Date: 22/01/2009



Trolling through the West Oxford web site I came across the Clanfield What,and as I spent the war years growing up in Clanfield I read it with some interest.

The first thing that struck me was where are all the old families that I knew,the Cross's the Horn's the Hawkins' the Goddards and so on? The only names I immediately recognised were Harrison and Wilmer.

I lived at York Cottages in Pound Lane from November 1940 until April 1947. My Father was Shepherd for Harry Wallis and I worked at the garage for Jack Widdowson,  Jack was a wonderful man who would repair anything from a leaking bucket to a set or threshing tackle.



It was Nov.1940,Guy Fawkes Day,when a well scrubbed cattle lorry from the Central Garage at Bampton arrived outside our house in Essex.Quite a bit later that day we arrived in the peaceful tranquility that was Clanfield. We had left behind the fireworks of the nightly bombing raids that was the blitz. We were in rural Essex but only sixteen miles from the centre of London,the outer defence ring they called it. We could see the glow in the night sky as the dock area burned. Things were so lively at night and we slept in our air raid shelter for three months. My Parents decided that it was time to find somewhere quieter to live.


MY father was a farm worker and so he studied the ads. in Farmers Weekly and eventually obtained the post of Shepherd with Mr.H.V.Wallis of Chestlion Farm. Clanfield was a different world,one had no idea that there was a war on. I had not been to school for two months,l had just turned 11 and had been at my senior school for a week and a day when it was closed down for air raid shelters to be built. So it was great to sleep in a real bed again and not have to hear the siren every few hours.


We began to settle in. The first lad I met who was my age was Billy Hawkins [Winkle] as I later found out. He was riding a shiny new bicycle,much to my envy, I asked him if his parents had bought it for him,he replied no the school had provided it for him. I thought I had landed in never never land, a school giving away bikes!This was ,of course,Bampton School. When my schooling was discussed,it was not certain if I was to be regarded as a "local" or an evacuee. There was a school for evacuees in the Carter Institute,headmaster, Mr.Ward. My Mother took me down to meet Mr.ward and after some talk,it was decided I should choose,) opted for Bampton,l wanted that free bike!


Soon after the new bike was delivered and I found out that I could ride it anywhere and not just to school I started to explore the area.There were no signposts during the war so I had not a clue where I was going to finish up. That first trip took me to Radcot. I was immediately besotted with the place. I rode past The Swan, it had lovely, well kept gardens with a big apple tree, a mulberry tree and a summerhouse made from reeds.Looking down from the top of the bridge and there was a steam tug chuffing its way upstream.) later learned that it was delivering coal to the lock keeper's houses between Oxford and Lechlade. The Swan and Radcot were to take up quite a lot of my life during my stay in Clanfield.


After several more visits gazing at the boat yard from the field opposite, I soon got to know Peter Harrison,a lad a couple of years older than me, who worked at the Swan letting out the punts and skiffs that were for hire. This was a very popular spot at weekends and the field looked like the beach at Southend, people swimming and people picnicking and people awaiting their turn to hire a boat, the place buzzed. One day I asked Peter if he could get me a weekend job

in the boatyard, I heard nothing for a time and then one day Peter said Mr.Tyler would give me a trial. I was over the moon and I expect my Mother was glad to have a few extra bob coming into the house. Ted Tyler was a big ,bluff ex submariner with a voice like a foghorn. When he came out into the yard to give me some job to do he would bawl out "Geoff'.and I had difficulty in knowing if he was calling me or if his dog was barking! I was paid 12/6 [62.5p] plus my tea on a summer Sunday which was always very busy. I could get to double my money during these busy weekends,with tips.Life was a joy, I had a new bike and a new job for which I was being paid,l would have gladly done it for nothing.


Clanfield was a great village,it was much bigger than the Essex hamlet we had come from.There were shops.

top shop owned by Mr.Ford,a general store and Post Office,vvvvv then Mrs.Tyler with haberdashery next to the Masons Arms.. Dow the main street was bottom shop.a general store operated by the Eeles family, almost opposite was Skuse the Baker. Then there was the Ram Jam Garage and almost opposite that was Knapp's Foundry where they made farm machinery,hay loaders in the summer and seed drills in the winter. There were jobs there for the men of the village while some of the women worked at the straw mill which was at Little Clanfield.The straw mill made straw rope which was used to pack round delicate things like bombs,l think.


