’m not a hundred percent sure but I think she did die of cancer.
DK: Right.
FE: And no, as I say I never saw them again. So it came to time to think about work and of course, with being on the farms as much as I did as a boy I thought, ‘Right. Farm work.’ You know, that’ll be the thing for me.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Although I did spend a lot of time with keepers. And anyway I started on the farm. I had to be there at 7 o’clock in the morning ‘til 5. Six and a half days a week.
DK: Can you recall where that farm was?
FE: That farm was the Shipman’s farm where I was—
DK: Oh right.
FE: First evacuated to.
DK: Right. Right. So you’d gone back to the farm you —
FE: Gone back to the farm.
DK: Where you were evacuated to —
FE: Evacuated.
DK: Right.
FE: As a start —
DK: Yeah.
FE: That’s where I —
DK: Yeah. So you knew the people working there and you knew everybody.
FE: Oh, knew everybody.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: That’s right. And yeah, loved it really because it was still the old binders and horses and the odd thrashing drum with the tractor or whatever attached to it. Still all the old machinery. But of course, as time went on things was changing and the horses began to disappear and the tractors was taking over which I didn’t like. I liked the horses. And [pause] alright?
DK: Yeah. Okay.
FE: And yeah, I got on very well there and I decided to join a handbell team which was in Croxton Kerrial. Mr Farnsworth used to run it. He was a farmer. And joined this team, got on well with the handbells and we was playing at the vicarage and in the distance I could see two girls and I thought she looks alright as you do.
DK: As you do. Yeah.
FE: Yeah. So after we’d finished I went down and said, ‘Would you like to go for a walk?’ And that’s my wife.
DK: Ah.
FE: There.
DK: Well —
FE: And she —
DK: A very attractive lady.
FE: She says, ‘I will as long as long as I can bring my friend.’
DK: Yeah.
FE: I thought bugger. That’s done it. [laughs] And anyway, we did. We went for a walk and that was the start of the romance but I wanted to go into the Army.
DK: Right.
FE: So I, we’d been courting for probably a year or so and I told her I was going to go in the Army and I thought well that will be the end of it. She’ll [pause] but anyway she decided. She said, ‘Alright, I’ll wait for you.’
DK: Okay.
FE: And I went in for four years and —
DK: Was that —
FE: In the Coldstream Guards.
DK: Oh Right. Okay.
FE: Yeah. Coldstream Guards. And spent most of my time in in London. Did a lot of the Guards. Did the lining of the Mall and all those sorts of things which the Guards did.
DK: So —
FE: And Trooping the Colour and —
DK: So would this have been the 1950s or the 1960s we’re looking at when you were involved?
FE: I went in in ’56.
DK: ’56. Right. Okay.
FE: In the Army.
DK: So late 1950s then.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Yeah, and got on very well. No problems at all. Never got made up which I hoped I would but never did but doing a lot of the Guards, Tower of London and Bank of England. We used to do the Bank of England. The Tower of London. Oh, I can’t remember the names of them now.
DK: So how many Trooping the Colours did you do then?
FE: Two.
DK: Two.
FE: Yeah. Yeah. We used to be outside the Palace on guard. In those days you was outside. You used to have your sentry box. Two of you. And outside the railings and you had the signal when you was going to march you up and down to the other one at the other end. Tapped your rifle.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Two, two taps and then you’d both start to march up and down. And then when you was going to go back to your sentry box you you were swinging your arms and did two. That was the signal.
DK: Yeah.
FE: You used to get a lot of dates. The girls would come up and, ‘Meet me at —’ so and so and you’d put them up your sleeve.
DK: Oh right.
FE: So when you got back to barracks you shared them out with your, with your mates [laughs] and yeah sometimes you know I was being faithful. Yeah, some nice girls. No doubt about it but there was quite a few rough ones. And —
DK: So you got married then after you came out the Army.
FE: After I came out the Army I got married more or less straightaway and soon a daughter was on the way. And —
DK: Did you go back into farming then after that? Or —
FE: I was going to I thought I’d end up back on the farm where I originally worked but he’d set somebody else on in the meantime because he didn’t know how long I was going to be.
DK: Yeah.
FE: In the Forces or whatever and he said, ‘I’m ever so sorry. I can’t give you a job.’ But anyway, word got around that I was looking for work and a farmer in the same village I lived he came and offered me a job. And which I accepted and there was a house with it.
