Interview with William Edwin Barnett


Interview with William Edwin Barnett


William Edwin Barnett talks about his experience of living on the edge of RAF Westcott, near Aylesbury. Remembers starting to work on a farm at the age of fourteen and describes his everyday life and duties. Tells of being conscripted into the Home Guard, where he did night patrolling and practiced target shooting with an air rifle. Tells of how he wanted to join the Navy but was rejected because he was in a reserved occupation. Talks about various plane crashes, including a Lancaster, of which he gives a detailed and vivid account. After the war, remembers being conscripted into the Navy, where he served for seven years.




Temporal Coverage





01:49:02 audio recording


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ABarnettWE170328, PBarnettWE1701


CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 28th of March 2017 and we are in Woodham, near Aylesbury and I’m talking with William Edwin Barnett about his days in the war as a resident on the edge of the airfield at Westcott. So, Eddie, what are your earliest recollections of life?
WEB: Well, earliest recollections really is going to school at Westcott School and I went to, you know, walked to, down to the village and get educated there. And from there we were then transferred to Waddesdon and that’s where I finished my education, in Waddesdon. So that’s as far as that goes.
CB: And what did your father do?
WEB: My father was a signalman on the railway and he, all during the war, he was at Ashendon Junction signal box
CB: Right. So, which railway was that?
WEB: That was like, that’s, I don’t know the railway, that’s the Oxford, is that the Oxford one? It goes, anyway, it goes below Ashendon Hills
CB: Yes
WEB: And on its way to Oxford and [unclear] perhaps I used to come from there through to here, Woodham and
CB: Yeah
WEB: And on to, on to
CB: Went on to the mainline
WEB: Mainline and onto Quainton
CB: Yes
WEB: Joined up with that one
CB: Yes
WEB: That’s as far as I know
CB: Which was the London to Wragby line
WEB: Yeah
CB: Yeah. Ok. And at what age did you leave school, Eddie?
WEB: I left school at the age of fourteen
CB: Ok.
WEB: And I, my first job was William Fenimore’s farm, which is this one down here, down, where Mr. Adams lives now, that’s where I first had my working experience and we used to get up and do, had to get down to the farm around about six o’clock in the morning to do the milking and finish it around [unclear] and come home for breakfast then and then continue the rest of the day onto the farm.
CB: And what did you do on the farm the rest of the day?
WEB: Just general farm work, cleaning out the stables and cow [unclear] and things like that and do the milking and all that sort of thing
CB: So, was this an animal farm effectively or was it arable as well?
WEB: It was until the war years, when the war started it became any arable, the ploughing and things like that, that was the first time that I ploughed and done things like that
CB: So, what animals were there, apart from the cows?
WEB: The cow. Oh, all animals like, they didn’t have horse, they had one horse, I think, one horse, and that used to take the milk from the farm up to the [unclear] on it and the rest of the day it was in the stable and [unclear] things just, you done the normal things with haymaking and all that sort of thing and the hay was all stacked in ricks and these were cut and delivered to the [unclear] as they needed it. I think that covers that sort
CB: So, in the wintertime, there was enough hay, was there, to feed the cattle?
WEB: Yes, yes, that was enough, all stacked in what they called ricks, ricks we used to call them
CB: Could you describe a rick? What’s that like?
WEB: Well, it’s built from the ground upwards and it’s round about, what, [unclear] about the size, half the size of this building long and about the same width and you take it up, build it up and then you come, when you get to round about ten, fifteen feet from the ground, something like that, you [unclear] it in which to make the roof and then you thatch it to keep the rain out
CB: So, the thatching is done with
WEB: Straw
CB: Straw. Ok. Where did the straw come from?
WEB: Straw was with the, in the fields like, where you thrashed out the corn
CB: Yes
WEB: What you call it, you thrash the corn out and then the straw was what was left
CB: Yes. So, they grew corn effectively to create straw, did they, for thatching
Web: Well, it would, it got that and then of course corn was used cause poultry and that, they had in [unclear] farm in what they called them I forget now, it was a thing that you could move and the chickens were in there
CB: Yes
WEB: The chicken, with a run and it was moved gradually about the field the chickens to get fresh grain to be on. This was, and that was all done usually nothing to do with the men farmer, just usually done by the daughter, something like that which in down here was Carrie Fenimore, that was the daughter’s name and she looked after the chickens
CB: Did they have sheep as well?
WEB: They had sheep, a few sheep
CB: Any goats?
WEB: Not goats, never had goats
CB: Right. And what numbers of cattle were involved in this? Roughly
WEB: The actual, I think it was around about up to twenty-five in, for milking purposes and that sort of thing
CB: Right
WEB: And then they did, did they have beef cattle as well?
WEB: Pardon?
CB: Did they have beef cattle?
WEB: Yes
CB: Raised for meat?
WEB: Yes, well, yes, they, that in a was a sort of a separate place because they used to have some fields that were down here but over the railway, over the top of the railway were a few more fields and those cows used to run wild there and were just, you went up with a horse and a cow straw and hay and that and you used to feed them during the winter
CB: Right
WEB: With that and they used to fatten up there and then, when they were ready they send them off to market
CB: Did the farm have a tractor?
WEB: Well, he, well
CB: At that time when you joined?
WEB: Had a tractor of a, yes, they did have a tractor, yeah, but it was a big, powerful one and it was a steam driven one they had, like, it was more like a steam engine then with which they towed anything they wanted to tow
CB: So, could that go on the road?
WEB: That did go on the road, that steam engine
CB: So, would you call that a traction engine?
WEB: Traction engine? Yes
CB: Right
WEB: And that was, that was used to take [unclear] job to describe the farms because they had another load of field round on the [unclear] road
CB: Right
WEB: And things like that and all these [unclear] just wend round and some of the sons and daughters used to look after that
CB: Right. So, how many people were running the farm?
WEB: Well, the actual who, the head of the farm was Will, William Fenimore and then there was Algernon Fenimore, he used to run and what was the other one? Algernon and I forget the other man’s name but he was married to a schoolteacher, now I can’t think of his name now but
CB: So you were supporting the family effectively. Were there other farm workers in addition to you?
WEB: Oh, there was, yes, there was
CB: How many?
WEB: Other people, was Leslie Jones and he was a real farm worker, well, he used to do that plus he used to look after me
CB: He looked after the animals
WEB: He looked after the hedging, and hedge cut
CB: Oh yes
WEB: Anything like that, he’d step in and do that sort of thing
CB: Was there a lot of hedging, hedge cutting in those days?
