To commemorate VE Day tomorrow here are a few memories from folk who live in the village, or are related to folk who live in the village. If you would like to submit a memory please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Nikki Platts (Ginger ‘Arthur Hallam’ is my Mums Dad.)
Following the end of the Hamburg raids August 1943 saw a very mixed bag of targets: Cologne, Genoa, Mannheim, Nuremburg and Milan. On a follow-up raid to Milan on the night of 14/15th, Flying Officer Marshall’s crew, on only their second ‘op’, got into difficulties. Problems began when a run-up of the engines a few minutes before take-off revealed a glycol leak. With little time to lose they switched to the spare aircraft, ‘Q-Queenie’, a battered and uninspiring veteran of many operations. Airborne some minutes behind the rest of the squadron, they were late for the rendezvous off Brighton. Then the flight engineer reported that the temperature on the starboard outer was rising alarmingly. Nevertheless, it was agreed to continue. They avoided two fighter attacks over France by dodging into cloud, but were now lagging further behind. By the time they reached Milan the main force had long gone, and although fires could be seen below there were neither searchlights nor flak. However, no sooner had they begun their bombing run when the gunners called out ‘Fighter closing in and firing! Corkscrew starboard – Go!’. Marshall stood the Lancaster on its wingtip, at the same time pushing the nose down sharply. He repeated the manoeuvre until they were at low altitude, and although there was now no sign of the fighter, a second failing engine testified to accuracy of its burst. With only two engines there was now little chance of re-crossing the Alps, besides a fuel tank had been punctured. The only remaining option was to attempt to reach one of the aerodromes in North Africa used in the recent shuttle raid. To add to their problems the navigator had no suitable maps. The wireless operator, ‘Ginger’ Hallam, remembered:
There followed a period of calm after which I was asked for details of wireless stations in North Africa. After about an hour I commenced wireless transmission with no immediate reply. However, after about two hours of this a station answered HFY, from which I got a QDM – ‘course to steer’. The station could have been anywhere south along this course. I remember Bill saying, ‘Where is this station, Ginger?’, to which I replied, ‘I haven’t got a clue’. Bill grumbled ‘We could be flying to bloody Fremantle’. To cut a long story short, the aerodrome was No. 72 Staging Post at Biskra on the edge of the Sahara. There were no night flying facilities there but by plain language communication we arranged for buckets of sand soaked in petrol to be lit on one side of the runway to give liS a guide. We landed safely, and when we got out, were of course dressed in blue battledress. Suntanned figures stood around us the half-light wearing khaki drill shorts and we were pounded with questions. ‘Where arc you from, mate?’. ‘ Bottesford’, ‘Where’s Bottesford?’, ‘Near Grantham?’. ‘Grantham? Bloody hell! They:re from Blighty!’. The story about the fortuitous radio contact was that the operator was a ‘ham’ at home, and when he couldn’t sleep would go up to the radio cabin and search the dial. He came from New Mills in Derbyshire, and we become good friends. It was very fortunate for us!
Biskra was little more than a dirt strip with a handful of tents, so ‘Queenie’ could not be repaired there. After four weeks of unbearable heat and ‘hard tack’ biscuits, Marshall and his crew joined a convoy heading for Maison Blanche, Algiers. As Arthur Hallam remarked, it was an eye-opener for a Cheshire lad who had never been further than Blackpool before in his life. At Maison Blanche they collected a Lancaster which had been damaged in the shuttle raids, and from there flew to Rabat, Morocco. On the 25th September they took off for England, but during the flight, icing made the Lancaster uncontrollable. It went into spin and lost several thousand feet before Marshall managed to recover. When they eventually returned to Bottesford they had been away for six weeks, and recognised almost none of the faces on the squadron
My wife Jayne’s father, William Middleton, volunteered on 27 December 1940 after fibbing about is age to be allowed join the army. He was enlisted with the Green Howards.
He was sent to the Far East and after four and a half years was captured and spent seven months as a POW in Burma being held captive by the Japanese. He went through a horrendous times including having to endure a march from camp to camp whilst having to withstand aerial bombardments from the allies…
As such with men of that time he hardly ever spoke about it to his family and it wasn’t until very late in his life that he opened up a little …
On his return from the war he met Jayne’s Mother Elizabeth (Horne) and they married the same year. Elizabeth , aged twenty five, worked at Boughton Munitions Camp after the end of the war cleaning weapons and packing ammunition under strict guard.
To add to the drama of his life William found work in a Nottinghamshire coal mine where he was then severely injured in an underground explosion and several of his close friends were fatally wounded.
Billy Mid as he affectionately known left this world 2001.
A collection of photos, medals and a letter from Buckingham palace
Centre photo Billy Mid is the the young looking man on the left and the medals include the Star of Burma and Bill’s wife Elizabeth second left at the munitions camp.
Some memories from Edge/Cooper/Truman families all with family members still living in the village.
Driver Ron Edge saw action, dispatching orders and driving ambulances. Father of Phil Edge, Grandad to Matilda and Joe and G-Grandad to Jesse, Heidi and Isabelle.
Ken Goodlad, receiving his wings on qualifying as a pilot. Part of the Dambuster Squadron. Father to Linda Cooper (Grindleford) and Jamie and Mark Cooper’s Grandad also G-Grandad to Jesse, Heidi and Isabelle Cooper
For Mike and Beryl’s family – near and far. Lovely afternoon commemorating VE Day. Beryl was born during the war and Mike was a young boy living near Padley Chapel. He remembers collecting shrapnel fallen from the raids on Sheffield from around the station.
