The history of Knaphill owes a great deal to the people who live here; to long established residents and some more recent arrivals. KRA’s Memory Lane articles are based on the stories of real people who have made their home in Knaphill. When we were preparing the article ‘The Men and the Boys’, some of the wives overheard our conversations and they asked us to remember that wartime is not just about the exploits of the men! So we went back to record some of their wartime experiences; recollections of rationing, joining the Women’s Forces or doing ‘war work’, because the upheavals of 1939 – 45 were important for women too.
Josie Plant was born in Knaphill in 1937. “My dad, Joseph Plant, was a soldier, posted to Inkerman Barracks with The Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He met and fell in love with my Mum, Joan (Frost). Once War was declared he went off to fight, and was reported “missing” in 1940; I think we all thought we’d never see him again. It was not until 1943 that Mum was notified he was being held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. On the day my Dad came home, my cousin Neil and I saw a chap coming down Anchor Hill, I didn’t know who he was; I didn’t know it was my Dad. Mum and the family put on a big party for him and made banners saying – ‘Welcome Home Joe’. He didn’t talk about it a lot, but we knew he’d had a terrible time at ‘Stalag XX1D’ prison camp.
I was only a kid, but I remember the ‘Doodle Bugs’ – bombs that would cut out and stop; some landed in Knaphill, the houses would shake. We often slept in the cupboard under the stairs (for ‘protection’ from the bombs) and later we had an ‘Anderson Shelter’ in the front room. It was like a big metal cage that you crawled under. In the first year after the war it was still there; we threw a cloth over it and used it like a table for my birthday party.”
Grace Ludlow (nee Small) was born in 1918 and from the age of 5-12, by coincidence, lived in the very same house Josie was born in years later. Grace’s father was a well know local nurseryman, renowned for his roses. “I used to cycle down to our Village Hall for dances. I met my Joe when he was serving in the ‘Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ stationed at Blackdown Barracks. My Dad was none too pleased that I was being ‘courted’ by a soldier but I knew he was the one for me. We got married in 1939 and Joe was one of the first to leave for war. He had a gift for languages so he was seconded to ‘Intelligence’ and he didn’t get much home leave all through the war.
He was injured before Dunkirk and brought home on a ‘hospital ship’. Once he recovered he was sent to the Far East, down the Burma Road and he was briefly a Japanese prisoner of war, but managed to escape. Talking about it now you can hardly believe what the soldiers went through.
While Joe was away I moved back to live with my parents in West End, and I worked at the bakery in St Johns, and in the evenings I was out in my tin hat as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Volunteer. I had to make sure everyone’s windows were ‘Blacked out’; so the bombers wouldn’t see us.
The siren at Brookwood Hospital often warned of attacks. Once a fighter plan crashed on the Recreation Ground at West End Village and my middle brother Alf found a machine gun in the wreckage. He brought it home, and sat with it propped it up on the kitchen table until Dad shouted – Get that back where you got it from!”
Patricia Norman was twenty-two when war started and was living in Bath, Somerset then. Pat worked as a civilian at the Admiralty. She had to sign the Official Secrets’ Act. But despite the coded messages, teleprinter and a secret ‘phone, Pat said it was often boring.
Bath’s historic buildings were bombed as part of Hitler’s “Spite Raids”, and a bomb dropped very close to Pat’s (less historic) home. She also remembered the long years of rationing. When a food parcel from Australia Pat and her mother were overjoyed to have dried egg powder, jelly crystals and tinned fruit; it was years before she could eat a fresh egg without feeling guilty!
Di Blair grew up in Mitcham. Aged fourteen, in 1938, she started full time work as a clerk at Conservative Central Office in Westminster. At that time Britain was not ready for war, so when Chamberlain (the Conservative Prime Minister) came back from Munich with ‘peace’ secured it was a great relief to the British public. Thousands sent him letters of gratitude and Di’s office had the job of acknowledging every one of them.War came, and for a while Di continued to work at Central Office. On one occasion Di actually spoke to Winston Churchill! She had to take an urgent message by hand and as Di approached he said “Is that for me my dear?”…..to which she calmly replied “Yes sir.”
Di saw a poster – ‘Join the WRNS’. She join-up in June 1942, aged just 18. Initially as a ‘Wren’ within the Fleet Air Arm, but later as an ‘Air Mechanic – Ordnance’ (AM-O). She was taught how to strip down and repair all manner of small arms and ground defence weapons– rifles, Bren guns, Machine Guns. Most of the time she was based near Portsmouth; so it will be no surprise that she met and later married a sailor; she married Danny Blair, who features in one of our ‘The Men & the Boys’ articles.
