|Flight Lieutenant Jeffrey Watkins DFC - World War Two Veteran|
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Jeffrey Watkins – Memories of my Tytherington Childhood.
( In December 2016 Jeffrey kindly wrote down his memories of his early life in Tytherington. His amazing exploits during World War Two are here)
I was born in 1921 in the back room of a cottage on Stowell Hill Road opposite New Road. I lived in the room with my grandmother Mary Ann Smith (nee Livall) and my mother, her daughter Annie Smith. After my birth we moved to one of the cottages on Tytherington Hill (The Poor Law cottages). Ours was the second cottage in from the right facing the eight acres of Squire Hardwick and looking across the wonderful view to Wickwar and Hawkesbury. The cottage consisted of one room down with a kitchen and two beds upstairs, very primitive but liveable. My gran and mother were very religious and went to services at Saint James Church every week. My first real memories came at five years of age when my Mother and I trundled down the steps to go to the village school. Mr Hemmingway was the Headmaster. I remember the one large room with all the grades being taught with very little disruption. A strong memory was the dentist coming and having much painful work. The four cottages were occupied by Fred Davis and wife in the first. We in the second, Skuses (sons Les and Lionel) in the third and the Caineys in the fourth. Les and Lionel Skuse were both grown up and played football and cricket for the local teams Sonny Fry was the Landlord of the Swan Inn. A bowling alley operated at the rear of the Pub.
My grandmother cleaned the Church Room building on Duck Street and the Quarry Offices on West Street. I understand that the Church Room building has since been removed. My mother and I would accompany gran on her cleaning expeditions. I was fascinated by the instruments of the Tytherington Band, stored in the rooms. I tried to blow those that had mouthpieces. Not much sound! As an aside, my gran had three children by a previous association. Ted Livall who lived in a house off Stowell Hill. Bill Livall who had a successful small farm at Rangeworthy, and Emmy Wilson who lived on Tytherington Hill with her family and husband Tom Wilson, an ardent Welshman. Bill had played the trombone with the Tytherington Band, and it may be interesting to know that the instrument is still being played by his grandson who lives in the Kingswood near Wotton under Edge. I am in fairly regular touch with my Uncle Bill's granddaughter Joan who also lives in the Kingswood area and she told me of this situation. I offered to buy the instrument but no luck.
I was friendly with Arthur Cassell who lived on the Hill with father Bert Cassell, brother Reg and mother. Bert ran a small engine at the Quarry at the foot of the steps. The engine drove a generator supplying power to the Quarries of Squire Hardwick. Bert constructed a swing for Art and me on the old lime tree near his house. Art and I spent many happy times on it swinging to our hearts delight. At age eight I moved with my mother to live with my father at the Hackett, near Thornbury. I was fortunate to win a scholarship to Thornbury Grammar School.
The Reverend Kitson was the Vicar of St. James Church and I was baptized by him. He had two sons, older than I but I had met both. Harold who was in the Army and Hugh in the Air Force. Hugh was a pilot and was unfortunately killed on a training mission in New Zealand atthe beginning of World War 2. I have been in touch with his wife, since passed, Miss Jenner Fust of Rockhampton, and his daughter who was born before his death
My gran was an ardent supporter of the Tytherington Rocks Football team at the time. She and I would trundle across the fields and woods from the Hill to the playing field and stand on the side lines in all winds and weathers The Rocks in their black and white stripes, with Ambrose Johnson centre half, Cliff Ponting on the wing, Bert Nelmes in goal, an excellent inside forward whose name escapes me, (his last name beginning with H,), Harry Wilson my cousin and others. Gran and mother were strong supporters of the local Women’s Institute and would attend all of their meetings. They met, either at the Swan Inn or the Church Rooms. The Post Office was operated by the Humphries and I was quite friendly with their son Wilfred. The Boyts operated their butchers shop on West Street. Horrible memories of pigs being slaughtered in the field behind, in full view of the school play yard. Fred Tavender and wife and family lived in a small farm at the foot of the steps. I would go to them for milk and butter. A grocery van would come to the Hill on occasions supplying us with necessary groceries, and, happy days, an Ice Cream van from Bristol! Gypsies frequently camped on the Hill at the entrance from New Road with their caravans, horses. They sold clothes pegs. A memory is of gran and me standing at the steps of our cottage looking across the wonderful view, and seeing the R100 or R101 airship flying by across the Vale. At the same time she said, (dramatically) the end of the world will come as a result of conditions in the Middle East. An uneducated lady, but possessing total faith. Gran, my mother and I would visit mother's sister Nellie Woodward very often for supper. They lived on Station (Itchington) Road. Tom Woodward was Nell's husband. Their children were, Herbert, Jinnie (McCarthy), Marge, Hilda, Doris and Arthur. Arthur Cassell's brother Reg blew the bellows for the Church organ and Art and I loved to try to ring a bell in the belfry. I still hear, in my mind, the wonderful sound of the peal of bells every Sunday, and the sad sound of the solo bell for funerals. I heard that sound in 1932 for the funeral of my dear gran who is buried in the Church Yard.
At age sixteen I joined the Royal Air Force as an Aircraft Apprentice. War came and I became a pilot flying heavy bombers completing 83 operational flights. I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as a Flight Lieutenant and left the Air Force in August 1946. I lived in London working for D. Napier and Son on design of Turbine engines after I had graduated from Imperial College. In 1953 went to Canada (Toronto) to work with Avro Canada on jet engines. I joined Westinghouse Electric in Philadelphia USA in 1954 again working on design of Jet engines. Joined Solar Aircraft (Solar Turbines) in San Diego California. In 1955 I began working on design of turbines to ground applications (gas compressors, generator drives etc.). I joined Ryan Aeronautical in 1980 working on Propulsion for Remote Piloted Aircraft (Drones). I retired to my own Consulting Business in 1984.
I have just (November 2016) returned from London where I marched with the RAF contingent in the Armistice Sunday march at the Cenotaph.