Mr John Thurgood was born c 1922. He was interviewed on 20 April 2004, when he lived at The Lincolns, New Road, Terling, CM3 2PN.
There is a some information about the earlier Thurgood family of Terling, at Thurgood family in the people category. But I don’t know how John is related to them.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
This is about the British Resistance during the Second World War, and the six or seven man unit in Terling that John belonged to; the plan was for them to hide in their underground shelter (O.B., Operational Base) in the event of a German invasion, and then creep out and be subversive.
The Last Ditch by David Lampe.
Page 133 of A History of Witham, by Janet Gyford (downloadable from www.gyford.com/janet/books/history-witham/text/).
Parham Airfield Museum.
British Resistance Archive.
Q: [It was supposed to be] a secret for ever, was it?
Mr T: That’s right, yes.
Q: So it was only really when they started talking about it, you started …?
Mr T: Yes, yes.
Q: I mean do you remember where you, where did you sign the Secrets Act then, did they bring it round to your house?
Mr T: I honestly can’t remember. But I know we all had to sign it.
Q: Cause another thing I remember you telling me about the person who came, while the soldiers were building the place [underground hideout].
[Chat about tea, not noted.]
[discussing JG’s photos M2013-M2019, especially of JT by site of old hideout in about 1990]
Q: I remember you saying, oh, brilliant, thank you. Now this, it’s got the actual …
Mr T: Yes, and that.
Q: Oh good, that’s the one out of the, that’s the one with, I’ve forgotten is name now.
Mr T: Me.
Q: That was you? Oh well, there’s another picture, oh yes, oh yes. There’s another picture with somebody else on. Who took this one, then?
Mr T: Winston Alderton.
Q: Oh, did he?
Mr T: Remember Winston?
Q: Yes, yes, yes. Well, interesting. Oh, so you actually had the door bit.
Mr T: Yes, that’s just about all that was left then, and it was quite unsafe to have sort of investigated further.
Q: So whenabouts was this then?
Mr T: Oh dear.
Q: Oh it doesn’t matter. Cause Winston’s been dead a few years hasn’t he?
Mr T: Yes, he has, yes. You got a copy of that?
Q: Don’t worry. You don’t look a lot different than you do now.
Mr T: That’s about 1990, I would think, somewhere about that. And there’s a list of the people on those lists, and those that I knew and their occupations if known. [for copy, see Picture and Biography section of Oral History files, and another, with other information, in the Subject Files under British Resistance]
Q: You’re so efficient. You seem to remember a lot of people.
Q: Yes, cause I had a chat, thanks to you, to Molly, is it Molly Scott, that you’d mentioned to me.
Mr T: Oh, Peter Scott’s wife, yes.
Q: Yes, that’s right, about her father. That was quite, on the phone, I had a chat, and it was quite interesting, cause she, she said they never took him seriously when he was alive, really. I mean he’d tell these tales to the grandchildren, about catching Germans and they all thought he was … but he did mention something about their base [of the Wickham Bishops and Witham unit], being up the Wickham Bishops hill. And then I found, I remember somebody, I don’t know, well, perhaps she used to live next door to the Dersleys. And in fact it was Ted Dersley [of 63 Glebe Crescent, Witham] that once drew these for me [sketches of whereabouts of bases]. Well, he drew the Terling one, which is more or less the same as what you …
Mr T: Yes, in the Hollow ditch, that’s right.
Q: But then he reckoned that was the Witham and Wickham Bishops together, that’s Snow’s corner. I could make a copy of this for you. He’d just come across the hole in the ground cause he goes round the countryside a lot, you know. So [???]. It’s not there any more, but, I’ll have to look at the map again to remind myself where this was.
Mr T: Oh, I know that way, yes.
Q: Grove House, oh Langford Grove., so it’s probably more Langford way.
Mr T: That’s it. Well, Back Lane, where, Snow’s corner, you’re going towards Maldon there, aren’t you. And Back Lane comes out here on the road past Wickham Bishops church.
Q: I know, yes, yes, yes.
