I know this is my first blog in quite a while (4 months to be precise! eek) but a lot has been happening and I have other things on my mind! SO much has happened in the last 4 months – the return to school and worries about whether they have to close due to covid, two children’s birthdays, a second lockdown, 12 weeks of intensive revision, one exam by zoom, exam results, tiers and no last minute xmas changes!
Where to start? School – we were keeping our fingers crossed last week that we got to the end of term without any covid “incidents”. I am so happy and proud of my son’s school, to say that all but one case in year 5 (my son is in year 1) the school has stayed covid free and fully open just hoping that success continues into 2021. Even better, my daughters preschool has had no cases and remained fully open, largely as an outdoor nursery. Both education settings even managed to perform a nativity play even if it was rather different – no parents but videos shared with parents.
Birthdays – my daughters 4th birthday thankfully went ahead without incident being in September, we even managed a lovely day out at Chessington World of Adventure.
Sadly, my son’s 6th birthday plans had to be delayed after the second lockdown was announced just two days before his birthday and our planned first ever visit to Legoland😢 …. so his birthday celebrations continued 4 weeks later the first weekend after lockdown ended. It was a very cold day but really nice and quiet at Legoland and a brilliant day was had. His actual birthday was enjoyed building his amazing working Lego train set so he ended up having two amazing days.😁
Thankfully, school autumn half term happened just before the second lockdown and we managed to get away to the Isle of Wight for a lovely although rather wet and windy🤣 week. A week of Forts, castles, zoos, trains and beaches. This gave me a much needed break from my intensive revision plan.
After completing the IHGS Higher Certificate correspondence course in March and expecting to take the exam in June the plans were ruined by covid 😢 as have so many plans for so many people. The exam was rearranged for November and fingers, toes and everything else was crossed that it would still go ahead. So as soon as the schools returned in September, my intensive 12 week revision plan began, including further revision workshops by zoom and even some in person. The weeks were passing the revision was going well, a much need break for the school autumn half term was a welcome break and allowed me to assess how much a could remember at the end of a week off revision – I was happy.
We were all a bit on edge about whether the exam would still go ahead with covid cases rising, the new tier system in place, and talk about another lockdown, we were all reassured that the exam would go ahead in one form or another plans were in place for invigilating the exam by zoom…from the comfort of our own homes! 🤣 but we were all still keeping everything crossed for “normal” exam conditions….then cam the announcement – a second national lockdown starting 5 November – REMEMBER REMEMBER THE 5TH OF NOVEMBER – GUY FAWKES AND NOW LOCKDOWN #2 😢 at least the schools were staying open 😌
To be honest for us life carried on much as normal. Hubby working from home, kids at school/preschool and my revision continued, just our son’s birthday was affected. So on we roll…..exam arrangements in place by zoom….the nerves mount as 21 November approached, arrangements made for hubby and kids to go out for the three hours of my exam (I was just praying it was going to be dry!). Then the day arrived, gosh I don’t ever remember feeling as nervous for an exam before – not even my law finals!
I must say the exam was harder than expected although looking back, the preparation I had done did stand me in good stead. In some of my answers I definitely had verbal diarrhoea 🤣 the comforting thing was speaking afterwards to others who sat it at the same time we all felt the same and we all had doubts whether we had done enough to pass. The usual post exam dissection took place in my head trying to work out whether I had done enough to pass (I didn’t care what my mark was after all this time of waiting to sit the exam I just wanted to do enough to pass!) and noting what information I knew I had missed 😬
Three to four weeks of waiting….I tried to put it out of my head and get on with a research project I had taken on….and then I had a week of my daughter being at home with a nasty cold bug – yes it was a cold bug not covid – that certainly took my mind of the exam 🤣
With my exam and lockdown #2 completed time to concentrate on Christmas preparations. Our Christmas tree and decorations went up the last weekend of November – at least a week earlier than normal but we figured we all need cheering up! Online Xmas shopping done – I hate going to the shops at the best of times so Amazon is my favourite website 🤣 and once we had the Christmas “guidelines” arrangements were made for a 5 day trip to Yorkshire to spend Xmas with my parents. It would be just the six of us in our Christmas bubble possibly with a trip for the fours of us to meet my brother and his family outside for a couple of hours on one of the days. So Christmas was planned….or so we thought!
