names and addresses




All phone numbers on this site are code unless shown otherwise.


Comments, Ideas,
Criticisms, Articles

Finding us
A "secret" road
Map of Chippy
Stay in Chippy
Stay nearby
Holiday Cottages
Things to see
Chippy's Pubs
Pubs Nearby
Some History



Census Info







Visit the
Theatre Website







IAN GORDON wrote to us: "I went to the Church of England school in Chippy in the early 40's and had my first job at Freddie Soles butcher shop along Market Street ("Beadles" last time I was in town). Nowadays, I am an ex-Professor of Animal Husbandry who has lived in Dublin, Ireland for the past 40+ years. I have taken the liberty of sending along a few recollections of Chippy in 1942. I extracted them from what was meant to be an autobiography-- but has been gathering dust in a drawer for many years".

The autumn of 1939, as well as marking the outbreak of the second World War, signalled the point at which I left the village school in Great Rollright and moved to the Church of England school in Chipping Norton (Chippy). There were four schools in the town, the Grammar, Catholic, British (non-denominational) and the Church of England. I was destined for the Church of England school, while my pal, Dickie Hall from Walk Farm, headed for the British school. The Grammar school involved passing something akin to the 11-plus, and although I have hazy memories of sitting this examination in Rollright, no one in the class passed it, nor, indeed, was expected to pass it.

In transport terms, school at Chipping Norton remained a matter of catching the bus on the Hook Norton road at 8.30 am and returning home between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. The school bus was not without its exciting moments, depending on who was behind the wheel. Our favourite was a Mr Gibbs; Gibby would hit the magic speed of 60 mph down the hill from Rollright to the railway station, drawing gasps of admiration from his youthful audience. On other occasions, passing Harveys Heath farm lands, he would switch the ignition on and off with the bus at speed, producing a loud bang through the exhaust which sent the horses in the nearby field scattering in all directions. Years later, after the war, Gibby was to progress to bus inspector; watching his expressionless face as he progressed solemnly down the aisle checking tickets, it was difficult to reconcile him with the happy-go-lucky driver of yesteryear.

Chipping Norton, standing some 700 feet above sea level on the edge of the Cotswolds, was once a busy market town. The word Chipping was apparently derived from the old English Cheaping, a term used to cover the buying and selling of goods. The market history of the town is evident in the very wide High Street, which was to become the main car-park in the days that I remember best. In the 18th century the prosperity of the town was such that owners of some shops and businesses along the High Street were wealthy enough to rebuild in the fashionable classical Georgian style. By the 1930's, when we were living in Rollright and Priory Mill, Chippy was notable for Bliss's woollen mill, situated down by the railway station; at its peak, the mill provided employment for 700 men and women from the town and the surrounding district in the thirties. The blasts from the factory chimney in the mornings and evenings could be heard for miles around; with watches still something of a luxury item, the blasts were useful time-keepers to farm workers out in the fields. Chippy also boasted Hitchman's Brewery, which was a further source of employment to townspeople.

In coaching days, the town was a well-known resting place for coaches running between London and Worcester. Chapel House, half-way between Priory Mill and Chippy, had been a posting house once frequented by Samuel Johnson and Boswell. Queen Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, had slept at Chapel House when passing through the neighbourhood. For my brother Sandy and myself on our bikes, Chapel House came to be particularly well-known as the half-way stage between home and Chippy. It was also a notorious accident spot, with cars speeding along the A34 Oxford-Stratford road tangling with vehicles crossing from the Banbury A361 road. Looking back through the ages, Chapel House derived its name from the Chapel that was provided at that spot for the needs of the laity who lived in the neighbourhood; the Chapel was once possessed by Brasenose College, Oxford, who apparently paid a priest 12-20 shillings a year to officiate there until this arrangment was terminated in the reign of Henry VIII .

For my mother, getting to Chippy pre-war usually meant travelling by Great Western Railway on the eleven o'clock morning train from Rollright Halt, which was three fields distant across the countryside from Priory Mill. It was then a fairly steep climb up New Street from Chippy station to the Co-op cafe on High Street, where my favourite meal would be steak and kidney pie with plenty of tomato ketchup. After shopping, it was along to the afternoon matinee at the New Cinema to see the latest Hollywood epics before returning home around six; some of the happiest memories were of watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Laurel and Hardy, Will Hay and George Formby films. Our regular Saturday shopping trips allowed me to become known to some of the drivers of the small tank engine that pulled and pushed the two coach Banbury-Kingham train. On one memorable occasion, a kindly driver lifted me up on to the footplate at Chippy and I rode with him the three miles or so to Rollright Halt.

On the immediate home-front, much of my spare time at Priory Mill during the early years of the war was taken up with efforts to improve the family's finances. In the late summer, this could involve fruit picking in the two small orchards close to the house and selling bags of plums and damsons to certain of the Chippy shopkeepers; Mrs Carey in New Street was a frequent target. With half a stone of plums balanced on each handlebar, I would cycle to Chippy and do the rounds. On one memorable occasion, a pony and trap was made available from Walk Farm to take my mother and a large consignment of plums to town. The pony in question was less than enthusiastic about entering Chippy and I had to leap out and drag it step by step to the shop. When the trap was turned for home, however, the pony's reluctance to move evaporated and it took off for Priory Mill at more than a lively gallop; it was to be the first and last time that I availed of that form of transport.