Life was not easy for the girls who were at home. Soon after war started Joan Clark went to work in an aircraft factory, making parts for ‘Spitfires’. The bombs, time spent in the air raid shelters, the hardships, they were all part of everyday life and shortages meant Joan, like everyone else, had to adapt and cope. When Joan got married in 1941, she chose blue cloth for her wedding dress; it had to be ‘practical’, not just for one day!
Like other forces wives the early years of her married life were mostly spent apart from her husband. John was posted to Africa in 1943, when Joan was heavily pregnant. She was able to write and send photos, but it was nearly three years before he got home to see her again and to see their son for the first time. But as Joan said…..”at least I was one of the fortunate ones, my husband returned safely”.
Thank you to everyone who has shared their memories with us for these articles.
As part of the KRA’s Memory Lane series in our Newsletters we have met many local residents and they have kindly shared with today’s readers their memories of Knaphill’s past. At this time of Remembrance we are putting a special series of Memory Lane articles on the website that recalled the wartime memories of many of today’s Knaphill residents: Part 1 of ‘The Men & the Boys’
Derek Cloak has lived most of his life in Knaphill. He was just nine when the war started and has vivid memories of wartime life in and around Oak Tree Road. With Aldershot, Inkerman Barracks and many other military and strategic sites close by, Knaphill had its share of incidents to excite the imagination of schoolboys growing up in those war years.
Many London schools arranged for children to be evacuated out into the country and as many as five evacuees, plus Derek, his sister and Mum & Dad lived at their house. Most of them were girls who were evacuated from Mayfield Girls’ School in Wimbledon. Derek’s Mother was a good organizer and the family always made the other children welcome. Many remained friends long after the war. Derek explained that for youngsters these were exciting times; they didn’t understand the risks and the dangers, they saw it as more of an adventure.
The A322 always seems to be busy now, but in the war years it was often busy with long convoys of Military Vehicles heading out along the Bagshot Road usually towards Bisley. Sometimes the trucks had to stop and the Mums from Oak Tree Road would make pots of tea to take to the troops while they waited.
Derek’s father was a Fire Warden and was on duty on several nights a week, with no street lights and the ‘black out’, and thankfully not too many major problems in Knaphill. But in 1940 many local people looked across from the top of Anchor Hill and could see the light of the fires blazing far away in London at the time of the Blitz.
War planes seemed to have been quite a common sight in the skies above Knaphill. One day the Mums were chatting and the children were playing in the front garden, when a couple of fighter planes flew low overhead engaged in a ‘dog fight’ and cartridges started falling all around. Derek remembered his Mother sending the children indoors and ushering them into the cupboard under the stairs….. for safety!! The British Spitfire plane was shot down. The pilot bailed out and came down near to Guildford, but the plane crashed on Inkerman Barracks in St Johns, killing several Canadian soldiers stationed there.
One Saturday afternoon when Derek and his mates were at ‘the pictures’ at the Brookwood Hospital Social Centre they heard a plane in trouble overhead. The excited youngsters ran to see what was happening. It was a twin crew Mosquito and it crashed along the Lower Guildford Road; both of the crew were killed. That day Eric Fagence was at a football match on the Brookwood Farm playing fields and he remembered the same incident. Eric also recalled one of the German Luftwaffe Heinkels that crashed near to West End/Chobham. He went on the bus to see the wreckage, but left his gas mask up there and was sent back to retrieve it! Gas masks were compulsory, and had to be carried at all times. The photograph shows Derek aged about 8 or 9 in about 1940 and apparently the cord across his coat is tied to his gas mask.
In another incident a German Bomber was over Knaphill in daylight with British planes chasing it. The children were in school but could hear the bomber jettisoning its load nearby, and local Mothers ran up to the village fearing Knaphill School had been hit. The school was missed, but a house was flattened off the Bagshot Road and apparently thirteen more bombs were dropped over Brookwood Cemetery.
The war raged in Europe, but for the young boys like Derek and Eric at home much of life went on as normal and it seemed to be an exciting time. They had vivid memories of wartime Knaphill and we appreciate their sharing these recollections with us.
Knaphill Care is our local Knaphill “Good Neighbour Scheme”. It offers help to residents finding everyday tasks difficult: help with shopping, transport to doctors and hospital appointments, collecting prescriptions and small DIY jobs. Volunteers give an occasional hour or two to help others in the community and the help they give is a vital source of independence to many local residents.
