Mr Hayes was born in 1904, and Mrs Hayes in 1903. They were interviewed on 22 July 1977, when they lived at 8 Chalks Road, Witham.
For more about them, see the notes in the People category entitled Hayes, George, and Hayes, Mrs Doll (nee Bright); and Hayes, Miss Ada (Sis)
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.]
Continued from Tape 24
Mr H: You got no accident centre or that sort of thing.
Mrs H: When I was Commandant in the Red Cross here we used to have, that was here from 1934 I[?] was started. Then till 1956 I was in it and we used to run it. We got the cups and sorts of thing.
Q: Where did you learn yours.
Mrs H: In Witham.
Q: With the Red Cross was it ?
Mrs H: Through Miss Luard she was a nursing sister, Miss Evelyn Luard.
Mr H: VAD – Voluntary Aid Detachment. (Mrs H: Voluntary Aid Detachment)
Mrs H: We used to have to .. Well Mrs Newman she was a trained nurse and when she joined well she was our nursing sister at the finish and she says well, our books, what we had to know, was as much as a trained nurse. [???] I must have seen everything, just the same but there is not so much now, oh not nearly.
Q: What did Miss Luard do herself ? Did she do the nursing ?
Mrs H: She was in the Boer War. Yes, she was a nurse in the Boer War. She used to go about with Doctor Salter from Tollesbury and she was a trained nurse. She trained at Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital in London. They were all women and that that in 1935, Gladdy and I started. Then I worked my way up till I got to the top of it. There was a gas instructor and a first aid instructor, a nursing instructor.
Mr H: There was no, what would you say, working class people in it years ago as I remember first – there was Miss Luard, Pattissons, Maclarens, Tabor – you know they was all (Mrs H: Ladies.) middle class people because I’ve heard it said so many times there was no rich people in Witham – you know at that time o’ day. No really rich people though there was some big estates but I don’t remember any working class people being in it. Just the elite you know.
Q: Was it called the Red Cross ?
Both: Voluntary Aid Detachment.
Mrs H: You see all the work I did all through the War worked over at Notley Hospital we never got a penny. You had to pay all your expenses. We worked all the time for nothing you see. But then those that joined the Red Cross and went into what was called just Red Cross they went into Notley Hospital and got paid. But I went over there voluntary you see because I belonged to the VAD.
Q: In those days when it was just the people that you were speaking of what did they used to do ?
Mr H: Well, what I remember them doing in the First World War, train loads of wounded used to stop in Witham and they’d go and serve tea and that sort of thing. That’s as far as I know because really there was no air raids for there to be casualties and that sort of thing but I suppose they was there in case there was you know.
Mrs H: But Mrs Brandt, Doctor Gimson’s sister, she was matron up at the Bridge Home that was a hospital during the First World War wasn’t it ? That’s where Witham people used to have to work. At least that what was told me when I joined the First Aid. Yes it was, it was a Red Cross Hospital.
Mr H: It could have been but all I remember of Bridge Home is that it was an Industrial school when I was a boy.
Mrs H: It was taken over 1914-18.
Q: Was that for local people ?
Mr H: They come from all over the place. When it was an Industrial school they had a good band there.
Q: What sort of things did they do ? When you say it was an Industrial school.
Mr H: Make baskets and that sort of thing you know.
Mrs H: Did you ever go in the Grove ? Have you ever been in the Grove.
Q: I don’t remember going in.
Mrs H: Oh, it’s beautiful. That is beautiful. We used to go there when Mrs Mark Strutt was there. She became our President of the Red Cross and we used to go there for meetings. I’ve never seen such a lovely staircase curved round all the way. Oh it’s lovely. I can imagine that Queen Charlotte going up there I can just imagine it. In a great big hall. I can remember she had got the whole of the hall was laid down in turkey red Wilton and all the way up the stairs and oh it was a beautiful staircase.
Q: But you reckon there weren’t any really rich people.
Mr H: Well that’s what they used to say. There’s no really rich people in Witham you know.
Mrs H: Well, Pellys they was about the best weren’t they ?
Mr H: You’d got Laurence, you’d got Pelly, going to Faulkbourne you’d got Parker and them you know. But I suppose they’d take Parker out but I’ve heard it said times there’s no really rich people in Witham. They’d got more money than I had anyway [laughter].
Mrs H: There must have been in Grove House. It was a shame that they pulled it down really as it was so old. Because it was in 1761 I think that was the Grove. Well, it must have been because it’s a very old place.
Q: Were the farmers not reckoned to be rich then ?
Mrs H: No.
Mr H: I don’t know why the.. Well I’ve never known a rich farmer yet have you ? They all seem to be living at a loss.[Laughter]
Mrs H: We’ve got a cousin who used to farm a little bit at Dengie farm there and you may remember some time back, Ashby his name is, his mother’s brother’s boy, they got Arthur you know, up Hatfield Road.
Mr H: Arthur’s got the garage there.
Mrs H: He’s got the garage. And then Bob, the youngest boy, had the farm and then he sold some fields for building up there and got half a million for it.