My father's off-duty activities including snaring rabbits, keeping the occasional pig for bacon and shooting herons. The Priory Mill waters, with their stocks of trout, were a favourite haunt of the long-legged cregged heron. Ralph Peck became more than a little incensed at their activities and initiated a 10 shillings reward for every bird shot. My father would spend an uneventful evening perched half-way up an elm-tree waiting for the heron to present itself. Moments of mild hilarity at home came when father decided to cash in on the pig which had been slaughtered a few months previously.. Legs of bacon were suspended, inside muslin bags, from the roof of a room in Priory Mill; when father took down one of the bags to start cutting the first slices of bacon, he found nothing other than a bare leg-bone surrounded by several layers of crumpled newspaper. Brother Sandy had been busy carving the leg for months past as part of his supper-time routine but with skilful padding of the bag had managed to conceal his misdeeds.

My mother spent much time with her small flock of poultry; a particular memory is one of her gleaning corn for the hens in the glow of an autumn sunset in the fields around Priory Mill after they had been cleared of sheaves. As her willing assistant, I would regularly be carting in eggs to various shop-keepers, large and small, in Chippy, each egg carefully wrapped in a square of newspaper to ensure its safe delivery to the customer. Eggs were extremely scarce at the time and one could employ them in some useful bartering. I remember being able to get sweets in some profusion from Poppy Langton in New Street in exchange for a half-dozen eggs.

Thoughts of the Grammar School at Chippy were never entertained by my parents or anyone around me; quite apart from entrance exams, it was a world inhabited by middle-class children and parents with adequate financial resources. There may well have been exceptions to the general rule, but I was never to meet them. Gaffer' Smith, the diminutive but lively headmaster of the Church of England School, who hailed from the Black Country and sported an MA, regularly coached a small group of pupils either for the Grammar School entrance examination. I had passed that stage, however, before arriving on the Chippy scene. With thoughts far removed from books and learning, I managed to get hold of a Meccano aircraft kit from a school pal by the name of Fisher ; this Number 2 Aeroplane Constructor tin-plate kit remained a treasured possession for several years, enabling me to assemble a wide array of single or multi-engined biplanes and monoplanes. Aircraft interests also extended to a variety of rubber-driven balsa-models. Priory Mill was ideal for all such flying operations, with its wide open spaces all around. On the reading front, Sandy had been taking Aeroplane. and Flight weekly since before the war; this meant that I was reasonably well versed in current aircraft affairs.

Although operating under severe financial restraints, my interests were also focused on the products of Binns Road, Liverpool, especially 0-gauge Hornby train sets and Dinky Toys. However, such toys were expensive and purchased by the more affluent parents for their children. Although I could pick up a few pennies from Sandy occasionally, it was not until I started earning real money in the summer of 1942 that it became possible to do anything serious about building up a Hornby train set, with a clockwork tank engine as the motive force. Unfortunately, even with cash in hand, due to wartime restrictions, Hornby products were then in very short supply. Nonetheless, many happy moments were spent at the back of Brindles shop on Chippys High Street inspecting the contents of the red boxes that held various Hornby accessories. Ten years down the line, the many items that I had collected were passed on to the son of a friend in Nottingham.

Evacuees and Stan Wykes.

School-days in Chipping Norton spanned the period from the outbreak of war in 1939 to the summer of 1942. The small pupil numbers in the two-master Church of England School in the town was swelled on several occasions with evacuees from London, who sometimes brought their teachers with them. I remember some consternation at Priory Mill in the autumn of 1939 when there talk about the Billetting Officer' calling and settling evacuees with us; my parents' view would probably have been that Londoners and country folk did not mix. In the event, someone, somewhere, decided that Priory Mill was too far off the beaten track to warrant consideration. The first wave of evacuees, who arrived in Chippy station shortly after the outbreak of war, clutching their cardboard gas-mask boxes, did not stay long; local gossip talked about some London boys never having seen a tree before, which seemed rather far-fetched.

The second wave of evacuees arrived in Chippy after the London Blitz started in the autumn of 1940; this wave remained much longer and included a teacher by the name of Stan Wykes, who stayed on in Chippy after the war, eventually following in Gaffer Smiths footsteps in becoming headmaster of the school and the town's mayor. Of the several teachers encountered in my Chippy school-days, Stan Wykes was the only one to express genuine interest in my educational welfare; there was one occasion when he rushed off in a state of mild excitement to the headmaster, Gaffer, with some essay that I had written in class. Stan had a few novel ideas in his teaching routines, including unfulfilled plans for setting up a school debating group.