Mr T: There’s a double bend there. Just past Wickham Bishops church, and Back Lane comes out onto that. But that’s under a different name there. The lane is under a different name, I can’t remember what it is offhand.
Q: That’s where he reckons it is so it’s a fair way over towards Langford, isn’t it.
Mr T: Yes. Ah.
Q: Well he just found a hole there, and that sort of fits in a bit with what Molly said. On the other hand, she and her husband could never agree, afterwards, which side of the road he’d said it was on.
Mr T: [laughs]
Q: So I’ll have to show her this sometime and see if that fits in with what …Cause also Ted reckons there was another place up Cressing way, which is possible I suppose, isn’t it.
Mr T: I think the Silver End one …
Q: Oh perhaps that would be Silver End.
Mr T: I haven’t got the Silver End names, I’m afraid. But we did come in contact with the Silver End people, and I had an idea theirs was in the gravel pit on the Rivenhall Road.
Q: Oh, right, yes.
Mr T: I wouldn’t be sure of that, though.
Q: Of course there must have been all sorts of holes[?] in the road [???].
[discussing Q’s drawing of the Terling hideout, which resulted in the drawings on page 133 of her book A History of Witham.]
From what you told me, I was trying to draw a picture of your one, so I need you now to tell me if it makes sense.
Mr T: Something like that. And then the …
Q: I don’t know whether I’ve got the proportions right really, so if there’s anything …
Mr T: That’s not far out, not far out at all, I would imagine. Er, possibly this might have had a little bit shorter. But no, it was very very similar to that, with the escape, that’s right, escape tunnel that end. Yes …
Q: So it was only, wasn’t that tall then. Cause I remember you saying that that was about eight foot from the top to bottom there.
Mr T: Something like that, yes.
Q: So if you stood up in it, did you more or less reach the top?
Mr T: I could stand up in it, yes.
Q: Reasonably easily …
Mr T: I’m about six foot, oh, at that time I was about six foot one and a half, so I could just about stand up in the middle. I suppose that, at the apex that would have been about six foot six, I reckon.
Q: But you couldn’t see this, that was totally buried under the ground.
Mr T: Oh yes, yes.
Q: Oh good, and, I don’t know how high your bunks and things were, but again …
Mr T: Well, the bottom one would have been about this high I suppose.
Q: [???], yes.
Mr T: Yes, and the other one not much more than that perhaps. About chest high or something.
Q: So you didn’t have much room if you were in the bottom one then, did you.
Mr T: No.
Q: So that would really be higher up? Close together really?
Mr T: That’s right. Yes, that’s it.
Q: I thought I might put that in the book if they’ll have it.
Mr T: Mm?
Q: Once I’ve finished drawing that, I might put it in the book if that’s all right with you.
Mr T: Yes, yes.
Q: Apart from the mistakes, it’s all we’ve got, isn’t it. [laughter] Cause this, I mean that might have only just gone as far as the, I suppose, could that just have been from there, or would it …
Mr T: I think it would have projected a little bit further than there, I think, somewhere about here.
Q: Sort of half way between the [???] thing and what I’ve got.
Mr T: That’s it.
Q: And was this all trees up on top of here?
Mr T: No, it’s a shrubbery or something like that, you know.
Q: Oh good, well I’ll have a think about that. Were the bunks, what were the bunks made of?
Mr T: You what?
Q: Were the bunks wooden, or, I’m really testing you here aren’t I [laughter]?
Mr T: Well, it was only sixty years [laughter].
Q: The stores and things, they would be a food supply presumably, would it?
Mr T: Yes, yes, largely, because we used to keep the explosives and things in another place. At the far end of that ditch.
Q: Oh, I see.
Mr T: In fact, not all that long ago, one of Lord Rayleigh’s workmen, they were in there, and they found some of these phosphorous bottles. [laugh]
Q: Oh, really? You’d left them behind?
Mr T: I think they were terrible things, really, because they were like a mineral water bottle, with a crown cap.