Mr H: Well he bought them cheap you see and when it come to farming them. I think years ago there used to be a brick kiln up there and there was all this brick dust and that was no good for farming and they wanted it for building and he sold it and though he still keeps that farm on you know. Their father kept the Cherry Tree years ago and they went out from the Cherry Tree to a small holding, Dengie’s Farm and all the time they was there they always had, I don’t know, horse die or a calf die or something so they used to live on their insurance.
Mrs H: They was always poor but yet he was able to manage to set his sons and daughter up in everything.
Mr H: They lost[?] the first boy in the First World War the second one he bought a farm down at Chappel. The next one, Arthur, he had the garage up there. His eldest daughter had a little plot of land down Maldon Road, a little bungalow built on there; the other daughter had this house down near where…
Mrs H: Mrs Griffiths lives, he bought that for them.
Mr H: And the three youngest sons they had a farm each, a small farm.
Mrs H: They weren’t poor [laughter], but never had any money.
Q: So which people would you touch your cap to ?
Mr H: Nobody now [laughter].
Q: But when you were a little lad ?
Mr H: Well I only done it once and I think that was Miss Ingles.
Q: Not the others ?
Mr H: No, no.
Mrs H: The only person we curtseyed to was Lady Rayleigh. She was our Governor of our school. She used to come and we used to have to stand and curtsey to her when she came. You may not remember, course you wouldn’t, Lord Balfour. She was Lord Balfour’s sister and years ago, course she was tall and upright and she always wore black and I was only a little kid but oh dear we used to hate her to come, we used to always have to do something, you know recite or do something. That’s the only person I’ve every curtseyed to. That’s this Lord Rayleigh’s great-grandmother.
Q: Which school was that ?
Mrs H: Fairsted where I went to first.
Q: Did you have people come round looking you over when you were at school?
Mr H: Yes, yes, but who it was now I can’t … Doctor Somebody used to come and used to, (Mrs H: The medical officer.) No, he used to come and he was a doctor and a school governor or something like that. The used to come and ask a few questions in the class you know and I think it was more or less a matter of putting in an appearance more than anything else. But I remember the kids coming from Terling way and that to our school when they was eleven to pass an exam. If they passed the exam they was allowed to leave school and work on the farm at eleven years old. I remember them coming down there. Cranfield he was our headmaster and there was Isom[?] and Porter they was in the Boy Scouts you know, encouraged the Boy Scouts and all that sort of thing that had quite a good troop at that time of day.
Q: Were you in the Scouts ?
Mr H: Bugler. Bugler. Used to have a bugle.
Mrs H: Oh he was a bugler in the scouts, yes. They camped at Felixstowe with George once.
Mr H: Camped at Felixstowe, yes, and the first night we got there it poured with rain and it run in the opposite side of the tent to where I was so three or four of them got up and went to the marquee and they had only just got in there – everybody turn out the marquee has blown down. But I lay there I didn’t get up, I was in the dry [Laughter].
Q: Did you go out on trips much ?
Mr H: We used to go to Barn Grove. We got up one Sunday morning to Barn Grove and had Holy Communion. I remember that
Mrs H: Where is Barn Grove George ?
Mr H: On the way to Braxted. (Mrs H: Oh down that way.). Yea, just before, you go across the road here bottom of Motts Lane, you go across there and through there and up the hills. (Mrs H: Oh I know. Didn’t we walk through there one Sunday?) You can go that way to it or you can go down the Maldon Road. Turn up by Blue Mills, turn up that lane there. (Mrs H: oh yes, I know.)
Q: Did you go on Sunday School trips or anything like that ?
Mr H: No I don’t think we ever had no trips, I don’t think they ever had any, but we used to have to go to Sunday School up to the Church House and come back down to church here. And they always used to lose three or four of us in the Albert Yard [laughter].
Mrs H: He was confirmed the same time as I was and we came over from Fairsted and I can remember the Reverend Sandgrove[?] ‘cause I remember he had what we called a wagonette, one of these high things with seats along the side, and I was the oldest girl there. This was before Mum died because Laura and I were both confirmed at the same time. There used to have to be the two girls and then I was the odd one one and George was odd boy. We used to have to go up two at a time and I walked up there with him when we were confirmed and I didn’t know I was going to marry him then. He was only … (Mr H: Good little boy.) Oh dear, I bet he was. [Laughter]
Q: Did you used to have to spend a lot of time at church ?
Mr H: I was in the choir but I got turned out in the finish for laughing. [laughter]
Mrs H: You can just imagine it. Do you know what they used to do ? Get bits of paper [???] [???] [laughter]
Mr H: I was in the choir when General Sir Robert Du Cane was buried at Braxted. We went over as a choir and sung the hymns and that you know. I stood by the covered way amongst the trees. (Mrs H: Braxted Park was it ?) Braxted Park, yes. Oh I had some wonderful experiences. I went to the Jamboree when that was up in London – slept under the schoolmasters desk that night. That was when we went down to Felixstowe.
Q: How long were you in the choir ?
Mr H: Oh two or three years. I was a long while before I was found out but I was found out in the finish.
Q: Did your mum and dad used to go to Church? When you were little did your parents used to go to church or just you ?
Mr H: No, not much. I think they used to go to Church funerals and weddings, that’s all.