DK: Which village was this then?
FE: Croxton Kerrial.
DK: Right.
FE: Yeah, so anyway I accepted the job, a decent little house along the Saltby Road and enjoyed it on that farm. It was very good. I took a lot of responsibility because he was getting old and did a lot of the, a lot of the work no doubt about it. But I was getting in with the keepers a lot. Helping keepers. I was very interested in keepering and anyway one day I was hedge cutting and this car stopped on a Tuesday morning and he was watching and then he drove off. But the next Tuesday he was there again and so I got out and I went across the road to him and I said, ‘Do I happen to know you?’ And he said, ‘No.’ But he says, ‘I know all about you.’ I said, ‘Oh yes.’ And he said, ‘You spend time with the keepers.’ He said, ‘Are you interested in a keeper’s job?’ So of course, I wanted to know all the details and he said it meant setting up a shoot at Londonthorpe.
DK: Okay.
FE: That was Belton Estate.
DK: Oh right. On the Belton Estate. Okay.
FE: The Belton Estate. And it was a syndicate that wanted to set up this shoot and offered me the job.
DK: Was that before the Belton Estate became National Trust then?
FE: Yes.
DK: Right.
FE: Before then. Yeah. And anyway, I accepted the job. I had a hell of a job to get there. When we moved it were, oh my God snow. I don’t know how deep it was but it took a long while before it went. But eventually we moved in.
DK: This wasn’t the very bad winter of about 1962.
FE: No. I don’t think it was.
DK: The next one.
FE: No.
DK: So this would have been the 1960s then would it?
FE: It would have been the ‘60s.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And settled in. It was a big farmhouse. Cold. Very very cold in the winter. Beautiful in the summer. Set up this shoot which was a big thing because I’d never.
DK: Yeah.
FE: You know I’d just been with the keepers and then just suddenly —
DK: You were in charge of it all.
FE: I was responsible —
DK: Yeah.
FE: For a shoot.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And we was rearing with broody hens in those days. Used to put the eggs twenty, twenty two eggs under one hen and used to have a row of sitting boxes with all these broody hens in and got on very well. And then of course it got more modernised and we, I started having Rupert Brooders. You could put a hundred chicks under one of these.
DK: So what type of people that came out on the shoots then? Were they from the estate or were they from outside or —
FE: No. They was from, from all over. Some, some were farmers. Some were businessmen.
DK: Right.
FE: You know. Those sort of people.
DK: So you had to organise their visit and the shoots.
FE: That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
FE: My wife used to do their lunches on a shoot day.
DK: Right.
FE: We used to have ten, ten day shooting. She used to do the lunches but the only trouble with, with them they stayed too late at night drinking. Oh God. They was in my house because they had a room in my house.
DK: Right.
FE: 10 o’clock at night they’d still be there.
DK: Oh dear.
FE: And —
DK: They liked their drink did they?
FE: They liked their drink.
DK: Oh dear.
FE: Of course, in those days the police wasn’t about.
DK: Yeah.
FE: Or bothered or anything. And they used to get in a fair old state some of them. I can remember one day one of them was driving out and he went up on my grass and took the clothesline with him as he went out [laughs] Out the gate.
DK: Oh dear.
FE: And then they used to go down to Londonthorpe village and have another session there with somebody. So God knows what they was like when they got home if some of them got home.
DK: Yeah.
FE: If some of them got home.
DK: So were they were they sort of regulars then that you tended to see that came on these shoots?
FE: Yes, it was mostly rich people.
DK: Yeah. I was going to say.
FE: Rich people.
DK: And you tended to see the same ones again.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Each time.
FE: They could invite guests.
DK: Right.
FE: Yes. They could. Which several of them did. If they couldn’t get it for business or whatever.
DK: Yeah.
FE: They’d let somebody else —
DK: Else go.
FE: Go in their place. But there was one funny thing happened because there were still poachers in those days and of course pheasants was worth five pounds a brace where now you can’t give them away.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And that was a lot of money.
DK: Right.