Tuesday 15 December ….. exam results by email day ….. 9.55 am my nerves and anxiety are growing… just after 10am the email is in and I burst into tears at the headline …. tears of relief and joy I PASSED 🎉🥂🍾 What a great end to 2020!
That is until Saturday 19 December 4pm and I can’t say I’m surprised but gutted 😭 (I literally broke down in tears!) that the last minutes announcement and shortening of the Christmas “guidelines” means our Christmas plans are, as are so many, thrown into the air. Thank goodness I’d booked a Sainsburys Christmas delivery slot for Christmas week just in case! 🤣 To be honest every since the rates started rising again we have continued debating with my mum and dad what to do but the decision was made and settled on that we would go up. We were due to be tested the just before hand under the ONS survey we have been taking part in which would give us some reassurance assuming the test was negative! But the decision has been taken out of our hands now, and whilst living in Waverley we are in tier 2 (whilst the rest of Surrey is in tier 4) we are technically able to travel to mum and dad’s the “guidelines” of Christmas day only mean it is just not feasible. Who wants to make a 200 mile round trip for one day? It’s just not worth it!
So its Christmas at home just the four of us and the kids seem fine with it. James (6 yr old son) did say “its sad” but I think he understands and they will still have all their present and we will make the day a special family day. Skype/zoom will be well used …. lets hope the internet and the various companies can cope with what will no doubt be a huge demand!😜
Yes Christmas will be different this year, but it is not cancelled. There will of course be people who go ahead with their plans regardless, everyone has their own opinion. We all need to think about the possible consequences of our actions, make their our own decisions and live with them.
Remember, remember the fifth of November Gunpowder, treason and plot I see no reason why gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent To blow up the King and the Parliament Three score barrels of powder below Poor old England to overthrow By God’s providence he was catched With a dark lantern and burning match Holloa boys, holloa boys God save the King! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! A penny loaf to feed ol’ Pope A farthing cheese to choke him A pint of beer to rinse it down A faggot of sticks to burn him Burn him in a tub of tar Burn him like a blazing star Burn his body from his head Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!
And just like that they’re back at school, six weeks of summer holidays gone in a heart beat and it definitely feels for us as though life is very much back to normal – our new normal – pubs, shops etc reopening has had very little if any impact on us (save for our week away – more below) as they are not activities regularly frequented by this household anyway! In fact I hate shopping in shops much prefer online shopping! It was very stressful taking the kids to our local Clarks shoe shop for their feet measuring and new school/preschool shoes. although I was very impressed with the set up in Clarks and definitely think they should keep their booking system for their busy periods for kids!
Its hard to believe it is almost 6 months since the country went into lock down, and we’re now counting down to a 4th and a 6th birthday and Christmas!
So how was your summer in this unlocking of society times? Ours, well it was quite quiet really spending the first four weeks in a family bubble with my parents who were finally able to bring their caravan down from Yorkshire to Surrey for their usual summer getaway with us. So nice to see them in person and spend to quality time with them for the first time since Christmas, the kids loved it! With the fabulous weather we had, they even got Nanna and Granddad in the swimming pool with them (and my mum can’t swim and is not keen on the water!) 😂❤
It was just unfortunate that the good weather didn’t last for our weeks away in Salcombe which had been booked way before lock down. The weather was cooler, a bit wet and by the end of the week rather windy! But the kids still had a great time especially rock pooling catching crabs, shrimps and even some small fish!
We have had a summer of confidence knowing we were Covid free having being randomly selected and agreed to take part in the Office of National Statistics Covid-19 testing survey, being tested on 5 consecutive weeks and now monthly for the next year. I know the survey is expanding so I would urge anyone who is selected to take the opportunity – not only does it give you some peace of mind that your are not asymptomatic but also helping the research into the spread of this virus.
So today is back to school/preschool day. They were so excited to be going back, although I think Rose wishes she was starting big school (she’ll be 4 two weeks today so just misses out this year!) 🤣
With them back at school and life feeling very much back to normal, I am enjoying a peaceful house – although hubby is working at home permanently now (save for one day a week) and having a couple of days to take some time for myself before its back to revision and countdown to me IHGS Higher certificate exam on 21st November, which was postponed from June and then on to the IHGS Diploma in Genealogy starting in January. In between I will still be taking on a limited amount of work to keep me ticking over and give me a break from the studies!