Mrs H: I used to have to go twice/three times a day when we were kids.
Mr H: They used to have to work Saturday morning and perhaps Dad had to go to work on a Sunday, you know what I mean and there wasn’t much time.
Mrs H: I was a Sunday School teacher.
Q: You’re the good one in the family aren’t you ?
Mrs H: Oh yes I was. I was in the choir and we used to have to walk a mile to church. Walk a mile there and walk a mile back. Then when George come over we used to go to church Sunday nights, and he used to come over to tea Sundays, and you were in the choir there weren’t you ?
Q: You say your parents were busy all the time, did they have any sort of pastimes or ?
Mr H: No, nothing at all.
Mrs H: The only pastime your father had was gardening, like you.
Q: Were there any special Fetes or …?
Mr H: Co-op used to have a children’s Fete. [???] Randall’s steam engine used to heat the water to make the tea and it used to be a bit smoky [laughter].
Mrs H: They did that when Ian was a little boy and they had it over in this meadow over here didn’t they ? [Probably Templars Close]
Mr H: That’s the only thing. Oh used to be a big thing if a Fair come or you know. (Mrs H: Circus or anything like that.) We’d run errands all week to get enough money to go. It would only cost you one penny or something to get in. But I can never think, when they had the HMS Pinafore at the Dramatics Society, which they used to have a do in the Public Hall I used to go in there but I never paid. I wonder sometimes how I got in but I used to get in. (Mrs H: The Operatic Society.) We used to go to all them, oh Jim[?] he was in all those at the finish wasn’t he. We used to always go.) Pinkhams used to run cinemas down the Public Hall on Saturday afternoons I think. I dunno if it was a ha’penny or a penny to go in, you know just for kids. But yes Pinkhams used to run that years ago.
Q: What about Bonfire Night? [???]
Mrs H: Oh, we used to have our own.
Mr H: Most of our fireworks used to consist of a key on a bit of string tied round with a nail in it and a couple of match heads in that and you stuck it in the wall and it used to bang. [laughter]
Mrs H: We used to have sparklers ? Can you remember sparklers ? That you used to light [???] on a wire. You can still get them. And Dad you know he used to give us some catherine wheels I think they were called.
Mr H: We weren’t allowed out at night, not, about seven o’clock was the latest you know, perhaps before then but if we did get out we used to borrow a reel of cotton from somewhere and a pin and bent the pin like that, and tied the cotton to it about that far off we used to have a button. Used to pin that in the window we used to stand a long way off and used to tap, tap on the windows. That’s what they call pin and button. They used to open the doors to see who was there and there was nobody there. [Laughter]
Mrs H: I reckon they were little devils.
Mr H: Well we’d got no playground or anything. It was all harmless really wasn’t it? [laughter].
Mrs H: You and Percy Ashcroft. I reckon they were a couple of good uns.
Q: You didn’t get the policeman after you ?
Both: Yes, once
Mr H: Oh, I was really innocent that time, because that used to be a big thing to go down the bottom there, you know, where, it was Ely’s[?] then, and get on the low wall, put your foot on the what’s its name onto the next bit and get on the top of that high wall and sit up there. And I went down the road and took the towel that night. Going down Dickie Mead down the river there. And the [???] boys hadn’t come out. I was sitting up there waiting for them. I happened to look up and there was a policeman coming down Chalks Road here like old boots after me and of course I nipped it. And he come up and wanted to know if that was me down there with a towel. I said no. Mother said are you sure [???] The towel had gone. He sat down the garden there waiting for me to come out but I was down the road there watching and there was no way I was coming out while he was there [laughter].
Mrs H: That was old Sargent Hagger wasn’t it George ?
Mr H: Old Gates I believe.
Mrs H: Oh Gates. I know I’ve heard your Mum told me all the tales about what he used to do.
Q: What about Christmas time ? Did you do anything special ?
Mr H: It was more or less a known, you know what I mean. We used to have a little something special but I’ve told my boy, there was a good many families really had no Christmas and if they could buy a rabbit for sixpence they used to reckon that was a good price to pay for a rabbit. If they had that and sausage or a couple of sausages cooked with it for Christmas dinner they had a good Christmas dinner. But there was very little about. I can remember those old dears down Greatrex’s shop after two pennyworth of block trimmings, you know that’s a piece of meat they cut off the other meat that was on the block. They’d make a stew or something.
Mrs H: Well we were never, ‘cause we’d always got chickens and rabbits and what not, over there.
Mr H: I used to call for, I don’t know if I told you afore, every morning and there used to be four or five in the family, they used to sit down at a basin in front of them bread broken up in the basin, hot water poured on it and a little piece of margarine and salt and pepper and that was their breakfast every morning. [???]
Q: What did their father do ?
Mr H: He was a platelayer but he used to like a glass of beer and you couldn’t have both. My father never drank, didn’t drink a lot, did he.
Q: So would you reckon his wage was sort of …?
Mrs H: Oh, better than others.
