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The History of Grateley

Part twelve: The Second World War 

1939-1946
In 1940 the phoney war was over and the Battle of Britain started and victory over the German onslaught, but England was still subjected to the Blitz. Churchill became Prime Minister of England and Mr WT Crook remained Chairman of the Grateley Parish Meeting.

Food, clothing and petrol were now rationed but the later severe shortages were not yet realised. Beer had been increased in price to 9d, about the same as a half dozen eggs. A bricklayer still earned about £4 a week, about a fifth of a GP's salary of £1094 per annum. The basic rate of income tax was raised to 8s 6d (c. 43%). A pair of 'Land Girl' breeches cost 17s 6d (87p). For those unaware of these times, much of the farm labour was carried out by women (Land Girls) as a national service. One wonders how many there were in Grateley.

An enemy plane dropped bombs near Grateley Station and then Red Post Bridge on 26th March 1941 before crashing near Eastover Farm at Abbots Ann, killing three of the crew. They were buried, temporarily, in the Services corner of the Andover Cemetery (Andover's Wartime Years, JM Harris). I have since heard from a local person who was here at the time that the bombs dropped near Dibden Cottages, one in a dung heap that did not explode (the bomb, that is).

The war now became really global with America entering the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941; in Africa the Australian and British troops captured Tobruk and the German Army invaded Russia.

From the same reference (Harris) I found that soldiers from Grateley Camp attended dances at Amport Hut where WAAFs from H.Q. Maintenance Command, housed in Amport House, went with airmen from Thruxton and, sometimes, American servicemen from Tidworth. I should imagine that there were many more American airmen in the area nearer D-Day as they had occupied most of the surrounding airfields.

Grateley Camp in its early stages, I am told, was a camp for Italian prisoners of war. I can find no official record of the camp. Photographs of military areas at that time would have been forbidden and the availability of photographic supplies for the general population would have very restricted. However, there was some recollection that the Italians POW's had a small musical band that would perform at some village gatherings. These POW's were, like many other Italian POW's elsewhere, employed on the land as agricultural workers and could often be seen in trucks being transported from camp to fields.

At this low time in the war for England, the Parish Meeting held one meeting in the year at which it was resolved that Mr Chivers would be Air Raid Warden in place of Mr Warren who was standing down on the grounds of ill health. It was further resolved that an additional stirrup pump be located in the Post Office.

The world news in 1942 ranged from the uplifting news of the battle of El Alamein to the despair of the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese and the horror of the deaths of 50,000 in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Here, in Grateley, a bottle of whisky increased in price from 17/6 (63p) to 23s (£1.30).

The Parish Meeting had now started to consider the provision of housing for the post war period.

1943 saw the surrender of German forces at Stalingrad, Mussolini's fall from power and the British Air Force struck at the heart of German industry by bombing the Möhne Dam.

At home the price of beer had risen from 1s to 1s 1d and the average weekly wage for males increased to £6.1s.3d (£6.06p) from £5.13s (£5.65). Women were not so well paid at £3.2s.2d (£3.41p), a rise from £2.18s.6d (£2.92p) from this she could buy a cashmere twin set £1.86p and a pair of silk stockings for 75p.

The Parish Meeting was becoming more involved in policies affecting the Parish. In 1943 the housing needs of returning servicemen had to be addressed. The considered need in this category was for 4 additional houses in the village with an additional 2 at the station. The provision of mains water was fully discussed but shelved until after the war.

Later, Grateley, like many areas within reach of the south coast ports, became a munitions store for part of the invasion force involved in Operation Overlord. The Drove, it appears, was one of the major locations. There was a small series of explosions in that area that caused some alarm in the village, to the extent that one recently born child was bundled into a hastily emptied drawer from a chest-of-drawers and the drawer replaced to protect the child.

Tanks and Army vehicles were commonplace in the village at this time, such that the memorial Horse Chestnut tree in the middle of the road at the junction by the school and Hope Cottage was removed so that they could more easily manoeuvre the large vehicles around the corner. Some people say it just died but the ones outside the Plough and West End Cottages are still thriving. The corner is still difficult to get around. For those who do not know the Horse Chestnut trees were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.

One evening a tank went up the bank in Wallop Road (now Pond Lane) and hit the 'conker' tree outside Glebelands and overturned. The crew were invited in by Mrs Crook and given cups of tea. On them leaving, trails of oil were found and the living room carpet ruined with oil stains. The tree is still there but a branch fell off last year!

1944 was the year of D-Day landings in Normandy, the allied entry of Rome and Paris. It was also the year when the first intercontinental ballistic missile, in the form of the V2 rocket, was used: the target being London.

The price of a bottle of whisky had now risen to 25s 9d (£1.29p); an increase of 115% since the start of the war. A skirt could be bought for £2.50p on the production of 6 clothing coupons.

The major concern of the Parish Meeting of this year was the dangerous state of the wooden top covering the drain at the entrance to Gollard Path!

D-Day Preparations and Grateley
Grateley and its environs were used as a massive storage area for men and munitions prior to the transfer to the marshalling areas around the ports of Portsmouth and Southampton.

The woods at the top of Georgia Lane and the Drove were repositories for men and materiel, whilst the lanes were filled with parked military vehicles. The extensive sidings at Grateley Station facilitated all this. These sidings, on the north side of the track, remained until the 1970's. Where Locke Close now is was a large ammunition and arms storage area. All of this was part of Grateley Camp that covered the area that is now Campbell Close.

The surrounding parishes were equally involved, with airfields manned for the main assault by the American USAAF 307th Fighter Group which moved into Andover. The Americans also took over Thruxton airfield in February 1944, when the 306th Fighter Group of Thunderbolts moved in.

