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My War: The 'Invasion' of the Hampshire Downsicon for Recommended story

by JOSELOOSEMORE

Contributed by 
JOSELOOSEMORE
People in story: 
JOSE LOOSEMORE
Location of story: 
SPARSHOLT
Article ID: 
A2127133
Contributed on: 
11 December 2003

MY WAR

OUR FARM INSTITUTE SAT ASTRIDE THE ROLLING HAMPSHIRE DOWNS, AT THE THEN QUITE ISOLATED SPOT OF SPARSHOLT, SOME FOUR MILES OUT OF WINCHESTER ON THE STOCKBRIDGE SIDE.
I HAD BEEN ONE OF THE LAST FULL-TIME STUDENTS THAT FATEFUL SUMMER OF 1939, AND WHEN MY TRAINING FINISHED, I WAS INVITED TO JOIN THE STAFF AS ASSISTANT DAIRY INSTRUCTIVE, TO HELP WITH THE NEW LAND ARMY RECRUITS. I WAS GIVEN MY OWN SMALL ROOM AT THE ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDING INSTEAD OF MY FORMER SHARED DORMITORY IN THE GIRL STUDENTS HOSTEL.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN WAS OFTEN HEARD OVERHEAD DURING THE SUMMER OF 1940 AND AT SUCH CRUCIAL MOMENTS, ALL PERSONNEL, WHO WERE NOT SCATTERED OVER THE SEVERAL HUNDRED ACRES OF THE FARM, WERE ORDERED INTO THE BASEMENT OF THE INSTITUTE FOR SAFETY.
OUR SHELTER WAS ALSO THE APPLE STORE, AND I NEVER SMELL THIS WONDROUS SWEETNESS NOW WITHOUT THINKING OF THOSE FAR OFF DAYS.- BUT APART FROM SPASMODIC GUNFIRE, OR THE ROAR OF WHEELING PLANES ENGAGED IN A DOG-FIGHT, OR THE DEEP GERMANIC THROB OF ENEMY AIRCRAFT, WHICH STRUCK SUCH TERROR INTO ONE, THAT SWALLOWING WAS INPOSSIBLE — IT NEVER CAME TO MORE THAN THAT ON OUR WINDY HILLSIDE.

OTHER THAN SEEING BATCHES OF LAND GIRLS GOING ABOUT THEIR DUTIES,” SHEP” WALKING HIS FLOCK OF HAMPSHIRE YEARLINGS OVER THE FLINTY FARM TRACKS TO DISTANT PASTURES, OR “TOM “THE TRACTOR DRIVER BUMPING UP AND DOWN ON HIS SNORTING IRON HORSE — EACH WITHOUT EXCEPTION WEARING THE UBIQUITOUS CARDBOARD BOX CONTAINING THE GAS MASK SLUNG OVER THEIR SHOULDERS — OR AN EVENING SPENT PLAYING BLIND MANS BUFF IN ALMOST TOTAL DARKNESS IN WINCHESTER HIGH STREET, TO DART SUDDENLY BEHIND A HEAVY DOOR CURTAIN AND TO STEP ONTO A WARM TOBACCO-RIDDEN INTIMATE CIRCLE OF LIFE IN A CAFÉ OR NAFFI CLUB — THE WAR COULD HAVE BEEN A THOUSAND MILES AWAY.