Mr H: I would say roughly about half a crown a week. And that was a lot of money then. When you imagine (Mrs H: Half a crown a week more than the others, you see.), you got sixpence you went in a pub and you got half an ounce of …. No, a pint of beer, a packet of Woodbines and a box of matches for sixpence. (Q: So what did he get about, then.) I’ve got no idea what his money was. But I think we was the only children up the street who was taught piano, went to piano lessons, when we went to school. Because to be absolutely honest if you don’t let your left hand know what your right hand did, mine never did so I can’t play the piano [laughter].
Mrs H: You wouldn’t practice.
Mr H: I went from the time I was seven till I left school and of course I went in the band then. Sis can play. (Mrs H: and you kept on with the cornet didn’t you?) Yes.
Q: So even though the others worked on the railways as well, your father had a bit more you reckon?
Mrs H: Oh yes, and that was always regular you see.
Mr H: And besides doing his job he used to do fogging as well (Mrs H: He always mended your own shoes, didn’t he.) If they fogged for four hours they used to get refreshment money which was three ha’pence for four hours and I’ve known, honestly I’ve known them old boys to be watching the sun coming up. Hoping against hope they wouldn’t call them off for another half hour so they could get their three ha’pence. (Q: When you say fogging, what …) (Mrs H: When the trains, you know …) My father, sometimes he was at Rivenhall, ‘cos the wires ran past the hut you know where they used to sit in the hut and they used to tie a tin to this wire what was pulling the signal. Course as soon at that pulled that that used to rattle this tin and they knew the signal was being pulled off and knew a train was coming. They had the fog signals on the line and they used to put two on and if the tin hadn’t gone off the fog signals would stop the train and they used to have to go up there and watch when the bar went up on the signals. They knew the signal [???] and show them a green light and [???] But they used to get three ha’pence for four hours down in the perishing cold. (Mrs H: Oh things were dreadful those days.) My dad used to do all mending our own shoes and all that sort of thing you know. We had our own vegetables and that. We were really better off than those who, even if they got the same money, they went and drank and they didn’t do these sort of things so we was that much better off. Well I had my bicycle I bought off Alf Maisey (they lived at Rickstones House then, Doctor Maisey’s son), When I went to school down the town there was only two bicycles there, mine and a fellow named Lawrence from Hatfield. His father was a grocer there. [siren sound] (Mrs H: That’s too quick for a fire engine. Might be ambulance, or police car.) We generally get up and look just for a matter of interest.
Q: Was there anybody you weren’t supposed to play with or you did you mix with all the kids?
Mr H: Various people you know up the street there you associated with everybody and that sort of thing. (Q: So your friends would just be neighbours and …) You had to go to school with them. There wasn’t anyone you couldn’t play with as you had to go to school with them.
Mrs H: There’s not many of you left now that you used to go to school with.
Mr H: No, no.
Both: There’s Percy Ashcroft, Arthur Brown, some have gone away.
Mr H: Fred Keeble died didn’t he ? Esmond Hawkes died, you know. Good old days. There used to be a fried fish shop up the other end of Church Street you know. That was kept by Joe Braybrooke.
Mrs H: The house is still there, the last house on the left hand side. Those cottages. [Church Street]
Mr H: Then there was the barn, where we used to play cricket. (Mrs H: Oh it was lovely fish he used to do wasn’t it.) We weren’t supposed to do it when we was on nights, but old Bert Champ up there he was on nights with us (but I never used to do it) but three or four of them on nights Bert used to slip out he used to call there and order so many fish and chips, he used to go up the Cherry Tree, so many bottles of beer. That’s what they used to do. I wasn’t in that line and I didn’t drink. I was only a boy and didn’t drink then. I’ve improved a lot since (Mrs H: Coo I don’t know) [laughter]
Q: Talking about Church Street, you mentioned a Mission up there ?
Mrs H: Yes, Miss Blyth’s.
Mr H: Miss Blyth’s. Yes, I used to go there sometimes Sunday nights. That used to be on the right hand side of the alleyway, [???] from Richards yard here, there’s houses stand close to the path and then there’s some go back. That’s where Betty Everett went that I said lived there, [???] and then carry on back and then there’s a wide passage way and the Mission used to be at that house there.
Mrs H: [???] There’s two posh houses built next to …
Mr H: I don’t know. I haven’t been up there for so long. That’s where Blyth’s Mission was. (Q: That was in a house was it?) Well that was an empty house in any case. And they used to have a little bit of organ in there and they used to have hymns and I used to go there Sunday night sometimes, and after about quarter of an hour, half an hour according to how you got fed up and you used to come out . Then you got [???]
Q: It was Miss Blyth ?
Mr H: Her father used to be there sometimes. He used to run the mill down there Blyth’s mill.
Mrs H: And you know the Rickstones Chapel up Rickstones Road. They started that. That was Miss Blyth’s. That Mr Emery, I believe he’s the parson there. Lived down Church Street. I think he takes the services there now. There’s quite a few go there I believe.
Q: … old newspaper, in the Second World War about a British restaurant or something ?
Mrs H: Oh, yes there used to be a British Restaurant. [???] (Mr H: I don’t know where it was in Witham though) I couldn’t tell you where it was but there was one. I really couldn’t tell you where it was. ‘Cause we didn’t need to go you see. Some of the girls at Crittall’s and all that sort of thing. Yes there was a British restaurant in Witham. (Q: You mean people that were working.) Can’t remember.