WEB: Only when it was necessary and he’d done, it wasn’t done on a regular basis in this day that was done very occasionally
CB: So, you were born in 1924 and you joined at fourteen, so that’s 1938, what do you remember of the next year, when the war started, in September 1939?
WEB: What do I remember? Not very much mainly actually [unclear] it was, the thing was there and that had to be dealt with I presume but it did make differences to us because we, for instance we had to join the home guard that was, if you couldn’t join, if, what I mean to say is if you was in a reserved occupation, let’s put it that way, you were not called up to do military service
CB: Right
WEB: As it goes but you were conscripted into the home guard and you’d done military training [unclear] and one odd day in the week and at no time, no time when you was later on you were let, we had to patrol the A41 of [unclear] and [unclear] you have done that for, would say, from midnight till four, and then from four till you went, four, that was, four would be the last watch, and you then, from then on you went to work so what you done, what you’re trying to do is to get you the end and the beginning of the day, merge into one so you could do the job, then go home and have your breakfast and then carry on working for the rest of the day. Does that make any sense to you?
CB: It does, yes. So, you were on four till eight, were you, and then had your breakfast
WEB: Yeah
CB: Ok. And what was the watch before that, before the one at twelve, was it eight till twelve? Were they four-hour watches?
WEB: These four-hour watches, they, you were drawn from, they started by midnight, more or less,
CB: Yeah, right
WEB: We used to think but that probably, started a little bit earlier than that but you’d done so long and then you got relieved and you left
CB: Yeah. So, at what stage did the farm operation change because of the war and why was it changed? How was it changed?
WEB: Well
CB: Because they started doing arable crops, didn’t they?
WEB: Well, this is all before the war, before the war [unclear], it was more or less just have a few cows, let them run around in the fields and do things like that, there weren’t much given to ploughing or anything that I can remember before the war
CB: No
WEB: Not, on a
CB: On a
WEB: On this basis
CB: Yeah
WEB: It weren’t really come necessary to do, what is it, to substitute the corn and that we were getting from the [unclear] and that sort of thing were coming in before the war for breadmaking and all that, it wasn’t until after when the war started and we had to make deal with bread and make bread out of the wheat and we started making bread of our own
CB: Did you?
WEB: We’d have our own wheat is what I mean [unclear] it was all done by imported corn wheat stuff
CB: Yeah
WEB: Does that make sense?
CB: Yeah, absolutely. So, then, Westcott became an RAF airfield, so when did that happen, when did they start building that and what was the reaction?
WEB: Dates, I can’t remember those dates and what was it, who was when? [unclear] to say
CB: Well, we can look up the actual date but what do you remember about it happening because your house
WEB: Yes, yes, as a matter of fact while, before that happened, I was happily working on the farm down here and then I got talking to some lads who was on the, doing the ministry job as I call it and I know he said, well, if they are getting that much money, I think it’s time I went in and had some [unclear], so I left the farm and went into the [unclear] and started doing this job and at that time I was, I was taken a surveyor [unclear] on a dumper to [unclear] we went up and came up to the bridge and what was the boss from the farm spotted me and that’s where my problems started then because he immediately went back and phoned the employment agency [unclear] I was immediately told to go and see them to get myself back on the farm, I was more important to them on the farm than the [unclear] so I was virtually took back to the farm and made to work on that farm until the wartime was over. I couldn’t please myself where I went [unclear] I had to be there. Do you understand this?
CB: Absolutely. So, there you were, in a house, a row of three, is it, next to the airfield, so did that map out as they were building it?
WEB: Well, it was, no, it didn’t affect us to in a lot of ways, you know, I mean, the only thing that we sort of did fall into was it all these, making these rain rings and putting them on where the aircraft standings were which what they called the one [unclear] behind the hazes, where I lived, was given a number of sea flight, that was its number and that’s where a lot of the fellows worked and that’s where a lot of the fellows used to nip out and go absent to drink without anybody else knowing [laughs] [unclear]. Mother used to be [unclear] nipping and give them plates of food and things like that they didn’t want give mother on a plate said, yes, you can use that more than we can, which take me now to, down on this road as we go down to Mote farm
CB: Right
WEB: Just as you go down [unclear], there they got as machine gun post, a machine gun nest then for Canadians, the Canadians were stationed in the old drive, driveway down at Lodge Garage they went that, they were stationed there, the Canadians were and they had a machine gun nest, machine gun [unclear] the bloke and what was it, and he came and he made friends with us, with myself and my brother, used to go down to [unclear] and for a pint or two of milk the farmer didn’t know about, he, they used to give us a bit of corned beef [laughs], which I, which people don’t know about, they shouldn’t have known about it then so we used to get a bit of corned beef for giving a pint of Mr. Fenimore’s milk and all went on during the war that sort of thing
CB: Nobody ever knew
WEB: No, well, I supposed they guessed I mean, Mr. Fenimore, what was it, he got these as I said, as I said the daughter of the farm, Carrie Fenimore, she used to be in charge of the chicken in these, I forget what they used to call them things, you could [unclear] them with the [unclear] and [unclear] with the [unclear], I forget the
CB: And they were called arcs, were they?
WEB: Well, [unclear] that anyway, and they shipped them about the farms and she looked after that and all the, what was it, and after, when you’d done all the those, all the milk was in churns which stood about that height from the ground were filled up and we, they had to be taken from the farm and up to the road here and stood on the road where Nestle’s milk lorries would pick them up and Carrie used to [unclear] the door, she drove the van up and I’d have to go up with her to lump the cans of milk away to where they go and that was where we got the milk to Aylesbury.
CB: These churns were about four feet high but how much milk did they carry each?
WEB: [unclear] I can’t [unclear] at the moment
CB: Probably about forty pints
WEB: I mean they [laughs] I stood about that, about that high so what was in there I wouldn’t know
CB: No
WEB: But there was but we used to send about five churns of milk per day to Aylesbury, to the Aylesbury Nestle’s, Nestle’s milk Aylesbury, [unclear] that
CB: What was the lorry? Was it a steam lorry or was it a
WEB: It was a petrol
CB: Petrol
WEB: Petrol driven lorry, lorry with a flat back where the bloke used to keep the pints of milk and get it go in to set on top of the
CB: The technique was to kick it and bounce it
WEB: Well, it was, yes, it got two little handles at the top
CB: Yeah
WEB: But he [unclear], his foot [unclear] side of the lorry, just slide it on
CB: So you
WEB: The lorry was not very high
CB: No. You brought it but he loaded it, did he?
WEB: He’d done all the, if he, if there was no, we used to leave it, if, you take it up to the road and you pick up the old churn and they used to drop the spare churns as I went down but if they were there when you were, you took the spare churn and left the milk, the milk there for him to pick up, you didn’t have to be there to see him take it
CB: But it was on a deck by the gate, was it?