Time went on and,whilst we were not troubled by air raids and such,the war was getting nearer. Glider pilots were being trained at Brize Norton,the Horsa gliders were towed by Whitley bombers . They took off from the aerodrome,flown to a certain height and then released for the pilot to fly the glider back to base. They did not always make it back and landed wherever they could. I remember one such landing in a field up Cowcroft Lane it touched down on the right hand side of the lane and ploughed through the hedge across the lane and finished up in Mr.Wallis's big field. We lads were soon on the scene and we were allowed to look inside the aircraft,the floor was covered with large concrete slabs to simulate a full cargo of,l believe, 36 men and equipment.


The first troops to be stationed in the village were British. The memory fades after 65 years so I cannot remember the regiment. There was a section under canvas in the small field in front of the church,the lads who lived in the lane wasted no time in getting to know them,I remember going into one of the tents and asking if any of the men came from Suffolk,where my parents came from---it turned out most of them did! I promptly asked if any of them would like to meet my parents and have a cup of tea. My Mum was most surprised when I landed up on the doorstep with three thirsty soldiers. It turned out that my Father knew some of their families,we befriended several of them for the short time that they were there.


By now, Mr,Tyler had become ill and eventually took to his bed.We always got on very well together and Mrs.Tyler treated me like a son.One day I was called to

the Boss's bedside and he told me sadly that he could no longer keep me on,he thanked me for my services and we said goodbye.Shortly after this,he died.


I had nothing to do at weekends now but after enjoying this for a short while,Baker Skuse's roundsman,Mr.Low,asked me if I would like to help him on a Saturday delivering bread and cakes to the local villages,all for the princely sum of 2/6 [12 1/2p].a bit of a comedown! In the morning we set out in a yellow Ford van with very little in the way of brakes, as we found out one morning when we met another car on a narrow bridge just outside Bampton,nothing too serious but Mr.Low paid more attention for the rest of the morning.

Our morning round took us as far as Chimney,on the way back we would stop in Bampton and Mr. Low would disappear into a pub for what seemed to be ages.l sometimes had a bag of crisps if I was lucky. After lunch we would do Clanfield with a horse drawn van,the horse knew every stop,and no problem with brakes!


The Plough was owned by a Mr.Harris,he looked like an American film producer with his heavy horn rimmed glasses and his flash Terraplane Hudson car.He had a son a bit younger than me and sometimes he was allowed to play with us and we were allowed in to his garden but never his house.Mr.Harris also had two gorgeous blond daughters,twins called Muriel and Dolores,they were somewhat older than their brother and we were not allowed to play with them!


The Swan had now been sold to a Mr.Goddard,with all its fixtures and fittings. He was a horse and hounds man who seemed to have no intent of carrying on the business as it had been. I went to the Swan one day to hire a boat and give my nose a treat. It must have been about 1943. Mrs.Goddard was doing all the work and she was reluctant to let me have a canoe for an hour,l was about 13 and small with it ,l explained to Mrs.Goddard that I had worked with the boats and was quite capable of managing one. She relented and of I went,l had not let on I could not swim,there were no life jackets in those days. I had fallen into that river several times and had managed to dog paddle my way out of trouble.l am now almost 80 and still cannot swim! When I had finished my hours canoeing and got back to the landing stage, Mrs.Goddard had been talking to her husband and they asked me to go back to the Swan and work for them. This did not last for long ,however,after a year they had a sale and cleared the place out,lock,stock and all the barrells.


The war was gathering pace now and the Americans had arrived TA-RA-RA! They seemed to be everywhere,but how different to the British troops - no bugle calls,no drill,plenty of everything else,especially money! We lads wandered freely among them.Some were billeted in Jeffers' Barn, opposite the Masons Arms and we got our fair share of the gum and candy,as they called it. I never got to surprise Mother by bringing any of them home for tea. These were coloured boys and most of us had never seen a coloured man.


Another little oddity about the village was that many of my new friends had never

been to the seaside,whereas we had been to Southend.