Mr H: We never went there you know what I mean.
Q: John was quite interested in this election that you mentioned when Tom Driberg got in. [1942 and 1945]
Mrs H: Oh he was a good, a good one that was oh yes he was was a nice fellow too, very nice. He had a walkover didn’t he ?
Mr H: You know he’d come round and sit and talk and he was interested in a good many things you know.
Mrs H: Yes couldn’t he get the details from some of the Labour Party people?
Q: Yes, he went to Chelmsford, they’ve got some old newspapers and that’s what it was in. (Mrs H: The Braintree and Witham Times wasn’t running then.) I think he said the Weekly News.
Mrs H: The Weekly News or the Essex Chronicle Uncle Ed[?] was sub-editor of that wasn’t he [Q: The Silver End Times was there?} No it was Essex Chronicle at Chelmsford. I don’t think the Braintree and Witham Times ran when…
Mr H: No, that was Crittall’s published that at the start didn’t they. Crittall’s run the bus service for a start. Used to have their own buses and …
Mrs H: Blue weren’t they ?
Q: Something about Crittall’s I was trying to remember was it something about, in the War – didn’t they have their own barber or something.
Mrs H: They did have a barber, and a dentist.
Mr H: They had their own barber and they had their own dentist – in fact they’ve got a barber there now. He comes so many days a week. [Confused talking over each other] Everyone puts your name down and in fact Dorothy had her first teeth made at Crittall’s. (Mrs H: yes I did.).
Mrs H: Cyril White over the corner, No.1 Nicholas Road, he was the dental mechanic. Oh he made me a good set of teeth, best set I’ve ever had. These that I’ve got now, I had them from Higgins, I haven’t had them two years yet but they never have been comfortable, not what I call really comfortable. He made me a lovely set of teeth didn’t he ?
Q: And they had those things all along did they ?
Mrs H: Yes, they’ve always had them. (Q: When they first started almost?)
Mr H: It’s funny, they had a dentist for years. Otherwise people [???] Of course they had a lot more working there than there is now. And every day somebody had to go out to the dentist. They had enough to keep him busy, he’d be at Witham so many days, Braintree, Silver End, and they did have a factory at Howbridge Estate and made lead glazing up there, in Maltings Lane. Then they brought them up here, the girls up here with the lead. Then they had fly screens and then they had venetian blinds. They made parachute flares up there during the War. I didn’t I didn’t do any War work, I was on windows all the time. Sometimes I was the only one on windows you know. (Q: They were still doing windows, were they?) They made them for army huts, you see. They made shells there, Bailey bridges. It’s remarkable really. There was an Irish girl, and she was ever such a nice girl. You know, ever so bright and in the time office and they were going to start the shell running up on the Monday. She left Friday night. The place was bombed Monday morning. Course it crossed our minds, you know, could have been … (Mrs H: Could have been coincidence but I don’t know). Yes, they made shells over there, Bailey bridges.
Q: When you say you were getting bombed?
Mr H: The daylight bombing. (Mrs H: 1940 wasn’t it?) We was bombed three times, three times they bombed us in daylight.
Mrs H: Once I’d got my head in a pile of straw down Chipping Hill at the blacksmiths. We got our of Mrs Smith’s[?] car. We’d been over to Notley blood doning, Gladdy and I, that’s George’s cousin, Mrs Revett. And Mr, who was it now, (Mr H: Pike[?]) said ‘Come in here you girls’, he said there was a plane overhead and he was machine gunning. So we went in He said ‘Lie down over that corner’ And there was a bale of straw there. We put our heads like that, our backsides were up in the air. They were shooting so that they broke the tiles over the top of us. Yes, and the boy Chaplin stood against the door, and says – that’s when that Bisset[?] hit the bomb. He was dropping his bombs as he went over us and they landed in Chipping Hill.
Mr H: In the meadows there where, near where the river is. They used to go over us you see. Then they’d turn and come back beside the church and drop them coming back. But he let fly at them when he passed over here, and he dropped his bombs, so whether he hit [???] they dropped them on the way.
Q: There was a crater in the meadow. [probably now Chipping Dell]
Mrs H: Yes up Chipping hill. Its all built up now. All houses there now.
Mr H: I used to run the dances up at Crittall’s during the war. And we never used to get many people in unless the siren went. Course I wouldn’t let Military Policemen or an officer on the floor. You see I used to say if you want to dance take your armband off and your hat and go and have a dance and I had a corporal up there one night and, well, he didn’t want to dance, and I said ‘Well keep off the floor, and if you want anybody I’ll go and fetch ‘em’. And I was called away and when I came back he’d got somebody on the floor [???] and a little while after that an officer come up and he said ‘Sergeant’ (and he mentioned the fellow’s name) I said ‘If you’ll point him out to me I’ll go and fetch him’. And I went and fetched this sergeant and I heard the officer say ‘Have you seen the red sky?’ He said ‘No sir we have been up here all night’. He said ‘Get them all out at once’. (Mrs H: That was the fifteenth of September.) And I come home and said ‘I think the invasion is on’. And we kept down our dugout a little while and I said ‘Want a cup of tea mum’ She said ‘Don’t go up.’ I said ‘It’s all quiet now.’ and as we come up the path I could hear this one going round and round over the top as he dropped his bombs just up the Cressing Road.