In the coming months, I will also be starting a series of blogs specialising in family history research and records available for your Surrey Ancestors, both online and in various archives. Not all records covering Surrey are available at the Surrey History Centre! So I have lots to keep my going and occupied so I don’t miss the kids too much 🤣❤
If you have ancestors from the Surrey or South East area and would like to find out more about them, check out my Research Services and Family Tree Packages pages to see how I can help.
Listen to my colleagues and I discuss a variety of topics in this series of Podcasts – I will feature in the October podcast talking about getting started with your family history research and some of the common pitfalls we all fall into from time to time!
Podcast series from the genealogy experts – first episode 1st September. Do you have a question for a future episode?
We are excited to announce that we are starting a series of themed podcasts (Ask AGRA – Family History Question Time) to be streamed on this website.
This initiative has been developed in response to the COVID pandemic. Many consumers took the opportunity to begin researching their family history during the lockdown, but the closure of archives and cancellation of family history fairs and events has presented challenges which normally our members would help to resolve. Now, the free AGRA podcasts will be available to all, the first series of six to be made available monthly from 1st September 2020.
AGRA members will form panels of experts in discussions led by Moderators such as Sarah Williams of Who Do You Think You Are? and Helen Tovey of Family Tree magazine. Some well-known authors and experts in their field will be adding their voices to the discussions including Gill Blanchard, Dr. Geoff Swinfield, Les Mitchinson and Simon Fowler, to name but a few.
The six themes will be as follows, broadcast on the 1st of each month:
House Histories – September Ancestral research – getting started including understanding BMD and Census records – October Research before 1837 – November Military research including British service in India – December DNA testing and use in conjunction with genealogical research – January 2021 Using land records such as maps and tithe maps to further research – February 2021
Sharon Grant, Chair of AGRA commented “AGRA is excited to announce this new initiative which demonstrates our commitment to finding new ways of working in these times of crisis. Our members have always been available at the various family history events to give advice to members of the public. We miss that, and we know you do too. This is an opportunity for you to access the extensive expertise and knowledge of our members from the safety of your own home. Get your questions in now!”.
Well, it’s seven weeks since my last lock down blog but where has that time gone?! Its been a busy few weeks but on the whole with the easing of lock down measures and the kids being back at school and nursery it has felt pretty much like life has returned to normal in the Pettyfer household! Sometimes to the point you really do have to think about it on those occasional trips to the shops!
James has loved been back at school and I must say how impressed I am with how Cranleigh Church of England Primary School have managed and adapted to the measures and rules they have had to adopt, and how well the children have adapted to their ‘bubbles’ and generally just ‘got on with it! They are the only local school to have managed to get all their year groups back (even if only for the last two weeks) and full time. The teachers and staff have clearly worked very hard to adapt the school and their teaching practices. It is certainly a different end to James’s first year at school with us missing out on being able to attend events such as sports day, but the children have not missed out in fact they have had a sports week this week, just a shame we weren’t able to attend.
James got a great end of year report, and it’s amazing how much he has learnt in a year, even with 10 weeks of that been homeschooling! We wait with some anticipation what the new school year will bring!
I am equally as impressed with Acorn Nursery School which my daughter Rose had been back to two days a week. We were very lucky that she was able to return as the limited places were reserved for those starting school in September – Rose has another year yet, so she’ll be back at pre-school, but she will be soooo ready for school next year!
Rose and I have had some fun at home
We have also enjoyed some of our favourite places to visit as a family with the easing of lockdown…..Winkworth, Fishers Farm, Hatchland Park, Alice Holt Forest
And we are so pleased children’s outdoor play areas have been able to reopen 😁
We are now on countdown to a day out at Peppa pig world and our week in Salcombe and before you know it James will be starting year one and school, Rose will be starting pre-school and we’ll be applying for her school place for next September! But first, we are all very much looking forward to my parent coming down from Yorkshire with their caravan and forming our family bubble with them for a few weeks. Other than on Skype, it have now been seven months since we have seen them and it will be so nice for them and us to be able to spend some quality time ❤
As for me, on ‘my days off’ from being a mum I have been busy working on a large research project for a client, with shoemakers, weavers, bakers and publicans amongst some of the professions of the ancestors. Archives are now beginning to reopen albeit it with strict measures in place and limited numbers but it is good to know research will no longer be limited to resources available online once again. After the summer holidays I am looking forward to getting back to the wonderful smell of old documents.