The next landlord of The Swan was a Mr.Pigeon. He worked for De Havilands at Witney. I had already met Mr.Pigeon and he had asked me to stay and work for him.The boating part of the business had gone and the punts and skiffs were rotting on the bank. Mrs. Pigeon opened the bar at midday and Mr.P.took over in the evening.Sometimes the "No Beer" sign would appear in the window then the regulars would creep in through the back door and drink whatever Mr.P. had managed to save for them. I was nearing 14 which was school leaving age.l was advised by my Dad to get a "proper job"he advised me not to follow him into farm work and I had no interest in it anyway. Unbeknown to me,he went to see Mr.Money, the shoemaker in Bampton,there was a vacancy for an apprentice, five years at 7/6 [37.1/2p] a week.I quickly said no thanks,and there was probably an argument about it, I don't remember.Anyway,it was decided I stayed at The Swan for the time being.The thing I really wanted to do was work with cars and to that end I went to see Mr.Widdowson at the garage. Unfortunately,he did not want anyone at that moment,so The Swan it was.


The war was rapidly approaching D.Day,the military action was getting intense with mock battles,pontoon bridges across the river,beehive mines under the bridges,Ammunition dumps beside the road guarded by a solitary and very bored G.I. low level parachute drops from Dakota's.All great fun for teenagers to watch.Not so good for some youngsters from the village who found a live mortar shell on The Lines which exploded and some of the children received phosphorus burns which have probably scarred them for life.


I had now become something of a skivvy,doing every odd job

imaginable,washing floors lighting fires,chopping wood and taking young master Pigeon to school in Clanfield on the crossbar of my bike.l even looked after the bar on some "no beer" nights whilst Mr. and Mrs.P. went to the pictures. I soon began to realise that there must be something else in life and started looking round in desperation.lmagine my relief when one day I was at the garage pumping the tyres of my bike when Mrs.Widdowson came out and said they would take me on.Jack had suffered heart problems for some time and the work was getting too much for one man. So I, at last, severed my connection with the Swan and started serving petrol at 2/1.1/2 [10.05p] a gallon. I was mending punctures,greasing and servicing,learning how the internal combustion engine worked,doing decokes etc.Jack was a wonderful man who would tackle anything,people came to him with buckets that leaked,silencers with holes in,no spares available,there was a war on so the hole in the silencer was mended with a part of an oil drum wrapped round it and bound on with bailing wire. There was even a threshing machine belonging to Mr.Wallis in the yard at one time.


I was beginning to learn to drive by shunting customers cars around the forecourt. Jackie Temple,who had worked at the garage before being called up,was now out of the navy and back in his old job,he was a great help with my driving and one day, when things were quiet ,I got into an ex American Jeep

belonging to Mr. Wilmer and drove it up the Black Bourton road.


All this continued to early was a bad winter drifts were level with the tops of the telegraph poles in places.We had to dig our way out of our yard at home.At the garage we all worked at shifting the snow so that work could carry on. Jack [the boss] with us and that was his undoing. The next morning we had the Ford lorry from the Foundry in to try and adjust the brakes, I had removed the floorboards to get at the mechanism,Jack had climbed into the drivers side and was kneeling on the seat, when suddenly he toppled out backwards and crashed to the floor. His worn out heart had given up at the age of 64. Strangely enough,his elder brother had also died of heart failure at the age of 64.


The war was over by now and we lads were no longer cock of the walk --the real men were home! My father had stayed in touch with his old boss throughout the war, he too had moved away from Essex for the duration as it happened,he got in touch with Dad in March '47 and said he had got a tenancy back in Essex and would Dad like to join him.Father said "Yes" and in April we loaded all our bits and pieces into one of R.Oakey's lorries and off we went


I have always kept a soft spot for Clanfield and came back many times on fishing holidays and staying at the Swan which thrived again under the stewardship of Mr.Bowls. I married in 1956 and the visits stopped.We still had a contact in Clanfield,my sister was friendly with Mabel Barnet.who married Philip Horne from Bampton.

Philip passed away and Mabel has moved to Carterton,so our news from the village grew less----until I discovered Clanfield What!! Thanks to Don Rouse of Lew.


How Did We Manage?


When I went to work at The Swan,there was neither mains water or electricity or gas,no mains drainage or sewer.

