All posts by Marian Bulford

A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One.

A policeman’s lot is not a happy one. When constabulary duty’s to be done, to be done, a policeman’s lot is not a happy one, happy one. [1]

 

Francis Bulford (Front row, 2nd from the left) With Newquay, Cornwall Division 1929/30

(I can’t help but notice their enormous feet!)

My Grampy, Francis Bulford, was born in Devonport, Devon, England on 28th October 1884.

In 1905, he was a 20-year-old seaman in the Royal Navy when he decided to join the Cornwall Constabulary, and on the 1st November 1906, he was appointed to the force as Police Constable number 106. He retired in 1936 with 29 years of service.

After reading various newspaper clippings about the doings of my Grampy, I thought of the above verses by Gilbert and Sullivan as his duties were usually routine, but sometimes they were unusual, or even frightening.

His first posting was to Porthleven, a small fishing port not far from Helston. His ‘beat’ included the village streets, as well as the surrounding meadows, beaches and cliffs.

During Grampy’s time on the police force, he and his family lived at a three-bedroom rented property in a street known then as “Little Gue” at either number 14 or 15. My cousin Diane tells me her Mum (one of Grampy’s daughters) identified the building some 35 years ago. It was their home as well as the Police Station and the two small windows at street level were then barred.

This was where the cells were. The property is still standing, and the photo shows the modern window frames.

The house in Little Gue Street

Diane also told me about a time early on in his career when he was tied to a rope around his waist and was lowered down the cliffs to bring up a dead body at a place called Hell’s Mouth, on the north cliffs of Cornwall. Even the name sounds frightening.

It was Monday evening, January 1916 and Constable Bulford was doing his ’rounds’ at 10:30 pm when he happened upon a dead body, washed ashore on the rocks at Breageside, Porthleven.

Porthleven 1906

When PC Bulford was interviewed by the local newspaper, The Cornishman, a month later, he described the bodies as follows: [2]

The first body found was a big body, about 6′ 6″ stoutly built, badly cut upon the rocks with no clothing and decomposed, and headless. PC Bulford sent for a stretcher and the local doctor, Dr Spaight.

The next day, Tuesday, at about 9:30 a.m., a second body was found by PC Bulford on the Sithney side of Porthleven. This body was about 5 feet in height, slightly built, with no identifying marks except cuts from the rocks, decomposed, nude and again headless.

The local doctor examined the bodies, but there was no possibility of identifying them or finding the cause of death.

The newspaper suggested that these were two of the crew of the SS Heidrun, a Norwegian collier ship that had departed from Swansea, Wales with coal for Rouen, France. It was wrecked on December 27th, 1915, four miles off of Mullion, with the loss of all 16 hands.

The crew members whose bodies were found are buried at Church Cove, The Lizard Landewednack, Helston, Cornwall. The church overlooks the English Channel, so it seems this was a fitting resting place for these sailors.

Headstone for the crew of the SS Heidrun

(Photo Credit: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?181509)

Sources:

[1] https://www.gsarchive.net/pirates/web_op/pirates24.htm Opera, The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan

[2] “The Cornishman” 27th January 1916. Newspaper cutting in the Bulford Family archives

Notes of interest about Porthleven, Cornwall England.

Porthleven was the home town of the ‘Dambusters’ Commanding Officer Guy Gibson, and there is a road named in his memory.

http://www.helstonhistory.co.uk/local-people/wg-cdr-guy-gibson-raf-vc/

It is a town, civil parish and fishing port near Helston in Cornwall and was originally developed as a harbour of refuge when this part of the Cornish coastline was recognised as a black spot for wrecks in the days of sail.

Porthleven has exploited its location and exposure to powerful swells to become one of the best-known and highly regarded surfing spots in Britain and has been described as “Cornwall’s best reef break”. Waves often exceeding 6.6 feet (2.0 m), break on the shallow reef that was shaped by blasting the harbour. Kayaking is also popular. RNLI lifeguards patrol the beach during the holiday season. The beach is separated from the harbour by a granite pier, which stands in front of the Porthleven institute and clock tower. When the tide is out it is possible to walk east along Porthleven beach for approximately three miles.

Read more about this wonderful part of Cornwall, England here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porthleven

Two previous stories about my Grampy and his police adventures in Porthleven can be found here;

https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/10/10/all-in-a-days-work/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/12/12/plucky-police-constable/

Dear Miss Bulford – Part Four

RAF Upavon Crest

In the first three parts below, of “Dear Miss Bulford” I describe my [1] entry into the WRAF – Women’s Royal Air Force, [2] the basic training [3] posting to a trade training camp, and this part four, my first posting as a trained Medical Assistant.

  1.   https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/

2.   https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/22/dear-miss-bulford-part-two/

3.  https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/29/__trashed-4/

Arriving in Salisbury, Wiltshire by train, I made my way to the bus station. wearing my ‘best blue’ uniform.  As I was searching for the camp bus,  two army men also in uniform approached me, and asked if I was going to RAF Upavon? [1] I said yes, so they offered me a lift in their car. They were stationed a few miles from RAF Upavon, at the Larkhill Army Garrison.  I accepted their offer. Something I now think was not too wise, but it was the 1960’s. However, they were very polite and pleasant and I enjoyed the ride to the camp. They said they often came to our mess to dance and drink so I would see them in the future,  which I did.

Arriving at RAF Upavon the Duty Officer at the main gate, directed me to the arrival office where I waited for someone to take me to my new quarters. RAF Upavon was small compared to my last posting. Only one block for the WRAF and one for the men,  each side of a parade square. From the window of my new single room-  wow! this was great- I could spot the mess hall.

The sergeant of our block, two-storied as usual but only three or four to a room, came and introduced herself, and offered to take me to the mess for tea. On the way, she told me about the SSQ (Station Sick Quarters)  I would be working at and who made up the staff. There was a  civilian Doctor, who drove up from the Upavon village each day,  a Sergeant, two Senior Aircraft men, and a civilian nurse who was retiring. I was to take her place.

Next morning, dressed in my nurses uniform, I nervously made my way to the SSQ. I met the civilian nurse, Mrs Bowes who showed me her routine. Unlike her, I would be ‘on-call’ a shared duty with everyone else in the SSQ.  (Which was why I had the enviable single room!).

Me at RAF Upavon SSQ

A few months after I arrived I went to the weekly ‘hop’ a Saturday night dance drinks and general fun. There, I met John, who had only just arrived on camp himself. He was an admin assistant and worked in the HQ (Headquarters) for Sir Thomas Prickett, RAF Upavon’s Commanding Officer. He walked me back to my barracks and we arranged to meet at breakfast in the mess, the next morning. We spent the weekend together, getting to know one another walking around the camp and talking about our lives so far.

Saturday night dance. John on the far left, shortly after we met, with SSQ staff Dave and Mick, and me.