Early in 1944 Middle Wallop airfield housed the American Army Air Force 12th, 15th, 107th and 109th squadrons.

Chilbolton airfield served two roles in this period. It was taken over by the USAAF 368th Fighter Group in March of 1944 and, after the Group moved to France in mid June, used for receiving transport planes of American wounded for transfer to the large Field Hospital just outside nearby Stockbridge. I have since heard that the hospital was off the main Winchester/Stockbridge road at the top of the hill. This momentous time seems to have disappeared with little physical evidence of the vast number of men and material that lived for a short time in Grateley.

The odd grenade and small arms ammunition being found, usually by children to the consternation of the adults, are the sole reminders of the time. With the restrictions on photography there seems to be little pictorial record of those times in this area.

If anybody reading this has any record that they are willing to loan for a short time please contact the Webmaster of the Grateley website by clicking here.

There is a roll of honour in the parish church of those who fell during WW II beside that for the roll of WW I, which is recorded elsewhere on this site.

The following are remembered:
WJ Ayres, Pte. Hampshire Regiment
PJ Ayres, Pte. Hampshire Regiment
E Futcher, Pte. Dorset Regiment
R Grant, S/QMS. Royal Army Service Corps
RB Mansell, CB, Air Vice Marshall Royal Air Force
AD Shears, LAC. Royal Air Force
FG Shipsey, Gunner Royal Artillery
TD Sampson, Sgt. Royal Air Force

The connection of Air Vice Marshal Mansell with Grateley is difficult to establish. AVM Mansell has his name on the Ottawa Memorial to "the memory of men and women of the Air Forces of the British Commonwealth and Empire who gave their lives in Canada and the USA and in neighbouring lands having no known grave". I do not know the circumstances of his death, on 22nd January 1945 at the age of 48. He was the son of Alfred and Laura Mansell of Bristol and was married to Mabel Mansell of Somerset. At the time of his death he was serving as Director of Technical Services, Washington. A man of long service to his country having also served in the Gloucester Regiment and Royal Flying Corps in the 1914 - 1918 War.

The other fallen of Grateley are at rest in various parts of the world such as Kanchanaburi (Fred Shipsey), near Bangkok in Thailand, Ambon (Arthur Shears) in Indonesia, Calvados (Eric Futcher) and Bayeux (W. Ayres) in France and Limberg, Holland (P. Ayres). They came from families of long standing in the parish.

1945 brought the end of the war in Europe, which was celebrated on VE Day by street parties all over England but record of any such thing in Grateley being absent. Hitler committed suicide and the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. In the same year the Andover Rural District Council agreed to the provision of 4 houses to be built during the first two years after the war.

In 1946 the Meeting was now considering the provision of a library and lectures to be held in the Village Hall, which would necessitate electric light and heating. As there was no mains electricity connected this problem was to be addressed.

The provision of School Meals was initiated. It appears that the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) would provide a canteen service for the school. Finally, 'Victory Celebrations' were to be investigated by a committee composed of Mrs Boutcher, Col. Butler, Mr. T. Crook, Mr Sprackland , Mr Hoare and the Chairman (R. Cook). Later, Andover Rural District Council had notified the meeting that six houses would now be built in this year.

The provision of lectures was a non-starter and it was suggested that people could attend the weekly lectures in Andover provided by the Andover Community Association.

More and more was being taken on by the Parish Meeting. The Meeting was now agitating for mains water, the possible purchase (from Mr Shaw Porter) of 2 to 3 acres of land behind the Dell for playing fields. Mr Shaw Porter and Mrs Boutcher were not willing to lend or sell. Mr. Shearing loaned the football field to the village. It was suggested that the situation be reviewed on the arrival of the new owner of Church Farm. I can only assume that Church Farm is now Manor Farm.

The formation of the Parish Council occurred in this year (1946). The constitution was based on the conditions of the Local Government Act of 1933. Grateley always appeared to be late in invoking various Acts of Parliament. The council was to consist of 7 elected members, one more than the present council.

Electric light to the Village Hut was unable to be provided by the Wessex Electricity Company because the revenue from use would not cover the initial outlay. The Wessex Electricity Company quoted £80 for installation, this sum was guaranteed by 8 members of the parish. Mrs Boutcher made the offer of trees to the number required for the conveyance of power lines from the company's distribution point to the hut. At the last minute the company pulled out saying that they were unable to carry out the work. Back to the drawing board, Mr Sprackland now was to seek a new contractor.

The bridge at the railway was under discussion but the Railway Company felt that nothing could be done due to the shortage of labour and materials. Things have not changed very much.

The building of a new school on a site to the West of the Village away from the cemetery and smells of the factory was brought before the Meeting at the suggestion of the School Managers. The Meeting was definitely opposed to this site. It is probably worth explaining about the smells from the factory mentioned above. Between the station and the village on the south side of the railway line there was a factory for the rendering of animal carcasses. In those days, before the Environmental Protection Acts, some pretty strong odours were released at times.

The last meeting of the parish before becoming a Council was held in December 1946 at which nominations were received for the election of councillors at the meeting. It appears that there was some interest by parishioners as there were over twenty at the meeting. The Chairman (Reg. Cook) seemed to stay in place and the election was then for 6 vacancies. There were 15 valid nominations and, as a matter of interest, the following were elected by a show of hands: Mr Boutcher, Mrs Butler, Mr WT Crook, Mr Sprackland and Mr H Hoare. It is to interesting to note that Mrs Butler was elected whereas her nominated husband, Col Butler, was not. However, he was, at the first meeting of the Council in 1947, appointed Clerk to the Council. 

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