Sir: I am a former Chairman of the City of Westminster Branch of the Royal Society of St. George. On Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday, myself and long-serving branch member Dennis Ramsey, drove to her home in Ditchling, East Sussex, to deliver a bouquet of red roses on behalf of the branch.
We did not have her address but, knowing how well-known she is, we planned to call at the local pub and ask where she lived. However, as we entered the village we saw a lady carrying a large bouquet, so we stopped and asked her. To our surprise she said that she was also taking flowers to Dame Vera and that we had stopped right outside her house!
We followed her to the front door which was opened by Dame Vera’s daughter, Virginia. She invited us in and explained that her mother was resting before a large family party that afternoon, but that she would go and see if she was sleeping. She returned to say that Dame Vera was awake and would be delighted to see us. You can imagine how we felt to meet this icon of English history going back to our childhood in the dark days of the 1940s, when she did so much to help us all through those terrible days.
Dame Vera was sitting in her chair overlooking her lovely garden. She was very pleased that we had taken the trouble to travel down to see her, and was delighted with the roses. She remembered being made an Honorary Member of the branch many years ago and when we left she blew us kisses and sent her love and best wishes to all members of the branch.
This ended a fantastic nostalgic day for two octogenarians, after which we retired to a local pub for lunch and drank a toast to Dame Vera. — STAN STADLER,
Sir: “The Editor’s Letter” about Vera Lynn (Spring 2017) revived many memories. In the early 1930s my sister and I spent many holidays in East Ham with our aunt and uncle. He was a member of the local Working Men’s Club. In about 1933 we were taken to a concert there and were told that “Bert’s girl” would be singing. I remember her well, but I was only eight at the time. The first time I heard Vera Lynn’s voice on the radio I knew at once that it was “Bert’s girl”. One of the few good things to come out of the war. — MRS. W. NEWNHAM, EVESHAM, WORCESTERSHIRE.
Sir: I ordered a Stanley Holloway CD advertised in your spring 2017 issue and while I was listening to it I began pondering on which other personalities sum up England to me. After a little thought, I plumped for the following: Stanley Holloway, Alastair Sim, Ted Ray, Gracie Fields, George Formby, Vera Lynn, Tommy Trinder, Ken Dodd, Norman Wisdom and Tommy Steele.
I have no doubt that readers would add others, and it would be interesting to see what they think. — JOHN M. SCOTT,
WALLASEY, CHESHIRE. *An excellent idea, sir. We look forward to hearing other readers’ thoughts. — Ed.
Sir: I enjoyed your summer issue very much. As a big Poldark fan I was pleased to see that you had included an article about the actors, scenes and the various parts of Cornwall that were used for filming. (“On the Trail of Poldark”). When I visit Cornwall I will definitely look out for the places that were mentioned.
I love reading, and writing poetry, and Poldark has inspired me to write many poems (including the one below) about this beautiful series of books by Winston Graham. — LYNNE REID,
Bathed in Cornish sunshine Beside the foaming sea Standing proudly all alone By the shadow of the
lilac tree. Strong and bold Its walls still hold A thousand memories Of a house that was once
filled with love And dreams of what
would be. The warm and cosy parlour Its library of treasures and
maps The echoes of songs and
laughter And Garrick chasing rats. The welcoming smells
from the kitchen Of cakes and bread and
cheese Hollyhocks in the garden Swaying in the salty
The cry of the gulls flying
overhead The distant roar of the sea The sound of the hooves that
carried him home To the place he longed to be. Oh the tales those walls could
tell If only they could speak Of a man and his maid Who against all the odds Found a love so true and deep. Though now it is battered and
windblown And shrouded by the mist of
the sea Behind that old and weathered
door There’s no place I would rather
be. LYNNE REID
Lancashire Bay Walks
Sir: Firstly I must say that, to me, This England and Evergreen are two of the greatest magazines ever produced! How I look forward to every issue.
I was particularly interested in “The Editor’s Letter” (Summer 2017) in which you extolled the beauties and fascinating places in Lancashire. I am not a Lancashire person myself (more Hertfordshire and West Sussex), but I have some very good friends there and my husband and I have spent many lovely holidays up there with them. Apart from all the wonderful scenery my most abiding and vivid memories are of the Bay Walks. Cedric Robinson, The
Queen’s Guide to the Sands, who lives next door to my friends, takes parties across the Bay from Hest Bank back to Grange-over-sands.
As everyone knows that is a very treacherous stretch of water and can only be crossed with an expert. Cedric has been guiding people across for many years. His groups have included parties on horseback and many notable people including the Duke of Edinburgh. Many of the walks are done for charity which is an added bonus.
