What Life Was Like in the 1940s


 

Contribution by David Knight.

Several years ago I wrote to W R Mitchell who at one time was Editor of the Dalesman on my memories of Giggleswick. It may be of interest to some of the online OG's, and the slightly edited text follows.

I hope you don't mind me addressing you by your Dalesman By -Line. Over a number of years, whenever my copy has arrived I have developed a habit of looking for a piece by you before I look further. I think this is because of your focus on my well loved village of Giggleswick and the school that bears its name..

It may surprise you to receive this letter from so far away, however as an expatriate Yorkshire man, now in my seventies, I have so many memories of my School days, and many of your articles bring them into sharp focus. That I receive the Dalesman is because of the friendship of an Australian Wool trade colleague. During its great days the Bradford Wool Industry brought many people from around the World into Yorkshire, and at the same time many Yorkshire men and women made their homes in the Countries that produced Wool for Bradford Combs.

The Dalesman subscriber in this instance is an Australian; a retired Wool buyer as I am, He has come to love Yorkshire as a visitor, and knowing my background he passes his copies on to me. I must stress that this is not an example of Yorkshire thrift, but a demonstration of how people can love Yorkshire because of different perspective's, his to have visited and remembered, and mine to have lived there and remembered.

I have been close to writing to you before, however action was finally stimulated the other day when I was going through my Library and I came across a slim little Book Titled "Journey Home" by E.H Partridge. On reading it again, he tells the story of Tot Lord and the Grayling, and this took my mind back to your story of that occasion in the Dalesman a year or so ago, and this triggered this letter.

I went to "Gigg" in 1939 at the age of 13. My older Brother and I were to start in the Autumn Term which was probably towards the end of September, however when War was declared on the 3rd of September it was arranged the we would be accepted before term began. My parents like many others thought that Prime targets like Bradford would soon be bombed and so sent us to relative safety as soon as possible. I can remember before we left home we were sent by my Mother to buy all the Candles we could lay our hands on. They were still there at the end of the War, unused!.

Those few weeks before Term began were sheer bliss. I was to be a member of Style House, and LP Dutton my House Master had plenty on his plate, and so I was allowed to roam as I pleased.

I first of all found the Beck as it emerged from behind the Fives Courts to wander down the villiage before branching right behind Style House and on towards the Ribble. In it I found fish that I learned were trout, and soon I had followed the Beck upstream to the Prep School Catteral Hall where it vanished underground to emerge on flatter ground against the backdrop of the Scar, the Craven Fault, with the huge gouge of the quarry disfiguring it. I don't know how I learned to "Tickle" trout but it wasn't long before I could catch them with my hands, and my training ground was on that stretch of narrow beck as far as theWhite Farm at the head of the valley. In time I even found a Dippers nest under the bridge at the entrance to Catteral Hall. An exquisite little "Muff" shaped structure of moss, and I watched those little birds dive and emerge again perhaps with a Caddis Fly Larvae over the next four years both on the Ribble and on my stream. Curlew and Plover and Skylark nests I found quite easily, and I thought how marvellous this new School was going to be.

I had a rude awakening. On the first School run, the one we called Triangle, I was towards the back of the field (I was a fat little boy) and was on the leg that ran alongside the Settle Carlisle railway line, and also my favourite Beck when I saw a large trout slip under a stone. I was down the bank in a shot, and had my fingers around it when a voice from above me shouted what are you doing Boy, what's your name?. It was a School Prefect I think called Kaye, and I was instructed to visit the Senior Common Room that evening to be disciplined. It was my first caning, (there were to be many more) and it was administered by Guy B. ( known as Weepy because I suspect he had a problem with a Tear Duct in one eye)and who wore gym shoes to gain extra torque for his swing. Anyway the caning didn't hurt much and I think I got an extra one because I smiled when I got out of the arm chair in which I had to stick my head in order to present a good target for the cane.