On Monday morning, when I went to the waiting room, there sat John! In he went in to see the Doctor. When he came out, his medical notes said ‘Mononucleosis’ (otherwise known as the kissing disease!). We sent him to sickbay and put him on antibiotics. The male nursing assistant stayed the night with him.

After one night in sickbay, John had not improved and now had a high temperature, so he was sent to the RAF Wroughton Hospital [2] by ambulance.  I accompanied him on the ambulance trip. I told him he would be spending time in isolation at the hospital but that we could meet again when he got back to camp. We had a date that night!

Seven days later he returned to RAF Upavon and we resumed our getting to know each other routine.  We would see each other at breakfast, lunch and tea, so we got to know each other pretty quickly and very well. We would take the bus to Salisbury on Saturdays to shop and come back in time for the Saturday dance.  We babysat for the local personnel on the camp and spent our days off, together. We took leave and went to my home to visit my parents and up to Liverpool where John was born to meet his Mum.

One year later, on the anniversary of the day we met, March 2nd 1965, we got married. in Plymouth Devon. John’s Commanding Officer, Sir Thomas Prickett sent us a Congratulatory Telegram, as was usual in the days of snail mail and telephones.

Wedding Day 2 March 1968

Telegram from John’s Officer In Command,  Air Marshall Sir Thomas Prickett and Lady Prickett.

After our marriage, I stayed on in the WRAF and RAF Upavon. After all, what was I going to do in the middle of Salisbury Plain for a job? Besides, I was enjoying my life at RAF Upavon. Here, I was photographed demonstrating a new lightweight stretcher for the RAF Magazine – so light even a woman could lift it!

It was considered very unusual for me to continue in the WRAF, as most girls got married to ‘escape’ the WRAF.  However, I loved it so we applied for married quarters, completely forgetting that John was not 21 years of age yet, so he was not eligible!  Whilst I was certainly eligible being a little older than John,  nobody had ever experienced a married 22-year-old WRAF applying for married quarters before, so my request was denied. We just took in  our stride, but today I would have strongly questioned it.

So, for a few months, we lived on camp in our separate barracks and looked around for a place to rent close by. We were lucky to find ‘Dairy Cottage’ an early 19th century run-down, thatched cottage but rental affordable in the village of Upavon, just a bus ride from the camp. We lived there, for 18 happy months. We did some house painting and a few repairs on the inside. There were pheasants and various birds in the overgrown garden and we had get-togethers with our friends.

Our first home together, Dairy Cottage

The SSQ I was posted to was small and intimate and I quickly learned the routine. The staff were very helpful. I soon realised that I was the only female nurse at the camp. Soon, everyone called me Florence, as in Florence Nightingale! I was flattered. As the SSQ was right in the middle of Salisbury Plain, I was not too thrilled as I am a city girl and this place was very ‘country’.  Still, I made some great friends and soon settled in.

We treated the RAF personnel on camp and the civilians from the Village and so the daily ‘surgery’ was usually full.  We did all the necessary vaccinations for overseas postings and dealt with minor sicknesses. We took and developed x-rays and had our own dispensary, where we dispensed medicines and pills. We had a four-bed ‘sick bay’ for things like flu or contractible diseases. The RAF Hospital Wroughton was an ambulance ride away for more serious problems.

One night I was on ‘call’ and my first problem was at 9 pm. The Duty Officer called to alert me to the fact two Army men were at the guardroom, injured. I opened up the SSQ and waited for them. Both men had injuries. They had been on night manoeuvres and had fallen in the dark.  They undressed and I examined them. One had difficulty breathing so I diagnosed a fractured rib. The other man had the same problem but head scratches and a bloody nose.

As I was dressing their wounds and binding their ribs two more men showed up! At that point, I called the other two medics on camp with an urgent tannoy (public address system) message and they also arrived to assist me.  We sent them by ambulance to RAF Wroughton Hospital.

After our marriage,  John decided to change trades and become an Air Cartographer, so he was posted to RAF Northolt to learn his trade.  I tried for a posting there, but no luck. However, I did get a posting to RAF Uxbridge in the SSQ in the same area. So here we were, John at RAF Northolt and me at RAF Uxbridge! Once again we hunted for accommodation and a few months later, found a bed-sitter in Uxbridge for rent. Now, John was ‘of age’ for married quarters and entitled to payment of the rent until we could get a married quarter home at RAF Northolt. I finished my 6 happy, enjoyable years in the WRAF and found a job at a doctors office in the area until I became pregnant with the birth of our first son. This year we have been married 52 years.

Post Script:  When I told my family where I was to be posted, my Gramps told me, that in WW1, he had been at RAF Upavon for his training as an air gunner. However, HE was –  in his own words – ‘under canvas’ What a coincidence!

[1] A Short History of RAF Upavon 

The station motto was In Principio Et Semper, and translated from Latin means “In the Beginning and Always”. The station crest had a pterodactyl rising from rocks, which symbolised the station’s connection with the early days of flying, and was also a reference to the location of the station near to the ancient monument Stonehenge.

Smaller camps such as these were fully functioning  RAF Stations with small Medical Centres and a few beds plus an RAF Hospital nearby in case of emergencies. The nearest hospital to RAF Upavon was RAF Wroughton a Royal Air Force airfield near Wroughton, in Wiltshire, England, about 4 miles south of Swindon.

RAF stations in post-war England were many, and quite historical as most were built in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, most of them, have now closed or like my posting to RAF Upavon, taken over by the Army.  The station opened in 1912 and closed in 1993 when it transferred to the British Army and became known as Trenchard Lines.

[2] A Short History of RAF Wroughton

RAF Hospital Wroughton was part of the station and stood near the eastern boundary of the site, about 1 12 miles (2.4 km) west of Chiseldon. The RAF General Hospital (as it was known) opened on 14 June 1941 and by the end of March 1944, its bed capacity was 1,000. Wroughton continued as a General Hospital treating military patients, and from 1958 took NHS (National Health Service) cases as well to relieve backlogs in the Swindon area.  Following a visit to the hospital by  Princess Alexandra on 4 July 1967, the Queen conferred the prefix “Princess Alexandra’s” on the hospital on 4 October 1967.

The hospital was the primary destination for returning casualties of the Falklands War in 1982. When the hostages from Beirut were released in August 1991, Wing Commander Gordon Turnbull, a psychiatrist based at Wroughton, with his team, debriefed John McCarthy, Terry Waite and Jackie Mann and provided the counselling necessary to ease them back into freedom.  The hospital closed on 31 March 1996 as part of the Conservative Government’s defence cuts at the end of the cold war. The hospital was demolished in 2004 and the site, called Alexandra Park, used for housing and a conference centre; a memorial commemorates the former hospital.