As the incoming tide makes continual changes of the sands each walk has to be mapped out individually — the route to be taken marked in advance by sprigs of greenery. Some of the crossing is on dry sand, but at times one is wading thigh high through the water. It is a wonderful experience. I have done it twice and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Cedric has written many books on his Bay Walks. I have four of them — 40 Years on Morecambe Bay, Between the Tides, Sandman and Time and Tide — and was lucky to get them all signed by him. I wonder if any of your other readers have done the walk? — JO MINNS,
CHICHESTER, SUSSEX. Sir: I love your magazine and am pleased to know so many people support and love our green and pleasant land. You say how you try to include every area of England (“The Editor’s Letter”, Summer 2017), but I am always disappointed you neglect my “area”, which is Carshalton, Surrey, now unfortunately part of the Greater London Borough of Sutton.
We have a wealth of history, including Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, two very pretty ponds and Honeywood Lodge which contains many artefacts about the area. A few miles away are the Mitcham Lavender fields and the River Wandle, known for its snuff mills. It would be amazing to see my “area” mentioned. Something a bit different to the northern counties, although they are very interesting! — MRS. GWEN LEWIS,
CARSHALTON, SURREY. *You might recognise the scene above, and you can enjoy more about your historic home county in our new publication, A Celebration of the Traditional Counties of England (see page 37). — Ed.
Sir: I was interested to see the article on Old Scarlett (“Christian England”, Summer 2017). Did you know there was a local weekly newspaper, The Peterborough Standard, and in it was a column headed “Old Scarlett hears that...” followed by snippets of local gossip? I lived in Peterborough from 1932 until 1958 and I well remember my parents reading out “Old Scarlett hears...”, so I was really interested to find out who he was! — MRS. ANNE BROWN,
Sir: Regarding “See You at Butlin’s” (Summer 2017) I was a receptionist at Butlin’s in Clacton in 1962 (see right). Popular and budding entertainers, such as Cliff Richard, frequently appeared at the camps. We earned five guineas per week (accommodation and food included — off-camp accommodation for office staff). The maximum number of campers at the peak period at Clacton was 8,000! — CEILA VAN
TILBURG (née BROCK), ARCADIA, NSW, AUSTRALIA.
Sir: Years ago I read an anecdote about Billy Butlin. Apparently he was running a hoopla stall at a fair. The prizes were on square wooden blocks. The hoops just fitted over the blocks but seldom fell flat, usually caught by one of the corners. Billy observed this and made his blocks smaller. More prizes were won and the other stallholders thought he was mad. Far from it — many more people went to his stall and he used the phrase that I have always associated with him: “Small profits and quick returns!” — REV. KEN
HOLDING, SAXTON, SCARBOROUGH, YORKSHIRE.
Sir: I read “A Royal History of England” (Summer 2017) with interest. After the Battle of Worcester, in 1651, the King made his escape to France when he came upon Bentley Hall, near Wolverhampton, where my ancestor Colonel Lane lived. To assist the King in his escape, his sister Jane assumed the role of Lady and the King her groom. This event has been the subject of many books, not least those penned by Richard Ollard, David Scott Daniell and Georgette Heyer.
On the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the King was generous in the awarding of honours but Colonel Lane refused any. The King did, however, bestow the royal arms into our family crest, and our family motto is “Garde Le Roy”, and is incorporated into the signet rings worn by the men in our family.
When Black Douglas came into our family in the mid 1800s our name became Douglas Lane, which is not hyphenated because of the royal connection. I still possess material relating to that event. There are also family connections in the parish church at King’s Bromley and a Lane Chapel in St. Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton. — REV. SIMON
DOUGLAS LANE, HAMPTON, MIDDLESEX.
Sir: In the detailed account of Oliver Cromwell and the Interregnum, Paul James states that Cromwell’s “final resting place is not firmly established.” This is so, but those having associations with the White Rose County will know of the story that he rests within the county.
Cromwell’s daughter, Mary, married Lord Fauconberg of Newburgh Priory as his second wife. After the Regicides had been disinterred and exhibited at Tyburn, Mary is said to have secretly taken her father’s body to Newburgh where it was placed in a tomb in the attic.
I was shown this some years ago by the then head of the family, who told me that the tomb had never since been opened. Various visitors have pressed for its opening, including Edward VII when Prince of Wales. He ordered a
carpenter to drill a hole in one of the wooden planks and was prevented from further action by the owner of Newburgh. Another disappointed visitor was Winston Churchill who pleaded for the mystery to be solved — and so far as I know the mystery remains.
Newburgh is a fine home, surrounded by lovely gardens and well worth a visit, a precious piece of England’s heritage. — BRIAN ARUNDEL, SIEGEN, GERMANY.
Sir: I can’t resist addressing Max Pudney’s remembrances of his days as a Bevin Boy (“Forget-me-nots”, Spring 2017). He was conscripted in 1944, thus being a good decade ahead of me, for I started at the pit in 1956. I worked in the Staffordshire coalfields. I got my call-up papers, too, but when they found out I was a coal miner, they sent me home because it was a reserved occupation.