Mr T: Well, if they’d have undone one of those, with a bottle opener, it would have just burst into flames and that was it. Terrible things. Oh yes. All right we never had to deal with them, but anybody strange, that’s an invitation, isn’t it. [laugh]
Q: So, one thing that occurred to me afterwards, presumably, when you were practising you obviously, if you wanted the loo, you’d just go outside. But if you were holed up here and the Germans came, what were you going to do?
Mr T: Ah, we would have had a bucket or something like that, wouldn’t we.
Q: I suppose the same with the old bottles, the phosphorous. You’d have to creep out and get your explosive, wouldn’t you?
Mr T: Yes.
Q: So you weren’t assuming you’d be locked in there for ever?
Mr T: Oh no. We was just banking on the fact that it weren’t discovered.
Q: Yes, quite, yes. Well obviously yes, I suppose if you were then …
Mr T: Well, I don’t think it would have been very long before we were discovered.
Q: Don’t you?
Mr T: What with Alsations, to sniff us out. [laugh]
Q: Cause, I mean, another thing I thought about afterwards, is, if you, when you were all trooping off there, I remember you saying when somebody saw it being built, he had to sign the Official Secrets Act as well. When the soldiers were there digging.
Mr T: Yes, a chappie found it. And he started talking about it. Somebody heard that he’d mentioned it, and they got onto the army types, and they tracked him down and got him to sign the Official Secrets Act.
Q: Cause it seems to me, if you were all trooping off there, everybody must have noticed.
Mr T: Oh, they knew we were around somewhere, but when we went to the O.B.[Operational Base, underground shelter], we were very careful to look around to see that there was nobody about.
Q: Oh, I see. And you sort of didn’t all go at once.
Mr T: No, that’s right.
Q: Cause it’s quite near the village, isn’t it?
Mr T: Oh yes. Yes. But what this chap saw was the army types taking the equipment over there, you see, and they knew something, he, guessed something was being put there.
Q: Right, this is when they were taking the stuff to build it with, you mean?
Mr T: That’s right, yes. And one of the chaps that was doing that, in the Army Service Corps, he was based at Earls Colne, and he was at school the same time that I was. Yes, yes. He used to live at Latneys, you know, just over the, on the approach to Hatfield. Yes. He died about a year ago, Reg Succaby[?].
Q: So again, they’d all be …
Mr T: I think his parents worked for the people at Howlands[?] and Latneys.
Q: Cause, I was trying, you said you went out practising at Earls Colne, didn’t you, sometimes, or you went …
Mr T: I did go to Earls Colne, we went there on a stunt. Simulated moonlight. We had to wear dark glasses and, so, in the daylight, the observers could see everything we were doing, but, the glasses were very very good, really, it was just about simulated moonlight.
Q: So what were you doing?
Mr T: Again, I can’t remember exactly what we were doing then. But we did go out, we made arrangements with Army camps, and say could we simulate a raid on your place, between various dates. And they used to double the guards, and have some dogs. So, they said ‘If challenged, give yourself up.’ [laughter] Lindiswood, there was an army camp there, and an ammunition dump. And I remember we went there once. And we all got in, we all got out, put our labels on to say what we would have used. Yes. In spite of the fact that they doubled the guard, the guards, and had Alsations round. In fact one of our pensioner members, he died a couple of years ago, but I was talking to him about it, cause he said he was in the army here, round here, and I said we went onto Lindiswood. He said ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I remember it’. [laugh] He was based at Lindiswood. That’s right.
Q: How did you get in there then? (Mr T: Mm?) I wondered how you managed to get in when it was all so well guarded?
Mr T: It’s amazing how you could. It really was. I’ve laid sometimes, with this concertina wire, they used to put two together, and then one on the top. And we used to get in between the rings if you like, of the wire, and I’ve lain inside that and a guard has walked past, yes, and not seen. Cause naturally, you look at eye-level, don’t you, not at anybody prone[?].
Q: And would this always be in darkness?
Mr T: Oh yes, yes.
Q: That’s a help, isn’t it.
