- Contributed by
- CSV Solent
- People in story:
- James Mein,Henry Hall, Victor Sylvester,
- Location of story:
- North Newington Village
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 September 2005
At the time of ’D’ Day, I was stationed at Barford St John RAF station in North Oxfordshire. With my recently married wife, I lived in digs with the village’s alma mater — a very deaf lady of many years. Nevertheless she was a lovely lady, related to most of the villagers in one way or another. Thus we were soon accepted into their community and spent our spare time entering into the various activities which included whist drives and dances in the village hall to the music of Henry Hall or Victor Sylvester played on an HMV radio Gram! All this of course punctuated by the calls of duty and the constant over flight of US fortresses by day and RAF bombers by night. Mrs B. had a couple of hives of bees which her husband, many years deceased, had left. These were just recognisable as beehives but had bits hanging off everywhere! Cum the autumn and time to harvest the honey, the local school Headmaster, came to carry out the process. As it happened I was off duty and offered to help. How was I to know what was really involved. All I knew about beekeeping was that it did happen! So, the Headmaster had a spare veil but that was all. My protection consisted of my great coat and a pair of RAF woollen gloves! On seeing their living conditions I am (now) not at all surprised. What had been the beehives were a mish-mash of pieces of wood with comb mixed in. I, by this time, had sort of lost interest and was otherwise engaged as, not only had I discovered that woollen gloves were far from ‘bee-sting’ proof, but I also found that the veil I had was more ‘holy than righteous’. I had by now a fair number of bees on my side of the veil!
I’d had enough! I left the garden through the back fence at speed, 100 in even time, and didn’t stop until I was clear of flying bees!
Within the hour my hands and face were sort of bigger! Of course when I reported sick next morning the MO couldn’t see anything wrong and thought I always looked like that! Didn’t make any difference when I explained as he hadn’t a clue what to do about it!
What about the honey harvest? Well! What you do is collect all the honey—loaded honeycomb in a pillowcase, take it into the ‘hovel’ (Wash House) and close the door. Of course the bees were there as well. In fact the window was covered with bees. During the next couple of days the bees died and subsequently the pillowcase was hung in the attic over a large washing up bowl and slowly the honey dripped into the bowl. It was never ‘bottled’ but one just went up to the attic and collected a cupful. . Of course sugar was rationed so honey was a useful substitute.
Of course one got used to barter as a useful shopping tool! A pound of honey could easily be turned into a rasher or two of bacon!
The cobbler lived opposite us and kept a pig. The one he was permitted and the one round the back, which he wasn’t. This one he would clobber on a Sunday morning when the church bells were ringing so as to hide the ‘noise’! But his bacon was tops!
On reflection, this time in the village was a magical time because it was so primitive and simple and little to worry about. We had no electricity —lighting was by oil lamp and water from the pump. When the pump ran dry one had to go to the village pump which was lower down and therefore nearer the water! Also, a good meeting place to hear the latest news!
Remember the ladies who had American ‘friends’ had nylon stockings! Those who hadn’t just painted their legs nylon colour and got someone to paint the seam down the back! Must admit not an unpleasant task!
The background to all this was the turmoil of the conflict taking place on the beeches of Normandy. Our involvement was remote in that, being part of Training Command, we just provided the replacements for losses! A horrible thought but we were all far too busy doing just that to think too deeply about ‘Why’, or ‘What’ was the consequence.
Come a long way since then and regretfully many of those good friends have long since gone, but so well remembered!
One perhaps unconnected instance but very moving at the time was the battle of Britain Day. I was out on dispersal on Sunday morning repairing a faulty propeller pitch control. It was a beautiful sunny morning. The larks were singing and, unusually no other sound. Suddenly the Upper Heyford Church bells started to ring! A sound we had not heard for the duration. I stopped and listened — and cried! I couldn’t help it!
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