WEB: That was on a
CB: Platform
WEB: Well, some [unclear] had platforms but we just set them straight onto the road
CB: Was it concrete?
WEB: To the farm you had road on, you know
CB: Ok. And how did you sterilise the empty ones when they returned them?
WEB: Well, when they returned them, they were already done
CB: Ready to fill
WEB: Straight in, straight into the caveyard and filled them up again
CB: Yeah. Right
WEB: But to, it was [unclear] in the farm there was a place where you put your milk, I forget what they called it now so, you put your milk into the top and it went through to cool it off, they cooled the milk off before it went into the can, into the churns
CB: Right
WEB: The churns that’s what
CB: Yeah
WEB: Thinking about
CB: Good
WEB: But that, that was heavy work that you had to do
CB: You were the only person who did that, were you?
WEB: You had to do it cause Carrie, the daughter couldn’t let them and so she just drove the little lost van it was at that time but they got, just [unclear] Carrie used to drive it
CB: I think we’ll take a break for a mo, thank you.
WEB: Lived on, lived where I am.
CB: Right, so, let’s just look at the farm. The Fenimores didn’t own this farm, did they?
CB: Who do you think owned it?
WEB: No, they rent it
CB: Right, from whom?
WEB: From the [unclear] estates
CB: Right
WEB: As far as I could think,
CB: Right. And the house you were in, who owned that?
WEB: That was, oh, some,
CB: It wasn’t owned by the farmer?
CB: It was owned by the Crown
WEB: Crown properties
CB: Yeah
WEB: Crown properties owned that
CB: Because it was the edge of the road
WEB: Like there sort of thing
CB: Right
WEB: That was [unclear]
CB: That, yeah. And you were one of a big family, so how big was the family?
WEB: There was eleven in our family
CB: Right. Mixture of boys and girls?
WEB: Yeah, I think it was six and five, I
CB: Yeah, ok
WEB: That was [unclear], that was five boys and six girls, yeah
CB: Yeah
WEB: And at the moment, there’s just three boys
CB: Yeah
WEB: Left
CB: Left
WEB: That’s the sad outcome
CB: So, going back to when the airfield was starting to be built, in about 1940, ’41, that was right next to your house, what could you see going on from the house? Because
WEB: Well
CB: It was land which it was a mixture of fields, wasn’t it? What did they do about that?
WEB: The field and different thing
CB: Woods?
WEB: [unclear] say that the first thing that you saw, thing was the great big caterpillar tractors around pulling down, pulling up hedges and things like that to make way for all this airfield now and as I say, I left and went over to, thought I get a few paid more than I was getting on the farm and that was Derby, this is the name of the firm if you want
CB: Yeah
WEB: It was the one I worked for was Derby Everdale and Greenwood who were subcontracting to, I can’t think now, the overall government was, what was it
CB: A big construction company
WEB: Big
CB: Like McAlpine
WEB: Well, was something like that, there, can’t think of it now but that was more or less done there and as I say, I thought I’d have some of the while I went, while they sent me back they said, Mr. Barnett, not Mr. Barnett, they called me, what was it? Get back to work, you, work, they said, you are more important where you are than where, [unclear] told me, he said, you’ll stay there until the end of the war, that’s your job, and that was all they told me, that, and during that time, the whole home guard and all that you were expected to join that but at night-time you’d have to do a stand on, from, on the road
CB: Yeah
WEB: On the A41
CB: Yeah
WEB: To ensure that there was no funny business by, you know, some people wanted to damage the, damage the things at Agnem Street station, that was all that keep you on that, because in the Agnum Street station they got that based to run petrol into that, to Wadston to store and you had to make sure that it was doing and then, as I say, you done that and the time it was, you finished that shift it was time to go and milk the cows
CB: What sort of people were they thinking were going to do these things?
WEB: Well, it was German parachuters more than anything, you know, that was what they, that was what they used to tell us, they dropped these people with parachutes and things and we believed them and you had to believe, innit? They say they would drop, I presume they could’ve done, but that we believed it and we used to do this patrolling. Two of us used to do the patrol and then get relieved, the ideal one was to start at four o’clock in the morning and do that and do that and [unclear] until six and then you went and done your farming
CB: Right
WEB: Done your milking, went and done your milking and then you went home and had your breakfast and all that sort of thing
CB: What weapons did you carry?
WEB: We had, I don’t know where, the ones we had were the imported 300
CB: Springfields
WEB: Must have been the Springfields, it was American made
CB: American, yeah
WEB: [unclear] that was the ones we had, we had Springfield and five rounds of ammunition
CB: Right
WEB: And we kept that, there was two of those and [unclear] cause me brother Sam [unclear] he had one as well
CB: Did you take it home or?
WEB: That was, that was kept at home.
CB: Yea
WEB: But you had to take it to your [unclear] on the Sunday and that one we were doing the drills and [unclear] and several on a Sunday and all that sort of thing
CB: Where did you practice your shooting skills?
WEB: Unfortunately, we didn’t get to any shooting practices, that was too, our ammunition was too, what they called? Too
CB: Too [unclear]
WEB: Too spare, too expensive, and too valuable then to expend on things like that, what we used to do was to have a target sort of thing with an air rifle
CB: Ah
WEB: [unclear] and you never practiced with the actual big machine, as I call it,
CB: Yeah
WEB: You had a little air rifle
CB: Yeah. And how good was your shooting?
WEB: Pardon?
CB: How good was your shooting?
WEB: My shooting weren’t too bad, actually. It was about fair, fair
CB: So when you briefly worked on the airfield construction, how much did they pay you?
WEB: Oh, I think it was round about that time, it was round about seven or eight pounds, something like that which normally
CB: A week?
WEB: For that time
CB: A week
WEB: A week
CB: Yeah
WEB: But the farming, that was only up to about seven or eight pounds
CB: Right
WEB: So that was what [unclear], Mr. Fenimore he spotted me on this, what was it and I was back down the next day
CB: Yeah. So, how many people were building the airfield, were there lots of people?
WEB: Oh, I don’t know, quite a lot, what was it? It was Irish, a lot of Irish people
CB: Right
WEB: At the time
CB: Where did they house those?
WEB: In a factory down sort of gypsie bombers as we called it, you know a gypsies barn is buried where the club is
CB: Yes, in the wood there
WEB: In that strip of land there to the bottom of the hill, that’s where they used to house those people, in Nissen huts sort of things
CB: Which they put specially, had they?
WEB: They put them up specially for them
CB: How long did it take to build the airfield?