Mr T: That’s right. And the thing, after you’ve got your uniform on, you’ve camouflaged your face with, it was Colgates actually, green and brown, toothpaste virtually, you know, that sort of stuff, cream, yes. And, you just put this all over your face, and moonlight, the thing that shows up most, were your black boots and your shadow.
Q: Really? If it was actually in moonlight, you would be …
Mr T: Yes, if that’s moonlight.
Q: It’s stood you in good stead since, I’m sure. [laughter]
Mr T: That’s the paper for the open day, look [at Parham museum Suffolk, re British Resistance]
[chat about whether Q can go, not noted]
Mr T: And they have built an O.B. [Operational Base, underground hideout] And that’s going to be opened by Lord and Lady Ironside.
[more discussion about open day etc., and opening of museum, not noted]
Q: I suppose they must have all been a similar pattern, these places?
Mr T: Yes.
[chat about borrowing photos etc., JG’s M2013-M2019, not noted]
Q: I wondered about this escape tunnel, that’s that there is it, at the top?
Mr T: That’s right.
Q: So, where that came out, there wasn’t a trap door or anything, it was just a sort of hole.
Mr T: I can’t remember.
Q: Probably it wasn’t very, did you use that very much?
Mr T: No, I can’t ever remember going out of it.
Q: If the Alsatians were sniffing at the front door, you’d have to go out the back [laughter]. Well, thanks for doing this list, and everything. So would you reckon there’s any more of these chaps still alive.
Mr T: The only one I know is Dennis Williams. He was in the Hatfield Peverel. I think I’ve made a note of it there, with Hatfield Peverel, ‘only known survivor’. He lives in Galleywood. I didn’t know him, but I have introduced myself to him, knowing that he was a survivor.
Q: Do you think he remembers very much about it?
Mr T: Er, why not, want to have a go with him?
[Chat about DW’s phone number etc., not noted]
[20 minutes at beginning of chat]
Q: I imagine other people your age would be surprised now to hear that that was what was going on.
Mr T: Yes, they would.
Q: Even though it’s all this time, they obviously don’t know, do they.
Mr T: That’s right. And even though the information has been issued, it was issued at such a late date, I mean in the 1960s I think, and, well, 99 per cent wouldn’t be interested, would they?
Q: Perhaps not, no. They would now though, wouldn’t they. It takes time for people to wake up to things, even if it’s a bit late. But then perhaps, you were particularly young, I suppose, when they recruited you, were you?
Mr T: Yes, about eighteen I suppose. 1940, I would have been 18.
Q: Was that younger than most of the others?
Mr T: Generally yes, yes, cause, well, some of them were middle aged and older.
Q: Yes. So like, the one who recruited you?
Mr T: Oh, Tom Beard, he lived a couple of doors away from me, yes he’d have been, at that time I would have thought in his fifties.
Q: So they’re obviously long gone. What was his name again, you did tell me?
Mr T: Tom Beard. He was the sergeant. He lived, three doors away from me. Apparently when he died, his wife found some of the stuff, he’d got no end of stuff, he was a real collector, this bloke, and [laugh], oh yes, he’d got explosives and fuses and God knows what, that the army came along and carted off. Oh dear.
Q: So you haven’t got a shed full of …
Mr T: No, all I had was a little wooden box with a length of fuse, it was rapid-burning fuse, and a time pencil [see JG’s photo M2014]. The time pencils, well I’ll have to do you a sketch of that sometime. Pencils, because they were virtually like a pencil. And, with a percussion cap in, to start the fuse off, and there were bands painted round, to signify the approximate time of release. There was a little phial of acid, and a wire holding a spring. You simply pressed the outside tube, which was very very thin copper, to break the phial, and that started burning the wire, and, depended on the thickness of the wire, was the approximate time of starting it off. And if you wanted, there was half-hour, up to about four or five hours I think. So you simply pressed that when you’d set your charge, and off you went, and anything from roughly half an hour to something like four or five hours, it would come off. And that could be used to start an explosive, or, incendiary device.