MY WORK IN THE DAIRY, MEANT AN EARLY START, SO AT ABOUT 10PM THIS PARTICULAR EVENING, I SAID GOODNIGHT TO MY COLLEAGUES IN THE STAFF COMMON ROOM, AND MADE MY WAY UP TO BED.
THE NIGHT WAS CALM AND THE MOON BRILLIANT, AND AS I GAINED MY ROOM I ADVANCED IN THE DARKNESS TO MY LITTLE WINDOW HIGH IN THE EAVES TO HAVE A LAST LOOK AT THE PASTURAL SCENE.
SILENTLY WORDING A PRAYER OF GRATITUDE FOR SUCH TRANQUILITY MY EYES ROSE INVOLUNTARILY AT THE BEATY OF THE SILVER NIGHT SKY — WHEN INTO MY ORBIT FLOATED AN OBJECT SLOWLY SILENTLY YET INEXORABLY DESCENDING EARTHWARDS!
A CHOKING PAROXISM GRIPPED MY THROAT, I STRAINED MY SIGHT, BLINKED MY EYES, LOOKED AGAIN AND THEN I KNEW!
THIS WAS THE MOMENT WHICH ALL BRITAIN HAD SECRETLY DREADED. MY WORLD WAS RENT ASUNDER. AS OF A KNIFE THRUST INTO A SILVER-BLUE SATIN CURTAIN, MY REVERIE WAS PUNCTURED AS I RELISED THAT IT WAS THIS VERY MOONLIGHT WHICH HAD BROUGHT SUCH TERROR. WHAT DID THE R.A.F CALL IT —“BOMBERS MOON” BUT IN THIS CASE IT WAS “INVADERS MOON”.
I FROZE. HOW MANY MORE OF THESE SWAYING OBJECTS WERE LANDING ALL AROUND AT THIS VERY MOMENT?
I COULD NOT SEETHE FAMILIAR SHAPE OF A PARACHUTE, BUT THEN I REMEMBERD TALES OF TRANSPARENT CHUTES AND CAMOUFLAGED CANOPIES AND LIKE A TRANSFIXED RABBIT BEFORE A SNAKE, I WATCHED THE PENDANT CARGO DISAPPEAR BEHIND A FRINGE OF YOUNG LARCHES ON A SLIGHT HILLOCK ABOUT 600YRDS FROM THE BUILDING.
THEN WITH A SUDDEN REALISATION OF URGENCY SPLICED WITH PANIC, I FLUNG MYSELF FROM THE ROOM, RUSHED HEADLONG DOWN THE DIMLY LIT CORRIDOR, SPIRALLED THE THREE FLIGHTS OF STONE INSTITUTIONAL STAIRCASE AND HEADED FOR THE SHAFT OF ELECTRIC LIGHT WHICH ANNOUNCED THE DOOR OF THE COMMON ROOM AT THE FURTHEST END OF THE HALL.
I BURST INTO THE ROOM WITH “ I THINK THE GERMANS HAVE LANDED” CONVERSATION CEASED ABRUPTLY. THE FARME AND STOCKKBREEDER SLITHERED TO THE FLOOR, A BATCH OF MILKING YIELDS WHICH WERE BEING RECORDRED SPEWED IN AN UNTIDY HEAP AS THE WRITER SLEWED ROUND TO RECEIVE MY CASTROPHIC ANOUNCEMENT, AND THE ASSISTANT MATRON WHO HAD BEENGALLANTLY FILLING IN LARGE POTATOES IN SEABOOT STOCKINGS WITH COARSE WOOL, TURNED DECIDEDLY PALE. THEN THE MEN IN THE ROOM, GALVANISED INTO ACTION, LEAPT TO THEIR FEET, SCRAMBLED TO THEIR ROOMS WHERE HOME GUARD UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT LAY AT THE READY AT THE FOOT OF EACH BED.
THE WOMEN WHO WERE LEFT STARED AT ONE ANOTHER IN STUNNED SILENCE. SHOULD WE ALERT THE LANDGIRLS IN THEIR OWN COMMON ROOM AND DORMITORIES? BUT THESE QUARTERS WERE SCATTERED OVER A WIDE AREA SO WE SAT AND WAITED THE NEXT MOVE. THE MEN SEEMED TO HAVE BEEN GONE A VERY LONG TIME. THERE WAS NO ALIEN SOUND EITHER WITHIN OR OUT THE BUILDING. JUST HOW LONG WE REMAINED IN THIS JAGGED ATMOSPHERE I CANNOT RECALL.