WEB: Oh, I don’t know, [unclear] I don’t know, it didn’t take them long, to, I mean, it’s, I think it’s, I wouldn’t say
CB: So, you talked about these caterpillars that were ripping up the hedges, how many trees did they have to take out?
WEB: Oh, that is beyond me, I mean, as a matter of fact, I don’t know, before the war actually they were [unclear] from way [unclear] on the side of the road
CB: The A41
WEB: From there the back portal as we called it to the Westcott turn was a load of those, what we called? Birch, is it?
CB: Silver birch
WEB: Silver birch, they were lines of eight of those trees on the road, then they got four of them and then there was odd one or two down Westcott lane, these silver birch trees and that sort of thing
CB: So what happened to those?
WEB: All fell and burnt, but the most of it was burnt and the logs and that, cause people had them stacked and had them for firewood and that sort of thing
CB: They pulled the roots out?
WEB: The roots and all that were pulled all out and
CB: Where did the put those?
WEB: They put them in heaps and got rid of those with the fire
CB: And what about the runways, because they had a different type of equipment for that, did they?
WEB: What the
CB: Making the runways
WEB: That I couldn’t say, I mean, I just
CB: You could watch them
WEB: It was concrete and what was it? All the way, done, they’d done it in bays, bays
CB: In sections
WEB: In sections, that was all, don’t know what the, the machine was actually making the concrete and they’d lay there and then, when that was drawn, they moved it on and made the next one and doing, that was done in bays I think
CB: Right, yeah
WEB: Call it but it was big concrete
CB: And what about the material. How did that get there?
WEB: Came in from road, from the road, from [unclear], the Oxford area, somewhere down, I just big, some big [unclear]
CB: Were they petrol
WEB: Pits and where they loaded them up on the lorries and
CB: Yeah
WEB: They brought the stuff and loaded it and put it on, what was it, where that was to be used and that was levelled out by tractor, the things and pushed all over and levelled and rolled out and then they made concrete on the top of it
CB: Right. Now, there’s a railway that goes down beside the airfield so, how much came by railway?
WEB: Funnily enough I don’t think not a lot of it came by the rail but the only thing that sort of come by rail was petrol and storage that they sent to Wadston and stored up in the plantations of Wadston [unclear]
CB: Oh, was it? Right
WEB: Mostly [unclear] that I can tell
CB: That was fuel for the aircraft
WEB: That was fuel for, not for the aircraft, that was fuel for the general army actually but a load of these things were in tin, what they called it? Tin cans, they weren’t very thick but those weigh round about four gallons
CB: Yeah
WEB: And they were all stacked in the Wadston, Wadston plantations
CB: Right
WEB: Right where the doctor’s surgery is [unclear], all around that area
CB: On the far side of the village, yeah
WEB: Was where [unclear]
CB: So, how different was the supply, when the airfield was finished, how did they supply the fuel for that?
WEB: That used to come in by big tankers from somewhere, I don’t know where
CB: But not by train
WEB: Ehm
CB: Not by train
WEB: Not say this local station anyway
CB: Right
WEB: It came, it might, even then I might be wrong, but I think it was from somewhere else they used to come, the big tankers
CB: Yeah. Now your house and the others next to it are on the north side of the airfield, they actually with the hard standings for servicing, they also had a big petrol store underground
WEB: In where?
CB: Just across the fence from here
WEB: Ah, yes, yes
CB: So how did they build that?
WEB: That was all a big, they dug it all out, a big pit and they put a steel tank, yeah, that was, a big tank was lowered into the ground with pumps and all that and they [unclear] for petrol, well, fuel for aircraft anyway and then they [unclear] the back [unclear] where [unclear] is, are three, are standings for aircraft
CB: Yes
WEB: Cause I was saying, [unclear] or something like that, three Wellington bombers used to stay
CB: [unclear]
WEB: Were parked out there and that sort of got to know the load of the people
CB: Yeah
WEB: [unclear] Tipps Wooller, he used to run to dinner now and again he [unclear], we don’t want it, you can eat it [laughs], yeah Tipps Wooller, [unclear] to know I recall, you know, some of the names but no [unclear] to me, so I say, Tipps, he was an aircraft ambuler, he brought out to the aircraft and that at the back and then he, there was several couples I used to know in when we used to go and have a pint with them when we got in the pub to get a pint but I forget the names of those people that used to come, I know they come up into London somewhere
CB: Why was it difficult to get into the pub?
WEB: Pardon?
CB: Why was it difficult to get into the pub?
WEB: Into the what?
CB: Into the pub. You said it was difficult to get into it
WEB: The pub?
CB: Yeah
WEB: Oh well, I mean, [unclear], it was like everything else, it was shortage of beer [laughs], that was too odd difficult thing to get in there, I mean, they’d be all waiting outside there for Frank Washington to open the door, [unclear] that was, the biggest problem was to rush in and a beer, they weren’t officially rationed but they weren’t [unclear] for them to give it then, yeah
CB: Now, this big tank with petrol in, when they moved the contents to be able to fill the aircraft, to what extent was there a strong smell of fuel in the air?
WEB: I don’t know this much of it. I couldn’t notice much of the smell from it really. I mean [unclear] I presumed, which way the wind blowed
CB: Right
Web: But we, some of that we didn’t take much notice of but [unclear] the big, the tank, that when you get more of a smell than anything was when the tanker came round to fuel the aircraft
CB: Right
WEB: Which was right close to the [unclear] the aircraft and that was when you used to get more of a smell from the tankers but other than that, nothing [unclear]
CB: So, how did they get from the main road to this fuel tank? Was there a special gate near your house?
WEB: What was?
CB: The tankers
WEB: The tankers [unclear]
CB: They came in from a gate near your house, did they?
WEB: Not the actual tankers that fuelled, they used to come in and I had, they had an underground tank
CB: Yeah
WEB: Inside the aerodrome which was quite a long way from the [unclear] and they used to, at the end of where our garden and that, there was a road
CB: Right
WEB: Off there where all the tankers went in and to supply the tanks and that sort of thing
CB: Yes
WEB: Other than that, that was the only sort of thing that used to go over in there but it was a pretty busy thing I would think
CB: We’ll take a break there. So, just talking about
WEB: End of the gardens
CB: Yeah, there was a [unclear]
WEB: There was a [unclear] called Wadston terrace
CB: Yeah
WEB: There used to be a little building with a sentry, and he used to let in the lorries that’s one thing I think [unclear] lorries
CB: The fuel delivery lorries
WEB: They let the fuel delivery lorries in
CB: Yeah. So how was the airfield secured? They didn’t have a fence, did it?