Q: So did you use those to practise.
Mr T: Never actually used one, or at least I didn’t. But they were there, for use. But when we had explosives, we used to have the army type come along and take charge of the explosives, which we did at Boreham gravel pits on one occasion.
He came over, and he said, ‘I’ll show you how a safety fuse’ll burn under water, and he put about a quarter of a pound of plastic explosive, tossed it in, and after a little while, the bubbles came to the top, and after about another half an hour, so did two or three hundred young roach. [laughter] Chelmsford Angling Club had recently re-stocked. They complained, complained, but they couldn’t do anything about it. [laugh] Oh dear.
Q: Well, I suppose you were, really, you had the run of the place really, you were the elite, you could do [???], couldn’t you.
Mr T: That’s right, yes. [laugh]
Q: Did any of your family have an inkling, what you were up to?
Mr T: No, no I don’t think they did. And, my father wasn’t an enquiring type, nor was my mother really. I had an aunt that was. What she didn’t know, she was going to know if she possibly could, but she didn’t get anything out of me. [laugh]
Q: Did she ask you then?
Mr T: Oh, she’d ask, yes. I just used to say I was in the Home Guard, that was it. End of story.
Q: As you say, the other people in the Home Guard, they sort of knew, what …
Mr T: They knew that we weren’t in the regular Home Guard, certainly, but I think they just used to assume that we were in the Hatfield lot or something like that. Or we sort of led them in that direction. [laugh]
Q: So you didn’t … did you find it difficult keeping quiet, or were you …
Mr T: I don’t recall that we found much difficulty in it, no.
Q: Well, I suppose it was so obviously necessary that …
Mr T: That’s right.
Q: Especially just for a young chap, really, cause presumably your friends of your age and everything were wondering what you were doing.
Mr T: Well, most of them of my age at that time were probably, well, a lot of them were agricultural workers, and they were about, but quite a number were in the Forces anyhow.
Q: Of course, yes, yes.
Mr T: Because when, I was working at Crittall’s at the time, and I was in the office, and as soon as I registered they put me in the works, to keep me reserved. Cause they wanted as many workers as possible.
Q: So that meant you didn’t go in until …
Mr T: That’s right, I didn’t go in till I was 21. I got my calling up papers for my air crew medical on my twenty-first birthday. Yes.
Q: How did you feel about that, then.
Mr T: I went in, I wanted to be in the Air Force, and I volunteered for air crew when I registered, and I went down on eyesight. Wouldn’t take me anywhere in air crew, because of short sight.
Q: Oh, I see.
Mr T: So whatever, if you’re a navigator, often the navigator was the bomb aimer as well, and he’d got to have good eyesight obviously. No good for a pilot because he wanted good eyesight. Air gunner the same. Wireless operator, wireless operator is also an air gunner. They counted me out. But through volunteering and getting chucked out, I still managed to keep in the RAF, because at the time that I went for my medical, they weren’t taking anybody in the RAF except those that were failed air-crew. And they kept[?] me as a wireless operator. And I was on the mobile signals unit, which suited me ideally. Because we went over on the continent about seven or eight weeks after D Day, and we had to get up onto the nearest air strip to the front line, so that the badly wounded were brought back by ambulance to that air strip and then flown back to England. And we dealt with the aircraft that flew them back. The aircraft used to fly casualties back, and then when they came to pick up casualties, they brought in supplies. And we were under canvas virtually all the time, that suited me admirably, because, no, what shall I say, no normal forces discipline. We got on with our job, and, well we dressed in our work clothes, our best uniform was at the bottom of the kit bag and it stayed there. Yes.
Q: Where exactly was that?
Mr T: We went over in Normandy for a start.
Mr T: And then followed up as soon as they really advanced in Normandy, we went up through France, Belgium, Holland, and then I went on an attachment to Copenhagen and Oslo, came back and joined the unit. Yes, very good. And we were at Brussels when the Arnhem do was on. Because there were gliders at the drome at Brussels, took off from there. But before we went over onto the continent, while we were just waiting to go over, virtually, we didn’t know what was going to happen, and we were down in Wiltshire, and they were practising with the gliders there. I think one of those tow ropes, which were nylon, would have made several thousand pairs of nylon stockings.
