Farm camps 1

Michael Butler [Heath 1941–1949] writes with recollections of the school camps:

I can add something to Hedley Whiteley’s memories [in the previous newsletter]. He and I were good friends until we went our separate ways in the Sixth Form, he to Science and I to Arts. I remember the two farm camps well. The first was at Moulton Chapel, near Spalding in Lincolnshire, in 1944 and the second at Eardisley in Herefordshire in 1945. The camp at Moulton Chapel was bleak, an abandoned searchlight site, where we lived in cold and draughty Army huts. It was October; the landscape was flat, melancholy and furrowed by dykes. By day the huge Fenland sky overhead was filled with American bombers going out to Germany, and returning late in the afternoon, some flying low, on fire, or with engines stopped. At dusk the RAF went out, a swarm of bombers that stretched as far as the eye could see.

As Hedley says, an aircraft had crashed some time before but, as I recollect, it was a Mosquito, not a Spitfire. The site aroused our somewhat morbid curiosity. Some boys brought away bits of wooden wreckage, wiring and instruments. We were told that the crew had been killed. One fantasist claimed to have found their graves. We almost believed him!

The Eardisley camp, the following year, had a different character. The European war had ended, the sun shone and Herefordshire was benign and peaceful — the ideal English scene. We slept in bell tents and lived in the Village Hall. I remember being put to work with Hedley cutting thistles in a meadow on the first day and wondering what this was contributing to the national effort. We must have spent most of our time packing fruit. We were in groups assigned to different farms and on one occasion a rebellious group absconded and went off for the day. After their return, Mr Hewson, the Chemistry teacher (Oscar Nick was his nickname, for some unfathomable reason), declared, We’ll do as they do in Russia. Those that work eat. And that evening, the delinquents didn't!

First appeared in Newsletter dated