DEAR MISS BULFORD – PART THREE

Parades made up a big part of life, while in training as a nursing assistant at RAF Halton.  Every few months, we would have the ‘Air Officer Commanding’ Parade and recruits and trainees like us were roped in to attend.

Everything was expected to be polished and ironed steamed and brushed. Any negative remarks from the parade commander about our appearance was NOT a good thing!! I was always on the end of a parade, due to my height as parades were organised by height smallest in the middle and fanning out to the tallest at the end.

The person on the right of the photograph, jaws clenched, anxiously awaiting the officers’ inspection is me.

The Air Officer Commander Parade –  May 1966 RAF Halton

RAF Halton a large camp included the Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital on its grounds. It catered to the big RAF population on the station and the local civilians. Many babies from the surrounding towns and villages were born at RAF Halton and during our training period,  we spent a few hours a week there to observe and learn.

Christmas 1966 was spent at RAF Halton[1] and what an enjoyable experience. The food, once again superb as you can see from the menu below.  One of our duties as trainees, the day before our Christmas dinner, we had to prepare all the vegetables for the meal. I and another girl prepared mounds of Brussel Sprouts all morning! We actually enjoyed ourselves.

 

The Christmas Menu  at RAF Halton, 1966

In January 1967  our course was over and our results posted. We had all passed!  I cried tears of relief because I never thought I would pass the exams.  We had our official photograph taken with our tutor, Sgt. Constantine in the centre.

I am in the front row on the left of Sgt. Constantine.

The Medical caduseus badges were issued which we proudly pinned to each side of our collars on our ‘Best Blue uniform and on our nurse’s uniforms.

My Medical Pins with The Kings’ Crown, on top.

Our Sgt. Constantine’s had King George VI crowns on his pin signalling he was an ‘old soldier’  At the end of the course, he gave them to me! I still have them. Made of brass, and once again, I had to polish well before photographing!

I started life in the Women’s Royal Air Force, as an ‘ACW’ (Aircraft Woman) however, after this nursing assistant course, I became an LACW (Leading Aircraft Woman) and in the future, I could take additional courses for further advancement. I ended my career as a SACW – Senior Aircraft Woman, nursing assistant.

We had a ‘going away party’ in the local pub with our Sgt. Constantine and the group.  Mrs C is sitting front left and I am on the right, with my hand on Sgt. C’s shoulder.

Now, we waited to be posted to another RAF station and start our careers as nursing assistants. Where we would be posted we did not know yet, so once again goodbyes were said and another wait for our next postings which came a few days later.

I was to be posted to the Medical Centre, at RAF Upavon near to the ancient monument Stonehenge in Wiltshire England.  RAF Upavon was built in 1912, It was a grass airfield, military flight training school, and administrative headquarters of the Royal Air Force. [2] and was where I met my future husband.

My RAF romance will be told in Part Four…

Dear Miss Bulford, basic training in the WRAF, can be read here: https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/

Dear Miss Bulford – Part Two can be read here: https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/22/dear-miss-bulford-part-two/

SOURCES

[1]  https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/3425/raf-hospital-halton

[2] https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=RAF+Upavon

A Brief History of RAF Halton

Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital Halton was opened in 1927 as a large military hospital and as an institute for pathology and tropical medicine Before that it was a temporary hospital set up for training nurses during the First World War.  In 1940, it became the first hospital to use penicillin on a large scale soon after its discovery and introduction into clinical medicine by Flemming, Florey and Chain.

In 1945, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain shared a Nobel Prize with Alexander Fleming Penicillin is one of the most important discoveries in medicine. When peace was declared in 1945, the hospital was kept as a training unit using the best facilities and medical specialists. It later became a specialist burns unit, employing the skills learnt to help victims who suffered during WW2 and the medical units grew alongside the main RAF base. 

The hospital closed in 1995 because the MOD (Ministry of Defence) wanted one centralised unit to train military nurses, making the Royal Hospital in Haslar, at Gosport in Hampshire, their main base and the RAF Halton site will be completely closed by 2022.

 

DEAR MISS BULFORD – PART TWO

DEAR MISS BULFORD –  PART TWO

With much excitement, my first posting after basic training was to  RAF Halton near Wendover, Buckinghamshire, the trade training school, called the ‘Medical Training Establishment’ where I would start my training as a Nursing Assistant.  I was now known as “J2844104 LAC Bulford” (Leading Aircraft Woman) and would answer a question put to me with the following,  ‘104 LAC Bulford, Ma’am”.  In 1966  when I was 20 years old, and other girls my age were enjoying ‘Swinging London’ and pop groups, I was marching, shining shoes and making bed with perfect ‘hospital’ corners.

RAF Halton Medical Training Establishment Crest

The camp I arrived at was enormous. In addition to the Medical Training Establishment (MTE) where I would do my training, RAF Halton also had on its property the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Hospital, the RAF Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine and the Dental Training Establishment, in addition, hundreds of apprentices or ‘boy’ entrants attending the No. 1 School of Technical Training learning to be aircraft technicians, electrical engineering and administration trades.

The handbook below has the crests for these various schools on the cover.  ‘Main Camp’ was where I signed in and then directed to ‘Hospital Camp’ and given an arrival information book (below) with a large map attached to find my way.

After a very long walk to my barracks,  I found the two-story red brick building named ‘Paine Barracks’.  My shared room was on the second floor and again, a long bright room with 14 beds seven on each side. The number of girls who intermittently arrived from all parts of England were all strangers to each other. They were pleasant and chatty, and, after introductions and a sizing up of one another, we started to exchange ideas about what the next stage of our life would be like.

Most of us seemed to be of the same idea;  we came from similar backgrounds after all.  We had left school at 15 years old and wanted to see life and get more education before settling down.   A Corporal arrived to show us the way to our mess hall on the main camp and we all set out for our tea.  Once more, I found the food to be very good, I suppose it does not say a lot about meals at home!   We still had to clean the large dormitory we all slept in, the bathrooms and our uniforms and shoes, but inspections were only once a month and not quite so stringent.

The following day started the next phase of my learning.   We were known as “Course 642, Medical Training Establishment”  We attended the classes every day, once again, marching to and from them.  Our tutor,  Sergeant Constantine,  (Sarge) and various other tutors were assigned different subjects but Sergeant Constantine was our main man.

Sarge taught us anatomy and physiology, first aid, infectious nursing surgical techniques removal of sutures, transfusions,  infusions vaccinations and general examinations. We learned about the body systems, body cells tissues then bones and the skull. Plus, types of wounds the composition of plasma and blood and platelets and the heart and other tutors taught us everything needed to take care of patients, such as care of their body, hair, teeth, intake of food and their general comfort.