WEB: Had, most of it round was concertina barbwire
CB: Right
WEB: One roll, two rolls on the floor, one on the top
CB: Right
WEB: That’s what they call it
CB: How high was that? When they were piled on top?
WEB: Well, they were, each roll was about that high
CB: Right, five, six feet
WEB: There was one, that was up from the floor
CB: Yeah, five feet
WEB: And then one, another one
CB: Yeah
WEB: Balanced on the two
CB: Yeah
WEB: That was the only thing that I can remember of [unclear] place
CB: Yeah
WEB: Being [unclear] as it stood and [unclear] we used to be a very good [unclear] for the people who come and see and have a pint without the bosses knowing [laughs]
CB: So where would they
WEB: They would walk through the garden at the end of the pub and then back
CB: Which pub are we talking about? Which pub are we talking about, in the village or elsewhere?
WEB: [unclear] go anywhere more or less where the pub, they got the beer
CB: Ah
WEB: This was the problem for me, see, with all these extra people, is, where do you go and get your pint of beer, when it don’t last long? You know, it was, they ain’t got beer all the time, these pubs, they just start to [unclear] if you [unclear] go and get a pint every day mostly, well I suppose, it was a type of rationing [unclear] but, yeah
CB: Could you buy beer to drink at home or was it not available?
WEB: Never, I never saw any of that sort of, bought anywhere, not a way, that was too, they wouldn’t sell it, I don’t think, in the pubs, avoidable for them to sell it, I don’t think, you probably would do but I can’t say that I know that you can buy beer to take home
CB: Right
WEB: But, I mean, it’s a long time ago, isn’t it?
CB: Yes
WEB: But there
CB: Now what about, when the aircraft, when the airfield became operational, that was quite a change to the quiet of the countryside so how did people take to that?
WEB: Oh, just a war time job that you had to take, it wasn’t that, the noisiest places for us, I presume, was when the aircraft was on the landing, on the site, next [unclear] and they were testing the engines
CB: Yes
WEB: They were revving up, that was the noisy part of it and to do that, we used to laugh, we got Lottie Cannon used to live one end of [unclear] and guess it’s going back and Stanley [unclear] was in the middle, I think it was the [unclear] in the middle way round there for end at the time and mum said, that lot, Lottie will be able to [unclear] she said today, she said, they grabbed the aircraft blowing straight across our garden [laughs], they used to make, that was the type of thing they’d done, you see, to test the aircraft, that was right on there, in the aircraft there and then the [unclear] is here, and they, I guess, they just revved up the engine to test them, and all that sort of thing and you had to put with it and that was it
CB: They didn’t swing the aircraft into a better position to save you
WEB: Pardon?
CB: They didn’t swing the aircraft
CB: Save the
WEB: No, they, that, where the aircraft come in to land, that’s where it [unclear] straight to the aerodrome and tail, facing your [unclear]
CB: Yeah
WEB: You got all the background then
CB: So you deserved the extra food as compensation
WEB: We deserved a lot but we didn’t get [laughs], oh dear
CB: So we are talking about a big family here, how many of the family had left to get elsewhere by this time, beginning of the war?
WEB: By the war all the girls had gone
CB: Right
WEB: I think most
CB: Cause they were older
WEB: No, it was because the way these people worked them days, when the girls left school they were billeted out to the place where they were gonna work
CB: Right
WEB: [unclear] they seemed to manage to all these families
CB: Yeah
WEB: I mean, I think certainly my oldest sister Winnie, she went over the back of the farmer back Quainton Hills [unclear] Quainton Hills and she was lodged in that place, that’s where she met her husband and
CB: What was her job then?
WEB: Well, she was [unclear], she kept and cleaned the farm and kept it all going
CB: Right
WEB: [unclear]
CB: What did the other girls do?
WEB: Oh,
CB: A variety
WEB: I don’t know, Alice, she was sent out to [unclear], Aston Clinton, that area, round there to do people’s ailsing and the other girls, they all, well, don’t think of the younger ones, were at home, you know
CB: So, in those days, the big houses had girls in service
WEB: Yes, they did that, that was what they had to do mostly what they’d done [unclear], business was the service for
CB: You were on the farm, were there any of the girls in the land army?
WEB: Not our girls, no
CB: And your brothers, what did they do?
WEB: The brothers were all more or less, Ernie, now, he was the star of the family actually, cause he was a cross country runner and he was transferred from Grendon, that was present man, Lord somebody who’s done Grendon Hall
CB: Grendon Hall, yeah
WEB: And he worked for them in the gardens
CB: Right
WEB: And he happened to go, happened to go to Grendon and the police were holding a sport’s day at Grendon, at Bicester and he [unclear] and went to and do his races and he eventually come home with a, what do you call it? Hang on the wall [unclear], tells the weather, a weather glass, a grandmother clock, and something else he, three things he brought home on that high school from
CB: That he’d won
WEB: He won
CB: Yeah
WEB: But the police bought it what was it, when from then on, that made him and they got in contact with Wickham Phoenix Harriers, which was at Wickham, what was it? And they got him a job in the chair factories and that’s where he spent the rest of his days in factories apart from when he was called up into the Air Force and that was it, he won the only international medal he got was when he, England and Belgium were against other sports and he was one of the runners and he got a gold medal in that, what was it, and that was his only medal he ever sort of won in international, what was it, and then on he went in the Air Force and the next thing I know he was in the Far East, Middle East, my mistake, doing his Air Force
CB: Right. When did he join the RAF? When did he join the RAF?
WEB: When did he? Oh, I don’t know, he was more or less conscripted I think into it, that was where
CB: At the beginning of the war
WEB: At the beginning of the war and that was where he done that training and all that sort
CB: How much older than you was he?
WEB: Oh Ernie, he was quite, he was the oldest and I was round about the middle, middle of the family
CB: Right
WEB: I don’t, those, I don’t know much really cause the difference in years and that, most of the girls then were sent out to work [unclear]
CB: Was that because of the war or because that’s how the things happened?
WEB: Well, that’s how things happened normally
CB: Right
WEB: Cause the war didn’t have a lot of effect on the difference what, the only difference they did sort of do then were to get jobs into factories and things so that were important to do, war efforts where before that they’d do everything else
CB: Right. And did one of your brothers do work in the mines? What was he?
WEB: Oh, well, Victor
CB: Yeah
WEB: Victor, he’s still living in Aylesbury at the moment, he was conscripted down the mines, yes
CB: A Bevin boy
WEB: A Bevin boy, yeah
CB: Yes
WEB: Yes, he was, that was it, he was a Bevin boy. I don’t know many people that done it from around here that went in there
CB: Yeah. And where was that? Up in the north?