Unfortunately, Stan Wykes was to disappear into the army before he had been in Chipping Norton too long. Before he went, however, he treated all the 20 or so boys in his class to an outing to the New Cinema in New Street and another to the Picture House on the Oxford Road. In retrospect, such concern for pupils was certainly remarkable by any standards. Years later, when I at Nottingham University around 1950, we happened to meet outside the post office in Chippy; Stan was interested in what I was doing and told me that he had always wanted to take a university degree as part of his own training, but had never managed it. The last I heard of him was when he was Mayor of Chippy in 1959 and was showing the Queen around the Town Hall.

Dunkirk and Days of Danger.

Among the more vivid recollections of Chippy school-days is a memory of June 1940 when we came up town for our lunch-time break to find the High Street pavements literally covered with troops in full kit lying stretched out, most of them sleeping. Later in the day, we were on the receiving end of a stern lecture from Nosey Parker, one of the teachers at School; apparently, we had been waking up the battle-weary lads and asking them for French coins. This was all part of the aftermath of the Dunkirk evacuation, when trains ferried soldiers from the Channel ports to various towns in the midlands. In later times, I was to hear that the Durham Light Infantry, a regiment stationed in Chippy before going to France in early 1940, had been all but wiped out in battles during the retreat to Dunkirk.

At home, we listened solemn-faced to the various speeches of Churchill: What General Weygand called the Battle of France is now overthe Battle of Britain is about to beginand a few weeks later: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few . Winstons words were truly inspirational, even to an 11-year old who appreciated little of their true significance at the time. In later life, I did come to appreciate the fact that the Battle of Britain was probably one of the turning points in human history.

The Battle of Britain was too far away in the south of the country to make any great impression on a Chippy schoolboy in the summer of 1940. There was at least one occasion when those working in the fields at Walk Farm saw an RAF fighter chasing a German bomber at high speed and low level. My father listened to Anthony Edens appeal on the radio and joined the Chippy Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) and went around with his 12-bore shotgun displaying a white arm band. These were days in which country folk showed themselves as ready to serve the community as any city-dweller. Butchers and bakers by day in Chippy assumed new duties and personalities, reappearing at night in the navy blue of a Special Constable.

In the late summer of 1940, as the evenings were drawing in, I recall hours spent by the light of the paraffin lamp poring over a set of Teach-Yourself books edited by Sir John Hammerton. No doubt my brother Sandy had ordered the volumes in a moment of enthusiasm, leaving my mother to carry on the payment of instalements. My immediate objective was to learn enough German, such as "Hande hoch" to be able to assist in apprehending some Hun who might drop in unexpectedly from the sky. Although I was never to have the opportunity to put this learning into practice, later in life I did sheep experiments with John Hacking of Cadborough Farm, near Rye in Sussex who had indeed seen a German pilot fall from the sky in the summer of 1940. Racing to the scene of the pilots landing, armed with a pitch-fork, John found the German lodged half-way through the tiled roof of a farm-workers outside toilet. According to an eye-witness, the German greeted John in faultless English: I seem to have come from the sh** into the sh**

Yellow Glow in the Sky

In the evening of September 7th, 1940 at the end of a warm sunny Saturday at Priory Mill, with much talk abroad of a possible German invasion, came the first of the heavy night air-raids on London. I was later to learn that the Germans had sent over about 350 bombers by day and about 250 by night. Earlier on that Saturday, Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, had stood on the French Channel coast in the mid-afternoon to watch a thousand-strong armada of fighers and bombers heading towards London. We had no idea of anything untoward until the evening calm was interrupted by the chiming of the Rollright church bells. The general understanding at that time was that church-bells would not sound unless as a signal of an invasion; my father, armed with his shotgun and his LDV arm-band firmly in place, hurried off on his cycle to Chapel House, where apparently he was part of some LDV force assigned to guard this road junction.

Apparently, it was to be a night of many alarms, triggered by the first of the heavy night raids on London. The capital was under sustained attack for eight hours, with the first bombs falling around 9 pm. The general understanding at the time was that a German invasion across the English Channel would be preceded by an all-out air attack on London. In the event, the Rollright Home-Guardsmen had jumped the gun on the basis of some rumour or other. The night sky over London was to be filled with German bombers non-stop for the next two months, although Hitler's purpose was not now to invade in 1940 but to wipe out the British cities in reprisal for the RAF's attacks on Berlin in late August.

As the Rollright bells rang out across the fields, and my father disappeared into the darkness, the rest of us went over to the Boyd family, who were then living in the Walk Farm cottages, a half-mile from Priory Mill. As the evening wore on, there was an ominous orange glow low-down in the sky in the London direction. Although the city would have been a good 50 miles distant across country, this glow presumably came from the numerous dock-land fires then raging in the heart of the city. We were later to hear about some of the incidents contributing to that glow. In the Surrey Commercial Dock, where there had been 1.5 million tons of softwood on that Saturday morning, within 24 hours, four-fifths of it had been destroyed. The capital was to endure a period of sustained aerial bombardment, particularly in those autumn and early winter months of 1940; the heaviest raids on London, and sometimes other cities, took place when the moon was full or almost full. There were 300 bombers over London on September 18th and 410 in the air on October 15th; the phrase bombers moon was to assume a particularly sinister meaning.