With much hilarity, we practised giving each other first-aid, bed baths, and shampooing each others’ hair. Then fittingly,  ‘Last Offices’ were shown and practised. ‘Last Offices’ the laying out and preparation and treatment of the dead. I actually found this very interesting and enlightening, probably because my Granny whom I lived with for a few years had in a no-nonsense way had introduced me to death at a very early age. [2]

We went to the hospital wards a few times a week, to be bullied by the ‘Sisters’ – Princess Mary’s Nursing Sisters were Registered Nurses and officers  – but did they ever teach us well!

In England, in the RAF  all the Senior registered nurses were addressed as ‘Sister’. Not in a religious way, but as a formal address. In civilian hospitals, she would have been called  ‘Matron’ [1]

With our other tutors, we had to learn ‘Passive Defence’  the definition of which is ‘Any action which will reduce the effect of a nuclear biological or chemical attack’  We went into great detail about symptoms and proper treatments.  (Should we be so lucky to survive such attacks!) This was something I had never even thought about, but we still managed to fill whole exercise books of information and treatments and I found this quite scary.

One day, we were taken out to a huge field with bunkers which we were herded into. Once inside this bunker, we were told to take down a gas mask off the wall and put it on.  Sgt. Constantine then set alight a gas bomb. We were ordered to remove the gas mask hold our breath then  – Sgt. Constantine was with us –  walk in a circle three times, before exiting the door.  We did so, but not before some girls were shrieking with fear and crying to be let out! When we eventually stumbled out gasping some of the girls vomiting and with tears falling down our faces we were told this ‘exercise’ was to alert us to a gas attack. Very enlightening. These exercises, we were told, was because should such an event take place, the military would be called upon to assist civilians.

We were taught how to sterilise, prepare and layout numerous treatment trays and instruments everything in those days being metal. In a military hospital, we had reams of RAF forms to learn and ‘civilian’ forms too. Admissions were different for each. We had something called the duties of a ‘Crash Orderly’ Actions to be taken after a military of civilian plane crash, shown in my notebook, below.

I particularly like “Kettle is put on for tea” The panacea of British life!

Many studies for the general care of a patient were performed, and one day, in class, we had a ‘mock’ plane crash alarm in the woods although, at the time, we did not know it was a ‘mock’ It was very frightening and realistic.  Everything we did was recorded in our study books, which I still have. I rooted them out to write this story and I enjoyed reading and reminiscing.  Everything we did I now realise, was extremely thorough, which I will explore in part three.

NOTES

[1] The word “matron” is derived from the Latin for “mother”, via French.  The matron was once the most senior nurse in a hospital in the  United Kingdom before ca. 1972. She was responsible for all the nurses and domestic staff, overseeing all patient care, and the efficient running of the hospital. Matrons were almost invariably female—male nurses were not at all common, especially in senior positions. They were often seen as fearsome administrators but were respected by nurses and doctors alike.

The matron usually had a very distinctive uniform, with a dark blue dress (although often of a slightly different colour from those worn by her direct subordinates, the sisters) and an elaborate headdress.

More recently, the British Government announced the return of the matron to the NHS, (National Health Services) electing to call this new breed of nurses “modern matrons,” in response to various press complaints of dirty, ineffective hospitals with poorly disciplined staff.

Dear Miss Bulford – Part One Basic Training

https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/#like-6570

My Brothers’ Keeper – An Early Introduction To Death

https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/01/14/my-brothers-keeper/

Dear Miss Bulford….

With the following letter, so begins the most exciting period of my life.

It came to a 19 year-year old me still living in Plymouth, Devon England the town of my birth. That version of me wanted something new. Having left school at 15 years and one month hardly qualified me for anything other than low-paid dead-end jobs, until, like most girls around me, marriage beckons.  Such was NOT the life I wanted, so I applied to join the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF). To my amazement, I got in.

Initially, it seemed a lark and a good way to show off to my friends. Still, joining up offered a chance to leave home with accommodation, a job and an ability to feed myself all at the same time. I had to take the chance!

Soon after the initial interview in Plymouth with Flight Lieutenant W. G. Reeve – above – As the letter states, my acceptance was based on passing a medical examination and a selection interview at RAF Spitalgate, In Lincolnshire. To travel there I was issued with travel documents and a kit list including an apron! Stockings! Suspender belt!.

Travel Warrant and Kit List for the journey. 

I left my home in Plymouth to Kings Cross railway station in London then a 4 and 3/4 hour journey. From there, another train from Kings Cross to Grantham, Lincolnshire railway station to join several other nervous-looking girls. We discovered a phone on the wall with the first order of our careers. It read:

“RAF SPITALGATE

NEW RECRUITS

PHONE FOR CAR”

Once on ‘camp’, our Corporal introduced herself and we were ushered into a room in a large building known as the barracks. This is where we would sleep and live together, for the next six weeks. It was a vast room with 10 beds either side spaced out with a locker and a wardrobe. Once we had deposited our luggage in our space, the Corporal took us to a cafeteria-like place called a mess for our tea and the food was really good!

The next day the medical assessments began. We had medical exams, Xrays, general fitness tests dental examinations and vaccinations. We started out with about 22 girls which whittled down to 17 after that first day. The next day, those of us who were formally accepted began our training. First, we were taught how to make a bed the RAF way, keep our ‘space’ clean and tidy enough to pass inspections every day.

Our bathrooms and toilets were at the end of the room. For many of us, this was the first experience of hot running water, baths every day plus central heating. After a few days, several of us developed sinus problems. Our bodies were used to cold houses, fires and baths only once a week.

We soon developed a routine. Every Wednesday, we deep cleaned in a tradition called ‘bull night’. We pushed a large heavy flat ‘buffer’ side to side to polish the floors, A cumbersome task but good for the stomach muscles! We finished by putting newspapers on the floors because nobody was allowed to walk on those perfectly polished floors! We wanted everything shiny and bright the next morning at 6 a.m. inspection. Despite the hard work and need to adapt to new realities, we managed to have a lot of fun. 

We had parts of our uniforms issued over the next few days, including the laughable ‘passion killer’ knickers. We were each issued three pairs, pale blue, down to the knee and  I don’t think anyone wore them at all, except here, for one night only as a giggle. The photo below shows the ‘buffer’ we used to polish the floors to a high gloss. I’m the one holding the dustpan and a cigarette wearing the pale blue ‘passion killers’

For the next 6 weeks, we learned to wear our uniforms properly, tie our ties, make sure hair was off the neck and how to wear our berets and best blue hats. Most importantly, we learned how to salute an officer. That lead to discovering various badges and who to salute and who not to salute.

We were shown the NAAFI (Navy Army Air Force) shop where we were ordered to buy shoe polish, then taught how to clean our shoes to a very high gloss with spit and polish and repeated for hours on end

We learned how to march together, in order. That’s not as easy as it sounds. A few girls began as ‘camel marchers’  They were girls who just could not march at first. They tended to march with the left arm and left leg together, instead of the opposite.

