Dad’s Army

This creased photograph is from an early Andover Carnival procession – my mother is in the rear seat of the front-running Austin Seven and I guess my grandfather is driving. They have won ‘First Prize’; the car is adorned with everything including the kitchen sink. The sign attached to the radiator points to ‘Squatters Camp’ and the tin tub is inscribed with ‘Here We Come’.  The year is a mystery but I would guess the early 1940s assuming the Carnival continued during the war years – my mother married in 1943 and moved north to Manchester so it is unlikely to be later.

It is the detail that fascinates – the familiar shop names: Johnsons the dry cleaners and Freeeman Hardy Willis, the shoe shop – FHW – For Happy Walking!; the hairstyles, the dress, the shoes and the then familiar sight of a man in uniform. This could be a set from Dad’s Army.

Andover Carnival ...

Oddly, on the rear of the photograph and in my mother’s hand, there is a shopping list.  It too is of its time, probably the 1950s but post rationing:

Butter, marge, lard, tea, sugar, cheese, bacon, soap powder, biscuits, Vim, icing, jam, baking powder, suet, Heinz soup, ground almonds, sultanas, matches, toilet roll, cornflour or custard, biscuits.

This is a cook’s list for this is primarily what she did along with keeping the house clean and keeping the children in check (mostly me 😦 ).

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What do I know …

When I was seven or eight years old I was not allowed out in the street to play with the other kids.  I remember some nights staring from my bedroom window wondering why I was different.

My grandfather, Fred,  would occasionally make the long trip north from Andover to Manchester, just to escape Mrs Kipper. One glorious evening he had words with Peg, my mother, and I was finally allowed my escape – I can still remember the sense of elation as I ran down drive the drive to join the others. From then on I was the same.

Ironically, Fred had a reputation for iron discipline but, even if this were true, times were different.  My mother was just sixteen as war broke out and there were army camps nearby; Fred knew all about the military. Growing up a teenage boy in semi-urban Cheshire was a world away from Andover in the 1930s but the inherited rules were the same.  When I needed Fred the most he was already gone – the Carnival King died in 1966.

This photograph captures his spirit best – Mayor Carcetti thinks he is taking centre stage but the real star is my grandfather, wearing the Carnival Queen’s crown and smiling like an errant schoolboy.

Andover Carnival ...

I had thought to write that May, his wife, is not present – she is at home stoking the fires of her resentment. But, enlarged and repaired, I now realise that she is sat to the left of him in the photograph, smiling widely – just shows what I know:

Carnival King ...

Achievement

This is how I remember growing up. Long hot summers with a bright light leaking in around the edges.  Such is the power of the still photograph, I remember it only in monochrome. The first picture, taken by my Dad with a Kodak Brownie, is on top of the Iron Bridge, Ladies’ Walk in Andover.

The bridge was installed in 1843 by Taskers Ironworks and carries the walk over Micheldever Road. Taskers was the last company my maternal grandfather, Fred, worked for until his death at the age of 74.  The bridge is about a half mile up the hill from where he lived with my grandmother, Florence May aka Mrs Kipper, which explains why we are there.  The bunch of wildflowers was for my sister’s pressed flower project – strange what you remember.

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Micheldever Road was once a busy road linking Andover with the villages and army camps to the east – to prove the point, there is the blur of a car passing beneath the bridge.  The upgraded A303 now slices through the road such that it goes nowhere and has fallen silent along with Fred, Florence May, my Mum and my Dad.

Further along the walk I was handed the camera to take the second picture, inevitably from a slightly lower angle – they are all looking down on me.  As is the way with little brothers, later in life I would take great pleasure in reversing this perspective on my sister.

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The achievement?  Well, I am still here, clinging to the wreckage.