In November, I remember looking out of the bedroom windows at Priory Mill on several nights and commenting on the ack-ack flashing away in the sky over the midland cities. On the bright moonlit night of November 14th, the German bombers carried out their savage attack on Coventry. One of their flight-paths appeared to run directly overhead. Later, we learnt that Heinkel pathfinder aircraft had taken this route before unloading some 10,000 incendiaries on Coventry. More than 400 aircraft took part in the 10 h raid, which started at 7.30 pm in the evening and lasted until 6 am the next morning, Some 20 factories were destroyed and 568 civilians killed; the weakness of the defences at that time was clearly shown by the fact that only a single German aircraft was lost. Fortunately, there was no follow-up raid, otherwise Coventry might well have been put beyond repair.

Nearer at hand, there was talk of a lone German aircraft bombing Banbury Station in broad daylight in early October, the attack resulting in several deaths and lesser casulties. Banbury was not far distant across the fields and I wondered what the attraction was; maybe the crew were looking for the Aluminium factory (known locally as the Ally), a mile or two north of the town. Although Banbury was a railway junction of some importance, it hardly seemed worth coming all the way inland just for that; the Ally, on the other hand, might have made more sense.

Later in the war, a searchlight battery was set up near Hull Farm, a matter of a half mile or less from Priory Mill. When the searchlight came on in the middle of the night, the immediate surroundings would also bask in the glow. Occasional predictions that the Germans would one night drop something nasty in the vicinity of the battery proved groundless; although high explosives never fell close to Priory Mill, the occasional incendiary bomb was found in fields in the neighbourhood. Not all the planes passing overhead at night were German ; Wellington bombers stationed at Moreton-in-the-Marsh could occasionally be seen heading away at dusk on one mission or other. They would have been climbing fully-laden from base as they rumbled overhead. When Bomber Harris took command, he mounted the 1000 bomber raids against key German cities; the first of these was against Cologne on the night of May 30th,1942, when eleven Wellingtons from Moreton were part of the force.

Aspirins and Astronomers

On the scientific front, no mention of Chippy should fail to note the Reverend Edward Stone, who was living in the town when he submitted a letter in 1763 to the Royal Society in London describing his discovery of the benefit of willow bark in the treatment of ague.. Edward conducted clinical trials on fifty fever suffers and reported his findings in a paper entitled An account of the success of the bark of the willow in the cure of agues. Although the analgesic properties of willow-bark, containing salicylates, had been recognized back in Egyptian, Greek and Roman times, it was Edward Stone's letter that prompted investigations at home and abroad that eventually led to the synthesis in the laboratories of Bayer and Company in Germany of acetylsalicyclic acid (marketed under the trademark of Aspirin) tablet in the closing years of the nineteenth centry; more than 200 years after Edward Stone, Aspirin was to become the most widely used pharmaceutical product in the world. I remember wondering where Edward Stone was buried and spent a fruitless hour or so searching for him in the Chippy Church of England graveyard. Later I was to learn he was buried without a headstone in Horsenden churchyard, a small village not far from Princes Risborough.

Among notable figures of modern times born and raised in Chippy was the astrophysicist, Geoffrey Burbidge, who would have been a few years older than myself. In the early 1940's, eating a penny bun for school lunch outside the `Corner Cafe' at the top of New Street I would occasionally see Geoffrey come past with his characteristic walk and a little Pekinese dog on a lead. The Burbidges lived somewhere down New Street and were well-known in Chippy as builders; Geoffrey would have been in his final years at the Grammar School in Burford Road at that time. He excelled at physics and mathematics at the grammar school and had the good fortune to have an extemely good maths teacher, Leonard Miles. I remember hearing that he had gone to Bristol University and then on to University College, London, where he obtained a doctorate around 1950. Years later, watching Patrick Moore in one of his `Sky at Night' programmes, I recognized Geoffrey, who was talking from San Diego in California, where he was living with his wife, Margaret.

In collaboration with his wife, Sir Fred Hoyle and William Fowler, Geoffrey was to publish a famous paper in Reviews of Modern Physics in 1957 dealing with their research on nucleosynthesis, the process by which heavy chemical elements are built up in the cores of massive stars, widely regarded as a discovery of fundamental importance to physics. Fowlers work, incidentally, was to lead on to a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983. A decade after their 1957 paper, again in collaboration with his wife, Geoffrey was to publish Quasi-Stellar Objects, one of the early books on quasars, the most distant and luminous objects in the universe. In more recent times, Cambridge University Press published a book A Different Approach to Cosmology by Geoffrey, Fred Hoyle and Jayant Narlikar, which is said to be a well-documented guide to extragalactic evidence against the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang was a term coined by Fred Hoyle in a broadcast lecture in 1952. I was to see Fred at close quarters in the mid-fifties when he gave a talk to the Fitzwilliam House Graduate Student Society. Fred was lecturing in mathematics at Cambridge at the time; later he was to become the University's Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy. Fred was an advocate of the steady state model of the universe, which held at matter is continuously created out of nothing as the universe expands. Today, Geoffrey is one of a minority of researchers who resolutely dispute the big bangtheory more than a half-century after it has reached general acceptance amonmg cosmologists. Geoffrey has received the highest awards for his outstanding lifetime contributions to cosmology.