We marched every day, and everywhere from day one, chanting left-right-left-right, halt out loud as we went! Each day we practised marching on the parade ground for one hour, then off to classes.

In class from 9am to 5pm we learned all about the history of the RAF, and the trades available, which uniforms to wear on which occasion (such as ‘fatigues’ and ‘best blue’) and how to keep our ‘kit’ clean. We had hygiene classes informing us how and when to brush our teeth, take a bath and keep ourselves clean. We had Pt classes to keep fit. It was exhausting and exhilarating. The morning after our first bull night, an officer inspected us the next morning with white gloves and ran her fingers along every surface. We had to stand at attention together, whilst she inspected our quarters. The first few weeks everything had to be ‘done over again’ as she ripped out sheets and blankets and shouted at us saying the beds were not made properly. She complained about the dirty surfaces and how dirty the bathrooms were. We could no nothing right those first three weeks. We had no uniforms yet, so every day we marched in ‘civilian’ clothing with just a beret on. We felt silly. 

It was a great day when we were eventually issued with our uniforms and full kit.

Our best blue uniforms at last! Me on the left.

After six weeks of basic training came our ‘Passing Out Parade’ and the next day, after our goodbyes, we were all posted to our various trade training camps, but that is another story!

 

 

Land Of My Fathers….

Well, the land of my Grandfathers and Greats that is, all the way back to the 1400s.

My maternal Gramps was an O’Bray born, like all his forebears, in West Wales. Pembroke Dock, to be exact.  Welsh is still spoken widely in West Wales and the Welsh name for this area is Doc Penfro, it was originally named Paterchurch and was a small fishing village. Pembroke Dock Town expanded rapidly following the construction of the Royal Navy Dockyard in 1814.

There is some speculation about the original name of my fourth great grandfather, John Barnett O’Bray born in 1792. About this time, the family name was Aubrey but in that century it changed to O’Bray and/or O’Brey. Our ancestors in the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, spell it without the apostrophe – OBray whereas my Grandfather spells it O’Bray.

This September 2019 I went to Pembroke Dock, West Wales and visited Pembroke Castle where the Tudor Dynasty started with the birth of King Henry VII. Next door to the castle entrance was a shop called ‘The Hall of Names’ with a database of most names in the world and, for a price, they will research and print out the name, and it’s origins. [1]

They looked up the name Aubrey for me, and all the variations which are characteristic of Norman. Old and Middle English lack definite spelling rules, and then Norman French was added to the linguistic stew, with finally, medieval scribes who wrote names as they sounded, so no wonder I have such a problem. So, I am still none the wiser as to why the change – this is MY brick wall! [1]

I also went to 14 Queen Street East, where third great grandfather John Barnett O’Bray lived in 1841 with his family. The street and number 14, one of a row of houses, are still there but has probably changed a great deal since!

14 Queen Street Pembroke Dock.jpg 2

14 Queen Street Pembroke Dock

 

In the year 1841, our O’Bray/O’Brey family is mentioned in a book called “Pembroke People” by Richard Rose under ‘shipwrights’ but even in this short piece in the book, there are three different spellings of his name!

The heading reads that he was “John Barnett O’Bray or OBrey” A further note in the book mentions a William Aubrey buried at St. Mary’s on 27th September 1817 aged four and the author assumes “He was probably another child of this family” If so, why was he called Aubrey and the rest of the family O’Bray/Obrey? Right at the end yet another mystery as the author states that, when John Barnett O’Bray was buried, also in the register was ‘An Elizabeth Oberry. Buried on 11th April 1841 aged 93.

John Barnett O’Bray was apprenticed on in 1805 at Milford as a shipwright boy. He was earning 2 shillings a day in 1810 and when he was 21 years old in 1812 he became a shipwright and married Eleanor Allen, who’s family also appear as shipwrights in the book.

Their ten children, aged from two years to the eldest aged 25 years include in order of birth, William who  died at age four, Maria, born 1814, George 1815, John 1818, Elizabeth 1820, *Thomas 1821, Robert 1824, *Samuel 1828, Eleanor 1834 and Thomas 1836, who died at age eight.

** Thomas Lorenzo and Samuel William, were baptised into the Church of Latter-Day Saints – the Mormons –  and left West Wales to trek across the plains in 1851 to Salt Lake City, Utah. Two other family members, Maria and George also became Mormon and went to Utah later.

In 1823, John Barnett O’Bray took a 60 year lease of one of the Club Houses recently built in the High Street at a rent of One Pound, Ten Shillings a year. His years’ wages in 1828 were 87 pounds, 19 shillings and one penny.

John Barnett my third Great Grandfather suffered a grisly death.

An Unfortunate and Fatal Accident
Carmarthen Journal Article – 19 Dec 1845

“An Unfortunate and Fatal Accident – An efficient and industrious shipwright, named John Obrey, belonging to Her Majesty’s Dock Yard at Pembroke, fell from a considerable height into one of the building slips and was killed on Thursday last. To mark the esteem in which he was held by the authorities of that establishment the Chapel bell of the Arsenal was tolled during the funeral.

It appears a plank forming one of the stages around the ship’s side had not sufficient hold of the support on which it rested, and the weight tilting it up, he was precipitated into the slip, and falling on his head, his skull so fractured that his brains actually protruded. His wife will, no doubt, have a pension, though the amount must necessarily be small.” [3]

Through research, I believe that John Barnett was also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (The Mormons), but died before he was baptised.

SOURCES

1. https://pembrokecastle.co.uk/eat-shop-discover/hall-of-names

Richard Rose wrote a fascinating book called ‘Pembroke People’ and is described on the flyleaf, as probably the fullest account was ever written about life in an early 19th-century community. Flipping through this wonderful book, that seems to be true. Every possible trade in the shipbuilding, mariner,  and associated trades were listed, from accountants to wine and spirit merchants even including the local prostitutes and illegitimate children! And yes, I did look to see if any of my family were listed there, but none were. [2]

[3] Carmarthen Journal Article

“My Family History” which includes Thomas and Samuels’ stories can be read here:

https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/610

And you can read Samuel’s story here:   https://genealogyensemble.com/2016/08/17/mormon-history/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Moody Chef

My Uncle was born second to the eldest daughter in a family of 11 in Cornwall, England.

My Dad never spoke of him, and I had no idea of his existence until I started to research the family tree, adding the family and my unknown Uncle.

Who was he? All I had was the fact he was born in 1909.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old, and I had no contact with Dad’s side of the family after that event. However, my cousins, whom I met about eight years ago, were none the wiser although cousin Diane did speak of a family argument and the eldest son leaving the family home never to return or to be heard of again. EVER!

It was still a shocking event in the family.