FE: In those days. And anyway, I had a phone call saying there was poachers up in such and such a wood. Belmont Wood. And we all helped each other, the keepers. So got we got radios, got in touch with the keepers because I knew they’d be out on their rounds and we all met and went up to this wood where the poachers was and we decided we’d walk straight down the side of the wood. There was a sort of a ride and we walked down this ride. We could see these two chaps and we got within a hundred yards of them and this Alsatian came up and smelled one of us and the other one turned and run. I thought that was strange. Alsatians. Still never clicked. But anyway, we decided we was going to surround them and jump out on them with the sticks and what have you and we jumped out and shouted, ‘Stand still.’ Which they did and it was two policemen dog training. Of course, we all started laughing like mad when we found out it was two policemen and one of them said, ‘Please don’t tell anybody at the police station will you.’ [laughs] And yeah that was very funny that was. We had a good night that night after. But —
DK: Was poaching in those days a real problem then?
FE: It was for about two years and then it began to ease off because I was only a matter of what two miles from Grantham.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And the poachers came from Grantham.
DK: Right.
FE: They could walk you see or bicycle and hide the bicycle —
DK: Yeah.
FE: Under the hedge somewhere. We knew who the poachers was. We knew their names and where they lived and everything.
DK: Yeah.
FE: But it was one of those things. You had to stop out at night and hope that you caught them or they didn’t come because they found out that you was out. One night I did get poached. And I was feeding in the wood and I thought that the pheasants seemed a bit, a bit wild, a bit spooky and I started having a look around and found some feathers. And then walked a little bit more and found some more feathers and I knew that they had been. It must have been the night that I wasn’t out or something. And anyway, in those days we had alarm guns. And in fact, I had mine made and made for me. And you put a cartridge in and you had a trip wire that went across and when you tripped the wire it set it off and bang! In the middle of the night that would be a hell of a noise.
DK: Right.
FE: And anyway, I set this up on the place where I thought well if they come this is where they’re going to walk. Not walk through the thick briars. It was just a little track and I went the next morning and had a look and I could see that it had gone off and I had a look around and couldn’t find any falls at all. And then I saw a cap laying up.
DK: Right.
FE: It must have gone off.
DK: And he’d —
FE: Frightened them that much.
DK: Lost his cap and run.
FE: Set off running or something.
DK: Yeah.
FE: And left his cap behind [laughs] you know.
DK: So, so were you still working at Belton House then at this time?
FE: At Belton.
DK: Belton Estate or something.
FE: Yeah. It was nothing to do with Belton Estate. It was their land.
DK: Right.
FE: But they rented it. The shoot actually rented the land.
DK: I see.
FE: For the shoot.
DK: Right.
FE: Yeah. But it was still Belton Estate.
DK: So how long were you there for then?
FE: Well, suddenly one day one of the syndicate came to me and said, ‘I’m ever so sorry. I’ve got some bad news.’ I thought, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ He said, ‘Belton Estate is going to the National Trust and they don’t allow shooting.’
DK: Ah, so —
FE: So I was —
DK: So you actually lost your job because the National Trust had taken over.
FE: I was out of a job.
DK: Oh.
FE: Because of the National Trust.
DK: Oh right.
FE: And anyway —
DK: I bet, I bet you weren’t too pleased about that at the time.
FE: I wasn’t. No.
DK: No.
FE: But there you are. One of those things. I thought well I’ve got to start looking for another keeper’s job somewhere but we had another shoot day and one of the syndicates said to me, ‘Don’t worry about losing your job. I think I’ve got another one for you lined up.’ So he said meet me —’ so and so and we’ll go to where this which was at Burton Coggles.
DK: Right.
FE: Just down the road.
DK: Right.
FE: And Sir Monty Cholmeley. So we met Sir Monty and I said, ‘Well, I’d like to look around.’
DK: That’s Sir Monty Cholmeley.
FE: Yeah. Sir Monty Cholmeley.
DK: Right. He was the local landowner presumably.
FE: Yes. Well, he owned the estate.
DK: Yeah. Right.
FE: A small estate.
DK: Right.
FE: Easton Estate and anyway we met Sir Monty. He took us for a ride all the way around and showed me the woods and what not and told me that they had twelve shoot days a year and all what I wanted to know about the shoot and I took the job. Accepted the job.
DK: Right.
FE: He was a very very good boss. No problem at all. You meet him when you was on your rounds. He would always come and talk and offer you a drop of whisky out his bottle and yeah got on really well with him. Had some good shoot days. Things seemed to go well.
DK: So are we in to the 1970s now then? About that time? Just so —
FE: It would be. It would be about the ‘70s wouldn’t it because I was at Belton ten years.