Though Max was not totally happy with his lot, he describes it with a good display of humour. I can understand how difficult it must have been for young men, with no interest whatever in mines and mining, to be suddenly sent down into the bowels of the earth — and for who knew how long?
In contrast, I was born and raised in coal-mining villages, and my earliest recollections involve listening to the pit hooter, the rattle of the cages, and the massive puffing of the steam winding engines. I couldn’t wait to go down the pit and see what went on down there.
In January 1956 I got my wish. An old miner, a former Deputy,
took me down. As we got off the cage, I was astounded to see the quality of the old-timers’ brickwork, the vaulted arches all around the pit bottom. My first job was to be a pony driver and my first charge was Darky; though I’m not sure even today who was in control of whom! Incidentally, the ponies were well looked after, they were well-fed, and, they were not blind. I continued working in the mining industry; gold in Africa, iron ore in Canada, etc. I enjoyed it immensely. — DEREK
BULLOCK, ONTARIO, CANADA.
Lawrence of Arabia
Sir: I see that you are planning an article on Lawrence of Arabia’s time in Dorset (“Post Box”, Summer 2017). My parents were just married when Lawrence arrived at “Clouds Hill” in Wareham. Mum and Dad were living at Burton Bradstock. Dad was building houses near Poole and travelled back and forth on his motorbike. It wasn’t long before he and Lawrence had a close call on one of the country lanes and became well-acquainted with their love of motorbikes. After that they had frequent meets to explore the surrounding country and wasted (according to Mum!) a lot of time rebuilding their bikes to try and squeeze a bit more out of them.
Dad knew the area very well and Mum even better, so Lawrence managed to see and explore much more of the countryside than he otherwise would have; and they had some challenging moments such as the occasion they met a bull who contested right of way! All of that would have been in 1926 and up to May 1927 when my folks moved on. — DAVID
REYNOLDS, CHRISTCHURCH, NEW
ZEALAND. *What great memories, sir, and the article will appear in our winter issue. — Ed.
Sir: I found the article on John Ireland (“England’s Unsung Composers”, Spring 2017) very interesting. Many years ago when I was learning to play the piano I went to Reading, Berkshire, to take my first exam. It was December 1936 and I was 13 years of age. The examiner was Dr. John Ireland. I am pleased to say that I passed, which must have been a great relief to my piano teacher and, of course, my parents who were paying the fees, so I was allowed to carry on further with more exams over the years. — MRS.
JOAN SADLER, HUNGERFORD, BERKSHIRE.
Sir: My brother and I have commissioned a history of our father Charles Ley King, who died in 1956. He spent 28 years in the RFC – RAF, retiring in autumn 1944, with the rank of Air Commodore. Born in Manitoba, in 1891, he grew up in Sault Sainte Marie and Saint Joseph’s Island, Ontario. Any information people have about him would be gratefully received. Here is an overview of his service history: December 1928 — Officer commanding No. 502 Ulster Squadron (Aux) AF
March 1932 — Personnel HQ, Inland Area
February 1935 — Officer Commanding No. 3 APC, Sutton Bridge
October 1935 — Air Staff, HQ Iraq Command
April 1938 — Air Staff, HQ Iraq command
April 1938 — Air Staff, HQ Iraq, RAF Catterick
November 1938 — Air Staff, HQ Iraq, No. 12 FTS, RAF Grantham
May 1940 — Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) HQ Technical Training Command
September 1940 — Commanding Officer, HQ No. 9, Fighter Group, WEF, Preston
Date unsure — Commanding Officer, RAF Evanton
February 1941 — Commanding Officer, RAF Dumfries
He returned to Toronto, Canada, with his family, in August 1944. We would be pleased to hear from Sergeant “Jordan” who was our father’s driver/batman. I don’t remember whether this was his first or last name. In civilian life, I think he was a market gardener. We would also like to contact one of Father’s secretaries, stationed at RAF Dumfries, Scotland. I think her married name was Margaret Moses. She and her husband emigrated to Canada after the war.
I appreciate this is a long shot, but there is great interest in Canada around the First and Second World Wars, plus the skirmishes in the Near and Middle East, and in Canada obtaining nationhood. Father told my brother and I that he and others from Sault Sainte Marie went to war to defend the Empire and our mother country — a noble endeavour! — CHARLES KING, 13 FOREST GLEN CRESCENT, TORONTO, ONTARIO, M4N 2E7, CANADA.
Sir: I write books about the paranormal and I wondered if any of your readers have had experiences of ghosts, poltergeists, UFOS, mystery animals or any other strange happening which does not fit into these categories? If they have, please could they contact me with details by letter or email. I would prefer to include people’s names, but they can remain anonymous if they wish. I have written 10 previous books including The Police and the Paranormal (2011) and Our Eric: A Portrait of Eric Portman (2013). — ANDY OWENS, 65 WOODLANDS AVENUE, HALIFAX, YORKSHIRE HX3 6HJ. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Road!