What that argument was about I will never know. Many of the other children were not even born when he left. Nobody seems to have any photographs of him, either.

After researching a few sites, I found out he was married at 21.  I cannot find any children yet, but Uncle  died on the 13th of June, 1940 at age 30.

I was shocked to find he had died so young. Immediately, because it was the beginning of WW2 in England, I assumed he died in the Blitz, as so many in that area of London had, and his death certificate states he died in Pimlico which I knew was, like many other areas of London, badly bombed.

When I retired, I took the time to find out the reason he died so young. I decided to purchase his death certificate. When it arrived, it stated he had died of coal gas poisoning.

Thinking again of the war my first thought was he had died of gas poisoning. How awful! Then common sense prevailed. Of course not! Gas poisoning only happened in WWI, so I took a few deep breaths, and re-read the death verdict.

‘Coal Gas Poisoning; Did kill himself while of unsound mind’  Certificate received from WB Purchase Coroner for the County of London. Inquest held 17th June 1940.

Ah, so he had actually gassed himself poor Uncle! What on earth made him do it?

Gas was and still is, a common source of heat in England. Most homes including ours had gas fires. The gas then was coal gas, a very dangerous substance. You turned the tap on let the gas flow, and then lit it whereupon there was a loud POP! My Mum was always nervous about lighting it.

You had to be very careful that the fire, when the gas ran out, was turned off before you ‘fed’ the gas meter with shillings to re-establish the gas flow. Otherwise, you had odourless colourless gas flowing into your home and not realising it. Once a month the ‘gas man’ would arrive open and empty the meter and count the coins at the kitchen table. Depending on the amount of gas used, we would usually get a rebate of coins which were then fed back into the gas meter.

Photo Credit: Pat Cryer, with permission and thanks.

Committing suicide with a gas fire was easy, you just turned it on and did not light it. People accidentally died after forgetting to turn the tap of the gas flow off and feeding the meter, thus gassing themselves. Later in the 1950s a safety tap was added.

Because Uncle’s death was unusual a post mortem had to be conducted.

I reasoned that if he committed suicide, then there was a coroner’s report, which would be reported in a local newspaper. After hours of researching the newspapers of the area, I found what I was looking for.

Because this site is a subscription site, I only had access to this page and the text, so I had to re-write the copy [1]

A MOODY CHEF

A Pimlico Tragedy

The Westminster coroner (Mr. Purchase) held an inquiry at the Horseferry Road.

Coroner’s Court Monday into the death of […..]  (30) a chef, 79 Cambridge-street, Pimlico, who was found gassed there.

On Thursday morning. William McColl, 8 Rugby-street said he was a friend of the deceased. “He was in good health,” said witness. ‘and was in work. He was very moody.

Whenever I asked him what was the matter he would say’ Don’t take any take notice of me. I am a funny guy’

He had never said that would take his life and did not look the sort who might. He was in no trouble of any kind.

Faustina Alvarez. 79 Cambridge-street Pimlico said deceased had lodged there for three months.

On Wednesday night last week, he put threepence in the gas. The next morning witness’s wife got worried about him and witness went upstairs and knocked at the deceased’s door. There was no answer.

On opening the door witness saw deceased lying the floor by the gas ring.

PC. Elliott, 4138. who was called, said he saw the deceased lying on the floor with his head resting on a gas ring. He was dead.

The gas tap was turned on, but the supply had been exhausted. Dr. M. Hains, who made a postmortem examination, said the death was due to asphyxiation from coal gas poisoning.

Herbert Rehm. chairman of Rhem Brothers.Ltd., said the firm had eight licensed restaurants in London, […]  was employed at a branch at Buckingham Palace-road.

He was a very efficient employee, but very moody. The coroner said it seemed that in one of his moods, the deceased took his life. He recorded a verdict that the deceased took his life whilst of unsound mind.

When I was told by my cousin Diane, that the family never heard from him again after the death certificate arrived, I let them know of the circumstances of his death and we realised the reason nobody in the family had ever heard from him again. We cousins were sad for him.

‘Depression’ was not a word used in those days but obviously, that is what he suffered from.

One day, I hope to find if there were any children and so, like any genealogist who hits a brick wall, I keep searching.

Sources:

[1] Whether you are a researcher, historian or you simply want to know more about Britain’s history, take this opportunity to search The British Newspaper Archive – a vast treasure trove of historical newspapers from your own home.

Source: A Moody Chef | Chelsea News and General Advertiser | Friday 21 June 1940 | British Newspaper Archive

(2) Gas Meter Photographed in Blaise Castle Museum  https://www.1900s.org.uk/1940s50s-heating-gas.htm

With many thanks to Pat Cryer, whose website https://www.1900s.org.uk is a valuable source of information on the social life of wartime Britain. Pat allowed her photo of an old gas fire, similar to the one in the story, to be used. Thank you, Pat.

 

Buried In Woollen

‘Buried in Woollen’ What an odd sentence!

So I thought, whilst indexing very old, late 17th century documents for the church of Jesus Christ of  Latter Day Saints. I was indexing English burials and once started on the list, nearly every name was also accompanied by an affidavit stating that the person was  ‘Buried in Woollen’

It seemed to be very important to state this on the burial affidavits. I wondered about this unusual practice and decided to find out.

The museum in Hungerford, Berkshire England shows an affidavit similar to the one I was indexing.

I have written it out as it states on the affidavit.  Note that the letter ‘F” reads as an ‘S” in Old English.

It says:

Name of deceased……….of the Parifh of………….maketh Oath that…………………of the Parifh of lately deceased, was not put in, wrapt or wound up, or buried in any Shirt, Shift Sheet or Shroud made or mingled with Flax, Hemp, Silk, Hair God or Silver, or other than what is made of Sheeps. Wooll only nor in any Coffin lined or face with any Cloth, Stuff, or any other things whatforever made or mingled with Flax, Hemp, Silk, Hair, Godld or Silver or any other Material contrary to the late Act of Parliament for ‘Burying in Woollen, but Sheeps Wooll only.    Dated the…………..Day of….. in the………….Year of the Reign of our Sovereign By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland,               Defender of the Faith, etc. And in the Year of our Lord God 17……..Seated and Subfcribed by us who were prefent and Witnesses to the Swearing of the above faid Affidavit.

I do hereby Certify That the Day and Year abovefaid, the faid Affidavit as is above mention’d according to the faid late act Act of Parliament intituled, An Act for Burying in Woollen. Witnefs my Hand the Day and Year above-written.

(Printed for P. Barret Stationer, over-againsf Chancery-Land in Fleetfreet). [1]

Only those with the plague or who were destitute escaped this law. So much for the rules of burying in woollen. But why?

Between 1665 and the turn of the century, wool became a national symbol of importance in England,  but new materials and foreign imports were coming into the country and the industry was under threat as linen, silk, and satin were readily available and the need for woollen dropped away. Workers who specialised in silks, satins, and linens flocked into the country and the need for wool waned.