In the meantime I also need to busy myself with revision for my postpones IHGS Higher Certificate exam now due to take place on 21 November with the hope of starting their Diploma course in January. So, it is going to be a busy but I’m sure lovely, summer and keeping out fingers crossed the second wave of Covid 19 is not as harsh on our society than the first 🤞🤔
Week 10 saw half term week from school and preparations for the much anticipated return to school for James and nursery for Rose. I don’t really know where the week went – fast! Thankfully with the nice weather much of it was spent is the garden and in our new pool – helping us to enjoy our staycation and trying not to remember that we should have been spending the week sailing the Ionian Islands in Greece 😥 The weather was such that it did keep reminding us – the sun and the mid/late afternoon breeze is just like the weather we have usually had in Greece at this time of year – the best sailing was always in the afternoon.
It was a pretty uneventful week. Rose did however get the hang of peddling her bike, now she just needs practice and the same confidence she has on her balance bike and hopefully she’ll be away without the stabilisers. 😊
We did have a couple of hours our on Wednesday with a nice walk on Holmbury Hill and a picnic. And Saturday we had a few hours and picnic out at Alice Holt Forest. Really good set up there the car park was strictly controlled to keep it half empty to ensure there were not too many people about and everyone we saw was keeping to the rules. In fact everywhere we have been, people seem to be adhering to the rules.
Of course we are now slowly coming out of lock down now and who know what will happen but for us nothing much will change, in fact the kids going back to school/nursery will mean it will feel pretty much back to ‘normal’ for us. I’m not one for going to the shops any way – I hate it would much rather shop online! so them opening will not change anything for us as a family, the only other thing we long await is the leisure centre being able to re-open so that the kids to restart their swimming lessons. And of course, we are all hoping parks and children/family themed places such as our beloved Fishers Farm are able to reopen for the school summer holiday.
I am a little late writing this blog, it now being two days into week 11 and James having started back at school yesterday. He was so excited bless him and less than half the class returned so even less of a worry – not that I was worried anyway (but I can understand those who are and haven’t sent their kids back – not criticism of anyone, each has to make there own judgement and decision, I am sure if I lived in some other parts of the country my decision would be different!). It was much quieter at home yesterday without him! Not as much squealing from Rose or the constant din of children playing 🤣😍 It was also nice to spend some time in our pool with just Rose, with James splashing all the time practising his swimming 🤣
They all came out of school with happy smile on their faces having had a great day and the teachers were all so proud of them and how well they had dealt with all the changes and rules. Rose is so looking forward to returning to nursery tomorrow (Wednesday) for a couple of days a week – and so am I – looking forward to having some time to actually do some jobs without the constant interruption 🤣😘
So here is our week in pictures….
Well, given we are somewhat back to normal for now I think this is the last of my weekly blogs for a while. They may return the the school summer holidays but for now I will reduce them to monthly blogs so Ill be back with out June blog in a few weeks.
With the country now technically no longer in lock down but we’re now being asked to stay alert, it has felt like a more ‘normal’ week albeit more like a school holiday week than a school week. I must say with the lovely weather we have had this week, there has been little homeschooling and more ‘nurturing’ in our house.
Whilst James has done a small amount of school work – practising writing and some maths games
we have mainly concentrated on out mental health, getting out and about a little – visiting and exploring Chilworth Gunpowder Mill trail where the kids loved playing pooh sticks in the stream and enjoyed a lovely walk through what seemed like a wilderness with the area largely being left and being a little overgrown (especially around the picnic area), learning about grinding stones and dragons teeth.
We also spent a day at the beach this week (Littlehampton a 22 miles drive) whilst we hoped it might be quieter than next week when it is half term! it was the hottest day of the week and although it was quite busy there was plenty of space and (most) people were sensible and mindful of the 2 metre rule. We had a lovely day and it was nice to just have a normal family day out with a picnic.
James has also been very busy building with his knex …. i’d almost say he’s obsessed with it!