Sir: Following recent letters about people’s cars, this tale might amuse your readers. Some years ago I bought a secondhand Morris Minor Traveller in Bangkok when I was working at the Palace School, situated within the Royal Palace compound. A feature of Oriental monarchy is the Royal White Elephant, which is housed within the compound and exercised every day.
In front of the school was a staff car park through which the white elephant passed on his daily walk. Once in the car
park he would invariably head for the Morris Traveller, lean against the woodwork and rub his flanks and rear contentedly against it for some moments before moving off! Let’s say he was an unusual admirer! Incidentally, I still drive the car most days, none the worse for the experience! — GERALD OWEN,
Sir: Regarding our first car, our brother-in-law, who had a car yard, said that he had the perfect one for us. Being entirely ignorant regarding cars, and car salesmen, we trusted him and purchased it. It was a DKW which had a two-stroke engine. One day we went for a drive, with our young son and new baby. We tried to drive up a steep road, but after three attempts we had to go back down. We continued along St. Kilda Road, in Melbourne, when suddenly the car lurched to the left and a wheel passed us on our right! My husband jumped out, ran after it and only then did I realise it was from our car!
Somehow he managed to put it back on and we continued on our way. This was a Sunday in 1953 so there were not many cars about, had it been now it would have been a different outcome as it is extremely busy. Needless to say, it was returned to our brother-in-law where we learned it had been packed with sawdust! Did we get a refund from him? No way, we were given another car which travelled a little better but with no further mishaps! —
BARBARA CLAYTON, ASPENDALE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA.
Sir: Whilst researching local First World War history, I found an article (see below) in the Biggleswade Chronicle dated 22nd September 1916. It was the story of a “Potton Egg” and a local schoolgirl, Connie Stonebridge, who had written her address on its shell.
From a hospital at Harfleur, Pte. E.C. Gurnett writes to Miss Connie Stonebridge as follows:
You will be surprised no doubt at getting a letter through the medium of an egg. But as the hospital orderly handed me an egg for breakfast I noticed some writing on the shell. It was your name and address, no doubt just ‘done for a laugh’. I thought I would drop you a few lines, however, and to see if you care to answer.
I am a Canadian. I am in here with a bad ankle, which I had smashed a while ago. It’s getting along fine and I will not be lame without ‘Fritz’ giving me another strafing — ha-ha!
This is a dandy hospital, of course a canvas one, and all male orderlies, but most perfectly ordered. The men who pass through this place I am sure will always remember it as a most pleasant break in the hard life that is a soldier’s lot ‘up the line’. I have been out here a year and have been lucky enough not to have been sick or wounded before.
We have been utilised you know as infantry up till now, dismounted you see, but we are now again cavalry, and hope to have our hands full soon with the sword and the lance instead of the bayonet. I hope this finds you in good health and having a good time. Yours with best wishes, Pte. E.C. Gurnett
I’ve been wondering if Connie answered the letter and did Pte. Gurnett recover and survive the conflict and safely return home to Canada? So far I’ve had no luck from either side. I am sure that any relatives would find this of interest.
I wonder if publication in This England would come up trumps. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! — KEITH G. LAWRENCE,
Music Hall Magic
Sir: “Let’s All Go To The Music Hall!” (“London Pride”, Summer 2017) brought back many happy memories. As a young lad, I was interested in conjuring and to improve my presentation I was coached by a member of the Magic Circle. Our family attended the Methodist church in Barking, Essex, and one member had formed a small concert party and asked me to join them as the “Boy Conjuror”. We visited many Methodist church halls in East London and Essex to perform on Saturday evenings. Wilton’s Music Hall was one of these and used by a Methodist Mission, this would be in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The place was packed with youngsters from the area. My list book gives two occasions we attended Wilton’s — 23rd March 1949 and 26th January 1950. Is there anyone who remembers our Concert Party? — PETER
REYNOLDS, STOWMARKET, SUFFOLK.
The Dorset village of Burton Bradstock where a reader spent his childhood and his parents got to know Lawrence of Arabia. See letter this page.
Could Newburgh Priory in Yorkshire be the final resting place of Oliver Cromwell? See letter opposite page.
This historic Greyhound Hotel overlooking one of the ponds in the village of Carshalton, Surrey. A reader praises the area. See “Splendid Surrey”.
Happy memories of Butlin’s for one reader who used to work at the famous holiday camps. See letter this page.
Readers and Royal Society of St. George members, Stan Stadler and Dennis Ramsey, visited Dame Vera Lynn on her 100th birthday earlier this year. See letter this page.