Mrs H: Cressing Road, that’s the first bombs that were dropped in Witham. That was the fifteenth of September 1940, it was his birthday. I can remember that. We heard it come whistling down, you pushed me under your mum’s dining room table, didn’t you. ’Cause I was never scared of Hitler, a thunderstorm yes, but Hitler never frightened me. Oh no I’d be out watching it.
Mr H: First time he bombed us. There was one caught the [???] It hit the ground and bounced over our dugout and burst on the railway bank the other side and the next time we was bombed was on the Sunday. I was working on windows, I’d got two or three in to help me. And the inspector said, we heard the outside warning and the inspector said ‘Which way are you going to run George?’ I said ‘I ain’t going that way this time, I’m going this way’. And he got, with the first bomb I should more or less central on Crittall’s. That come through one side [???] and [???] come through the other. (Mrs H: And where you were working was smashed, wasn’t it.) Yes. The next time he come over, I went to work and I could hear the guns going at Chelmsford and he come back and I just got inside the North Door when our internal warning went and just as I came out the door there were these two girls. I took one in each hand and run down the dugout and he went round and round that morning and machine gunned all round and dropped two bombs. They didn’t hit the works. They were outside on the railway.
Mrs H: That was the morning that come through our back, that was a Monday morning, it come, the machine gun or bullet come through the back door, got it open. The ceiling come down, you can’t see it quite now, oh yes you can just round there look. We’d got the table here. What made me annoyed was that we’d got sugar and butter and that on the table and it all come down and that was rationed. [Laughter] We’d got a little dugout down there. I says to Jim, this was [???] and he was in his officer’s cadet uniform ‘cos he was going to Braintree High School then. He was sixteen then wasn’t he and they had to join the Officers Cadets there and he said oh no the machine gun went round down the bottom there and when I came back there it was all down. Oh I did say something. Called him everything I did. The first time he was only about fourteen when they bombed Crittall’s that was 1940. He laid on here with a bad attack of asthma. Oh he was bad. He used to have asthma dreadful.
Mr H: Doll said to him ‘Take your bag round Ann’s’ forgot he was like that in the excitement he picked it up and he never had another attack.
Mrs H: Not for a long long time. Not for a long time.
Mr H: That morning when he dropped them just outside the works they come ‘First Aid, First Aid’ and there’s a poor little girl, she was a nice little thing, she lived at Spring Lodge and she got [???] I said ‘Come on I’ll come with you’ and there’s a girl down there in hysterics. ‘Do you want to take her outside’. I said ‘No, she’ll be all right. Just spoke to her sharp and that and …’ (Mrs H: Cold water’s the quickest thing.) We’d got nothing. That’s all very well. You see these accidents happen they say ‘You’ve got First Aid’. Yes, but who is going to do it. I’ve been over there on nights. I used to do the nurse when nurse was on holiday for a fortnight I’d do the surgery. Perhaps two o’clock in the morning they come and say ‘You’re a First Aider. So and so is injured.’ There was nobody else to do it and you’d got to go out and do and they’d always covered themselves as they’d got a First Aid person on duty at work. I got fed up with it in the finish. There was something, I don’t know if they was on strike at Crittall’s or something, anyway the staff had to go to work. [???] was Braintree. I done the surgery in the morning and the manager called me and said ‘You’re coming on the surgery this afternoon.’ Of course other people left off and that didn’t sit very well. So I give it up as [???] I was on nights. If you opened the surgery on days you’d only got to open the surgery door and there is always somebody you can call but on nights you’ve got nobody. And you’d got that galvanise, there could be a major accident I could see the danger. I done it for years.
Mrs H: Have you ever been round Crittall’s ? Did you go when there was an open day?
Q: No never. I don’t remember there being open days.
Mrs H: Oh there has been, hasn’t there George. Well from six to eight at night. Oh several times. I don’t know whether they have them now.
Mr H: It used to when I was there but I don’t think they’ve had any since. (Mrs H: Used to, I’ve been round two or three times. I got caught nicely, you see I’m allergic to cleaning brass. When the open day was of course the fire engine was there all brightly polished and they said ‘Oh how lovely. Who did this ?’ ‘George’.
Mrs H: He’s allergic to cleaning brass you see. [laughter] He says the smell gets up his nose.
[Chat about open days, not noted]
Mr H: We used to go on fire duty over there we used to get eighteen pence an hour Saturday, Sunday or nights it used to be eighteen pence an hour. And each time we was bombed I used to have to go on the phone and take messages. And seven days a week twelve hours a night and I wasn’t so well off really as what they were working on the shopfloor ‘cos that was piece work. But the most unfortunate thing was the bloke in charge of it, half past eleven, quarter to twelve, perhaps quarter past twelve the phones going. ‘Air raid message white, air raid message white. thank you’. We’d had no cover[?] so I knew he was checking (Mrs H: See if he was on.). Then I used to go on the, when they changed over the shifts, the power house, they used to blow the hooter in the power house you see. There’d got to be two, one to turn the air on the other one to sound the hooter. One of the boys over there, the engineer was at work, the bell went, well you could hear it all over the factory the big bell when the phone went. He said ‘Sound the hooter please’ and he went ‘Come on Eric sound the hooter’. They got fined a pound each. False alarm. But just through him playing about. I mean its bad enough when it happens but to be played about with, it isn’t …
Mrs H: You can’t remember that can you ? You wasn’t born then were you?
