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Archive for the ‘Bletchley Volunteers’ Category

Do any of you recognise any of the ‘young ladies’ in the centre of the photograph, posing with The Tremeloes in 1974? If you were at the Wilton Hall, Bletchley, for that concert please let us know!

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From 1973 to 1978 Bletchley Gazette reporter Harold Hepworth reminisced on the post-war years of North Bucks. All these articles have now been carefully transcribed by one of our lady volunteers at The Living Archive. The articles are large so selected paragraphs will be used over the next weeks and months just give a flavour of how Harold saw the area develop and in some cases how it changed people’s lives.

One day my father said: “How’d you like to be a journalist?”

“What’s that?” I asked, in all innocence and ignorance.

I am not sure I know the full answer yet. There are almost as many sorts of journalists as there are sorts of men and women. But I suppose the answer he gave was as good as any.

“It’s a chap who writes reports for newspapers – like you do your school’s football and cricket reports,” he said.

I was reminded of this long-gone episode by last week’s Gazette story about the £100-a-week Irish miners who were making a tunnel about 40 feet down for the Milton Keynes main sewer.

You see, my father was a miner. Physically, he was utterly unlike myself. He was short and swarthy and his muscles rippled all over as he bathed his top half at the sink corner after eight hours down the pit – my brother and I having to stand outside the house to prevent accidental intrusions by neighbours while he did his bottom half.

After that and a wholesome meal he was prepared to do another few hours’ work on an allotment which gave us potatoes all the year round and other vegetables for most of the time. . . .

My mother’s home-made bread – baked on a Thursday and still fresh the following Thursday – and the dairy products brought to us by an uncle made up the rest.

I reckon the only foreign foodstuffs that came into the house were tea, pepper, treacle – and ginger for making parkin-cake. Which maybe why even today I eat to live, not live to eat and am not attracted by any of the foreign concoctions and drinks people rave about as though it were somehow necessary to work up an appetite. In my job I have sometimes had to attend as many as four slap-up dinners a week, with all the trimmings, without ever feeling as satisfied or pleased as with much plainer fare.

Sometimes my father had to work overtime and sent word by some home-going workmate that he needed something to eat.

We boys used to be excited about taking it. For sometimes we would be allowed to go down the 400-foot shaft in the cage – which seemed almost a free-fall for the first 300 feet or so – and meet my father at the bottom. Incidentally, cold, unmilked tea seemed to be the only acceptable drink to the miners while down there.

When I grew older he sometimes had permission to take me the two or three miles from the pit bottom to the coalface on a by-working shift and from that experience I know it will be nothing new to our Milton Keynes miners to be working with 4ft.6in. headroom or even less – though it is probably wetter here.

. . .

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Happy Christmas!

from everybody at Talk About Bletchley

 

 

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From 1973 to 1978 Bletchley Gazette reporter Harold Hepworth reminisced on the post-war years of North Bucks. All these articles have now been carefully transcribed by one of our lady volunteers at The Living Archive. The articles are large so selected paragraphs will be used over the next weeks and months just to give a flavour of how Harold saw the area develop.

Somewhere in the house are four certificates. One says I can swim. One says I can render first-aid. One says I can sing. And one says I can write shorthand.

I may come back to that one some time, but here I am concerned with the shorthand one – and if you are not interested in that art or science or craft you can skip the next few lines.

Or perhaps you will read on because you have found what I have found; that a man is usually at his most reliable and most interesting when he is “talking shop,” whatever his trade may be.

Quite recently, at a fairly large private gathering which included a number of journalists from various newspapers, I found myself being introduced by one to another as “the chap we always used to check our notes with.” These words by a friendly competitor pleased me no end, as I had just about forgotten those times in the intervening years of increasing desk-work.

Though a first-class note is not now rated so highly in newspaper offices as it was in my early days, a reporter’s note should still be much better than average. It is one thing to be able to write at up to 200 words a minute across a business office desk. It is quite another to be able to do so among a noisy, jostling crowd at a political hustings.

In these and similar situations, such aids as tape recorders are of little use. A man with a notebook and pencil is the only answer.

. . .

When I came to Bletchley I had not done much shorthand for eight or nine years, but I was reassured by the results from my first council meeting here, which was in March 1946, and I was never again much worried on that score until a few years ago, when I had to take a seat in that unholy of unholies, the press gallery of the House of Commons.

That exercise was for the expected announcement by Mr. Richard Crossman of the government’s OK to the creation of the-then-unnamed new city of Milton Keynes. I suppose it was rather a historic occasion for poor old North Bucks. At any rate, your Gazette’s then editor, Mr. Carl Moser, wanted what reporters call “every spit and cough” of it and took steps to get it.

. . .

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Don’t get too excited about the prices, the advert is quite old!

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From 1973 to 1978 Bletchley Gazette reporter Harold Hepworth reminisced on the post-war years of North Bucks. All these articles have now been carefully transcribed by one of our lady volunteers at The Living Archive. The articles are large so selected paragraphs will be used over the next weeks and months just to give a flavour of how Harold saw the area develop.

The possibility that foreign workers may come to take up jobs in the new city of Milton Keynes has a very old familiar ring about it.

Ever since that war, foreign workers have been settling in the district, sometimes in not-inconsiderable numbers.

We have absorbed Poles, Latvians, Esthonians, Italians, Pakistanis, Hungarians, even Russians. Could the brickworks in particular have carried on without them? It is the hallmark of a civilised people that they can take a joke, so they will know what I mean when I say that at one time there were so many of them at the brickworks I could have sworn that at least one chimney was beginning to lean towards Pisa.

But first were the gallant Poles, the people who if guts had had anything to do with it would have crushed Hitler with one hand while demolishing Stalin with the other. After their inevitable defeat thousands of their young men trekked enormous distances to join us. After that, well, their war record tells its own tale.

After the war, these Poles, what was left of them, could not go back to their own country. Officially they were “white” and Poland was now “red.” So a considerable number were encamped and demobbed at Great Horwood. From there they began to take all kinds of jobs in the surrounding area.

Just then Bletchley badly needed a stoker for its old gasworks and it was a Pole who had married an English girl who saved the situation. He had been a law student but he was one of those who had not only trekked to fight again with the Polish army but had also been sent over to Paris to serve with the resistance movement.

When the gasworks closed he went to the brickworks. His Polish name, I believe, meant Andrew’s son, but he changed it to Andrews later. I have been proud to get to know such ex-foreigners during the course of my work.

Talking about Poles, there was also a North Bucks epilogue to that heroic and horrific affair, the Warsaw Rising. The rising was led by a “white” general-in-hiding whose name I am ashamed to have forgotten for the moment.

At any rate he escaped to this country and after the war lived a quiet life in a London suburb.

But he used to enjoy a spot of rabbit-shooting and had a friend in North Bucks. One day, in a field at Woughton, the Hero of Warsaw was found dead of a heart attack.

. . .


I don’t wish to get into the current Brexit debate and all that involves, however, ‘Heppie’ Hepworth’s comments are pretty poignant, ‘have we really forgotten what some of our European allies did for us in our hour of need’?

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The printing trade has a long tradition that when an apprentice has finished his training he is ceremonially ‘banged out’ at the firm. The apprentice is called to the office and presented with his ‘indentures’, during that time the journeymen in the company bang anything they can get their hands on and cause quite a noise! 

However, one poor apprentice at The European Printing Company faced an even worse fate, see newspaper clip below. 

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