In the summer of 1942, shopping in Chippy, I chanced to meet with Freddie Soles, who had a butcher's shop in Middle Row. As a schoolboy, I had been a frequent caller to Freddie's shop to buy a penny faggot for lunch. He knew that I had finished with school and asked if I would like to come and work in his shop--for 17/6d a week. With no other prospect in view at the time, the idea of 17/6d in my pocket appealed greatly; my butchering career started a few days later. The shop was run by Freddys wife, one of the Weston family who had a butchers shop in New Street.  It seems Freddy had to do war work, which took him away from home for most of the day.  Much of my own time involved cutting up frozen Argentinian beef and trimming meat off bones; my love of faggots was to be an early casualty. With something approaching horror, I became familiar with certain of the constituents that went into Freddys delicacies. The faggots, in a large metal tray, had to be taken up town to a bakers oven to be cooked. On one occasion, assisted by young Darrel Fletcher, the heavy tray was rested on the High Street pavement while we drew breath; unfortunately, a small dog saw the possibility of an unexpected feast and ran its nose over the faggots. My relaxation was interrupted by a well-dressed but visibly angry lady demanding that we move the faggots rapidly out of harm's way. Next morning, I received a severe dressing down from Freddy for flippant remarks on matters of food safety and hygiene ; unbeknown to me, the lady in question turned out to be the proprietress of the "Oxford House", Freddy's regular watering hole.

Regular exercise and unexpected challenges were provided  in the course of running around the countryside delivering meat with the butcher's bike. On one occasion, finding a housewife unexpectedly away from home in the village of Churchill, the small parcel of best steak was slipped through the letter-box, to be gratefully received by the resident cat. There were many other incidents which did little to endear me to Freddy or his wife.

Saturday mornings usually saw me working with part-timer Darrell Fletcher, a school-boy who hailed from Chippys West-End, close to Tommy Aldridges abode. Tommy was Chippys rag-and-bone merchant. On this Saturday, we were down the yard from the shop working in an outhouse, busily preparing sausage meat, a mixture of rusks and meat processed in an electrically driven machine with a fearsome array of flashing cutter-blades. On this occasion, a sizable section of the Daily Mirror, which someone was reading at the time, inadvertently ended up beneath the flashing blades. This was no laughing matter, for there was the week-end supply of sausage meat at stake, not only that destined for Freddys customers but also that for Mr Broadhurst at the LCM butcher's shop on High Street. When a hasty inspection of the mixture in the bowl failed to reveal any obvious trace of the "Mirror" pages, we both heaved a sigh of relief that our misdeeds might well remain a closely guarded secret. Not to be, of-course, as we discovered to our cost later in the day when several disgruntled customers started bringing back their sausage-meat, complaining of finding pieces of newspaper in it.

On the home-front, 1942 also stands out as the year in which brother Sandy volunteered for the Army. He had left Baylisss Poultry Farm and had been working for the previous three years as a tractor-driver at Walk Farm; as a member of the Chippy Home-Guard he was well-accustomed to marching around in uniform. After the Battle of Britain, he had tried to join the RAF with a view to furthering fighter-pilot ambitions; he went off on the bus to an RAF recruiting centre in Oxford for interviews.  Although everything went A1 with medicals and such, he was told to come back in three months time after brushing up his maths. In the event, progress with maths went by the board and he volunteered to join the army at the start of June 1942. His first stint was with the Wiltshire Light Infantry, initially at a training camp in Gloucester and then to Dover, looking out across the English Channel at German-occupied France.  It must be said that Sandys attempts to serve the country, whether as a fighter-pilot or an infantryman, was not supported with any enthusiasm by his mother. She would loudly proclaim around the dinner table how she wished her son would be like the rest of his school-pals. This was referring to the fact that Percy Tanner or Jack Deakin or a host of other other names were contentedly working away on farms around the neighbourhood.

It did not take too long to realize that a butchering career was probably not my best way forward in life. Although I was familiar enough, from an early age, with the birth and demise of farm animals, a day spent cutting up frozen Argentine beef, skinning rabbits or gouging eyes out of oxs head soon came to lose its appeal. By March 1943, after an 8-month spell with Freddy, I decided to move on; this time it was  in a direction much more to my liking. My parents had been none too happy with my butchering inclinations and my father's employer, Ralph Peck, offered to get me fixed up as an apprentice with Marshall's Flying School. This was a Cambridge based firm which operated small working parties at RAF stations in various parts of the country, including one at the airfield a mile or so outside Chipping Norton on the Charlbury road.