WEB: He went up to
CB: Newcastle?
WEB: That was Newcastle and somewhere around that area
CB: Ok, we’ll take a break there. We’re stopping there. So, what we are going to do now is talk about the crashes and other recollections of the airfield. Actually, Westcott 11 Operational Training Unit lost 53 Wellingtons in crashes
WEB: [unclear]
CB: Yeah. And how many, what’s the first one you remember? You talked about one to do with a signal box.
WEB: Yes, well, that one has taken three runways out there and I think it was, I don’t know which one, which one to name, they named them, but it came from that way and he didn’t make the end of the runway properly and he was never got enough height and he hit the signal box and went into the, this side of the railway and that was where one of the fellows, I think it was one of the fellows down on the Restborough [unclear] but that was that one but I don’t think there was any
CB: Right, so then another one was one that
WEB: Another one was, I mean, [laughs] I don’t know whether anybody ever looked at, if they kept the [unclear] on the left hand side but you come down from [unclear], from [unclear] down to Woodham, I think I’m not sure but there’s three, three fences on that left hand side, where the aircraft had actually gone over the road, come over the, come to land on that airfield, failed, went over the field, down and over the road and landed with its, either its tail or its nose, over the Bicester road
CB: This explains
WEB: And I think if I’m not sure, there’s three fences have been put up in the [unclear], I don’t know [unclear]
CB: So, this is a strip between your house and where we are talking today of about half a mile and we are talking about the end of the runway that is runway 2 8, in other words goes to the North-West so there was shot out
WEB: They are the ones that come over the road then
CB: Yeah
CB: To the A41
WEB: Yeah. Well, that’s as far as I can tell, I don’t know where they got fences in there or not, but they used to have gaps in the hedge then and they been filled in [unclear] sense or not, I don’t know,
CB: Now, there was one crash that took place on the 15th of March 1944 which was when there was a Wellington in the circuit and it was hit, this is in the night, by a Stirling that came from another direction, what do you remember about that?
WEB: That’s the first time I ever called a Stirling, we, everybody [laughs], I’ve always known it as a Lancaster,
CB: Right, that’s the other, that’s the different crash, this the one that where they were hit
WEB: This is
WEB: This is one at Westcott turn
CB: Yes
WEB: This, this
CB: Ok, that’s the other one, yes
WEB: This plane had been doing circuits and bumps as we called it
CB: Right
WEB: Been flying [unclear]
CB: Yeah
WEB: On its final, he didn’t make it, he went straight over the road
CB: Yes
WEB: But that crashed his undercarriage
CB: Yes
WEB: And he [unclear] that side of the road
CB: The other side, this is a Wellington
WEB: At night time, they’d done this big raid on Germany and these aircraft were flying back and these actually got diverted from some other airfield, this Lancaster bomber, we’ll call it a Lancaster
CB: It is a Lancaster, yes
WEB: A Lancaster bomber come flying in from the other way and he didn’t make it, he went over the road and landed on top of this Wellington that was already there
CB: Right
WEB: And that was where all the hullabaloo got started then, blokes running down the road, in their flying boots, mom looked out of the window and she said, [unclear] Charlie said, blokes running [unclear] we better get out, and we [unclear] then Kitt Rebell come along and he shouted and told us, get out and clear airfield, he said, in the roots cause all in [unclear] beyond our place were tree roots, [unclear] up when aircraft were being made, when the airfield was being made but there was a load of roots out there, so get out in [unclear] and we went out there. My father, he was out there and he was when it went off, he was pulling his trousers on outside in the field and he was pulling his trousers on and suddenly he said, I heard this thump, I know there was a lump of aircraft metal, not two yards from him but my father was near my father ever got to an aircraft, he said, that’s the nearest I ever wanna be and that was, he missed, that was when that aircraft blew up at Westcott turn
CB: So you were in the tree tumps
WEB: We were in the tree stumps
CB: And where was he, close to that?
WEB: Who, my father?
CB: Yeah
WEB: He was in the tree stumps with us
CB: Yeah
WEB: In those but he was [unclear] a little bit in the open when that aircraft blew
CB: Yeah
WEB: That of course took the roof off [unclear] the slades and things and we were covered with sheets [unclear] for ages
CB: Who came and fixed it?
WEB: I don’t know, it took, I think it was, I’m not sure where it was, [unclear] and fixed the
CB: [unclear]
WEB: Well, but the finish
CB: So this was the first of June 1944. How long did it take to get the house fixed?
WEB: I can’t say, took a long time I mean they more or less had cut [unclear] to make it waterproof then
CB: Yeah
WEB: To stop the water but to actual do the repairs, that took ages
CB: So, it blew the roofs off, what happened to the windows?
WEB: Windows were [unclear], never was blown out the windows so that they fixed those up as well. A lot of time I think some of them would bits of plaster or something instead of glass
CB: So this was actually only two hundred yards from your house that the explosion took place. What other houses were damaged?
WEB: A little bit more than
CB: Four hundred yards?
WEB: [unclear] from Westcott turn to [unclear]
CB: Yeah, four hundred yards
WEB: Something like that
CB: Yeah. What other houses were damaged?
WEB: Oh, I presume the [unclear] were damaged and all that sort of thing but
CB: There was a bungalow in the opposite direction that received an engine through the roof. And who was hurt in this?
WEB: I, I don’t know, obviously somebody I don’t know, I
CB: Ok. So, the person that hurt was the duty officer who’d been telling people to get out and he’s buried in the church yard but he was the only casualty from the blast.
WEB: Yeah
CB: The bomber landed with the full bomb load
WEB: That’s [unclear] full bomb load [unclear]
CB: Which he’d brought back
WEB: He landed on the Wellington that was lying there incumbent
CB: That’s what made it catch fire, wasn’t it? Cause it wasn’t on fire when it landed
WEB: Naturally in coming in, his engines were hot anyway
CB: Yes
WEB: And he had the bomb in
CB: That’s it
WEB: Petrol was very inflammable stuff and that, especially that aircraft fuel
CB: But unusually the aircraft came with a full bomb load, cause you would not normally land with a full bomb load
WEB: Yes, but he was diverted from another airfield
CB: Yes
WEB: I mean, you wouldn’t have got a Westcott plane coming in with a full bomb load because they didn’t have, they didn’t have a lot of bombing sites
CB: Yes
WEB: Only when they, they would make an exception
CB: Yeah
WEB: [unclear] but not many of the crashes that happened round Westcott were with people, with aircraft with fully explosive bombs on. That’s the only thing good about any crash that came round Westcott [unclear] that one
CB: Cause it was an operational training unit. Now, one of the crashes was registered as Waddesdon so where was that?