Q: I was born in 1940. I can just remember sirens going and being got out of bed [???].
Mr H: Talk abut Guy Fawkes night [???] The warning used to go before we left off at half past five and the all clear used to go when we’d go to work in the morning. You could see the searchlights bringing them over towards the coast, you know coming from London.
Mrs H: You’ve heard of the doodlebugs. Oh they were a pretty sight really weren’t they George. There was one come right over the house one night and I said ‘Keep going, keep going.’ They only get so far and then the engine cuts out and they drop.
Mr H: There was one, engine stopped just over here…
Mrs H: And Jim, he wouldn’t get up, would he, the little devil. You got so fed up with it you couldn’t [???] I shouldn’t have got up half the time and neither would George, only his Mum used to send his Dad round.
Mr H: He was afraid we’d get caught in the open. He laid on that bed and the explosions over that way, the curtains were coming in like this with the blast.
Mrs H: And he wouldn’t get out. That window on the stairs opens, and he did come down, I said ‘Jim, that’s cut out.’ And he put his head out there, George put his head round the corner and it was just as if somebody had boxed his ears, that fell just behind Crittall’s. (Mr H: Down further.) A little further.
Q: I suppose you were in the firing line weren’t you ?
Mrs H: Oh, yes, We had a big gun at the bottom of Sis’s garden [11 Chalks Road]. (Q: Really?)
Mr H: After they raided us a couple of times they had a gun there but they didn’t come while that was there. I told the officer. He said ‘Where do they come when they come over ?’ I told him they go over and they come between the church and this gun was there ready you know. (Mrs H: Oh yes, dear of dear yes.) Over Doll’s home over her parents house’, I think they had everything there.[probably Fairsted] I went over there one Sunday morning ‘cause I used to go over there rabbiting you see, and going down Little[?] Hill. Honestly there on the tarmac road there was a round circular hole about that big. And I should think that went down about two foot. If it was a bomb it didn’t explode or it would have blown a hole out. That’s where it fell. And there was great big craters all round where they lived. I used to be half afraid to go over and I went over there one day and the fellow that lived next door, he’d got a stone on a piece of string and he was letting it down the bomb hole to see how far it went down and they had one of these parachute mines drop over there and I was going over when the bomb disposal [???] the field you see. I was going over and the bomb disposal, well I see them before I got to them, they was creeping across to this thing on their hands and knees. And they come back again. Somebody had been and cut the parachute off of it. Some fellow living in one of the cottages there had already been up to it and got it.
Mrs H: Well you see they were made with nylon and you could sell them if you could get them and make nylon petticoats and knickers and that sort of … they’d been and cut it off, they didn’t creep across at all. Oh yes the things that they used to do over there. Well I’m sure that Charlie [???]. We discovered afterwards that my sister Laura’s farm, the wood not far off them was stacked through with ammunition. I reckon they had an idea.
Mr H: Well they reckon that they kept [???] one night and they arrested three or four soldiers. They did know where the ammo had been kept in and they reckon they were spies. We never heard no more about it. Just heard those things. And I went over Crittall’s one night and the Assistant Manager he left word that it was a bit hectic [???]. Just as I clocked in, course everywhere was in darkness, and you had a job really to see in that darkness with a torch. And as I clocked in there was one dropped and the ceilings and the whole factory [???] was rattling. I went down through to the powerhouse and when I got there they was in the dugout with their tin hats on. And they said ‘Where they dropping them George – in Witham ?’ I was just going to say ‘No’, when there was another one dropped. I said ‘That one is’ and they said ‘They’ve all been like that’. ‘Oh’ I said ‘They’re dropping out Braintree way’. [???] ‘Don’t say that’, he’d got to cycle to Cressing. I’d got a good fellow on with me Harold Smith. He was a good steady fellow, you know, didn’t panic at all and we sat down hearing these bombs keep coming down I suppose I was just reading the paper, I suppose I dozed ‘cause I’d had very little sleep. All of a sudden the phone about half past two quarter to three the phone went, jumped up, I ran up to sound the alarm he’d turned the air on and I was counting one, two three, four, put my hand out to stop it, thought [???], and it was the all clear I’d got to give. I just got my hand back in time. The warning was on when I went you see. (Mrs H: We didn’t have hardly any sleep. I don’t know how we survived.) We only spent one night downstairs, that was when they raided Coventry. Those planes come over every three minutes. They seemed to come over here and then turn and go off that way. And we stuck out there till twelve and it eased off a bit and we come down and Jim lay there and we lay here. I said to dad next morning ‘It eased up after you went in’. He said ‘It was worse after you went in than what it was before’. We was dead beat, we didn’t hear anything of it.