I was not a good student however I loved Rugby and of course we had the OTC which became merged to some degree with the Home Guard. Senior Boys with the rank of Sergeant or Corporal in the Corps often held the same rank in the School Platoon of the Home Guard, whilst some Masters were Privates. This led to a subtle balance of power between Students and Masters. A piece of equipment that was eventually issued to the Home Guard was the Blacker Bombard, the first of the Spigot Mortars. It was a fiendishly heavy device, and Chemistry Master Mr Bloom (labelled Batty) or Physics Mr Wheel (Bertie) both Privates soon learned that frequency of Bombard duty was in direct proportion to the number of Blue Papers (Punishment Lines) they imposed on their NCO Students. Nicknames as in any school were applied to Masters and Maths Mr Holligan inevitably became Polygon, and there was Ikey Dutton, Teddy Partridge and that very fine man Sam Douglas who had lost a leg in the first War, and taught Geography. In his report on my work during the year prior to School Certificate he wrote of me "He is lazy and will not work and tries to cover ignorance of fact with words". By sheer chance a major question in the School Cert Paper was "Describe a typical Limestone Region in England". I was up and running, and hadn't finished when the bell rang to tell us to ceaxe, and when the results were announced I was the only boy to achieve a distinction. I have the Certificate dated July 1944 here on my desk, but to be fair I only just made it with a further three Credits and a Pass.

It was just after Dieppe in August 1942 that Lieutenant D C W Style brought his Troop from Number 4 Commando to Giggleswick where they were billeted on the School. David Style would have been the Son or possibly Grandson of the Headmaster after who Style House was named.

They had taken a mauling during the raid, and on their return were told to go away together as a troop, to recoup their strength and their spirits. During their stay an exercise was arranged with the Settle Home Guard where Styles troop was to be the Enemy. The School Platoon did not take part however the battle was timed to begin at 7.0pm. The Commandos had learned that battles did not begin at set times, and attacked at about 6.30 when the Settle Home Guard contingent were forming up, and dressing from the right in front of the Shambles. A certain amount of confusion occurred, and the Home Guard Intelligence Officer (I think his name was Birkbeck) became lost in the dark and when he saw a shadowy figure called "are you a friend?" and was rendered unconscious for a short time.

I was an unwilling Student and the fact that the calibre of Teaching Staff was inevitably diminished because of the manpower demands of the War; this I suppose did not help to change my attitude. During those years however we had a hard time but we saw it as normal. During the worst of the War, our sleep was often disrupted because of German aircraft passing across England to Bomb Liverpool, and we would be wakened by alarm bells at I suppose about Midnight, get dressed in the dark and then move to our Air raid shelter some way away just inside the main gateway to the school. We would go back to our beds at about 4.0 or 5.0am, and be allowed to sleep in and start school at 10.0. Our diet was pretty ordinary, and I can remember the back of all my fingers being covered with chilblains, and yet it was not seen as anything untoward.

E H Partridge was a man I came to admire very much. He had occasion to lay the cane across my behind a couple of times but I never bore him any grudge. There were two of us who were often in trouble and my equal was a Town Boy whose name was Maude, known a "Busty Maude". We were both to leave School in 1944, and it was then that I saw how EHP cared about his boys and the depth of his concern about what they were going in to when they left School. Before we left he took Ron Maude and me to Malham Tarn for a week where we fished for pink fleshed trout, and shot a Rabbit or a Duck for food, living in the stables behind the Morrison mansion; he talked to us not as a Head Master but a friend.

I left School at the end of that term and joined the Fleet Air Arm where they soon found that my understanding of Maths was insufficient to allow me to navigate still less to fly, and I was given the option of becoming a Cook, Sick Berth Attendant or joining the Royal Marines; I chose the last. The last time I saw Busty Maude was several Months later in the middle of Dartmoor when I was leading a Company on a two day exercise before passing out from the Royal Marine OCTU at Bickleigh in Devon. We said hello shook hands and went to do our job.

I found out later that EHP had been deeply hurt by the death of R M Marshall an Old Boy who had Captained the English Rugby team prior to the war. I recollect that Marshall was killed just after the war when the MTB he Captained was returning to port and struck a mine. I suspect that EHP wore himself out holding his School together during the War and the death of Marshall and other Old Boys took their toll on him.

I'm afraid I have prattled on a bit, and perhaps Sam Douglas was right, but let me say again how when reading your stories in the Dalesman I have been taken back to a part of the World I remember very clearly and love very much.

 

 

Morrison Nowell Paley Shute Style Catteral Hall and Others

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