Q: We had gliders at Rivenhall …
Mr T: I don’t know whether they had gliders there or not. (Q: [???]) They might well have done.
Q: So were you, so really you didn’t have anybody telling you what to do at all then, really?
Mr T: Not really. We knew our job, we knew what we’d got to do, we were on a shift system, and that was it.
Q: Were you a sergeant, did you say?
Mr T: No. [???] Just an ordinary erk as they called them. Leading Aircraftsman.
Q: Of course the names are all different, I’m not very good on the names. You were Leading Aircraftsman?
Mr T: Yes. Which, there was, that was one step up from the bottom. [laugh]
Q: That’s good.
Mr T: Of course on a unit like that there was just no chance of promotion at all.
Q: No, quite. It sounds as if you found your niche, really.
Mr T: That suited me. [???]
Q: Well, you’ve got more bits.
Mr T: Oh yes, I’m not very helpful with your list I’m afraid. [JG’s photos M533 and M534 Crittall’s office staff, 1950s]
Q: Oh, not to worry. I’m wondering if perhaps some of those weren’t local, because not many people know them.
Mr T: Well, all our chaps were works types. You know, they didn’t know the office people’s names, knew them by sight probably. Oh, and the bandmaster, was Bert Knight.
Q: Oh was it, yes.
Mr T: His daughter lives in Terling.
Q: Oh really?
Mr T: Dick Messent, I think that’s Bill Messent. I always knew him as Bill. After he retired, he did a bit of work for the nursery on the Wickham Bishops Road, you know the one on the corner?
Q: Yes, yes. Oh well, that’s helpful.
Mr T: Dick Chapman. He was always known as Dick, but his initials were A L. There were several people that were called Dick, and their name wasn’t Dick at all.
Q: Isn’t that odd? Yes.
Mr T: There was Dick Chapman, his initials were A L. There was Dick Adams, his initials were S A. [laugh].
Q: Confusing isn’t it. Oh, you’ve got another one, Jack Drury, that’s good, yes.
Mr T: Yes, yes, if you see Jack Drury on the one photograph, you can recognise him on the other one.
Q: So, did Bert Knight live in Terling then?
Mr T: No, he lived at Silver End. There look, there’s Jack Drury. Well, sorry I couldn’t have been more helpful.
Q: No, every time one gets added, that’s a start.
[chat about Mr T keeping copies, not noted]
Mr T: The only other office man that I can remember was Harold Walker. He lived up Church Street.
Q: Oh, you mentioned him, yes.
Mr T: Yes, but, whether he’d be able to see well enough for that now, I don’t know. Cause he had diabetes when he was very young, cataract operations, he now has fifteen, about fifteen per cent sight in one eye. He’s been like that for years. So whether he’d be able to see well enough for that. But if he goes down the town, he always has to have his wife with him.
Q: That’s right, yes.
Mr T: Yes, and he had his cataract operations at the time when they could make an incision, take the natural lens out.
But they couldn’t stitch it, they hadn’t got the skill to stitch it. So he had to lay with his head between sandbags for, I don’t know, something like a fortnight, something like that.
Q: Yes, things have changed a lot haven’t they.
Mr T: Oh, in the last … well, I’ve had both cataract operations, and they were eleven years apart, er, because, after I had the first one done, the other one virtually stopped, which they can. And then my surgeon said after about eleven years, he said ‘What about the other eye?’, he said, time you had that one done’. I said, ‘Yes’, I said, ‘but that really stopped, didn’t it.’ He said ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I think we can do that.’ Now, the first time, I was in hospital a week. Er, the second one three days. Then, some time after that, or, no, at the time I had the second one done, he said ‘How do you get on with the contact lenses.’ I said ‘OK, why?’. He said ‘Oh’, he said, ‘we can always put an implant in that one that we did first’. Because, when they did the first one, they just weren’t doing implants at all. And after a couple of years, it begin to play up, so I got in touch with him, and he said ‘Right, come in’. Now bear in mind that I had a week in hospital on the first one, and putting an implant in was virtually a similar operation to actual cataract, and I had my injection at half past nine in the morning, complete with medication I was on my way home at twenty past eleven. [laughter]
Q: Incredible. So you’re in quite good health, really, then.
