World War 2  -  Mary Travell

War Memorial



Mary Travell spoke to the Tytherington Local History Group about her service with The Voluntary Ambulance Company of Tytherington and Thornbury 1938 to 1943.




At the time of the Munich crisis, (1938) it was felt that we should prepare in case there was still going to be a war, and so some people from Thorn bury and district trained in first aid and gas precautions. The training was held in the school at Tytherington.

When war actually broke out in 1939 this small band was immediately "on duty". Mrs. Handscombe, who lived at The Coppice, could drive, and so she became an ambulance driver, and I was her assistant. I really do not think I should have been much good in an air raid, but fortunately I was not put to the test!

The nearest we got to action, was the night Bath was bombed, when a convoy of ambulances and crews went from the south of Gloucestershire, in case the Bath people needed help. We sat at Keynsham all night, but were not called in.

The photograph below shows our team in the grounds of Thornbury Castle. Lady Howard was one "chief'. She came to see us when we were on duty in a cottage at the bottom of Rock Street. We were on duty all night once a fortnight, and slept there. In the photograph are Ernie Lambert and Maurice Curtis. Also Pam Lewis, Laura Ball and Rachel Philip, Mr. Gaynor and Mr. Dearing. We were originally ARP and later known as Civil Defence and given a uniform.


Each Parish Council had to plan for the possibility of invasion and warfare actually taking place in the area. I attended these meetings with Mr. Standcombe (my boss at the Quarry Offices) and eventually typed out Tytherington's plan of action. The documents now reside at the County Records Office Gloucester. A few years ago the History Society borrowed it, and I made a précis of it, and spoke to the society about it. My notes are here.

Fifteen meetings in nineteen months

The committee was called the Parish Council Defence Committee, and met for the first time on March 26th, 1942. By September this was called the Invasion Committee.

Canon Kitson was the Chairman and the other members were Mr. J.P. Handscombe, Mr. R. Leakey, Mr. George Pearce, Mr. C.P.Williams, Mr. A. Boyt, Mr. A. J. Humphries and Mr. F. G. Jackson was invited to attend to represent the Home Guard.

Every possible emergency was to be thought out, and plans prepared to help the civilian population and keep them calm. All information was to be treated as strictly confidential.

Boys from school were to be trained for essential work on farms to release family members of the Home Guard for more duty, six hour shifts.

The Home Guard had been told that civilians should dig graves and do any cooking necessary. The cook house in the 'Swan yard' was earmarked for this, and the Quarry canteen was offered

The population of Tytherington at that time was 583, which included the 35 members of the Home Guard. In the case of invasion food stores would be closed and guarded. 1 lb. of bread per person per day was assured.

If Bristol was to be evacuated and it was necessary to cook food for evacuees in the village, Mr. Pullins farm at Itchington had a suitable building.

Water supplies were dealt with. The West Gloucestershire Water Company had not at that time made contingency plans and it was decided that a list of all wells in the village should be prepared.

In the case of fire arms, all rifles were to be handed in, but owners could do what they wanted with shot guns, but for safety these were to be hidden. Mention was made of fifth colomnists (not necessary strangers).

Workers, who normally went out of the village to work, might not be able to get out and it was suggested that some sort of credit notes might be used to buy essential food, and suggested a maximum of five shillings per person per week for food!

It was decided to put a notice board outside the Post Office for essential information.

It was felt that there was a sufficient water supply for the whole village at the Baden Hill well, and this was known to be pure. Milk churns could be used to carry water around the village.

It was decided to test more wells, although the cost of this was one and a half guineas a time. Mr. Humphries was appointed water officer.

Later we were told that three wells could be tested and Mr. Humphries recommended Mr. W. G. Skuse at Baden Hill, the well at the Crossing and the Parish Pump (Duck Street). Later it was said that the capacity if the Crossing well is 1,200 gallons, the parish pump 200 gallons and the. pump to be repaired. The water was later found to be unfit unless boiled.

A supply of chlorine was to be arranged, a minister of information, appointed and a film was shown and the villagers were told what to do in the case of invasion.

We were told that if Tytherington were to be cut off from Thornbury, Mr. Leakey will be in charge of the food for the village. It was considered that it could be more or less self-supporting — milk, butter, vegetables and meat. No secret store of food needed to be assembled

District centre Mr. Shipp's shop, milk Mr. S. Clements , vegetables Mr. I. Blanchard, and a Housewives Association formed. A Head Housewife was to be appointed in each area — one housewife to each fifteen houses and she is to attend the first aid and anti -gas lectures and to obtain lists of next of kin from each household and generally help. Mrs. Jackson was appointed Head Housewife.

Ambulances. In the case of Tytherington being cut off from Thornbury, ambulances were to have come from Chipping Sodbury, who reported only limited number of ambulances.

Sites were to be collected for communal slit trenches. i.e. Station Road gardens, in the wood, bottom of school garden, Mr. Lionel Pearce’s field. Arrangements were to be made for billeting refugees; the Church would have to be used.

Suggested using the old weighbridge near the Swan Inn as a mortuary. Preparation of War Book.

Transport — Mr. Boyt, Mr. Kingston and Mr. A.J.William's lorries (the latter not available). Earmarked for Home Guard, horses and cart Mr. S. Clements and Mr. L. Pearce