The “A Village at War “ CDs
The “A Village at War “ CDs are now available from Graham Noble and are free of charge. This of course will be on a first come first served basis, I am available on g.rc.noble at btintetrnet.com and phone contact is 01373 859770.
CDs will also be available at our next talk.
Interview with Lewis Bull
Dilton Marsh History Society 16 June 2014
Were you born and brought up in Dilton?
Yes, in The George.
Oh in the pub? One of the ones that doesn’t exist anymore, so was that a family business?
Yes, it was a smallholding and a pub so they started work early in the morning and finished very late at night.
And what sort of age were you during the war?
I was 12 when it finished, no I was 13.
So 7 or 8 when it started?
So you were presumably at school in Dilton
Yes, all through the war. I went to the bottom school first, it’s a private house now opposite The Firs and then I went to the Church school up by the Church, it’s also a private house now isn’t it.
So what’s your most significant memory of the war as a child?
St Mary’s lane was quiet, people didn’t used to come up and down the lane you used to play out in the road and sit in the middle of the road. And I suppose one of the most vivid times was we watched all the German bombers go over the night they blasted Bristol, we sat in front of The George on the middle of the road. Another time was when all the Yanks came down from Briggs field from Michael Briggs on Old Farm, they used to come down… how many you could get on a jeep god knows but they used to come down to the pub to see if there was any beer. But 9 times out of 10 there was a notice on the front door saying ‘sorry no beer’ everybody ran out you know, they didn’t cater for god knows how many hundreds of Yanks there were out there.
Was this them coming again prior to the D Day landings?
That’s right yes they were there for some months I suppose in the sort of bivvies’, tent type thing and us as kids used to go up there and talk to them I don’t’ know what we used to talk about but there were quite a lot of black ones amongst them cos it was one of the few times they were integrated.
Yeah that’s very odd as everywhere else in the country seems to refer to certainly black and white soldiers being totally segregated but you remember them being together…
Yes, together up there, whether they were separated in lines I don’t know.
So they all had tented accommodation it wasn’t like the white soldiers were in…
Oh, no, they were all in the same and then all of a sudden they were all gone there were all the queues beside the side of the road the tanks and the things that were lined up on the side of the road for few days before the D Day all just disappeared.
And they went and never came…
No, they went down to the south coast they were backed up as far as Dilton and I remember Salisbury and Wilton they were backed up there.
So do you remember the American soldiers, I mean we had no beer but they had things that as a family you didn’t have…
Well, they were very well fed they never seemed to want for anything and they certainly didn’t bother us for food well we didn’t have the sort of food to give them anyway we were on rations.
And were they giving away things to you as children?
Um, not really they kept them for girls I think.
Yes cos there were dances in the village…
Yes, lots of dances we as kids used to sit on the pavement to watch them go in.
And was this black and white soldiers going into the same dance or different?
Well, they certainly didn’t have different nights whether the black soldiers come down or not I don’t know. I know several girls in the village married or went out with Yanks but I don’t think any black ones. It was a difficult time at that time; it wasn’t till later after the war that they were allowed to do anything.
And you say some of the girls married…
Yes, a couple of the girls got married.
Did they go to America after the war?
One I got a cousin who went to America yeah Nina Bishop but never heard from her since, well only through family who kept in touch we weren’t that close in family.
So who did your family consist of at the time, mum, dad…
Granny Bull she was the matriarch she lived in the pub she held the licence and there was uncle Jim and his 2 sons Eric and Leonard and my dad Cecil and mum and me and my sister.
Was your sister younger?
4 years younger and we all lived together in the pub.
And all ran the pub in the war years…
Yes, and we’d all go hay making and what have you.
On the local farms and…
Well, on our own fields right down to the Drove, it was all hand done then I don’t know how we used to get it done with the weather window being so small we used to turn everything out by hand and pick everything up by hand and cart it up to The George so really we had quite happy times during the war so there weren’t the fellas about to help it was us, the women and kids for the work.
Was there much schooling?
Oh, yes, we did full days at school this was done after school we would sneak out for long summer evenings they seemed to go on forever doesn’t seem the same now.
The food you produced from the smallholding what happened to that for your family or sold on…
I don’t know I wasn’t old enough to know I know we had a parcel of land at Hisomley and we grew potatoes but where they went goodness knows.
And your family would have been on rations books so did you miss anything…
I think bananas we didn’t know about till after the war but I can’t remember I don’t think we went without much being on the farm everyone kept a farm to be self sufficient.
You didn’t have a pig at the bottom of your garden?
Yes, we did but nearly everyone in village did, hens and pigs, we lived well on our own produce with some bartering – some beans for an egg etc. so in the village itself we didn’t fare too bad not like the cities and town. We had Mr Jones the baker you could always buy a loaf of him that didn’t seem rationed.
And did you have an evacuee?
No, but there were several in the village, how they came, where they went goodness knows.
But they went to the local school…
Oh, yes, and I suppose they joined us all in our farming activities after school.
Unusual for them…
Well, they wondered where milk came from – not in bottles.
I suppose we had an interesting time in the war we’d deliver milk round the village on the bike to our regular customers I went round with a pail on the handlebars and dip it out with measures to the jug to the door.
Do you remember how much it cost?
Oh, no, Uncle Jim or Dad got the money this was before school.
Early in the morning…
Well, the house was up early as the milk had to be put out for collection quite early by 7 am that was in churns then so it was a full life because we used to go even from school we went potato picking – that was the last lesson of the day everyone went to the farm and did potato picking for a couple of hours that was a school lesson.
And do you remember how did people get around?
