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Radwinter Society

Inaugural Open Meeting

Eighteen people attended the Society’s inaugural open meeting on July 13th out of the 21 people who have signed up as members.

The meeting elected Mr. Michael Southgate as Chairman, Cllr. John Hardisty as Secretary, and Mr. Tom Chamberlain as Treasurer. Cllr. Mrs Sue Schneider and Mr Graham Schneider, Mr Tim Pratt and Mrs Wendy Rowley were elected committee members. The meeting agreed a discretionary membership fee of £2.00 per annum and a bank account is now being opened for the Society.

Sound Archive

A detailed specification has been obtained from Richer Sounds of Cambridge for equipment to enable our oral history recording programme to begin and an application has been made to Essex Rural Renaissance Fund for the necessary funding. We are aiming to acquire two minidisk recorders with microphones and a CD recorder so that recording can be transferred to compact discs.

Radwinter at War

It has long been our intention to publish a companion volume to Radwinter 1900 giving details of life in Radwinter during World War II. The oral history programme will enable us to do this.

Quite by chance, a Mr B G Slater has written to us to say that he was a wartime visitor to Radwinter and he has sent us his reminiscences. Mr Slater writes: “The Country was hard-pressed to feed itself during the war, looking to the farmers to plough every last acre. This they did. But, come harvest time, there was a shortage of labour. Farming then was still largely labour-intensive. Despite the best efforts of the Women’s Land Army and the employment of prisoners of war, more hands were needed. So, School Harvest Camps were devised to tap the brawn of older schoolboys." I was then a pupil at the Leyton County High School for boys and our harvest camp was located at Radwinter, in north-west Essex. In the later war years I was old enough to volunteer for harvest camp work".

“The camp site was a field abutting onto the eastern side of Water Lane and not far from the village. In it were pitched several old army bell tents and a large marquee. In a lower corner of the field latrines were dug, hidden behind a canvas screen. For the six crucial weeks when additional hands were needed most, the camp was manned (or boyed) by shifts of those aged sixteen and upwards under the supervision of three masters. Each boy went for a stint of a fortnight.

A bicycle was essential both to get to Radwinter and then from the camp to the farms. On the appointed Saturday morning we assembled at school with well-laden bicycles to proceed en masse along the old A 11. Vehicular traffic was minimal in wartime. Through Woodford, Epping, Harlow and Bishop’s Stortford we went and then on to the hill at Stansted Mountfitchet, along through Quendon and Newport until we reached the Saffron Walden turning. Up the hill between the bunkered tanks of the aviation fuel depot, through Walden itself and so to Radwinter. Not a long ride but a tiring one, bikes heavily loaded and no one wanting to fall behind.

So I caught a glimpse of arable farming as it used to be. We spent our days making stooks, pitchforking sheaves up onto farm carts, forking sheaves off carts onto the moving belt of the elevator (driven by a traction engine) and – under instruction – helping to build stacks; the sort of farming my grandfathers would have known. It was not all wheat, barley and oats; there was a fruit farm (called Nine Acres, I think) for which we provided pickers. An individual would spend only a few days’ fruit picking; the plums were a terrible temptation with a terrible effect." Most farms had tractors but one on which I worked still used horses. One morning I was appointed to lead the horse that hauled the cart between field and stackyard. Believe me, a carthorse is a very large animal but I plucked up courage and we got on quite well together, the only mishap occurring when he decided to rest his hoof on my foot for a few seconds. I felt the wisdom of wearing the recommended football boots!

On our cycle ride out to a farm one morning, a friend and I were amazed to hear the familiar sound of a doodlebug (flying bomb). The engine stopped and we leapt into the ditch. We were quite safe; it exploded some miles away. It just went to show how inaccurate this vaunted secret weapon was.”

Contact: Michael Southgate, Village History Recorder

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