Florence May

Florence May was my maternal grandmother, the bright young girl who eventually metamorphosed into the dreaded Mrs Kipper.  Around the turn of the 19th century, her older brother, my great-uncle Charlie, worked in service at 62 Montague [sic] Square , London (number 34 was once leased by Ringo Starr).  From the days when a postcard was the equivalent of an SMS text message, these are some of May’s words written around the time of the Longparish school photograph:

Dear Charlie – I thought you would like a postcard instead of a letter because you can put it in your album.  Barton played against Wherwell.  Wherwell got two goals and Barton never got one. Mr Atkins and two more chaps that played for Wherwell nearly got up to fighting. Longparish played against Laverstock.  Longparish got one and Laverstoke got five.
With love from your loving sister May xxxxxxxx

Longparish postcard

Another card sent around the same time:

My Dear Brother Charlie thank you ever so much for the chocolates and bannas [sic] you sent me they are so  nice and beautiful. I got them quite safe and sound the other morning. I am so pleased with them that I do not know how to thank you for them. I will write a letter on Sunday so you must expect one on Monday morning. I think I must close now hoping you are quite well with love from your ever loving sister May. I have got a lot of news to tell you on Sunday.

Florence May is stood to the far left of this raggedy bunch and highlighted top right and bottom left.  ‘Look stern for the camera’ seems to be the order of the day for most of them – maybe it was consequence of long exposure times but I can’t see why a smile would be so difficult to hold – at least one of them proves me right 🙂

Florence May Taylor

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Baby Austin

This has been prompted by the Unusual arrivals post at Applecrosslife on 10th May; among some exotic machinery which had successfully negotiated the Pass of the Cattle was a Baby Austin Seven.  Not only had it managed to climb the pass but it had travelled from Carlisle, a distance of some 350 miles – probably further, as I doubt it would be permitted to take the direct motorway route.

This is the same type of car that my paternal grandparents are standing next to in this photograph taken by my Dad outside their home in Andover.  It is from a small photograph album made up of 3 x 2 inch contact prints which he put together as a young boy – they are individually captioned in a manner consistent with a 10-12 year old; this one – Mummy Daddy and Baby:

Mummy Daddy and BabyAnother photo features a Ford Model A and by coincidence there was something similar among the visitors to Applecross.  This one is captioned – Certainly ‘ot but the year’s wrong:

Ford Model AThe Baby Austin Seven was produced from 1922 until 1939 and in its time was the most popular mass produced car manufactured in Britain  The brand was held in such affection that when the Mini was first produced, Austin were keen to establish a link with their heritage.  Like so many others, my first car was a second hand Mini – registered in 1963 with the registration 6428 VR, my sky blue version had a badge on the rear boot – Austin Seven.  I should have kept it, if only for the registration.

Like father, like son

This proud man is my great grandfather, Charles Benjamin Buscall Deaves (all forenames), my maternal grandfather’s father (1864-1937).  He is dressed in the uniform of the Andover Fire Brigade – Fireman No. 12; helmet, buckle and button shining, his hand rests upon his fireman’s axe.  I am certain this was taken in 1923; there is a group picture of the Fire Brigade in C J J Berry’s Old Andover – 340 pictures covering 120 years, published in 1976.  In the book, Charles is standing in front of a fire engine in identical uniform and pose, looking exactly the same age.  “Andoverians took great pride in their Fire Brigade which was under the direct control of the Borough Council.  For 33 years from 1903 to 1936, its highly respected commander as Capt. F.A. (Arthur) Beale, of Beale & Sons, the local builders and under him the Brigade had a fierce esprit de corps and excelled in efficiency and in competitive drills, winning dozens of trophies and diplomas”.

I imagine Fred and May calling at his father’s house just before he goes for the group photograph, May heavily pregnant with my mother, born in August 1923.  Charles’ wife Alathea (née Deaves): “Doesn’t your Dad look grand Fred, go on take his picture.  I can’t believe it, he will be sixty next year and then he is finished with the Brigade, my, doesn’t time fly.  There will be a vacancy coming up Fred, perhaps you could take his place when he retires – the extra money would come in handy now you’ve got May and the baby to think of “.