Coming up to the end of the week we are reminded that come Sunday we should have been flying off to Greece for our weeks sailing holiday which has now of course had to be postponed for a year 😢. So how do we console ourselves and make it feel like a staycation rather than just another week? With a new swimming pool for the garden – yes swimming pool not paddling pool! OK so we may have gone a little over the top with a 12 foot pool 🤣 but the smaller ones were all out of stock and the kids just couldn’t wait … although I’m not sure who was more excited about it me of the kids! 🤣🤣🤣 Its already been worth the money even if we have to wear wet suits on the colder days!!!! 😍and so looking forward to spending a lot of time in it over the half term week!
So here’s to week 10, bank holiday Monday, half term week, and looking forward to a return to a ‘new’ normal with James back at school and Rose back at nursery (albeit only two days a week for Rose). I’m not getting into that debate …..
Another week has gone by but at least now we can start to see some light at the end of the tunnel after the slight easing of the lock down rules last Sunday evening. I could ramble on now about everything that has happened on the covid-19/lock down/stray alert/media speculation causing the so called public confusion – I certainly wasn’t confused by the message! But I won’t ramble on as this is not a place for political debate but a blog recording my family’s experiences of covid-19.
What I will say is that I will be sending my son back to school on 1 June (or whenever they reopen) because what is clear is that this virus is not going away, we are going to have to adapt our lives and learn to live with it. Waiting for a vaccine – that may never come – is not an option, I for one do not want to put my life or my children’s lives on hold. Even if there is a vaccine, the virus is not going away, the only disease ‘successfully’ eradicated by vaccination is small pox, and there will no doubt be a major debate and concern about any vaccine (as there still are today about many of the long standing vaccines) meaning many people and children won’t get vaccinated in any event (I have seen such comments in social media), so lets start getting back into a new kind of normal as soon as possible.
I know this will be controversial and I can understand why some parents will not wish to send their children back to school and if we had anyone in our household in a high risk group then my view would be different so I certainly will not criticise any parent who does not send their child back to school when they reopen – it really does have to be an individual family decision.
Anyway, a part from me having a minor bump in the car (with an parked unattended vehicle) because the electronic handbrake failed in my rush to do something 😱🤦♀️🤬 which shook me up a bit, it has been a pretty ‘normal’ week. We have learned about Oceans with @maddiemoat, @gregfoot #letsgolive, made a rock pool, build a coral reef, painted more rainbows (they were fading fast in the sun!) and ocean pictures for out front window. James has been practising his writing, and building k’nex whilst Rose has been hibernating in her ‘Frozen’ tent 🤣🥰
Today (Sunday) we had our first trip out in the car a little bit further afield to get a change of scenery for the afternoon, the first time we have been out of our village of Cranleigh for over 8 weeks! And what a lovely afternoon explore and adventure we had round the historic 13th century ruin of Waverley Abbey, finding the largest Yew tree I have ever seen! Check it out below!
So, here is our week in pictures…..
and here’s looking forward to week 9 of lock down, and what will hopefully be our last week of homeschooling……
Well, we are now at the end of week 7 and I almost forgot to write this weeks blog! Its been a bit of a tough week, not with the kids bit because I have been feeling exhausted and for three days my joints were aching – I felt very old! It did go through my mind that it may be this horrid virus but I developed no other symptoms and was fine after three days so I put it down to age/hormones/stress/life….🤣🤣🤣
My schooling for James this week revolved around VE Day although he did do some of his ‘proper’ school work. It was great – he learnt some new (difficult) words, such as fighting, celebrate and liberation. He also learnt who Winston Churchill was. I don’t think he really understood what WW2 was all about but he understood what VE Day was about – or PE Day as Rose (aged 3&1/2) says 🤣 I think they were just looking forward to the afternoon picnic tea on Friday afternoon in the front garden – something different.
I must say I found the day rather emotional, 2 minutes silence remembering my granddad and all my relatives who lived through WW2 in whatever capacity; listening to Winston Churchill’s victory speech and singing THE song of WW2 “We’ll meet again” … a song so appropriate for many times but especially in these times not knowing when we will be able to visit my parents again and/or vice versa. It’s going to be an emotional reunion when we can. I think!
It has been a lovely week weather wise, meaning lots of playing out in the garden and some long (well for the kids anyway) walks, from home of course.
What has been making my blood boil this week is the media… Its them not the politicians that are reporting speculation which some people take as gospel and truth and causing all the confusion the media say the public have about the lock down message at the moment. They are not reporting facts but speculating on what changing may be brought is and then they criticise the government and ask the same stupid questions time after time to get the same answer because there is no other! They try to trip the politicians up and twist everything they say. The public would not be confused as the media suggest we are (I’m not – stay at home remains the message as I write this…what happens later is another thing!) if they stopped reporting such speculation! It does not help the confusion!