WEB: Well, as far as I know, that was the only one that went, that was in the side of the hill, was it?
CB: Right
WEB: I don’t remember
CB: But that wasn’t by the fuel dump
WEB: What?
CB: It wasn’t by the fuel dump
WEB: I don’t know much about, we didn’t know much about anything like that
CB: Right. Just stop it, just a mo.
WEB: I still, was still [unclear] went but doing tees and what I did when it went over
US: But you used to have a cafe
CB: Yeah, it is on, yeah. So, Gos ran a café, did he?
WEB: That was a café there
CB: Yeah, and he got the engine
WEB: What they called a path walk cafe
CB: Right
WEB: That was, they were a going concern
CB: Yeah
WEB: So, I think a load of RAF people used to go up there for a cup of tea or things like that
CB: Right. Yeah
WEB: But
CB: This is the bungalow that got the engine through the roof. Then there was another house I gather called Victoria House which was badly damaged
WEB: Victoria House, this
CB: That’s on the edge of the village, what happened there?
WEB: Well, I don’t know, must have been, I mean, that was as close as any other [unclear] could get really
CB: Yeah, the blast hit it
WEB: But I mean, obviously damaged
CB: Yeah
WEB: But we missed looking at our own what was it, we didn’t really know much about what happened down there and there or I suppose it was, yeah
CB: Now the
WEB: [unclear] you see
CB: The duty officer was flight lieutenant Bulmer of the cider family
WEB: Bulmer, sorry
CB: And he’s buried in the churchyard and they put in new windows in the church, did they? And they paid for it, restoring the church
WEB: Almost
CB: Restoring the church
WEB: Yeah, they come, yeah, Bulmer’s [unclear] people
CB: There is a plaque in the church to his memory
WEB: Yeah
CB: Yeah, right. Now, there is another crash which is recorded on the airfield with a monument and that was, took place on the 15th of March ‘44, when a Wellington was hit by a Short Stirling and that was near Quainton and you know somebody who was in the signal box at the time.
WEB: Well, that’s, that might be Sue’s uncle
CB: Right
WEB: Someone like that [unclear] but I don’t this Stirling, I didn’t know any Stirlings here but if they say it was a Stirling that was what it was, but I imagine that could have been a Lancaster
CB: But it was a Stirling and it landed at Wappenham, crashed at Wappenham
WEB: Yeah
CB: In the end but the Wellington landed nearby so the significance was this person in the signal box seeing it
WEB: Yeah
CB: The pilot’s wife was in a house up the road with her new child, he was an Australian
WEB: Yeah, I, well, I don’t know [unclear]
CB: That’s right. What other crashes do you remember there being
WEB: Well, I mean, as I just say, if you look what date where they overshot the runway away and landed in the fields, the only things that mark by fencing and all that sort of thing
CB: Yeah
WEB: That I can say about any others I mean, I should say, if you walked around the perimeter, you’d find a crash site anywhere around that aerodrome
CB: Yeah
WEB: Where the aircraft were taking off and landing, but you can’t, to pinpoint it’s a hell of a job
CB: On a more positive front then, how about the social life? How did you link in with that with the airmen and the air women for that matter?
WEB: Well, we used to drink together in The Swan at Westcott, that to we went out to drink, they weren’t allowed much beer about then, I mean, the pub, you’d be standing outside the pub waiting for it to open and it wouldn’t open something like that was, I mean the, when Frank [unclear] the bloke who used to keep the pub at Westcott, he used to say, said, when it’s gone, it’s gone, he said, so if you drink it now, he said, you won’t get it tomorrow, and that was his philosophy and you get rid on. I know we were young [unclear] but we had bicycles and things like that and when we hang up going up to Quainton and see any or not that was we used to take, you could always get a pint at Quainton
CB: There were three pubs in Waddesdon
WEB: Waddesdon
CB: So, how did you get on there?
WEB: Well that was, we used to get off a pint in the [unclear] now and again when we started doing the home guard, home guard training sessions at Waddesdon on Sunday morning, that was the only place you could get a pint if you wanted a pint then
CB: Would help your shooting, wouldn’t it? What about socials that they ran on the airfield, cause there were a good few WAAFs, there was a separate WAAF area
WEB: Well, didn’t take much part in the social side of the airfield, you know
CB: Right
WEB: But any time I used to [unclear] was when I got in the Swan and I did know a couple of WAAFs and their boyfriends and things like that, they used to come in the Swan and other than that I didn’t know, yeah, I get the names [laughs]
CB: Now, being in a reserved occupation meant that you were a young person amongst military people, most people were in the forces one way or the other, what sort of reaction did you get as you walked around and cycled around, not being in uniform?
WEB: No, [unclear] I think people more or less understood the situation you were in, you were in that, I never got any diverse comments about [unclear] or anything
CB: When you were in the Home Guard you’d be wearing the uniform, at other times you wouldn’t, wouldn’t you?
WEB: Well, in the Home Guard, you wore that when you went to and done the midnight walk, as we used to call it, go out at midnight and be home back by four o’clock, be in bed at four and then back up again at six and go milking [laughs], that’s how we used to, things, no, I, wasn’t anything spectacular
CB: Did they give you a badge to wear, to show that you were in a reserved occupation?
WEB: No. I never had one anyway
CB: Right
WEB: I didn’t know never [unclear] I mean there was my brother Lewis and myself, we were all working in the same, on the same farm, just one day here,
CB: Mate Farm
WEB: Mote Farm and we never did [unclear] seen any words or anything from anybody about it, you know
CB: So, what would you prefer to have done in the war?
WEB: Well, what I wanted to do and which I tried to do, several times, as a matter of fact I [unclear] from here to blooming Oxford to go to a recruiting centre and all I got in trouble was get on your bikes and go back to where you come from, you’re in a reserved occupation and you are better off where you are. And that was that, that was the only thing I [unclear]. And I went to Old Wickham, it was [unclear] come back on the, went to Wickham, come back on a train said it was a waste of time then, trying to go, you’re in a reserved occupation, you’ve got to do that reserved occupation to change jobs that blokes say if I want to move from where [unclear] the
CB: Mate Farm
WEB: Yeah, but I wanted to go to work at Waddesdon for somebody else, it was a hell of a job, you got to [unclear] to Aylesbury and see somebody in the labour exchange when I’ve been all through the, what was it? The [unclear] was, go back and behave yourself and don’t worry us again. You go back where you come from.