Knaphill Care is eager to hear from people who would like to become Knaphill Care Volunteers, especially drivers willing to take someone to a local appointment. They also need help from non-drivers, to be an occasional ‘Duty Officer’, answering calls to the Help Line from local people, and then finding a volunteer from the KC list to provide the help needed. There is no pressure to accept jobs. What you do is up to you and all expenses incurred are reimbursed.
Right now Knaphill Care is looking for someone with secretarial experience to step into the role of Secretary to the Committee. The recruit could focus on the role of Secretary; they may not wish to get involved with being a Volunteer or a Duty Officer. The Committee meets about four times a year. This job would be ideal for someone who likes to help ‘behind the scenes’ and who has administrative experience.
For further information about general volunteering or the particular role of Secretary please telephone Margaret Stammers on 01483 797422.
You can make a real and important contribution to the local community by giving up just a little of your time. To find out more about Knaphill Care, the role of the Volunteers and the kinds of help on offer, see their pages on the Window on Woking Community website:
The assault happened at around 5pm on Wednesday, 6 October when an 18-year-old student and a 15-year-old girl were making their way across the football pitch in Sythwood Park. A group of youths in the park attempted to kick a beer can at the couple and verbally abused them as they passed by. One member of the group pulled the girl’s school bag from her shoulder and tipped out its contents onto the ground, urinated on the bag and then set fire to it.
The schoolgirl’s boyfriend phoned police and following this activity two of the gang set upon the victim, punching him to the face. The teenager fell and the suspects continued to punch and kick him on the ground. The victim’s girlfriend tried to pull the offenders away but was then attacked herself and was pushed down to the floor.
As a result of the assault the 18-year-old suffered a broken jaw and the 15-year-old suffered slight cuts and bruises.
Cara Jowett investigating said: “This was a totally unprovoked attack in broad daylight on a young couple who were just going about their everyday business, making their way home after school. It was a vicious assault which led to serious facial injuries and Surrey Police will not tolerate this type of brazen violence in our neighbourhoods.
“I am asking anyone who may have been in the vicinity at the time of this despicable offence to contact officers with any information – there are a number of local people who use the area for dog walking and there may well have been people in the locality who use the route to walk home at the end of their working day.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Surrey Police on 0845 125 2222 quoting reference WK/10/7283. Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously and free of charge on 0800 555 111.
Two 17-year-old youths from the Woking area are currently on bail pending further enquiries. They are due back to report back at Guildford police station on Thursday, 4 November 2010
Following the huge success of last year’s event the “Steam Trains & Fair Organs Oktoberfest” will be taking place on Sunday October 17th from 12 noon to 5pm in the grounds of the Mizens Railway, Barrs Lane, Knaphill.
This local day out with a difference will offer not only the chance to enjoy rides on the mile long 7 ¼ in gauge miniature steam railway but also to see and hear some magnificent vintage mechanical fairground organs which will be attending as part of a unique festival. Up to six different instruments will be playing throughout the day around the site.
This fairground organ festival attracts “enthusiasts” from far and wide. Last year saw visitors travelling from as far away as Cornwall and Scotland. There was also a contingent of visitors from Holland who had made the journey specially to attend.
One of the antique mechanical organs this year will itself be on a first time visit to the UK and its owner is travelling from his home in Munich, Germany with the organ specially to attend the event. This is a local event which is fast becoming one that is famous internationally among devotees of these mechanical musical masterpieces from the past.
To add to the atmosphere all the trains in service on this special day will be hauled by steam locomotives. The sights and sounds of the old time organs combined with the whistles from the steam engines and the aroma of steam coal and hot oil should prove quite a nostalgic cocktail for the senses.
With an old time children’s fun fair, crafts stalls and demonstrations, an authentic Oktoberfest style Bockwurst food stall and a beer tent provided by The Garibaldi Pub to complete the scene, there will be something for all the family. There is free parking on site and facilities for the disabled.
Admission £1.00 per person. A Souvenir Programme will also be available to purchase.
For more information and to view some great photographs taken at last year’s Oktoberfest go to www.mizensrailway.co.uk and click on “programme 2010”. Under the Oktoberfest heading is a link to two sets of great photos which capture the atmosphere of last year’s event.
Sincere thanks to Paul Kirrage for organising this unique event and to Mizens Railway for hosting it at their beautiful site in Knaphill.
Photographs reproduced by kind permission of Paul Kirrage & Ron Dewar (Mizens).
Welcome to Memory Lane Knaphill, a special view of Knaphill’s history. Over the years the Residents’ Association have met many of Knaphill’s ‘senior citizens’. Based on their memories of the Knaphill of their youth, KRA put together a series of articles in our quarterly Newsletters called Memory Lane, Knaphill. These articles look at the history of Knaphill through the recollections of people who lived in the area during the last century.