My parents got me fixed up as an apprentice with Marshall's Flying School This was a Cambridge based firm which operated small working parties at RAF stations in various parts of the country, including one at the airfield a mile or so outside Chipping Norton on the Charlbury road. The story of Marshall's businesses went back to the days of the first World War, when David Marshall founded the company to repair and service armoured cars and ambulances
The flying side of Marshall's business started in 1929, when David and his son Arthur, who had learnt to fly in 1928, started the first Cambridge school and trained large numbers of week-end fliers. In 1937, the company moved to its present location at Cambridge Airport, where it was to train hundreds of the RAF pilots who flew in the second World War.
The first I knew of Marshall's was when a Mr Whitely visited me at Priory Mill in the spring of 1943 to tell me that I could join the firm at Chippy airfield. This was followed by a visit from a cheerful individual by the name of Bob Thoday, foreman in charge of the working party at Chippy; apparently he had stopped at Walk Farm to enquire the way and had been greatly taken by one of the Land-Army girls working there. Bob's conversation was more concerned with getting her name and telephone number rather than my own details. Nonetheless, it was agreed that I could start work as an apprentice airframe fitter at the earliest opportunity. Chippy airfield at that time was a satellite of RAF Little Rissington, flying Mark II Airspeed Oxfords and the occasional Avro Anson. An an earlier period, in 1940, I remember cycling past the station and seeing a great many Harvard 1's lined up. In the desperate days of 1940, the British government had apparently placed orders for 20,000 American aircraft as well as much other critically needed materials and weapons from the United States. These Harvards, however, were from some earlier pre-war agreement which saw them on the British training scene at Chippy. The rasp of the Harvard as it passed overhead was to become a familiar sound in the early forties. The Luftwaffe came close to the Chippy station on more than one occasion in 1940, dropping both incendiaries and high-explosives but wherever the bombs dropped they did no material damage. Marshall's working party at Chipping Norton was engaged in the routine maintenance of the Oxfords and in repairing any that crashed, where that was possible. The Oxford (Oxbox in RAF parlance), unlike the ungainly Anson, was a clean-cut aeroplane largely constructed from plywood. A certain amount of skill and considerable experience was required to fly them properly; as a trainer, they fitted the bill admirably for pilots going on to fly multi-engined aircraft in operations. The Oxford first went into service in the RAF as a twin-engined Advanced Trainer in January 1938; by the end of the war, more than 8000 Oxfords had been produced. So far as I am aware, no flying example of the Oxford survives today, although one can be seen in the RAF museum at Hendon. In the long-summer days of 1943 at Chippy airfield, it was to be a particularly pleasant form of bliss to lie on the grass just ahead of the 04-22 runway and view a seemingly endless stream of Oxfords trying to get it right as they went through their daily routine of circuits and bumps. It was said that the Oxbox in the circuit was a pleasant aircraft to fly with a good view and a comfortable speed of 120 mph; "finals" involved a glide approach at 80 mph. At least 150 hours on Oxfords were required before the pilot could make it perform exactly as he wished; occasionally, there could be a problem if the pilot tried to tuck the wheels away too early. Towards the end of the war, the RAF deemed it necessary to fit a device to the undercarriage of the Oxbox to prevent such premature retraction; the lever for lifting the wheels only operated once the oleo legs were fully extended. This modification, however, was not part of Marshall's responsibilities and was carried out by RAF ground-crew. Coming from Freddys shop and normally accustomed to seeing aeroplanes a mile up in the sky, the thought of actually getting paid for working with them seemed almost too good to be true; one of my treasured memories was dipping my head under the wing of an Oxford as I walked into the Bellman hanger on that first day of work at Chippy airfield. Bob Thoday directed me to a great pile of nuts and bolts and duralium (steel-aluminium alloy) pieces in a corner of the hanger and told me to start sorting them out; I remember spending the first couple of days in the hangar doing just that. The Oxford was of wooden stressed skin construction, which meant that about half the Marshall work-force consisted of carpenters (chippies), usually recruits from furniture firms; the other half was made up of airframe fitters, electricians and one or two dope-girls, who attended to the fabric parts of the plane. The engines of the Oxford, which were radial air-cooled 355 hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX's or X's, were taken care of by RAF mechanics, working alongside Marshall personnel in the hanger. In the middle of the morning, I would join the general rush out to the NAAFI van to get tea and cakes.