CB: Yeah
WEB: That was that, that was the attitude to take. You were in the, you were there and that’s where you’re gonna stay
CB: Right
WEB: [unclear] it was, you couldn’t, I mean, as I said, I tried to get away from [unclear] and only needed the farmer to spot me once and just ring [unclear] exchange and somebody was there to tell me to get back on the farm again
CB: So, which of the forces were you hoping to join?
WEB: Mh?
CB: Which of the forces were you hoping to join?
WEB: Well, I was always wanted to join the navy, that was my one and only thing, I wanted to join the navy and I went, and I tried my [unclear] to get into the navy but every time I went anywhere, was the same thing, you’re doing a better job than [unclear], but directly the war was over, this is what nickels me in a way, so as soon as the war was over, and things had settled down a bit, the first thing I got, was a notice to go and see somebody at High Wycombe and when I went to High Wycombe they said, you will be sent now to a training camp down in, what was it? To join the navy. And I said, why at this time? He said, because we want, he said the, well, what we call it? Operation, people that was, were forcibly sent into the forces, we want those people back home and we will get you training and put you in the navy and send those people back home and that’s exactly what happened. I went down too long for a round of instructions to get down to Plymouth, in that area, to a place down there, and I was conscripted into the navy then and I served seven years and five on a reserve and I was told, that was where I got to be after that and that’s what I had to do.
CB: But the conscripted
WEB: And I was seven years a complete, what shall I say? I thoroughly enjoyed my seven years I served in the navy and I got no complaints whatsoever by joining up.
CB: And what did you do while you were in the navy?
WEB: I ended up being a radar operator, you know, sort of, on any ship I could go and operate, what was it, and I’d been, the best thing really was to get into the plot room on board ship with the officer, the navigating officer and you were on the radar and told him where to put the dots and [unclear] on his [unclear], on his plot. You had two [unclear], you either served in the actual place where the PPI was, the Plot Position Indicator, which was like a little light line going round and round like that and if it hit a ship or anything like that, it would leave a spot and you reported up to the bloke in the, what was it, and from there he’d take it up and you’d keep telling him where that spot [unclear] he said you can plot the course and tell his where the ship was going. So, in a way, it was interesting in a way, but I thoroughly enjoyed it
CB: What was the balance between being on shore and being afloat?
WEB: What, in what way?
CB: How many years of the seven were you on shore and how many on afloat?
WEB: I was, oh, I don’t know, I don’t [unclear] about on any land station really. I went over to, we’d done the training down at Plymouth and that took about to eight weeks, something like that [unclear] course and that and from there, I’d done that and I was in the Mediterranean in next to no time and the first, I joined there and I started, and the coincidence here is that I joined this ship HMS Cheviot and I relieved a bloke on board of that ship by the name of Stanley Pankhurst, now, I lived at Westcott and Stanley Pankhurst lived at Bicester [laughs] and was, his, and when I went there, he said, good gracious, he said, where do you come from? And I said, Westcott. Wow! I could blow the, I could blow the bloody place up, he said, if, he said, you’re the finest bloke I’ve ever seen in this world, he said, come and relieve me. Stanley Pankhurst greeted me to [unclear], he said, here’s the keys, I said, what’s that for? He said, that’s for your locker, he said, he said, you can, I’ll take my kit out, you can put yours in there, he said, I’ll make sure it’s locked, he said, that was when I went since Stanley Pankhurst but his father apparently owned a paper shop or something in Bicester but no
CB: That’s eight miles away
WEB: Yeah, that’s right
CB: Right
WEB: I mean, wonderful, that is to think that you meet somebody who’s glad to see you [laughs]
CB: But the conscription was for less than two years so how did you come to do seven?
WEB: Ah, I, you see, that’s, that was, I volunteered for the seven, I volunteered to, wanted to join the navy and the only thing that stopped me joining the navy was my father and when you, if your father said you can’t do this, in them days, you’d done what your father said
CB: Yeah
WEB: Now, when I decided that I wanted to go, he said, well, he said, you can go now, he said, you’d done all what you need to do here and that was as far as it went and I joined up and I said, I’ll do seven, the seven years and then seven years, if, that seven years was done on a reason was that if we’d given seven years to do and then five years on a reserve that means to say that we still got a little hand on them for another twelve, for twelve years and that’s where they go and half way through that five year job they cancelled it
CB: Right
WEB: They wrote a letter who said you are no longer required and that was, from that [unclear] now I can go upstairs into my bedroom [unclear] and I can go into my, into a, what was it there? and I can pick up a little blue folder, and that’s all my papers
CB: Really?
WEB: Navy
CB: Fantastic. What did you do when you came out of the navy?
WEB: Well, I went into the brickyards
CB: Which is where?
WEB: [laughs] at [unclear], that’s where I started
CB: Just half a mile away
WEB: Yeah. I went and started into the, what was it? And it wasn’t long before Woodham disappeared and I went from there I went to [unclear]
CB: Right. London Brick
WEB: London Brick company. And that’s where I finished my work in days on the brick, I say, they made me redundant when I was, what was, I think I was fifty something,
US: Fifty-eight
WEB: Fifty-eight or something [unclear] and I had round about four, three years to do and they, I didn’t do a day, I’d done one day’s work since I was retired
CB: Right
WEB: And my [unclear] got me to go and do one day’s work for the people that he worked, worked for and [unclear] and sadly he’s gone anyway
CB: What, how far did you move up the organisation? You started doing what, little brickworks?
WEB: In the brickworks? Well, I had work all the time, [unclear] you didn’t get any advancement in any way, at all much, you’d go down into the pit or any, or down or drawing site, going with a barrel going into the [unclear] and run the brick site and load lorries off with your barrels and all that sort of thing, [unclear] anything you could do down there, paid work, I mean, that was the only thing, if you’d done, if you worked hard, you got paid more. But, I did not [unclear], there was no advantage in being in brickyard, brickworks
CB: Did you, to what extent did you find opportunities to take a more responsible job? There’s a chargehand or supervisor or something?
WEB: Chargehand and all that sort of thing, I mean, that came earlier there when somebody else had gone and
CB: Yeah
WEB: And they wanted somebody to fill the place and that was only done or any and when you got to filling out the forms and that sort of thing, but that weren’t, that was all to just fill the forms out, get it cause he took the lorry driver and he took the bricks and away
CB: Right
WEB: [unclear] keep you landing and doing the thing but all our work
CB: What would you say finally was the most memorable thing about your working life from when you left school?
WEB: Memorable? Can’t say there is anything memorable [unclear]. I know being out to more or less do what you like, do what you please and as long as it didn’t do any damage to anybody else. Yeah
CB: Well, Eddie, thank you very much for a very interesting and enlightening conversation
WEB: Well, just, piece of work then, as I say
CB: Now


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with William Edwin Barnett,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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