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Wartime Holiday Continued: In Dorset

by eric heathfield

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eric heathfield
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eric heathfield
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21 April 2004

The Red Lion was a very old pub, before the war it had been a sleepy local pub.Frank the landlord had also been the village carpenter doing odd carpentry jobs. He and Amy had 2 children, Alf who was in the Navy and Mercy who was in the Womens Land Army.As the war progressed many soldiers and airmen were in the area so the pub grew increasingly busy.In 1943 a large airfield at nearby Tarrant Rushton opened and the Red Lion quickly became a favourite haunt of the air crews and airmen.I used to lay in bed in the evenings listening to the singing and also to the lovely old Dorset Dialect spoken by the locals,sadly now mostly a thing of the past.As I said earlier we came here whenever we could get away for a short time, even spending 2 xmas's here in 1940 and 41.My father was a fanatical angler even going fishing on Xmas Day! On Xmas Day 1940 he caught a 22lb pike which was raffled in aid of Wimbourne Hospital.That Xmas I also had the pleasure of seeing the local Mummers perform there ancient ritual of St George and the Dragon. But in the summer we had a great time, most days going to the river in the afternoon and fishing from the boat till nightfall which in the days of double summertime was nearly 11pm!The Red Spinners had fishing rights to the left bank and my Father leased % miles of the right bank from the local Squire for £5 per year!The fishing was execellent and I was able to catch some fine roack , Perch And Chub. Also many grayling which are lovely to eat.The boat was kept at White Mill now owned by the National Trust and has been lovingly restored.It was a farmhouse then with dairy buildings in the old mill.Now in the war food was scarce, we used to keep rabbits for extra meat.Under the very strict regulations you had to register with the "Fur and Feather" club so that you could obtain food for your chickens or rabbits.Also you could not eat them all yourselves but had to give I think half of them to the local butchers. Also farmers who shot rabbits had to do the same.Of course a lot of "fiddling" went on.Anyway on the last night of one holiday I think in 43, Dad asked the farmer Ralph Hobbs If there was any chance of a rabbit or two,Ralph winked and said see me before you go.So after finishing we calle at the Mill. Ralph gave dad 2 fine rabbits and dDad paid him 5 bob(25p). Dad told me to put them in my haversack.We crossed the old Bridge to start our wlk back home when, horror of horrors the local policeman stepped out from a "pillbox" which had been built to protect the bridge.I was petrified visions of being hauled off to the cells! My Dad calmly stopped and chatted to him,he was waiting to try and catch some of the Airmen cycling back to the airfield without lights on their cycles! What a war hero!Any way all was well and we went on our way.Also that year one evening as the fish were biting well we stayed till we could no longer see.Just as we were about to pack up for the night a formation of our bombers flew up the river,about a minute later a German junkers88 followed them only about 50 feet above us, I have never felt so naked!He could have blown us out of the water with his rear guns but luckily his mind was on other things and he vanished up river. So ended another wa rtime holiday. The next year 1944 the airfield was in full operation and the air was full of Handley Page Halifax air craft towing gliders, I spent many ours on badbury rings looking down on the airfield watching the flying.Sometimes we used to take a trip to Poole and go down to the quay and look at the ships and watch the BOAC flying boats coming and going, on one occassion a launch pulled up to the Quay and we saw Gracie Fields climb up the steps, she was returning from theUSA where she had fled in 1940.Also on that flight was Lord Halifax who I think had been in Canada. We continued to visit the Red Lion for our holidays till 1945, in March of that year Frank Frampton sadly died suddenly. He had had a stroke in 43 and never really got over it.Amy and Mercy ran it for a while but in the end the brewery did not in those days like lady licecees so she had to leave.I visited the old pub in 1976 and found it completely changed no more Dorset dialect full of "Yuppies" all altered one big bar, no more nice friendly little snug bars very sad.Still that they tell me is progresss!

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