Most of the wealthy depended on wool for their lifestyles, and some of these wealthy sat in Parliament, Members whose constituencies depended on the woollen industry, and was an essential part of their fortunes. These Members depended on rents paid by tenants who worked in the woollen trade, and so they changed the laws.

Most people were buried in linen shrouds. It was the custom and older than Christianity itself, but it also benefited England’s greatest rival across the Channel, the French, who provided most of all England’s linen. So, to stymie the French and preserve the woollen trade in England, Parliament developed the law of burying in Woollen only.

The first Act was passed in 1666 and the second, and rather more famous, in 1678 repealing the first  Its aims were “for the lessening the importation of linen from beyond the seas, and the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufacturer of the kingdom.” [2]

Below is an extract from the Act.

For more of the legislation see The Justice of the Peace, and Parish Officer, Volume 5, 1814 on Google Books

The Act was not without its protesters as a more wealthy set wanted to be buried in their finery, not woollen.

“At first nothing could be more shocking,” wrote philosopher Bernard Mandeville, “to Thousands of People than that they were to be Buried in Woollen.”

“Our Savior was buried in Linnen,” protested Edward Waller, the representative for Hastings. “‘Tis a thing against the Customs of Nations and I am against it.”

Henry Coventry, Secretary of State for the Southern Department, was harsher, suggesting that “men of the Romish Religion” (Romish belonging or related to, Rome as Catholics) prefer woollen burials to linen. “I fear this Bill may taste of Popery,” he sneered.

Citizens were fined five pounds if they did not obey the law but many would pay the fine rather than be ‘seen dead in wool’  In 1678 this was an enormous sum of money about $1,000 in today’s money. [3]

The Act was repealed in 1814, although long before then it had been largely ignored.

Sources:

[1] www.hungerfordvirtualmuseum.co.uk/index.php/10-themes/961-buried-in-woollen

[2] http://www.historyhouse.co.uk/articles/buried_in_wool.html

[3] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/england-wool-burial-shrouds

[4] Eric W. Nye, Pounds Sterling to Dollars: Historical Conversion of Currency, accessed Monday, March 25, 2019, http://www.uwyo.edu/numimage/currency.htm.

 

 

 

 

Plucky Police Constable

On the 26th December 1912, the SS Tripolitania, a steam cargo ship from Italy on its voyage from Genoa to Barry Wales for coal, had beached on the Loe Bar, near Porthleven in Cornwall England. The weather had been and was still a vicious South Westerly gale with 100 mph winds, rain, huge churning waves and blowing sand which made it difficult to see anything.

One of the first men on that beach, waiting for the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) to arrive and assist, was the local Police Constable, (PC) Francis Bulford – my future grandfather. He could clearly see the crew on the vessel’s deck as the bow dashed onto the sand and heaved up and crashed down again and again.

Police Constable Number 106, Francis Bulford

The wreck had the sea on one side of her, and Loe Bar on the other side. The Loe bar is a half mile wide shingle bank – also referred to as a rocky beach or pebble beach – which separates the Loe, the largest natural fresh water lake in Cornwall, from the sea.  Loe Bar was originally the mouth of the River Cober which led to a harbour in Helston. However, by the 13th century, the bar had cut Helston off from the sea and formed the pool.

Loe Bar 1993 Aerial View Helston Museum.org

Loe Bar has a well-earned reputation for being treacherous and over the years several lives have been lost. The combination of powerful waves, a steep slippery shingle bank and vicious currents make it a very dangerous stretch of beach, and there is a local rumour that a freak wave here claims a life every seven years. At the end of the day, the best advice is to heed the signs and don’t even think about swimming here. [1]

On that day after Christmas, 1912, the steamship SS. Tripolitania was still rising and trying to ground in the violent weather. PC Bulford could just make out a  rope hanging over her starboard bow. Then, to his horror, he saw a deck hand start to slide down the rope.

He shouted to him ‘Wait a bit’! intending to let the boat properly ground before attempting a rescue, but the crew member either not hearing in the loud gale winds, or not understanding English, slid down the rope and dropped onto his hands and knees, into the surf.  At that very moment, an enormous wave lifted the steamer, swept around the port bow and rushed back, bringing with it the sailor who was swept against the ships’ side and disappeared. “I should not be surprised in the least if his body is recovered, that it is found he was killed by being caught under the steamer’s bilges” said PC Bulford when interviewed later. [2]

The rest of the crew remained aboard until the steamer was properly grounded. By that time villagers and the RNLI crew from the Penlee Lifeboat had joined the PC. Together, they all ran out and grabbed the crew by the hands, to lead them to safety.

The Steamship SS Tripolitania grounding on Loe Bar 26 December 1912 PHOTO

Photo © Of the late W.F. Ivey and Graham Matthews (Grandson of W.F. Ivey) [3]

By this time, the beach sand was saturated with sea water and the rescuers’ feet were sucked down.  Meanwhile, the wind was blowing and tossing so much sand into eyes and mouths they could barely see. The rescuers placed handkerchiefs over their own mouths and the crewmembers’ mouths and dragged and pushed and pulled everyone to safety.

The Cornish Times – below – stated, that “Life-saving apparatus arrived soon after the SS Tripolitania struck, but their services were not required”

That day, the 28 members of the crew were saved but one, and his body was never recovered. In addition, two of the crew of the brave Penlee Penzance Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Janet Hoyle, died of pneumonia the following Thursday. [6] All these men were volunteers.  See notes below.

 

SS. Tripolitania The Calm After The Storm [4]

Once the storm was over, attempts were made to refloat the ship, by removing much of the shingle from the seaward side, but they failed. She was eventually scrapped in situ.

 

Digging out the SS Tripolitania PHOTO

Photo © Of the late W.F. Ivey and Graham Matthews (Grandson of W.F. Ivey) [5]

By the way, the meaning of the word ‘Abaft’ above, which I took to be a typing error means according to the Oxford Dictionary, “In or behind the stern of a ship” It is a nautical adverb. Plucky’ is an adjective meaning “Having or showing determined courage in the face of difficulties” Francis Bulford born 28 October 1884 died 25 March 1963 was my plucky Grandfather. RIP.

Follow this link to read another story of my Grandfather here:

/https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/10/10/all-in-a-days-work/

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.visitcornwall.com/beaches/west-cornwall/helston/loe-bar-beach

[2] Cornish Times Newspaper Clipping. In Possession Of The Bulford Family Archives

[3, 4, 5 ] http://www.helstonhistory.co.uk/w-f-iveys-shipwrecks/tripolitania/

[6] http://www.rnli-penleelifeboat.org.uk/About%20us/PastCoxswains

NOTES:

William Nicholls – Coxswain 1912-1915

Mr William Nicholls was appointed Coxswain on 3rd July 1912 and was the Coxswain of 2 reserve Penzance lifeboats. William was instrumental in the choice of the Janet Hoyle from the shipyard.

