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A Boy's War in Tetbury, Gloucestershire

by Researcher 239496

Contributed by 
Researcher 239496
People in story: 
derek walters
Location of story: 
Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 August 2003

I was 9 years old when the war broke out. My first real memory was having 2 officers billetted at our house from the Army supply depot at Northfield (otherwise known as the 'Dump'). A Captain Thornton and a Major Drinkwater.After Dunkirk there was a need to house soldiers rescued from the front and we were visited by an officer who said that we could get at least 15 men in outr house even though it was only 2 bedrooms. Subsequently at least 10 soldiers were in the house for a week and were in the hall, on the landing etc. Some of them were wounded andonly basic emergency treatment hads been given. I tremeber 1 of the was an Indian, Ranji, who had a bullet burn across his face.
After a week they were dispersed to other accommodation and hospitals.

At the age of 10 the War Agricultural board decided that if we were fit then we were old enough to help with the war effort. So they came around to the schools and took everyones name and address. As I had a relative on a farm in Tetbury Upton this became my prime work location although I did work for Prestons at Ilsom and Morrisons at Nestley. You were expected to work at least 1 hour per day afer school and half a day on Saturdays and Sundays. You were expected to do any job on the farm such as milk the cows, feed and muck out the pigs, feed the horses and harness up to the wagons.

In 1942 Mr Rich got a Lease-Lend Forson tractor with cast-iron front wheels and steel at the rear (no tyres). I used to drive this tractor but had to be careful not to stall it as I was not strong engh to restart it on the handle.

Early summer 1943 we were loading barley sheves on the wagon when this plane approached. There were many planes in the sky at that time as there were 14 aerodromes in the vicinity so we did not take too much notice. However someone shouted out that it was a black plane (all the RAF had camouflage markings) and we took cover behin the wagon. It was in fact a ME109 which banked and loosed offa burst of machine gun fire. It was chased off by a Hurricane and we heard that it had been shot down over Chippenham.

There were many bombs that fell in Tetbury and there was a German fighter plane that crash landed near the waterworks. A team of people took the remains of the fighter to Kemble airfield where they used to reassemble German planes to use as reconnaisance planes. They had a special signal to ensure that other RAF planes did not mistake them for enemy fighters.

As children we used to go out and collect shrapnel from the raids. I have still got a bag of the stuff.We also used to cycle over to the German POW camp at Westonbirt and shout insults at the prisoners. Similarly we went to the Italian camp at Easton Grey. Once we had a dressing down at the police station as a result of the Army complaining about us.

General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, was house in Chavenage House near Tetbury and the two officers billeted in outr house were part ogf the Logistics team preparing for the invasion of Europe.By that time an additional logistics officer Major Thornley, was also staying at our house and was also part of the D Day team. General Eisenhower took me out in his jeep for a ride and once in Humber staff car driven by a very attractive blonde ATS. Eisenhower also used to come to our house where he would play the piano and our family and the 4 officers used to have a sing song. One day Eisenhower said to me . 'I want to swear you to secrecy' and he took me up to the Malthouse in Tetbury to show me the diarama of the invasion. I was probably the only civilian to have seen it.
Eisenhower wrote to us after the war up to the MacCarthy era when it stopped as anyone corresponding with Europe might come under suspicion of being a Communist.

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