1. Memories of the life in Knaphill in the early years of the last century – from 1912
When Alan Frost was born at home in Sunnyside Terrace in 1912, Knaphill was a rural village with fields and countryside all around, far fewer houses and a bustling village centre. Alan was the second to youngest of 13 children. They had ‘two and a half bedrooms’ (with the living room making space for extra beds at night), one tap with only cold water, no bathroom, (but a galvanized bath for use on ‘bath night’), an outside ‘privy’ but a good size garden where they grew vegetables throughout the year. Daily life was simple with none of the comforts we take for granted, but Alan remembered his Mother preparing chunks of bread and dripping for supper and the cosy warmth of their small house.
Sadly Alan’s father died when Alan was only four and a half years old. His father had been a postman, working from Belchers, which was the Post Office in Knaphill village (shown in the postcard above). Widow’s pensions were very small and ‘benefits’ non existent in those days, so the family and good neighbours had to rally round and help each other. Alan remembered his older brothers and sisters having to look after the little ones, so when he started school later that year he walked across the common to Knaphill Council School with his big sisters keeping a watchful eye on him.
Alan had clear memories of his school days, the inkwells and straight nib pens, the daily arithmetic and times tables to be learnt and the strict discipline. Alan didn’t think he really liked school very much and as soon as he was able to he knew he wanted to earn some money to help at home. By the time he was ten he had an after school ‘job’ chopping wood for kindling, bringing in the coal and gardening for the Doctor at the Knaphill Surgery. Of the one shilling a week he earned most went to his mother, but one penny was for Alan to keep. He remembered that he usually spent it on creamy toffee from one of the many confectioners in the village.
In those days full time work usually started by the age of fourteen and Alan went out to find a job for himself by asking the local farmers if they had any work for a lad. He found a job at a small dairy and mixed farm in Pirbright, helping to milk the cows and then going round delivering the milk to the local houses. He learnt to drive a pony and trap, loaded with churns, and carefully ladled the fresh milk into a jug at each kitchen door on the morning milk round. He had to get up at 5.30 a.m. and walk to Pirbright ready to start at 7.00. He remembered his hob nail boots and frequently getting winter chill blains on his cold feet. Later on he saved up to get an old bicycle and that gave him an extra bit of time in bed and warmer toes!
After two years Alan went to work at ‘Grimditch & Webb Butchers’ on the High Street in Knaphill to learn a trade. In the 1920’s and 30’s when Alan started work there were about fifty shops in the centre of the village, with four butchers alone. There were also two slaughterhouses, so cattle, sheep and pigs were a common sight in ‘Mr. Moore’s’ yard at the back of the High Street. Alan explained that there was plenty of demand for fresh meat as shopping habits were different then; with no refrigerators in people’s homes, households would usually buy fresh food a ‘day at a time’.
Alan met and courted his wife May in Knaphill. Like many young girls at that time she had moved to the area to work in domestic service. They spent most of their married life in Highclere Road, living, working and bringing up their family in Knaphill and Alan stayed in the meat trade until he retired.
Mrs Marjorie Kingsbury (nee Harding b.1913) also remembered growing up in Knaphill, and spending many hours helping on the family farm. The farm house was ‘High Clere’ (illustrated to the left; where the pet shop is now), with agricultural land, stables, cowsheds and fields close to the centre of the village. There was no electricity when she was a young girl so what lighting there was came from paraffin lamps and gas lights.
Listening to Mrs Kingsbury’s vivid recollection of the layout of the village and the wide range of shops spread along the High Street and piecing together the images captured in postcards and photographs of those years it is easy to image that very different Knaphill of the years around the First World War and the early 1920’s.
There were several providers of grocery provisions, including the Co-operative Society, Wilsons, Means and ‘The International’. Grimditch & Webb and Moore’s were just two of the butchers shops, with Moore’s large slaughterhouse and yards at the back and livestock in pens awaiting their fate. There was a small dairy selling fresh milk, and Miss Mingay’s shop sold wet fish and fresh vegetables. The main bakers was Pickards, with ‘bake houses’ behind the shop, so there was sometimes a sweet smell of cakes and bread being baked to compete with some of the less pleasant smells of the farms and animals. (The Knaphill memories we hear are not of a ‘picture postcard’ village, it seems to have been a working centre, with ‘muck and manure’ to avoid stepping in when walking through the centre).