During his time on the Janet Hoyle, she launched twice in service, the first being an extremely dangerous mission to the SS TRIPOLITANIA on boxing day 1912.

In a letter, dated September 1959, Coxswain William NICHOLLS recalls the launch to S.S.TRIPOLITANIA as follows:

“My most arduous lifeboat service took place in 1912. On Boxing Day, at 8.00 am, the Coastguard called at my house in Penzance. He brought a message that a steamer was drifting disabled across the Bay. Neither the Sennen or Newlyn boats could go out, and so the message was passed to me. A strong gale (100 m.p.h) was raging; shop fronts at Penzance were blown in and boats overturned in the harbour, Penzance Pier Head being under water. At 8.30 the boat was in the water, all reefs taken in, and away. I have often thought of the appearance of the Bay when I rounded the pier head. The seas were pitiless, and the first one aboard completely filled the boat. I remember thinking that this was my last trip! I thrashed about 8 miles, opening up all the Western land, and then, seeing nothing of the ship, came about, and edged towards Porthleven, where the broken sea was worse. I was, from there, signalled by green rocket to ‘recall’  The vessel, S.S. TRIPOLITANIA, had gone ashore on Loe Bar, near Porthleven; and to judge the height of the seas, she was thrown at dead low water to twenty feet above high water. She remained there for years until broken up for scrap. There were only two lifeboats afloat on that day, my own, and the Plymouth boat, which was blown ashore in Jennycliff Bay inside the breakwater. The stemhead of my boat split from the planking, and the lovely paintwork smashed in spots into the drab first coat. She looked like a spotted leopard. Two of my men died on the following Thursday from pneumonia, which shows the terrible conditions we had to face on that service.”

 

 

 

 

All In A Day’s Work

The local Police Constable (PC) was tired. It was early morning and he had been on duty all night.

Time for home and he was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and a big breakfast with his wife. Maybe a chat with some of his children, before they departed for school. Then a nice long sleep.

It was a beautiful day, the 7th February 1923 in West Cornwall, England. The PC was riding home from his night shift on his bike to his village of Nancledra, so although the wind was brisk, he was warm.

He was coming home from the Police Station at Porthleven and was half a mile from home when he heard someone shouting. It was Mr Andrew Curnow a local farmer. He was waving his arms shouting something and beckoning to the PC. “Here we go again”, thought the Constable.

A few of the villagers were gathered at the top of a large disused mine shaft peering down. This was the Giew Tin Mine the only active tin producer in 1921 and 1922 but closed just that year, in 1923.

The PC rode over to Mr Curnow who was by now agitated and excited.  ‘Quick! he shouted ‘ My dog has fallen down the Giew mineshaft!”

They could hear the dog’s frantic barking. The tall PC strode into the knot of people and they stepped aside to let him see what they were all peering at, down the long, dark shaft.

The PC looked down the steep shaft but could see nothing. Quickly he decided to enter the shaft and rescue the beagle. ‘Get me a rope, quickly’ he shouted.

Mr Curnow was aghast……..this was a disused narrow, crooked vertical shaft and who knew how far down the dog was. But the PC insisted and Mr Curnow ran off. The PC took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. he knelt on the grass and peered down. This shaft was a twisted one, but he could hear the frantic yelps and barking of the beagle.

Mr Curnow ran back with a farm hand and by now attracted by the shouts and activity more locals were gathered around the hole. Together, they roped up the PC and lowered him into the shaft. It was very dark so that after a few minutes they could only hear the PC’s voice. ‘Lower’ he kept shouting ‘Lower’

They continued obeying his instructions until…….silence. They all looked at each other faces grave. Suddenly the rope moved and the PC shouted ‘Got ‘im’ Pull me up!

With renewed vigour and a newfound strength the men, by now sweating with the effort of keeping the rope steady, heaved and pulled until the head of the PC and the beagle appeared at the top of the shaft!

Everyone grabbed both the PC and the dog. The beagle jumped up on his master barking hysterically whilst the PC lay on the grass sweating and panting. Everyone cheered. They all agreed that the old mineshaft should be covered over to prevent another accident.

This brave Police Constable was my Grandad, Francis Bulford. Born 28 October 1884 died 25 March 1963. RIP.

PC Francis Bulford with his wife, Emily Marion, and five of his eleven children

Below, the newspaper account of the rescue.

 

 

Giew Mine, near Nancledra Cornwall, England

Notes Of Interest On Cornish Mining

The closure of the tin mines in Cornwall was never about running out of resources – it was in response to competition from cheaper tin from abroad. South America and China are still major players in tin extraction and production. The collapse of the world tin cartel in 1986 being the last nail in the coffin of tin mining.

The Giew mine is known to have been working from the mid-eighteenth century. In its time Giew has been known as Gew, Reeth Consols, Trink and St. Ives Consols. The remaining buildings centered around Frank’s Shaft are only the easternmost of a number of shafts all working the area. The engine house dates from 1874.

This was part of the re-working of Giew Mine started in 1869 by Thomas Treweeke. Other shafts, running from east to west include Blackburn’s, Robinsons Engine, Martins, Ladock Shaft and Giew Engine Shaft where it joined Billia Consols Mine. It produced tin up until 1922.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/cornish-tin-mining-mines-industry-cornwall-south-crofty-mineral-start-ups-a8240601.html

In Cornwall, the ingression of water was the worst problem in shaft mining. A deep mine is a bit like a water well. You have to pump the water out constantly. The steam engine driving a pump was the answer to allowing deep mining in Cornwall.

http://www.cornishmineimages.co.uk/giew-mine/

You may wonder why Cornwall had the mineral mines that the rest of Britain missed out on. There is a simple geological explanation. During the late stages of the cooling of the mass of granite that makes up a lot of Cornwall, fissures opened up in the granite when it was still molten, and more hot molten rocks bubbled up through the granite from the earth’s interior. These new rocks contained many minerals, and as they crystallized they formed mineral lodes – tin, copper, zinc, lead and iron with some silver.

Because the ore-bearing rocks formed in this way, rather than being sedimentary rocks like coal (hence coal is laid down in great flat plates), they have to be mined vertically rather than horizontally.

Each fissure has to be mined straight down into the earth. Each fissure needed a separate mine. Therefore a great many vertical shafts were needed, rather than the one shaft that was used in coal mining. 

There were no other substantial buildings in a typical mine. Given that many of the mines were small and vertical, they did not invest in cages to haul the miners up and down, instead, access to the mine was by ladder, a tiring part of the daily toil of the miners.

http://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/mines.htm