Water for cooking and drinking was dipped from the river in a bucket and put through a charcoal filter in the scullery.The filter was quite small and had to be filled several times a day in the summer.Teas were served from the window facing the lawn and there were tables and chairs out there. Whoever was in shouting distance when the filter was getting low got the job-or filling it.


Water for the outside toilets was pumped from the river by a pump in the engine shed driven by a Lister engine.The water went into two large tanks in the loft over the stable,the operator had to keep an eye open for the overflow coming down the stable roof when the tanks were full,he then had to switch the pumped water to the house,when the overflow told him these tanks were full he then had to change the belt for the one driving the dynamo for the electrical system. This comprised two banks of glass cells filled with sulphuric acid, just like a larger version of the old radio accumulators.These batteries provided a 50 volt lighting system for the hotel.


Cooking in the hotel was done with a range in the kitchen and a three burner Valor oil stove in the scullery.this had an oven that covered two of the burners leaving just one for boiling the spuds! Though the oven could be removed if not required.


Hot water for the bath and washing was supplied by a coke fired boiler near the side door of the house.


Sewage and waste water went back into the river via a crude filtering system that I never did understand, a happy thought when you think the drinking water comes from the same river!! Ah well, what goes around,comes around,l suppose.

The Villager Smithy       



Some mentions of Walter Hicks,"Shiner" Lawrence and Co.reminded me of a rather amusing [not for me] incident that happened when Mr.Goddard was the incumbent at The Swan. I have already said elsewhere that Mr. Goddard was a "horsey" gentleman,well this day he had a visit from someone who was obviously known to him.This chap arrived with some kind of horse drawn vehicle and the horse had lost a shoe. Mr.Goddard contacted the smithy and arranged for the job to be done. Next thing I knew I was instructed to take the nag up to Clanfield for Mr.Hicks attention. I was legged up and off we went,bareback and a halter as my only control. We plodded sedately up the road past Radcot House with me who had only been aboard a horse once before deciding that we ought to be moving up into second gear,l gave Dobbin a nudge with my heels and he must have thought the same as me for he breaks into a trot which put me totally out of control and I finished up with my arms round the horses neck wondering what to do next, [panicking] I managed to slide off and led the thing the rest of the way to the forge.

I went home to lunch while the job was being done. On my return, Shiner offered me a leg up and I was not going to let on I did not want a leg up,so up it was and a slow meander back to The Swan.


Unfortunately for me, someone working in a field had seen me clinging for dear life round the nags neck as it charged at little more than walking pace towards the village.The word soon got round and the joke was on me for a week or two after that.

Dad's Army

Radcot had it's own Homeguard section or platoon,but it was not known as the Homeguard,it was the Upper Thames Patrol or UTP,a far grander title! They had their own cap badge and UTP shoulder flashes.Their HQ was at The Swan where they had the use of one half of a building which stands or stood just by the first bridge coming from the direction of Clanfield. They also had the use of The Swan's two motor boats, "Salamis" and "Pimms 2".

"Salamis" was a sturdy little boat with an inboard engine."Pimms" was the one most used,she was also small and had an outboard motor,much lighter and easier to use.


Ted Tyler was in charge with the rank of Captain,I think.They paraded every Sunday morning and sometimes had boat drill. One such morning they set off with Ted and two or three others,they had gone some way upstream when the outboard decided it had had enough and jumped off the transom and into the river,someone had not tightened the clamps! In their efforts to recover the motor,Ted fell in some way and damaged his side.

They appeared back at the boat yard looking very sheepish, it appeared to me that he was never the same man

after this episode.


Ted was replaced by another Captain who was an entirely different character,rather pompous in his manner,almost a role model for Captain Mainwaring! One small memory I have of him: Parade was over and it was the day for boat drill,the Captain announced in his best Captain W. voice "Everyone will take a turn to drive the boat" The audience fell about!!



From: Geoffrey Saunders

If anyone remembers me I would be very pleased to hear from them.


These sites cover the ox18 area of Oxfordshire England, including  the following villages, OX18, Alvescot, Bampton, Black Bourton, Burford, Broadwell, Carterton, Clanfield, Kelmscott, Kencot, Langford, Lechlade, RAF Broadwell, Shilton, Parish Pump, Oxfordshire Events,


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