THEN SUDDENLY VOICES WERE HEARD IN THE CORRIDOR AND THE SOUND OF HEAVY-BOOTED FEET AND THE DOOR WAS FLUNG WIDE TO REVEAL THE FRIENDLY THOUGH STRAINED FACES OF OUR COLLEAGUES FRAMED IN THE DOORWAY. THE MEN FELL INTO CONVENIENT CHAIRS. “YES”? WE MOUTHED EXPECTANTLY “WELL” SAID ONE, “WEVE SEARCHED ALL OVER LONG PADDOCK, HOME RIDE, FARLEY MOUNT, TWENTYMANS FIELD BUT THERS NO SIGN OF ANYONE, BUT TEDDY WENT UP TO THE OBSERVER POST ON THE HILLS AND WAS TOLD THAT THEY HAD, HAD A MESSAGE THAT A BARRAGE BALLOON HAD BROKEN AWAY FROM ITS MOORINGS IN WINCHESTER AND WAS THOUGHT TO HAVE LANDED SOMEWHERE LOCALLY!”
. . . I DIDN’T CARE THAT MY DEFLATION WAS GREATER THAN THAT OF THE OBJECT WHICH HAD TRAILED ITS WITHERED ENTRAILS INTO MY VIEW OUT OF THE CLOUDLESS SKY. . .
IN THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED THE “INVASION” LIFE SEEMED PRETTY TAME, BUT IT WAS FOR ME ENLIVENED BY A SMALL INCIDENT WHEN I WAS ON DAIRY DUTY A FEW DAYS LATER. ONE OF MY TASKS WAS TO DEAL WITH THE RAW RECRUITS TO THE LAND ARMY SENT TO US BY THE OLD MINISTRY OF “AG AND FISH” FOR A CRASH COURSE IN DAIRYING.
IN THE FIRST DAYS THE GIRLS APPEARED IN THE DAIRY DISPORTING THEIR RINGS, BANGLES, BEADS AND “HAIRDOS” WHICH WOULD HAVE DONE CREDIT TO A BEAUTY SALOON. GRADUALLY THEY LEFT OFF THEIR BAUBLES AND CUT THEIR FINGERNAILS SHORT. (“NOW FIONA, BUTTERCUP WONT THINK MUCH OF YOU DEAR IF YOU ATTEMP TO MILK HER WITH THOSE LONG TALONS”) — BUT GRADUALLY THE YOUNG FARM HANDS APPEARED IN SUITABLE GEAR AND WITH THEIR TRESSES SWATHED IN “MAMMY HEADSCARVES”.

IT WAS REALLY QUITE WONDERFUL HOW THESE TOWN GIRLS, NEVER HAVING SEEN MILK OTHER THAN IN BOTTLES ON DOOR-STEPS (WHICH PROMPPTED, SO I AM TOLD ONE LITTLE BOY LONDON EVACUEE, WHO ON HIS FIRST DAY IN THE COUNTRY YELLED “ ERE, COME AND LOOK IVE FOUND A COWS NEST!”) — QUICKLY LEARNED HOW TO SCRUB MILK BUCKETS AND CHURNS, PASTURISE AND BOTTLE SEVERAL HUNDRED GALLONS OF MILK AND PACK A STERILISER.
TO HELP WITH THE INTRICACIES OF MILKING WE HAD SIX ARTIFICIAL UDDERS WHICH BASICALLY WERE WOODEN STANDS ON FOUR LEGS BETWEEN THE TOP RAILS OF WHICH WERE SLUNG ROUND CANVAS BAGS EACH REPLETE WITH FOUR COWS TEATS. WATER WAS POURED INTO THE OPEN TOP OF THE BAG AND THE LAND GIRL SAT POSITIONED AT THE FLANK OF THE “COW” AND COAXED THE LIQUID THROUGH THE TEATS.
I LEFT A BATCH OF GIRLS PRACTISING AT THE DUMMY UDDERS IN THE CHEESEROOM AND WENT OFF TO SUPERVISE ANOTHER BATCH AT WORK IN THE BOTTLING PLANT.
WHEN I RETURNED ONE GIRL APPEARED TO BE HUNCHED OVER HER “COW” IN A VERY CONSPIRITORIAL MANNER. “OH DEAR” I THOUGHT “SHES GIVEN UP, ITS MUCH TOO HARD ON HER POOR TOWN FINGERS”
“WHATS THE TROUBLE DEAR?” I GENTLY ENQUIRED
SHE FLUSHED AND VAGUELY WAVED A SMALL THIN OBJECT WHICH I IDENTIFIED AS A “KIRBY GRIP” AND JUDGING BY THE MASS OF LOOSE HAIR WHICH NOW CASCADED DOWN HER FACE HAD MINUTES BEFORE BEENITS MEANS OF CONTROL. “ IAM SORRY MISS” SAID SHE “BUT THE WATER DID NOT SEEM TO BE COMING OUT VERY WELL, SO IM PRICKING A LARGER HOLE” !!