Mrs H: I don’t know how many times we used to go to bed half dressed. Oh dear.
Mr H: When we had a flask of tea so we could have a cup of tea. We used to grab that [???] Well you got down there it was a perishing cold night and that sort of thing, you want a cup of tea you know.
Mrs H: We didn’t have time to make it. See, when we made our tea night we used to fill this flask and Nan used to do the same, so, we’d got a big communal dugout, and Mr Ireland run the electric light, and the Anderson shelter. We put the two together, put them right down the bottom there. We’d got electric light an’ all in there. And sort of like benches, hadn’t we ? Had to be comfortable.
Mr H: Yes but that was cold. I mean they kept coming over, and when they was dropping fire bombs in London. You could see them coming down. The flashes and the bombs and the guns going off.
Mrs H: And we used to have Lord Haw Haw on there and he said that they’d bombed Chelmsford, but they come round, they dropped flares. So the lit us right up didn’t they George (Mr H: Mm.) They dropped the, got the bomber down at Clacton.
Mr H: They [???] didn’t get over. We only know that because Uncle Ed was in the newspaper [???] They brought it down off Harwich.
Mrs H: And Haw Haw said they’d bombed Chelmsford. Theyd often were mistake this for Chelmsford when they bombed Crittall’s that was Hoffman’s. Often’d mistake it didn’t they. I know when they did bomb Crittall’s when they did bomb Hoffman’s that was the night when I was on top of the dugout watching and we had a terrible thunderstorm. I was watching all what was going on but soon as the thunderstorm came on I went down the dugout. Can’t bear thunderstorms. (Q: Should have kept the dugout for the thunderstorms.]
Mr H: When they come over at the beginning we didn’t realise they were coming over here. Dad and I had been taking potatoes up and the warning went [probably at the allotments in Cut Throat Lane], and oh, there was a terrific lot of planes up there, and they was all German planes, we didn’t realise and father said ‘Where are we going to go?’ And I said ‘The only place we can get in is the turntable’ and of course they went over, started to push the potatoes round, I got opposite Crittall’s because there was no road there then and they come back. I said to Dad ‘You slip across there and get in the dugout with Mum and see if she’s all right’. I pushed the barrow over to home. I tell you I done it but I didn’t feel brave adoing it you know. ‘Cause I knew that was silly, really, but you could see these little planes keep diving in like that.
Mrs H: It was [???]. They brought two down. Jack came over, didn’t he, Jack [???]. Brought one down, Wickham Bishops. (Mr H: Shoulder of Mutton, used to be a public house out …) [???] Jack, and I biked up to see it and saw one of these Gerries hanging up a tree with his parachute where he jumped out, he was dead.
Mr H: Of course the Yanks used to have a free night up at Crittall’s you know. Free beer, free feeds and everything. We was usually on fire duty, and I’ve seen those Yanks, after they’d been on a raid standing, shaking like a leaf you know, hadn’t got over it.. And I said talking to them one night, there was an English officer and a Yankee officer, and I said ‘How is it’ I said, ‘When they first started to come over we used to bring one, two or three planes down a night. Now we don’t get any ?’ He said when you read the history, if you read the true history of this war, you’ll find we’ve got no ammunition.
Mrs H: They hadn’t got any ammunition. When they had the Home Guard they only had spades and whatnot.
Mr H: When they come back from Dunkirk the soldiers on sentry duty got pickaxe handles, no guns.
Mrs H: We had a bomb shelter up the top here. Up at the top, on the corner where the garage is.
Mr H: Sis was in, she couldn’t hardly walk. She was supposed to be the Fire Watcher. She had to report up here. When I was here I used to report in her place. [Laughter]
Mrs H: Everybody had to do something. I’d go pedalling up to the Bridge Home, every time. Because I was in charge of the gas department, wasn’t I. Oh dear. Tin hat on, my old tin helmet. I believe its still. Who had that ? Somebody wanted it. (Mr H: I chucked it away and somebody [???]) I had that hang up in the shed for ages.
Mr H: My old respirator is still out in the shed.
Mrs H: Yes he’s still got his service respirator.
Mr H: I don’t suppose it’s any good now.
Mrs H: Yes someone wanted that tin helmet since I did away with it, or you did away with it.
Mr H: [???] Somebody wanted the haversack. [???]
Mrs H: Oh dear oh dear. The hours I’ve spent going round with people teaching them how to put these gas masks on.
Mr H: There was something after the War, several years after the War, something happened and I know there was two from each firm. There was two from Heybridge, Crittall’s Heybridge, two from Witham, two from Silver End, two from Braintree, two from [???], two from Courtauld’s, two from Courtauld’s Felsted, and two from somewhere else. I think there was about thirty odd in the class. We was given lectures on Civil Defence to be Civil Defence lecturers. And out of the whole lot me and Percy Ashcroft was the only two that weren’t office workers. We was the only two, as you might say, workmen and there was only five passed. I was one of the five that passed. (Mrs H: That was germ warfare and all that.) Seven different subjects. Germ warfare and fire, catering for disposal of people if they had to move and gas, high explosives.