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Joseph Arch 


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by Tony Talliss

I was only 6 in 1940 when Coventry was bombed. By 1942 I was reading daily newspapers by myself and following the war in North Africa. The most memorable being the arrows showing the German retreats!

I watched as workmen drove tall wooden posts into the meadows upstream of the bridge on the Warwick side. These were to prevent German gliders with their paratroops landing safely. I saw the brick pill boxes being built at the bridge to defend it in case of invasion. They were not taken down for many years after the war ended.

I was admitted to Barford School on the 2nd September 1940 and lived next to Mrs Bister in the half-timbered cottage in Church Street, opposite the Memorial Hall.

The Pound was still open at this time. The police station was near Joseph Arch’s cottage. Mr Worrall, the blacksmith made me a metal hoop that cost my father one shilling. We often watched him shoe horses when we passed the forge on our way home. I can still smell the stench of burning hooves! I remember the very pretty thatched cottage at the Hareway Lane corner opposite the Lawes family home. The thatch almost reached the ground.

Once after school with other boys I went along the river bank to scrump apples, the village policeman was waiting for us at the bridge and gave each of us a clip around the ear as we passed him. He also told our fathers! Mr Twigger, the Headmaster, used to send us senior boys in class time to the allotments to work on them. He would visit us later on his bicycle. I think he sold the produce to parents. At school the poorest boys wore Wellington boots, often without socks. In winter senior boys were made to stoke the boiler. They placed jacket potatoes on top to cool for break time. We had to carve our initials in them to claim them. I stopped taking mine after Fred Ireland changed my 'T.T'. carving into 'F.I'. and ate my potato!

Because I lived in Barford I could not attend the Humber Coventry factory Christmas party for children of employees so I received a present instead. This was a construction kit of a Hampden Bomber. Father made it as it was considered “too old for me.” We boys became experts at aircraft recognition, both British and German. The German aircraft also had a strange throbbing drone noise to their engines. That was the most reliable way to tell the difference. The speeds were slow so we had plenty of time to watch the bombers. I remember the Home Guard hiding in the front gardens of the village practicing street fighting. They were in uniform at that time.

In 1943 we moved from Alderham Cottages to Sherbourne Hill. Father and I moved the furniture in pony and trap, borrowed from the estate. It took days. At Sherbourne Hill we had a Land Army girl for a lodger for several weeks. I remember her name was Miss Christmas.

One morning, just before school, we saw Dakota planes towing Horsa gliders over Barford village. The aircraft had black and white stripes on the wings. We knew then that “D” Day had arrived. The Memorial Hall showed films and news reels. I remember the first films of Belsen Concentration Camp. All children had to leave the Hall as the film was too dreadful for them to watch. My father insisted I stayed and only one other girl was allowed to watch.

I cycled to Barford School with Guy Wilkes from Sherbourne shop. This was where Watery Lane now meets the A46. This shop was kept by his mother as his father had T.B. and lived in a caravan in the garden. We left our bicycles in the estate carpenter's shop next to the bridge. It had blue sliding doors, now bricked up. Father repaired our shoes on an iron last with leather bought from Mr Hutchby of Brook Street, Warwick.

In early 1945 I sat the '11 Plus' examination at Westgate School. Valerie Lane from Barford and John Smith from Wasperton were also permitted to sit the examination. John Smith and I cycled to Westgate and we sat the exam in an upstairs room. This room had a wooden external staircase. We sat the tests in the morning and the afternoon. Valerie Lane and I both passed and later had our names painted on the Honours Board in the junior school room. I went to Warwick School, then known as Myton School and the pupils were known as Myton Mudsplashers. The teachers were all old men brought out of retirement as all the younger ones were still in the armed forces. In winter the children from Myton Hamlet Homes would pelt us cyclists with snowballs as we cycled to Myton School.

Our water pump ran dry every summer so we had to collect water from our nearest neighbour. In winter it froze and we often melted snow. Once when the pump was mended we could see frogs swimming in the water! We were not made ill by drinking the water!! Father had our hair cut by a man who lived in a cottage opposite Wilkes shop at Sherbourne at a cost of a shilling each. I can’t remember his name but George Tilling comes to mind. Estate workers included Stan Udell, George Tilling, Henry Abbott and Albert Neville and a bricklayer called “Wroxton” after his birthplace. Stan Udell’s son David was a playmate and I have met him at Barford several time. I remember McDonald’s boys, Stewart and Malcolm, who lived in Barford Hill Stables – perhaps they were twins.

I remember Mr Cartwright who had married the widow, Mrs Smith-Ryland. He was a real English gentleman. The younger Charlie Smith-Ryland often visited our house for a cup of tea and always had a bag of sweets! He went to Eton School and became a guard’s officer. He was a great friend of Princess Margaret who often visited him at Sherbourne House, once the home of Lady Drummons.

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