ANOTHER MEMORY OF THESE HECTIC DAYS, WHICH LEFT A LASTING AND HAPPY IMPRESSION ON ME, WAS THE ARRIVAL AT THE FARM INSTITUTE OF AN OFFICIAL BRITISH WAR ARTIST, THE LATE MISS EVELYN DUNBAR. SHE CAME TO RECORD ON PAINT AND CANVAS “WOMEN AT WAR”. SEVERAL OF HER WORKS NOW HANG IN THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON, OF HER STUDIES OF LANDGIRLS, WHICH SHE PAINTED AT SPARSHOLT. I AM PROUD OF THE FACT THAT A FIGURE IN THE FOREGROUND OF ONE IS OF ME AT “SWEET SEVENTEEN”, IN MY GREEN/WHITE DAIRY UNIFORM ROLLING A CHURN ACROSS TH DAIRY FLOOR.

SUBMITTED BY : MRS JOSE LOOSEMORE
CORDWAINERS
CHIDDINGLY
LEWES
EAST SUSSEX
BN8 6HE

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - MY WAR

Posted on: 12 December 2003 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear JOSELOOSEMORE

You have submitted your interesting story all in CAPITALS (known also as 'upper case')

On the Internet, anything in capitals is considered to be SHOUTING, and many take offence at it. Also, many find text in capitals difficult to read.

Aside from this, at the end of your story you have given your full address. Are you sure you want to do this? Remember it will be seen worldwide and could attract unwanted correspodence. Personally I would advise you to delete it.

Putting all this right (if you wish to, of course :)) is easy.

Here's how:

1. Highlight the whole text and copy it (Ctrl+c) then get Word running and paste it in (Ctrl+c).

2. In the Edit menu (in Word) click Select All or use Ctrl+a, this will highlight all your text.

3. In the Format menu select 'Change case ...' Then select 'Sentence case' (not lower case for this). Sentence case will put a capital letter at the start of each sentence and leave the rest in lower case.

4. Check for any proper names, they will now be in lower case and the initial letters should be capitalised.

5. Remove your address.

6. Highlight, copy, and paste back here.

7. Your original post will still be on site. Go to it and click 'Remove' to the right of the text.

That's it, took me longer to type than to do it :)

Peter

Message 1 - Farm Institute

Posted on: 12 December 2003 by paul gill - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Jose, as Peter says your story is interesting and different. The land girls played a vital role.

I compare it with my father's story of peace and tranquility playing table tennis in France, then came Dunkirk. A year in Blighty with nothing to do, then Malta.

I have spent part of my professional life designing military training systems. Your udder trainer story made me laugh. People haven't changed and it certainly showed the efforts they go to to be successful in training even if it is beating the system.

I'm sure the cows were as grateful for your training on fingernail length as the girls!

Peter has given good advice on how to get your story into lower case. If you still have problems, you could submit it to the writing workshop as it's only a few minutes work for someone who knows what they're doing. I will be volunteering to help there shortly.

paul

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