Anyway, less of that! Here’s our week in pictures …….. ration books, air raid shelters, hop scotch, Morse code, baking…..and playing football in the street! What was really nice as well, is that his best friend, Lucy, lives in the cul-de-sac across the road from us which had their own social distancing street party to which we were invited for a short time allowing the kids to play football together – with us continuously enforcing the social distancing rule on them which was OK until we said goodbye and James and Lucy wanted to give each other a hug – the funny elbow handshake made up for it 🤣 It was great to see them have half an hour of ‘almost’ normality 😘💕
Graeme and James even found time on VE Day to repaint our front door and garage door….
Now we wait to hear Boris’s plans at 7 pm tonight for our slow move out of lock down 🤞 for a back to school date (albeit likely part time until the summer holidays)
In recognition of the 75th VE Day anniversary I decided to look further into the roles my grandfathers, and great Uncles played in the war. The information I have to date is simply a starting point as I have not a yet applied for any of their service records from the MOD, thus much of the information is from oral family history, casualty records available online and papers held by family members.
My Paternal Family
My paternal Grandfather, Claude Richardson, was one of two children of Thomas and Sarah, his older brother being Wilfred (known as Wilf). Claude was born 1917 and Wilf in 1912 so at the start of WW2 they were 22 and 27 years of age respectively. Wilf was described in the 1939 Register as a Butcher and thus exempt from conscription and he married in 1940. Claude was unmarried and is not found in the 1939 Register. His occupation at the start of the war is unclear due to lack of records at this stage.
As yet have I have found little information on Claude’s WW2 service other than what my Dad and Aunts have been able to tell me. I should really request his service record from the Ministry of Defence. Those should provide me with details of his service number and regiment and I should then able able to carry out further research at the National Archives (TNA) when they reopen.
Whet we do know is that he was in a Driver in the Royal Engineers and based in the desert in the Middle East where his time in service came to an abrupt end (more about this below)! His service record and war dairies (available at TNA) for his regiment may help confirm exactly where he was.
One story my Aunt remembers being told by her father is that he was once driving somewhere in the desert and offered a chap a lift. After dropping the chap off, when Claude arrived at his destination he realised the chap had left a little box behind. When Claude opened it there was a set of electric hair clipper inside. He was unable to return them to the chap and brought them home where they were put to good use by my Grandmother, Claude’s wife, Annie, in her post war hairdressing business which she ran out of the Railway Tavern in Hensall, Yorkshire, where they lived.
Another story he told was that one day whilst he was taking a ride out into the desert (possibly on a motorbike) he came across some Nomads and ended up having tea with them! He thought they were of some notable standing because of the riches around them. He recalled this as “some experience!”.
I suspect he was a popular man in his regiment. Claude wasn’t a smoker but still got his ration of cigarettes to hand out to his friends!
Claude’s service in WW2 came to an abrupt sometime in late 1941 to early 1942. No one can recall the exact dates/year although again no doubt this would be evident from his service record when it is obtained! How? Well, one night he and another Royal Engineer, Claude Didcot, set off (not sure where they were going) having being told to be careful because there was a road roller parked on the road without any lights on. Well, they weren’t that careful because they crashed, ending up in hospital!
Claude (my grandfather) had two broken legs and I believe he was in hospital for about a year bother out in the field and then back home in England. He had both legs in plaster and my Aunt recalls him telling her that when the plaster came off it was ripped off taking all the hairs that had grown underneath with it! Claude was not amused and wouldn’t let them take the second plaster off, instead sitting there himself with a razor blade cutting at the hair for a good few hours!!!!
I can estimate the time when this accident took place as on his return home, he wrote a letter to a friend, Gordon, who at the time had been missing for 19 months – in fact he was a Japanese prisoner of war. I have a copy of the letter and whilst it is not dated he refers to his impending marriage to Annie (they married 2 August 1943). He also describes his accident
“…I had a very bad motor accident, Run into a Road Roller at night time, had seven fractures in all. So I was sent home, and now I have been given my discharge.”