As the only teenager in the working party, everyone treated me fine ; I was given the nickname `Enoch' from a comedy song then doing the rounds. As for the foreman, Bob Thoday, he proved to be a very decent person who never gave me a moment's cause for concern. My closest pal was Eric Stephenson, a fitter of about twenty who hailed from East Anglia. Eric had a nasty problem with dermatitis, and there was no way of readily escaping from the oil and grease inevitably associated with a fitter's work. Unlike the butcher's shop, where I usually worked with one eye on the clock, at Chippy airfield I would stay well beyond my normal hours just for the love of it. Bob Thoday always called out "who goes home" at the end of the working day; often with considerable reluctance, I would mount my bike to cycle the four miles or so home to Priory Mill. One of my first problems with Marshall's was accumulating a reasonable tool-kit; spanners and such at this stage of the war were both expensive and difficult to acquire. However, my finances were now in a different league; the weekly paypacket had soared from 17/6d to 4.12s; admittedly, about half of this was a subsistence allowance paid to Marshall staff working away from their Cambridge base. The finances and office routines were run by fellow by the name of Len, who as well as giving me my weekly wage, cut my hair into the bargain. Many years later, in the mid-1950's, I ran up against Len in Cambridge, when attending a dress-suit function in the City Hall; Len appeared to be in charge of the cloakroom, and was more than a little mystified when I told him he was once my barber in Chippy. At home, there was some eye-brow raising as the realisation dawned that I was bringing home more money weekly than my father. These were the days when the minimum farm wage was of the order of 2.2s and my father would not have been getting much more than fifty shillings a week. Among the small luxuries permissible, in the new financial climate, was a daily packet of five Woodbines. Not everyone approved of a 14-year old smoking; before long, sitting in the front row of the Picture House in Chippy, to my considerable embarrassment, I was thrown out by an unsympathetic usherette for my youthful smoking activities. Although I was familiar enough with all the usual dials and switches in the cockpit of the Oxford, a couple of buttons covered with red caps and labelled Danger had me puzzled. What I did not know at that time was that these switches were linked to the planes IFF (Idenification, Friend or Foe) radar transmitter, which was located in the tail-end of the fuselage. Radar, of-course, remained a close secret throughout the war, and few people talked about it, even if they did know something of the technical details. As it was, I never had any inkling that the IFF set enabled the Oxford to identify itself as a friendly aircraft on the countrys radar screens. Because of my size, it was relatively easy to work away quite happily in the rear fuselage of the Oxford ; at one time this led to a great deal of dope-spraying cockpit green inside the planes tail-end. The pungent smell of cellulose paint had a certain appeal and I was quite happy working away behind a mask on a spraying session. Tales circulated from time to time of dope-girls losing their reason from over-exposure to dope, although there was no firsthand evidence of this at Chippy; it seemed much more likely that the girls lost their reason from the men chasing them. As well as the work at Chippy airfield, there were occasional trips across to a relief landing ground (RLG) at Akeman Street, a few miles outside the town of Witney, to carry out minor repairs on Oxfords. Apart from the Oxford, my only other aircraft experience at Chippy was with a Miles Martinet, which had crashed somewhere in the neighbourhood without suffering undue damage. The Martinet was used for target-towing; this one probably operated from Enstone airfield, a few miles down the road towards Oxford. It was brought in one day on a Queen Mary and I remember being assigned the task of removing the undercarriage. There was mild panic at a later stage when it dawned on someone that I was the only one in the hanger who knew where some of the different bits and pieces went. After the assembly was completed, I remember being particularly envious of Bob Thoday going off for a long afternoon test-flight towards the south coast with an RAF pilot at the controls. One solution to getting airborne at that time was by joining the Air Training Corps (ATC) and I remember going along to their office in Chippy to enquire about joining. It appears that the enlistment age was 15 years and 3 months at that time and I was told to apply when that age was reached. When at school in Chippy, I had looked with envy at the occasional Grammar school sixth-former strolling along High Street in his smart blue Air-Force uniform; seemingly, there was a Grammar School Flight of the ATC. Further enquiries about ATC possibilities when I joined Marshall's led to the realization that the officer in charge of the Chippy School Flight was none other than a master by the name of Metcalfe. By some twist of fate, this same Metcalfe had been responsible for giving me grief in woodwork classes on a Monday afternoon. The Church of England school had no woodworking facilities; this involved attending the British school once weekly for instruction in this subject. The master was one Metcalfe, who apparently came along from the Grammar school to teach the subject. For whatever reason, my tendon joints and suchlike failed to measure up to expectations and I came to regard Monday afternoons and Mr Metcalfe with some distaste; discovering that he was in charge of local affairs seemed a good reason to steer clear of the ATC. My workmates at Marshall's were a good-natured crowd but I ran into serious problems at home after extending an over-generous invitation to a couple of chippies to come trout-fishing in the waters around Priory Mill; presumably, the invitation was restricted to the mid-week period, when Ralph Peck would be far away in London. Nonetheless, my father, who knew nothing about such arrangements, unceremoniously escorted two would-be fishermen off the premises; they had appeared unexpectedly one evening, complete with the latest in fishing gear, to take me up on an offer of an evening's relaxation. Needless to say, I arrived for work the next morning in a state of some trepidation and embarrassment; fortunately, most work-mates regarded it as huge joke. Aircrashes of one sort or other in the neighbourhood of home were not