My Grampy, Arthur Davis, was an ambulance driver & dispatch rider in North Africa, Egypt, India and the Middle East throughout the war. He was selected as he could drive (he worked as a coal man) and not many people could drive back then. Generally he was there to pick up what was left after battle and we know of no war stories (as he didn’t talk about it) except for one which was relayed to me after he died. Apparently their convey got cornered in a valley/route in North Africa and the only way out was to fight – he wasn’t a fighter but felt he had to do something so grabbed an RPG and fired it which did hit one of the tanks but as he wasn’t used to them, it threw him backwards knocking him out…
My Nan, Marjorie Davis, was a Landgirl down south (Essex or Surrey I think) and worked hard on the farms and fields and was particularly fond of her tractor! She may not of fought but she was a very strong-headed woman who helped keep the country afloat and we owe them as much as the soldiers
I shall be thinking of two very generous but private people who lived in Upper Padley, Ernest and Gwen Rhodes.
Gwen, nee Hunt, was a Grindleford lass who married Ernest Rhodes and made their home in upper Padley in 1939. Ernest was sent to the far east and subsequently taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. He suffered deprivation and illness for three and a half years at the hands of the Japanese working on the Burma railway returning home in 1946 weighing less than five stone. He never really totally recovered from this experience and passed away in the late 1980’s. Gwennie remained in Upper Padley until the early 2000’s when she went to sheltered accommodation in Hathersage. She was always grateful to “Pete the post” for bringing her shopping whilst she was latterly at Grindleford. He visited her regularly at Hathersage after she left Upper Padley.
After her passing the Trustees of the Playing field received a considerable bequest in excess of £25,000 to help finance any new extension we may plan. Both of them were very impressed with the then new pavilion in the 1980’s when they attended horticultural show both being keen gardeners. This bequest has been utilised in the construction of the present new facilities.
I shall also be in contact with my Uncle Stuart (Morton) who was born at the Post Office in 1918. He is 101 and served during the entire second world war. He is one of the last Dunkirk survivors having swum out to one of the little ships and arriving back at Ramsgate minus his boots. Taken prisoner at Tobruc, escaped, and served at El Alamein and the remainder of the north African campaign. Going on to be at ‘D’ day with the Royal Engineers working on the Mulberry harbour, both persons on the landing craft on either side of him were shot dead prior to landing. He is adamant that war solves nothing and should be strenuously avoided at all cost.
My Dad, Thomas Lionel Jacques, served in a transport unit, in charge of training riders and maintaining motor bikes, which was probably more enjoyable to him than running the shop!
He had a lucky escape, as he was selected to train for a secret mission. Part of it was parachuting from a glider, as they climbed to jumping height , he developed a severe head-ache and suffered a profuse nose bleed and was stood down.
He later found that the training was for Operation Market Garden – Arnham, where there was a huge loss of life.
Not exactly a memory but a VE Day associated event.
I had two elder brothers and my parents were hoping that their third child would be a daughter; my father decided that If this happened he would put a flag out of the window to celebrate. I arrived on 6th May 1945 and my father duly put the flag out of the window two days before VE Day. Consequently the authorities wanted to know how he had prior information that the war in Europe was coming to an end and started celebrating two days before the rest of the country!
Bernard Allerton (submitted by Dave Allerton)
My father, Bernard Allerton, volunteered in 1939. He was an amateur radio enthusiast and applied to the Royal Corps of Engineers. If applicants had not served an apprenticeship they had to undertake a two-day trades test at a barracks, near Portsmouth. Applicants were given a drawing and a block of metal and given two days to make the design, which involved lots of sawing, drilling and filing. Unfortunately, my father was good at electrical engineering but hopeless at filing and sawing.
At the time, my grandfather worked at HMS Vernon in Portsmouth dockyard on the design of mines, which included night shifts. He took a copy of my father’s drawing and had the design made overnight on milling and drilling machines. On the second day of the test, my father swapped his lump of metal for the version made the previous night and spent the rest of the day with a smooth file, carefully removing the machining marks.
Not surprisingly, he passed the test and served in REME throughout the war including four years in Burma. At the end of the war, which for my father was 1946, he was demobbed and spent two days at the same barracks where he had passed his trades test. He was strolling around the barracks when he came to a cabinet full of cups and trophies. There at the back of the cabinet was the item he had submitted in his trades test with a placard saying that this was made entirely by hand by one of the applicants to the Corps and it has been measured by engineers and is accurate to a few thousandths of an inch. “I’m not surprised”, said my father, “it was made on a bloody milling machine”. This was the only thing he ever told me about his war-time service.
Len Sharp (submitted by Steve Slingsby)
Len Sharp was our neighbour for many years when we first moved to Grindleford and during that time he told me many stories about his exploits in the Second World War.
Some I took with a pinch of salt but one particular story stuck in my mind.
Len was In the Army and captured by the Germans in Italy, spending a while as a Prisoner of war in Germany. As a butcher by trade he got the job of ensuring there was enough food and provisions for the prison camp. These were sourced from the local town on a regular basis.
One day Len and one of the guards went into town to order more provisions.
After completing their mission they went to the local inn for a beer or two.
This was quite common, the guard would go in the main bar and Len in the small snug at the rear. This particular day they stayed a bit longer and the guard was a little worse for wear. Walking back to the camp in the dark, Len had to support the inebriated guard and guide him along the path. To make this easier Len had to carry his gun most of the way. Just before the camp came into site he gave the guard his gun back, straightened his uniform up and staggered the final few yards.
Len told this story a few times over the years and I once asked him why he didn’t try to escape? His answer was I was in the Catering Corp, it wasn’t that bad and I wouldn’t have got very far. We all cannot be like Steve McQueen in the Great Escape.