- Contributed by
- John Owen Smith
- People in story:
- Headley Village
- Location of story:
- Headley Hampshire
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 February 2004
Services and Entertainments.
The Parish Church at Headley became a garrison church for the Canadian troops in the area, and was later presented by the Canadians with a beautiful silk flag with a maple leaf on it, in grateful memory. Mrs Warner played the organ here for many years, and remembers that the soldiers’ service was held an hour or so before the regular village service – and when the villagers arrived, there were complaints from certain Headley residents about the smell of ‘wet khaki’ lingering in the church.
Non-conformists used to go to the Congregational Chapel off Long Cross Hill, and Betty Parker recalls that a lot of Canadians went there – “I think they liked that kind of service”, she said. Pat Lewis, as a Catholic, went to St Joseph’s church at Grayshott in whose churchyard so many of his Catholic compatriots from the First World War lie buried. Others may have attended Mass in Mr Alex Johnston’s garage at Leighswood along Headley Fields, which he offered for use when petrol rationing made travel to Grayshott increasingly difficult.
The army had requisitioned the Village Hall, and various entertainments were put on here for the troops. (The floor had to be replaced after the war due to the damage caused by the soldiers’ boots.) Betty Parker and Jim Clark both remember the cinema shows there, and how the local children would creep into the front in the dark – “they weren’t supposed to be there of course.” Dances were on Friday or Saturday, with the villagers providing cakes, refreshments and raffle prizes. These were generally happy events, and although the local Herald newspaper of the period reported three separate ‘incidents’ in which Canadian soldiers were brought to court for molesting local girls, this can hardly be considered exceptional over a four year period.
Soldiers stationed away from the centre of the village often went elsewhere for their entertainment. Those on Ludshott Common tended to go to Grayshott and Haslemere – Pat Lewis, who was in Nissen huts by Seymour Road with the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, says that he never heard of a dance going on in Headley. The only village function he remembers attending in his 3 months here was at Grayshott, where they had a regimental sports day at the playing field just before they left the area, and the ladies put on tea for them.
Those based in Lindford had cinema shows in Hatch House Farm, and walked to dances at Liphook Village Hall, according to Pete Friesen of the Garrys ‘HQ’ Squadron, which was quartered in Nissen huts at Lindford during both visits here – they knew the Holly Bush, but otherwise rarely visited the centre of Headley. His elder brother Jack (‘Shorty’) and younger brother Dave (see photo) were with him here. They were all in the Garrys’ regimental band, which was the HQ Squadron scout car troop, the Sergeant in charge being the band leader. The residents of Lindford should have heard some fine reveilles!
Soldiers and civilians alike from Headley used to go to the two cinemas in Bordon during the war: the Palace in Deadwater and the Empire behind the Post Office (now the sorting office) off Camp Road. Sue Allden remembers catching the bus from the village to the Empire and seeing many films there – she remembers it was always full of soldiers, and had that distinctive smell of khaki uniforms about it. Close to the Empire was the ‘Church of England’ club, which also proved popular with servicemen in the area.
Treats and Recreations.
As well as participating in village entertainments, the troops organised their own recreations. The official records of both the Garrys and the Straths mention a full programme of sports competitions, including baseball, boxing, hockey and cross-country running, held between Canadian regiments. ‘Slim’ Bradford, now living in Hindhead, though not based in Headley at the time, remembers visiting the village to take part in a boxing match. He recalls too the 24-hour gambling schools which “took place in all locations.”
The Canadians gave treats to the locals, especially at Christmas time. Katie Warner says: “When the Canadian soldiers realised that sweets and chocolate and everything were so very scarce here, they sent over big boxes of them which were taken to the school and distributed among the children. I’m sure there must be hundreds of children around here who received some of those sweets.” They organised Christmas parties at the Village Hall, and gave the Holme School children a party at Hatch House Farm in Lindford. “They picked us up in a lorry”, Jim Clark recalls, “and at Wellfield Corner we hit another lorry coming the other way – no-one was hurt, but I remember the bang.” He also remembers the wooden yacht he was given – “a super little boat with sails and everything.”
They arranged parties at Erie Camp for the local Headley Down children, at which they gave out presents made by the prisoners – and some of these are cherished to this day. Grace Barnes still has the lovely doll’s cot which her daughter received there. “They were very good at making different things you know”, she says, “and the food was alright. It was behind the barbed wire, coils of it – you had to go up into the camp and into one of their recreation rooms, I suppose it was.” Mary Fawcett (n‚e Whittle) remembers her disappointment when the gifts were given out in alphabetical order – there were no prams left when they got to her, and she received a small rocking-horse instead.
Some of the ‘treats’ were somewhat more illicit. Betty Parker remembers her father complaining that they had no sugar one day, only to find a military lorry arriving later with a big bag for him. Others remember a ‘black market’ going on round the village for cans of petrol and other rationed material.
The Canadians also did their bit to ‘dig for victory’. The official record of the Straths tells how “spare time was devoted to the planting of gardens”, and mentions that “Squadron-Sergeant-Major Sam Heinrich, thanks largely to a hothouse which he usurped, was able to supply ‘A’ Squadron with fresh radishes a full week ahead of all the others.”
Len Carter too, behind the wire in Erie Camp, was planting Brussels sprouts “and other edible albeit disgusting things” between the buildings there, having “finally managed to escape the ‘infernal rectangle’ or parade square” because he remembered a little maths from school. The RSM had demanded if there was anyone who could figure out the square area of a triangle – he was the only one to volunteer, and was detailed to help Staff Sgt Williams who was in charge of “planting every available foot in the compound with vegetables.” This NCO had to submit a statement to the Commandant showing the total area under cultivation, and hence his need for Len’s mathematical skills! Len drew up a coloured plan of the entire compound area under cultivation – which largely consisted of a lot of yellow areas indicating Brussels Sprouts, “one of the dirtiest gastronomical tricks the Belgians ever played on us.”
And finally, we should not forget that there were some particular skills which the Canadians brought with them, as John Ellis discovered one day. He remembers: “The last horse to be used for the delivery of animal feedstuffs at Headley Mill was named Boxer. Some pasture land adjoining the mill had been requisitioned to produce cereals under the War Emergency Act, and Boxer was needed to haul a trailer to help with the harvesting. We tried to catch him one summer’s evening, but without success – he dashed around the field and we found it impossible to get him. A crowd of Canadian soldiers came and leant over the gate to see what was going on, and eventually one of them came into the field and asked if we had a long rope. We produced one – and Boxer was lassoed within seconds.”
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