Charles Buscall Benjamin DeavesSure enough, Fred’s 1966 obituary includes the following:  During World War II he was a full-time fire officer in the Andover Fire Brigade, having joined in 1925 and served until 1945.  He was called to help at the blitzes at Portsmouth and Southampton.  I am particularly fond of the picture below which at first glance appears to be just a bunch of ‘old boys’ gathered round some up-turned boxes drinking tea, maybe laced with something stronger; my grandfather, Fred, is seated second from the left.  Look more closely though and at least two are in the uniform of the Andover Fire Brigade (AFB badges) whilst one blackened individual looks fresh from an inferno.  On the far right of the picture, on the ground next to the bucket, is a rolled up fire hose.

FiremenIs this the morning after, have they just returned from war torn Plymouth or Southampton or has there been a more local tragedy.  C J J Berry’s book states that “A solid-tyred Dennis engine was bought in 1927 and converted to pneumatic tyres in December 1933” – Charles and Fred would have both been familiar with this machine.  “The first big fire it attended after conversion being that at the Heronry, Whitchurch, a country mansion blaze in which two died; the Duc de la Tremoille and Capt. the Hon. J.H.B. Rodney”.   The Andover Advertiser report on the fire includes this chilling detail:  The finding of the charred remains of Prince Louis Jean Marie de la Tremoille, premier Duke of France, was told by Supt. S. Bennett, of Andover.  The chauffeur, Jackson, said Capt. the Hon. J. H. B. Rodney, was apparently not seriously injured after his leap from the window, and it was a surprise that he died soon after admission to hospital.  It seems certain that Fred would have been in attendance that tragic night.

This final picture was taken at Andover Football Ground, sometime between 1941 and 1945.  Fred is standing on the front row, sixth from the left and the AFB badges have now been replaced by the NFS insignia – the National Fire Service.  This organisation was formed in 1941 by the amalgamation of the wartime national Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) and the local authority fire brigades; Andover Fire Brigade was one of 1600 such local authority fire services.  Like his father before him, in this pictuire Fred is edging towards retirement from the Fire Service.

National Fire ServiceOne final note worthy of an ‘anorak’: despite initial assumptions, the fire engine shown in the group photograph above is almost certainly grey and not red.  The white banding around the wheel arches is consistent with other vehicles painted in the standard grey livery.

Royal Flying Corps – Aboukir

In an earlier post I made reference to my maternal grandfather, Fred, being amongst young men in their prime having the time of their lives, securely distant from the horror of the trenches.  Whilst there must be an element of truth in this, life at the Royal Flying Corps Training School at Aboukir, Egypt was always close to the edge.  On the ground or in the air, this picture taken by Fred soon after the incident, conveys the ever present dangers of life at No3 SoMA (School of Military Aviation).

Historic aviation writer David Bruce (http://www.cairdpublications.com) describes this incident as follows:  An aircraft (looks like a D.H.9) ends up nose deep in the roof of a hangar. This is unlikely to have been a crash from height – the aircraft is too intact for that. It is more likely that a trainee pilot made a heavy landing, and by a mixture of throttle mismanagement and a lack of control managed to bounce his way towards the hangar.

Fred survived the war but as we know, his brother William did not.  His local release form from Aboukir is dated 19th January 1919 with a destination of Railway Station nearest home: Andover.  The sea journey back home would take him to No.1 Dispersal Unit Fovant where he was finally authorised to travel to Andover on 18th February 1919.  Did he know that William was gone or did that tragic news await him as he stepped down from the railway carriage that bleak winter’s Tuesday.

Life goes on.  On 21st October 1921 he would marry the pretty Florence May who would eventually turn into ‘Mrs Kipper’, my fearsome grandmother.  It is disconcerting how people can change both physically and mentally as life grinds them down from day to day.

In his obituary the Andover Advertiser newspaper describes Fred as a skilled fitter who was keen on motor-cycle and motor trials and with Mr Macklin built a car which was used for racing.  I am inclined to think this happened between 1919 and that fateful day in 1921 as I am not convinced Florence May would have countenanced such magnificent activity by men in their machines.  Not for the first time, I could be wrong about Mrs Kipper.  The family story is that the car, a Lea-Francis bolted together from two crashed halves, was raced at Brooklands so now I am in touch with their archive to see if this can be confirmed.  I am longing for this to be true.