The village ironmongers were F.G. Rice’s. They had all manner of tools and garden implements, nails and nuts and bolts, (sold by weight) downstairs and china and glassware upstairs, plus a coal yard at the back. Most ladies made their own clothes and sewing was a valued skill so there were several suppliers of cloth and sewing items. Ruglys’ was one of the popular drapers and also had a newsagent. There were several gent’s outfitters (including Humphries) and for the ladies a number of dressmakers who made clothes to order, often working from home. Other shops included Harvey’s the pharmacists, Belchers which was the Post Office and stationers with a small telegraph office (to receive telegrams) inside and the sorting office attached to the side of the shop. Trotters was the cycle repair shop, where you could take the early ‘batteries’ for the old crystal sets once a week to be ‘recharged’. The cobblers and shoe shop was Mr Hill’s and Forcett’s had the rag-and-bone yard. There were also several churches and public houses at the top of the hill and out along the roads leaving the centre of the village; there seemed to have been almost everything a family would need within walking distance of home.
There were open spaces between the shops, with a few cottages, houses (some with small ‘shops’ in their front room), gardens, plots for vegetables, bee hives, orchards and then fields out to Chobham Road and down Anchor Hill (see the postcard to the right). Listening to Alan and to Mrs Kingsbury’s memories one builds up a picture of Knaphill as a thriving rural village with Woking and the wider world too far away to be of very much concern to those who grew up in the Knaphill of the 1920’s.
We have also met other residents who remember other aspects of village life……. Knaphill people have many wonderful stories to tell which can help us to understand the history of our ever-changing village….the sports clubs, churches, school days in Knaphill, the hey day of the Brookwood Hospital and much more……. We will tell you about them in future articles…….
Sadly in the years since the original preparation of this article in 2006, Alan Frost and Mrs Kingsbury have died. KRA were pleased to have been able to share some of their memories and to go on to share our notes of their memories with you.
Wednesday 4th August – Submit your comments to Woking Borough Council.If you wish to make comments on the Sainsbury’s Extension Plan (PLAN/2010/0600)
we suggest you submit them direct to the Case Officer, James Hutchison by email:
Several KRA members have reported to us that the facility to ‘Submit Comments’ via the Plan on the Woking Borough Council (WBC) website is ‘not working’, ‘not letting me add a comment’. The difficulty in using this facility has been acknowledged by WBC’s IT Department and it is apparently going to be updated over the coming months. But until the access is made simpler and easier, this is yet another flaw in WBC’s ‘Statement of Community Involvement’ (SCI). How will the Council know what local people’s views are on Planning Applications if we cannot easily submit them.
Recently Knaphill residents who live close to the Sainsbury’s Store received a letter from Sainsbury’s advising them that a Planning Application to extend the Brookwood (Knaphill) Store was to be submitted to Woking Borough Council. That application has now been made and details of the proposals posted on the Council’s website.
Then you need to key in the Application Reference : PLAN/2010/0600
There is growing concern in the village about how an application for a development of this size and nature can be submitted without Sainsbury’s giving the local community an opportunity to properly understand or be adequately consulted. The KRA feels that there needs to be far greater openness, a full process of consultation with the people of Knaphill and clearer community involvement in the planning process.
Questions are being raised on matters like:
How large will the extended store be? What types of goods will the extended store sell? What will happen to Knaphill Village if Sainsbury’s grows even bigger? What about the extra cars and traffic?
Now that fuller details of the development are emerging, a number of more specific issues are also starting to raise concern:
Noise – the application will generate more cars, more lorries and more service yard activity and a new area of car parking is proposed immediately adjacent to existing houses in Hampton Close. However, Sainsbury’s have not produced a report which assesses the noise impact on neighbouring residents.
Retail Impact – it would appear that Woking Borough Council has not asked Sainsbury’s to submit a full “retail impact assessment” that would demonstrate how this development could affect existing businesses within the village and adjoining areas.
Loss of Trees – the application appears to involve the felling of a large number of established trees within the existing car park.
Traffic – the application appears to suggest that the additional traffic generated by the store will result in traffic problems on the A322 and that a road widening scheme is required to deal with this.
How can an application for a development of this size and nature be submitted without Sainsbury’s giving the local community of Knaphill an opportunity to properly understand or be adequately consulted.
To live up to its ‘Statement of Community Involvement’ KRA feels that Woking Borough Council should arrange for The Vyne Community Centre in Knaphill to be available at convenient times during the next few weeks and invite Sainsburys to put a full display, exhibition, with models, plans and detailed information about the Sainsbury’s expansion; followed by a full period of consultation and discussion and a Public Meeting where all points of view can be expressed.