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D-Day: a Boy's Contribution

by basalmon

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20 August 2004

To be called into the County Surveyor's Office at The Castle,Winchester,was a daunting experience for a 14 year old office boy.Brigadier Hughes was an austere man,who saw service in World War 1 and then briefly in World War 2,now early in 1944 he was responsible for most of the highways and bridges in Hampshire.
"Salmon", he said, "Do you know St.Cross?","Yes sir",I replied.Most of my boyhood had been spent in that area,I knew the best conker and walnut trees in St.Cross park and I knew The Grange, a large house standing in its own grounds opposite St.Cross park,to which he now directed me."Take this bundle of maps and deliver them to Captain....."."Yes sir" and off I went to find my bicycle.There were not many men left in the County Surveyor's Department,most of the Engineers were still serving King and country and very few of the remaining staff had cars.
We local boys knew that the Army occupied The Grange and just up the road was Bushfield Camp,swarming with troops.Near by,the railway line passed under the main road and from the bridge parapet we watched army trucks and soldiers entering the Camp.Not much missed our attention and down the steep railway bank I spotted a bicycle which was soon hauled up to the road and ridden triumphantly home,despite the fact that it was a ladies old 'sit up and beg' type.We guessed that a soldier was late getting back to Camp from Winchester and commandeered the transport for the King's service.
The maps to be delivered were the large paper copies of the 1 inch to a mile Ordnance Survey maps for southern Hampshire.The County Surveyor had been asked to produce as many of these maps as possible for use by the army in planning troop movements prior to D-Day.So the large bundle was tied up with string and secured to the carrier on the rear of my bicycle and off I went down the High Street and along St.Cross Road.Fortunately it was not raining!
At The Grange,the armed military policeman looked me up and down,but the mention of the names of Brigadier Hughes and the Captain in charge of The Grange,convinced him that I was harmless.Another military policeman stood at the door as I dismounted and propped up my bicycle against the wall.My mission explained,I was escorted into the house with my bundle of maps which I handed over to Captain.....whose name I have long since forgotten.
Weaving my way out through the parked army trucks to the main entrance where the armed guard gave me a cheery grin, and so on my trusty steed I returned to The Castle,to report mission accomplished.I often wonder if the guard survived the war and remembers the boy on the old ladies bicycle with his bundle of maps tied onto the rear carrier.Ever since I have had a love for those old detailed pre-war 1 inch Ordnance Survey maps.

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