uncommon. At about the time in August 1942 when I getting busy working for Freddie Soles, there had been a collison between a Wellington on a navigation exercise from Harwell and an Oxford from Chippy in the early hours of the morning. Part of the Oxfords wreckage fell into Church Street, just down the road from Freddies shop. The Wellington came down on a farm a mile or so out of the town in the Over Norton direction. Two other crashes involving Oxfords occurred quite close to home in the months following my start with Marshalls at Chippy airfield. On May 21st.,1943, an Oxford from Chippy (ED 156 of 6 PAFU) piloted by 22 year old Sergeant Eric Ashton went into a spin and crashed near Chapel House, killing the unfortunate pilot. About two months later, on July 22nd 1943, which I recall as a bright, warm summer day, two Oxfords from Chippy ( N4834 & X7254) collided over Chapel House and came crashing down, killing three of the four airman involved. The fourth man came down by parachute and was slightly injured. I remember tales about this airman running about in a field in a state of shock. Coming home from work on the evening of that day, I found a burnt patch of roadway, just beyond the point where the Hook Norton road left the main Chippy to Banbury highway; this marked the point where some of the burning wreckage must have landed. The burnt patch of road was to remain visible for many years after the event. Although I knew nothing of it at the time, statistics released after the war showed that almost 20% of the 8000+ Oxfords built were lost in flying accidents. One evening in late August 1945, just after darkness had descended, there was an agonizing roar overhead at Priory Mill from Merlin engines being violently over-revved ; shortly afterwards came the noise of an impact and the glow of a fire about half a mile away over the fields on Harvey's Heath farm. This fatal crash turned out to be a Mosquito (KB194 of 16 OTU, based at Upper Heyford) ; both the Chippy and Hook Norton fire-brigades turned out to deal with the blaze. The two occupants of the cockpit appeared as black as cinders and about half normal size. Apparently, they were on a navigation exercise with the Mossie but the pilot had evidently lost control for some reason. Much later, I was to learn that they were both New Zealand Flying Officers with distinquished war records which had earned them the DFC Lying in bed on another occcasion, there was the heavy roar of a Wellington passing low overhead; in the mists of the next morning its wreckage and crew were found by workers in a ploughed field of Hughes's farm, about a half-mile distant in the Rollright direction. The Wellington was identified as BK133 and its crew were all members of the Royal Australian Air Force operating out of 21 OTU at Moreton-on-the-Marsh, which would have been several miles away on the heading it was following. Changes at Chippy airfield towards the end of 1943 saw the phasing out of routine maintenance work on Oxford. The Marshall working party now relied on crashed aircraft; no crash, meant no work. I remember lying on the airfield grass with other Marshall workers in December watching an Oxford circling round and round. Apparently, the landing gear would not lock down and it eventually made a wheels-up landing. Apart from a couple of buckled airscrews and splintered woodwork on the underside, no great damage done; an ideal but temporary solution to the employment problem so far as Marshall's were concerned. Work for Marshall's at Chippy finally ran out soon after Christmas 1943 ; it then became necessary for me to move to Little Rissington (Rizzi), where a portly and humourless character by the name of Harry Pratt was in charge of the work-force. Harry had been in the antique business pre-war and clearly was quite different from the happy-go-lucky, youthful, Bob Thoday; I quickly learnt to keep well out of Harry's way otherwise he would undoubtedly find some way to spoil my day. On one occasion, he stopped me on the hanger floor and asked me to recite Newton's three laws of mechanics. Not suprisingly, Newton and his laws were probably the last thing on my mind at the time; it was much more likely to be Mary Hale, a particularly attractive dope-girl who had recently joined the work-force at Rizzi. Mary was in her thirties, married with a husband serving somewhere in the forces, who occasionally gave me a friendly kiss and hug. For a while after coming to Rizzi, I continued to hope that Bob Thoday's promise to organize a post with him working on Flying Fortresses somewhere in East Anglia would materialize; much to my regret, although perhaps not unexpectedly, I was never to hear or see Bob again. Early days at Little Rissington saw me in lodgings in the picturesque village of Bourton-on-the-Water; the same village was to play a part in life's progress at a later date, with the death of my father in its cottage hospital in 1972. In Bourton, one of my co-lodgers was a Marshall fitter by the name of Ray Hansom, whose architect grandfather invented the Hansom cab in 1882. To my general dismay, I found myself sharing a bed-room with a fitter who had a glass eye, and had to endure the nightly ritual of seeing this eye coming out and being placed on the table between the beds. It was at Rizzi that some of my earliest lectures on reproduction were to take place. Two of the chippies in the Marshall working party, Alf Mitchell and a pretty brunette by the name of Betty, had recently been married. In course of a learned discussion with Alf, while we were both working on the same Oxford, I provided Alf with what I knew to be key information on the timing of the safe-period in the human menstrual cycle. A few days later, I was assailed by a normally placid and good-humoured Betty for disseminating misinformation to her husband; for whatever reason, Betty's version of physiological and endocrinological events were completely at odds with the facts. In the event, the facts supplied to Alf were accurate enough, having come straight from the latest paperback I had purchased in Blackwell's bookshop in Oxford; this dealt at length with Knaus's 1934 book Periodic Fertility and Sterility in Women which was one of the early works on the human menstrual cycle. Trips on the double-decker 'bus to Oxford on the occasional weekend almost always found me browsing through books in the well-stocked science section of Blackwell's. At that time, as well as my interests in human biology, I was particularly taken with the works of the astrophysicist Sir James Jeans and his popular expositions of physical and astronomical theories.