Bicycles – everyone had bicycles really. There were very few cars in the village, the only one I could think of was Mr Coles from in the middle of the village opposite The Firs, Shepherds Mead, Mr Coles had a farm there and had a couple of American cars that had been adapted or cannibalised with the backs put off making them a little lorry and that would tow the mowing machine and the farm implements round the village and the hay rake on the front. I think he had 2 and he also had a mower with an engine on the side that made the cutting blade work so the horse or the car pulling it didn’t have to work so hard so it was driven by an individual motor. People had a few motorbikes, moped types but other than that…. then dad got took away from the farm cos they were so called ‘over manned’ cos they had 2 men on the farm and they didn’t think 2 men were necessary to run the farm so he got took away to Bristol… no first he got took to the Avon at Melksham to make tyres and he cycled up there 12 hour shifts and cycled back. There were a couple in the village got moved there then he got moved to National smelting company in Bristol, during the war he was an air raid precaution man with a steel hat in Bristol that was an after work job then he came back to the Avon after.
So when he was in Bristol he stayed there?
Yes, he lodged there so we used to go down there to see him perhaps twice a year but he didn’t get home v much they were always on some sort of duty specially with the fire bombs… so what next … I can remember one particular man I remember someone coming home from the war to the village one man was in a Japanese prisoner of war his name was Jim Carr, lived up the council houses and he was so frail it was horrible all the kids were running down behind him you know cheering and the rest of them some of them would come home in their uniforms with their rifles on their shoulders they were fairly all right otherwise they would have come home injured, other than that, always sticks in your mind the fighter pilot that lived up the top end of the village in the Old Manse and he drove a spitfire and he always used to be up the village every night at 5 o’clock he’d come down fly low.
What fly up the village?
Fly low the length of the village and it seemed every night we’d sat there and wait for him and of course one night he didn’t and I’ve never found out what happened to him I’ve been to Battle of Britain sites all over England and never have I found his name.
And you don’t know his name?
I always called him, well he was Clive Heath but I always called him Clive but I think that may not have been his correct name but he lived in the Old Manse, the 3 story house opposite Fairfield farm that’s where they lived.
There should be a record somewhere of people who lived there to know their name but you feel he must have been killed…
Well, he must have been. But I’ve enquired and asked but nobody knows. I lost a cousin of mine in Lancasters he’s buried in Dilton church Leonard Bull his gravestone’s in the rounded end of the church he was 21 or 22 they were all volunteers I didn’t realise till later on they weren’t called up.
And the RAF was a particularly young service,,,
Yes, well they would come back off a bombing raid came home to England and they didn’t land first time so they went round and had another go but finished up in a flaming heap so that was uncle Jim’s eldest son and he’d also got married in one of his leaves just before he got back so he left a widow… no children.
People tended to do that they knew time was limited… did she since remarry…
Yes, she remarried and had a family she’s no more I think but that’s the way it was people took a chance of a few minutes happiness in the carnage.
Lets hope they had some…
They had some happiness for a little while but there’s so many of them unbelievable numbers.
And what about in the village with the home guard did you have black outs?
Yes, we used to get put under the table when the raids were on or the stairs don’t know if it did any good.
That was almost a game as a child…
Yes, there with the candle, there were very few bombs anyway in Dilton there was one in Leigh Rd in Westbury caused damage but mainly due to the station Westbury railway station they had a go at that couple of times but mostly just they unloaded coming back form Bristol. There were a few in Frome not too much here. You could listen to them whistling down but the sound must have travelled a long long way.
We’re doing well! People do remember the war with a mix of feelings the camaraderie and excitement and adventure but on the other side there is a cousin you lost and bereavement… so you mentioned that the pub didn’t have any beer…
This was temporary there was beer you may have a notice saying no beer or spirits today but the next day may be a delivery.
So the pubs stayed open?
But the door may be closed with no beer you see.
You didn’t brew your own?
No that was before my time they used to have their own brewery at The George but that was in the back part where we were never allowed to go but I did get to know when I was grown up I was taken up there and shown the old vats and what have you we were allowed into the farmyard to chase fowls but…
Not brew the beer! Ok any other particular things that we haven’t touched on about the war?
The dances seemed to be ever so popular.
With the soldiers and the local people, but your sister being younger…
She wouldn’t have gone and I weren’t old enough either I sat outside and watched.
I expect some of your memories have come from what family has told you since…
We had family in the village my mum was one of 17 so we had lots of aunts and uncles that lived in the village not that we were very close but some of them we were.
And was she a Dilton girl then…
What was her maiden name?
Bishop yes lots oaf bishops in the village.
And dad was a Dilton man…
Yes, we never moved.
Well you’ve moved to Warminster…
Yes, Dilton to Westbury to Warminster but all my kids are away they all work away.
Different world now…
But you didn’t used to do that you lived and worked where you were.
Well if your only transport was a bicycle you weren’t going to get very far…
Wel, l if you… when you got to work you were taken by van or lorry to work outside of Westbury but other than that you cycled to the yard first.
So what work?
I was a joiner
In a local company…
There was a Parsons in Westbury there was a Parsons in Dilton in, you know Chris the church man, there’s a couple cottages down to Stormore and there was a yard there by Attyos’ place you call it now, a little yard in there Parsons they were brothers I worked there all my life till I was made redundant at 60 then I worked for a friend who was an old apprentice he said ‘get your tools out get back to work’ I enjoyed it cos that pressure of managing 18 – 20 blokes was gone I was back to making things which I enjoyed.
Do you still use your skills now?
Not any more its’ gone can’t see straight can’t hold things but never mind its been good.