Mr T: Reasonably so, yes, I’ve got glaucoma in my right eye but they caught that at a very very early stage, in fact it was about, after you’ve had an operation, they keep in touch with you monthly for two or three months, and after the second appointment they said ‘Mm, bit of pressure in your eye’. I said ‘Do you mean glaucoma’, he said ‘Yes, afraid so’. And he put me on medication, and that was in ’96, and I can still read the bottom line on the chart, so I mustn’t grumble, must I? (Q: No.) Got a few blank spaces in it but …[laugh].
Q: You must have told me how often you actually went to the base[?].
Mr T: Not all that often. No, we used to, it was, sort of practices and on map-reading and that sort of thing. We used to do that at night, with compasses. We were all issued – each section had a prismatic compass, and the thing then was, somebody, one of the seniors of the area, they, Keith Seabrook, or somebody like that, would say ‘Right, start at so and so, 300 yards such and such a degree, 250 yards at so and so, another 200 yards at so and so, where are you?’ It’s surprising really how comparatively accurate you were. Because what we’d do, we’d start off here, and right, we’d know the direction to go, measure your distance, or go as far as anybody could see, and then the next one would go and overlap them, so we sort of leapfrogged along.
Q: Yes. Sometimes it’s very easy to veer a bit to the side, isn’t it, but if you line up people I suppose, that’s clever.
Mr T: That’s right, that’s the idea, and of course if there were hedges or anything like that in the way, you see, you’d go round to find a gap, and then line yourself up again.
Q: So you did, are you saying you didn’t always go to the base when you did all these exercises?
Mr T: No.
Q: So this was quite a special occasion when you went down there.
Mr T: That’s right, yes. We’d probably go there about once a week or once a fortnight, down there.
Q: Oh, still quite a lot then. Cause otherwise, were you out doing these other practices, how often would that be?
Mr T: Yes.
Q: How often would you be doing these other things then?
Mr T: Couple of times a week, anyhow, yes. And we used to have shooting practice, and we used to that at the Hatfield gravel pits. On the Wickham Bishops road.
Q: And was that just, did you get together with other groups for that sometimes?
Mr T: Sorry?
Q: Would you get together with any of the other groups for anything like that?
Mr T: Just occasionally we used to get up to the other groups, but er, officially the less you knew about the other groups, the less you were able to tell anybody if you were captured, wasn’t it?
Q: So if you did go to the base, would that be …
Mr T: Certainly no other group.
Q: No. And would that be to practise doing anything particular or just to check that it was all right?
Mr T: Just checking up, really.
Q: Everything was there and that sort of thing.
Mr T: That’s right.
Q: Was it cold? Did you have any … must have been quite cold down there.
Mr T: Well, there was no heating. [laugh]
Q: No. I suppose you were underground … and what about light, did you have …?
Mr T: I can’t remember. I suppose the only thing we were capable of having was a torch or something like that.
Q: I’m sure it was very well organised.
Mr T: And I’m sure the powers that be didn’t give us much chance [laugh].
Q: I mean, did you think that yourself?
Mr T: Never really gave it a thought.
Q: You didn’t, no.
Mr T: Young and silly, [???] [laugh]. Eighteen.
Q: So you weren’t sort of … were you expecting anything, really expecting to be called …
Mr T: Well, we expected an invasion, didn’t we. (Q: Yes.) Cause all the ordinary Home Guard were called out when they expected the invasion. Because they were invasion craft on the French coast.
Q: So to that extent, you knew something might happen?
Mr T: That’s right.
Q: But you didn’t really …
Mr T: I suppose we thought, what might happen, will happen.