It gets me quite emotional reading the letter. I never actually knew Claude as he unfortunately died 13 months before I was born, but I did know his friend, Gordon, who was also a friend of my maternal Grandfather.
It is believed that Claude returned home on the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary had her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936 as a passenger liner, however with the outbreak of the WW2 she was converted into a troopship and was used to ferry Allied soldiers during the conflict.
My great uncles on my paternal grandmothers’ side, George Robert Sayner (known as Bob), Samuel Sayner and Francis Sayner (known as Frank) (3 of 9 children!) were all described as builders in the 1939 Register and nothing appears to be known within the family of any them being involved in WW2 in the forces. Given their occupations, they may have been exempt from service.
My Maternal Granddad, Horace Huddlestone, (we called min Grandpa) was the youngest of four children of Arthur and Annie, 3 boys and 1 girl! Horace was born in 1914, his two brothers Claude and William were born in 1903 and 1909 respectively.
Out of the three of boys, Grandpa was the only one to be conscripted and serve in WW2.
My Nannie and Grandpa were married on 27th February 1937 and their first daughter (my maternal aunt) was born just over 4 months later giving birth to my maternal aunt on 9th June 1937 that being just less than three months before the outbreak of World War 2. The 1939 Register which was essentially a population count ‘census’ carried out on 29th September 1939 to help with recruitment to the armed forces, shows grandpa as a Coal Merchant Haulage Contractor and nannie an ‘unpaid domestic duties’. Grandpa was age 25 at the start of the war and was subject to conscription under The National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 which was enacted by Parliament on 3 September 1939, the day the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of the Second World War.
There were exemptions to conscription and a man could apply to defer being called up, which is exactly what grandpa did on the grounds of his self-employment as a coal merchant. In a letter to grandpa from the Ministry of Transport dated 9th November 1940 (after the start of the Battle of Britain which began on 10 July 1940), which states
“the Minister has recommended that enlistment should be deferred in your case in order to afford you an opportunity of finding a substitute or otherwise of meeting the position which would result from immediate calling up”
His official notice from the Minister of Labour and National Service dated 18th September 1941 states that he would not be called-up before 15th March 1942. It was probably hoped that the war would have ended by this time! However it was shortly after this, on 7 December 1941 that Japan invaded Pearl Harbour with Britain and America declaring was on Japan the following day.
In the meantime he took his turn at incendiary duty during local air raids. There is one story that on one of his duties on Eggborough Hill with another local man, he had taken his rifle with him to shoot some rabbits. The local policeman turned up, who although he knew grandpa well, insisted on seeing his gun licence which of course grandpa did not have on him. The policeman escorted grandpa home, in the middle of his incendiary duty, to see his licence. When they got home, I’m not quite sure what happened but the story goes that grandpa offered the policeman a drink (alcohol of course!) and started chatting, but the time they had finished the policeman had forgotten all about the gun licence and never did see it…I’m sure grandpa had one though!
Grandpa was called-up on 16th July 1942 into the Royal Engineers as a ‘Sapper’. He completed his military training on 15th September 1942 and Military Transport Training on 12th November 1942. Grandpa was due to be posted to Japan but as he was boarding the ship to leave England he collapsed with nerves and was admitted to hospital in Glasgow for a number of months before he was well enough to continue his service. As a result he was then posted to Gairloch in Northern Scotland serving in the 910 Stevedore Company where he worked as a driver loading and unloading ships in secret locations. He was extremely lucky as he had friends and acquaintances that were posted to Japan and ended up in Japanese prisoner of war camps, which would no doubt have been my grandpa’s fate had he boarded that ship. I doubt he would then have been the same man I knew and loved. Victory in Japan took place on 2 August 1945 after the invention of the atomic bomb earlier that year which was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.
He had many stories of his time in Scotland which he would tell with fond memories. I know of one sapper he became good friends with, George (I don’t know his surname unfortunately so I cannot trace his family) who was from Sheffield and with whom grandpa kept in contact with for some time after the war. We found one letter from George amongst grandpa’s papers.
I’m sure they would get up to all sorts of tricks although I know grandpa was ‘as straight as a die’; the soldiers and sailors he would meet off the ships in port would bring all kinds of goods (contraband!) to shore and ask grandpa to send on to their families, items such as fur coats, chocolates, nylon stockings etc. Usually items which were in short supply in the war. My aunt remembers being sent some fancy chocolates and nannie receiving stockings but she knows there could have been much more. No one would have ever known or been able to say anything had he kept goods and sent them home, on the other hand I am proud that he was an honourable man and made sure anything he was asked to send was sent to who it was meant for.