DK: Right.
FE: So that had, let’s think [pause] Went in to ’56 in the Army. It would be ‘60 when I came out. Ten years. That makes it ’70. It would be.
DK: 1970.
FE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Got on very well. Had some good shoots. Decided to set another keeper on to work with me. Got on very well with Barry. He was a good keeper. Got on very well with him and we made a nice, a nice shoot and anyway decided to retire at the age of sixty, sixty seven.
DK: Okay.
FE: Decided to retire and the boss was having a meeting. He said he wanted me at the meeting and I went and he said, ‘Right. You are retiring. This is what’s happening to you. I’m giving you a house rate and rent free for the rest of your life.’
DK: Wow.
FE: And that’s this one.
DK: And it’s this one. Right.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Wow.
FE: And so I’ve been here [pause] oh God. About eighteen years I think.
DK: Eighteen. Eighteen years.
FE: Eighteen, something but yeah. Crikey where has that time gone? I can’t believe that.
DK: Well, we’ve come full circle around to your retirement home so I’ll stop the recording now.
FE: Yes.
DK: Because I think I’ve got everything I need. It’s got your story about your evacuation and what you did after the war.
FE: Yeah.
DK: So thanks very much for that. That’s been most enjoyable and most interesting but I’m going to switch this off now.
FE: Yeah.
[recording paused]
FE: Mind really I just did it for friends.
DK: So this was the book that you wrote.
FE: Yeah. And sold. Oh, I don’t know what it was. Fifty in the first week.
DK: So was it a privately published book then, was it?
FE: Yeah.
DK: Right.
FE: And anyway, all the books went and somebody said, ‘Oh have you got a book left?’ And I said, ‘Well, you can borrow mine.’ I can’t remember who it was. Never got it back. So I’m the only one without a book.
DK: Without a copy of it.
FE: Without a copy of the book.
DK: Can you remember what it was called?
FE: “London Evacuee to Countryman.” You can still get it.
DK: London Evacuee —
FE: “Evacuee to Countryman.”
DK: Country man. Okay. What, I’ll see if I can get hold of a copy.
FE: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
FE: You’ll be able to get a copy.
DK: If I get two I’ll —
FE: I’ve also been.
DK: Send one on to you.
FE: I’ve also been in two magazines.
DK: Right. [pause] So that’s the “Sporting Shooter.” [paper rustling]
FE: Yes. And I’ve also been in the “Lincolnshire Life.”
DK: In, “Lincolnshire Life.”
FE: I think it was, “Lincolnshire Life.”
DK: Yeah. So they did an article about you there then.
FE: That’s what I got it off when I came out of hospital.
DK: Very good.
FE: Good isn’t it? That’s it.
DK: Oh right. So this is where are we? So this is, oh it’s quite recent then. August 2022.
FE: That’s right.
DK: Oh, so I’ll just make a note of this. August 2022 of the, “Sporting Shooter.” What are we? Page thirty four. Page thirty five. Okay.
FE: I’ve also got the other one in the cupboard behind you.
DK: Oh right. So this, this covers your story of the Doodlebugs.
FE: Yeah.
DK: And going out to [pause] on page thirty six. I’ll have a look at that. Oh right. So do, do you still shoot at all or —
FE: I packed it up probably ten years ago.
DK: Right.
FE: I found that I couldn’t swing the same.
DK: Right.
FE: The old joints with arthritis.
DK: Not quite as good.
FE: I thought well now’s the time to —
DE: To give it up.
FE: Give it up. So —
DK: Just put this back on again. Its rather odd that in some ways because you became an evacuee and came out here it totally changed your life and the direction you would have been taking.
FE: Completely.
DK: So in some ways, well in almost all respects it was actually a good thing that you became an evacuee. Saw a different life outside London.
FE: That’s right.
DK: And then had a life and a career from that.
FE: That’s right. What if I’d stayed in London what would have happened? I could have been killed. Just don’t know.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
FE: What would have happened.
DK: Well, your career would have been totally different wouldn’t it?
FE: Totally different. I would have probably been with my father cabinet making or whatever.
DK: Yeah.
FE: You don’t know do you?
DK: No.
FE: What could have happened.
DK: Okay then. I’m going to stop this again now.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Frank Edwards,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 30, 2024,

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