Q: I wonder of the older, you don’t know really, how the older chaps felt about it, then?
Mr T: No. No, I don’t think we ever really discussed it.
Q: I suppose when you’re in a group you sort of bear each other up, really, don’t you?
Mr T: That’s right, yes. Got on with our practices and that was it.
Q: Well, especially this secrecy business, you always assume in a village everybody knows what’s going on.
Mr T: Yes, that’s true.
Q: It just must have been so difficult really.
Mr T: Yes, but I don’t think I experienced any real difficulty about it. Just said we were in the Home Guard. We had to be over at Hatfield a lot, and that was it.
Q: Yes, I suppose [???]. And of course you had good reason not to be in the Forces because you were at Crittall’s. Presumably there were other people in that position.
Mr T: Yes. Because there were one or two Crittall workers in the thing, the units.
Q: Cause I think there was one thing that Molly said was that her [looking for notes] yes, that her father’s family, people used to put white feathers through the door because, again he was reserved because he was agricultural, and that upset his mother.
Mr T: Oh, yes, it would upset some people, I’ve no doubt, yes. (Q: But again there must have been …) I mean, agricultural people were doing a good job.
Q: Exactly, yes. I mean obviously there was another reason in his case, presumably because he was in the unit …
Mr T: Yes, and in the factory [???] as well.
Q: But presumably somehow the people that were doing the call-up would have known, do you think, that you were in the Resistance?
Mr T: Sorry?
Q: Do you think there was, do you think there was an extra reason, do you think they would have known that you were in the Resistance?
Mr T: No, I don’t think so.
Q: You don’t think so. So they might have …
Mr T: Because yes, I mean you were duty bound to keep quiet about it.
Q: Yes. So you did get called, otherwise they wouldn’t have called you up anyway, would they? No, no.
Mr T: That’s right.
Q: You must have learnt a lot of discretion. (Mr T: [laugh] Yes) Oh, that’s impressive, yes. Cause, yes, he [Molly’s father] worked for Fruit Packers, I think she said. She said her father worked for Fruit Packers, Smith, Jim Smith, worked for the Fruit Packers. That was Molly Scott’s father. I think that’s right.
Mr T: Oh, yes, because I’ve got on that list, what’s his name, Oh yes, Ronald Potts, he was the manager there.
Q: Oh that’s right, he was the one that recruited him, she said. (Mr T: Oh.) Because Wickham Bishops and Witham seemed to be combined.
Mr T: Oh, that would have been it, wouldn’t it, that’s right. He’d have known Alec Hammond, I knew Alec Hammond, he was the only one I knew of the Wickham Bishops lot. I knew of this chappie, Davies, because he married a Terling girl, and she’s still alive.
Q: You don’t know their first names of these other ones?
Mr T: No. No. I knew most of these Hatfield types. Viv Sorrell was at school with me. Joe Wright, who was the publican at the Duke of Wellington at Hatfield. He and his brother. Les Creasey was at school with me. Bernard Smith, he was secretary of the Hatfield cricket club. But I didn’t know those three. But I’ve since got to know Dennis Williams. And as I say, as far as I’m aware, he’s the only one of the whole lot that’s survived. Apart from myself. Most of them were certainly older than me.
Q: Yes, I mean I was talking to a chap, last year, who joined the Home Guard when he was sixteen, so of course again he was that much younger [???], that was in Witham. Then he joined up when he was eighteen.
Mr T: Well, when I first joined the Home Guard, the uniform was an arm band, LDV. [laugh] Local Defence Volunteers.
Q: So you were in it right at the beginning, then.
Mr T: Yes. I found your book very interesting. [Images of England, Witham]
Q: I know you said you’d got some notes.
Mr T: I told you about Monty Everard, didn’t he. At one time he was at Tudor House in Terling, well that’s almost next door to the church. The back of Tudor House garden is adjoining the churchyard.
Q: Oh, I think I know what you mean, yes, yes.
Mr T: It was originally …
Q: Yes, I’d forgotten …