Grandpa remained in Scotland until the end of the war being transferred to the Army Reserve on 26th January 1946. During his service, grandpa’s Service Record Book shows he had a number of periods of leave but most notably he was granted 9 days compassionate leave at the end of July 1944; the beginning of November 1944 and the end of January 1945. These periods were likely due to his mother being poorly and died at the end of January 1945, being buried on 30th January 1945.
My great Uncles on Nannie’s side were Fred Oldfield, William Oldfield, Tom Oldfield and Earnest Oldfield (4 of 10 children)! Earnest was the youngest of the nine children having been born in 1935 thus he was only 4 at the start of WW2. Fred and William were the two eldest having been born in 1911 and 1913 respectively. My grandmother, Mary, was next (born in 1915) then Tom was the fourth eldest being born in 1918. So, Fred, William and Tom were 28, 26 and 21 respectively at the start of WW2.
Both Fred and William are found in the 1939 Register: Fred was married and described as a Farm Horseman Heavy (he was a heavy labourer) and William was living with his parents and described as a Maltster Labourer. Fred and William did not serve in WW2 as their occupations (farmer and butcher respectively) exempted them.
Tom, however is not found in the 1939 Register and my mum knows that he did serve in WW2. Little is known about his service without obtaining his service records and researching the war dairies at TNA for his regiment. However, we do know he was in the Royal Army Service Corp and was evacuated from Dunkirk following the Battle of Dunkirk which took place from 26 May to 4 June 1940.
The Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was a corps of the British Army responsible for land, coastal and lake transport; air despatch; supply of food, water, fuel, and general domestic stores such as clothing, furniture and stationery (but not ammunition, military and technical equipment, which were the responsibility of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps); administration of barracks; the Army Fire Service; and provision of staff clerks to headquarters units.
Tom never spoke of his experience in Dunkirk but my mum is aware that he was significantly affected by this experience. However, he continued in service and was later posted to the far east. Nothing further is known. Again, it is hoped his service record may shed some light on this, at least provide his service number and regiment details to be able to research the appropriate war diaries with the TNA reopens.
I must say I am a little surprised that out of eleven of my male ancestors who would have been eligible to serve in WW2, it appears only three actually did and only one of those served on the front line but all survived, never, as like most who served and witnessed the atrocities, to really speak about their experiences.
My Husbands’ ancestors
On my Husband’s side of our family, not much is known about their efforts in WW2 although many of the ancestors would have been too old to serve in WW2 being older than my grandparents.
His paternal grandfather, Harold, who was the oldest of ten children (including eight boys) was a printer and aged 46 at the start of WW2. Conscription only applied to males aged between 18 and 41 years. He in fact died after been hit by a car in the blackout on 23 December 1940 living in Poole, Dorset.
Although I have not conducted details research into the 7 brothers, they all appear in the 1939 register and all work in the transport industry in one way or another, and whilst there would of five out the either brothers were of conscription age we have found no evidence any of them served in the forces in WW2 and it is likely they were all employed in exempt occupations.
His maternal Grandfather, Bertie Laming, was the younger brother of two children and sadly his older brother died shortly before the start of WW2 at the age of 37. Bertie was aged 29 at the start of WW2 and in the 1939 register is described as a Clerk. It is said that during WW2 he was a mechanic on Lancaster bombers (land based), a far cry from being a clerk!
We have found him on the Forces War Records website which tells us his service number and that he enlisted at either Uxbridge, Gloucester or Penarth. In Bertie’s case it is likely he enlisted at Uxbridge as he was living Willesden, Middlesex, according to the 1939 register.
The record also tells us that he joined after May 1940 servicing in the Royal Air Force. This is certainly likely to be the case. Bertie married Helen Duell in 1939 and gave birth to their only child, my mother-in-law July 1940.
The Forces War Records website also states “militia”. The militia were essentially the special reserve, suggesting Bertie had previously received some military training. I think to find anything more out about him, we will need to apply for his service record! This is definitely a bit of a mystery!
Bertie survived to the grand old age of 82 dying in November 1992 in Weybridge, Surrey.