This item was pirst serialised in May 2003 and gave much pleasure to all who read it, sadly Cliiford passed away in 2016 buthis words live on. Thank You Clifford . . . . . John Pomeroy
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
By Clifford Lockyer
Cranborne and Alderholt Home Guard
Clifford Lockyer of Crendell near Fordingbridge Hants would like to take you on a trip down memory lane to the 1940’s through to the late seventies. As most of us around here worked on farms or we were connected with agriculture we were exempt from National Service. When the L.D.V. was formed at Alderholt I was often there with some of my mates but never joined, later on when the home guard was formed we joined the No.1 platoon of the Dorset 6th at Cranborne. Our Lieutenant in charge was a Bank Manager who worked in Salisbury. Not quite like the one in Dad’s Army, although some of the things we did were about the same. When we joined first we never had any rifles, one chap who was the butcher came with his 12 bore. I had one cartridge with a lead ball in it for my 12 bore. Later on when we were issued with rifles, we were driven to a rifle range at Woodyates in an Estate lorry. As I had been so used to shooting with a 12 bore, I could not seem to get the trigger pressure right and all my shots went over the top of the target. Then we used an old chalk pit near the watercress beds at Holywell, near Cranborne.
I seemed to get on a little better there. I also remember when we joined first there must have been 6 or 8 of us marching around the school playground with a corporal in charge. Left right, about turn then halt, then we all finished up in one big heap nearly all on top of one another. We used to have to go on guard duty sometimes, I was on guard once at the Wimborne Drill Hall quite late at night I think it was from 2.00 a.m. to 3.0 a.m.
I can well remember that we used to have to go on a small bombing range at Castle Hill, near Cranborne. We were on a demonstration with Mills hand grenades. These were about the size of a cup, which was held in the hand and had something like a spring in the middle, which was just like a tongue.
This was perfectly safe whilst you kept hold of the tongue, then you pulled out a pin and threw the bomb and laid flat on the ground hoping you would hit your target. Another device that we used with these Mills grenades was a cup fitted on the barrel of a rifle. You would put the grenade in the cup at the end of the barrel, turn the rifle upside down, put the butt up against your boot and then pull the trigger.
Another weapon we had was what was called a Spigot Mortar, which I believe was something like a catapult into which you would put a bomb. I was the loader for this contraption, we were supposed to go up on the downs to use this thing but I never turned up because I had to work, so I do not know what happened.
Two of the chaps in this platoon were put in as stretcher-bearers, one who could not shoot because he shut both his eyes and the other one was so weak that he could hardly carry a rifle. I also remember once we had to go on a bayonet charge and ram the bayonet into a bag of hay tied on to a branch of a tree under the command of a Lance Corporal.
Once again I remember there was a gang of us being instructed by a Sergeant Major Cave from Verwood. I can’t remember whether it was a Machine Gun or a Bren Gun, but however a Lance Corporal who was also with us at the time told the Sergeant Major that he had it all wrong. What he thought I do not know or whether there were any swear words used.
I also remember some of the things that happened at the Alderholt Platoon. They had a rifle range under the stage in the Village Hall, which had a light above the target. One chap hit the bulb instead of the target whether he tried to hit the bulb or not we do know.
Another chap also got his pull through stuck in the barrel of his rifle. When the Sergeant came around to inspect the barrels you were meant to pull back the bolt then put your right thumb in the chamber of the barrel, if the barrel was clear the sergeant would see your thumb nail. Also you had to put the butt into your thigh to keep it steady. When the Sergeant came around to inspect his rifle he replied, “you cannot look down there because I have my pull through stuck in there”. What the Sergeant said I do not know, perhaps it was not worth repeating.
One other chap in this same platoon who was on duty by the old railway arch at Alderholt was mucking about with his rifle when a shot went through the roof of the shepherds hut which was used for sleeping in. This hut belonged to some of my mates who lived here at Crendell.
Our parade duties I believe were on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings. Often times I could not attend on Sunday mornings because of work, but if you had too many Sundays away then you were in trouble.
Sometimes some of us local chaps would go up to the Boveridge Estates to do some rifle practice in an indoor range. I believe I did much better there because it was a .22 Air Rifle. Often times when our duty was in the week we would go into the NAAFI, which was in the village hall. The NAAFI was here because there were several Army Camps around about. I also remember we had a party, which was in the village hall. I believe the food and entertainment was very good for wartime.
I will try and memorise the Officers and NCOs of this platoon.
Starting from the top there was Captain Thake who was a farmer nearby and also an Auctioneer and an Estate Agent. Then there was Major Stanford who was a farmer and an Estate Agent for Cranborne Estates. Lieutenant Gray was a bank Manager and Sergeant Major Trim worked on the Cranborne Estates. Then there was the Quarter Master, Sergeant Silvester, he had a shop in Cranborne and also cut hair. Sergeant Jones, a farmer, Sergeant Horn, a keeper on the Cranborne Estate and Sergeant Pike, a farm foreman on the Boveridge Estates. Then there were the Corporals, Corporal Worslow, a Blacksmith, Corporal Lake, a Keeper on the Cranborne Estates, Corporal Porter who worked for Major Stanford and Corporal Head who we called ‘General’, he was a farmer. Corporal Thake looked after his father’s farm, but when his father retired the St. Giles Estate would not let him take on the tenancy because he shot too many pheasants and partridges. I believe this is all of the corporals.
Now we will try and remember the Lance Corporals. There was Lance Corporal Downes who worked for Sergeant Jones, Lance Corporal Bailey and Lance Corporal Wilf Yarnold who both worked on the Boveridge Estates.
This is all I can remember of the Home Guard other than the Church parades, which were quite good, because we would be home earlier on Sunday mornings.
Robert Thorne Ltd.
In the spring of 1944 I left the farm where I was working and went to work for Robert Thorne Ltd who were Timber Merchants and Threshing Contractors in Verwood. But in the October of that year I was involved in a bad accident and I had to spend a long time in hospital. When I returned home the Home Guard had been disbanded so this brings me to the end of all my memories of the Home Guard.
As this accident happened near an army camp, not far away from Cranborne, I was taken to the 250th Hospital on the Blandford to Salisbury road near Coombe Bisset. From there I was transferred to a military Hospital at Harnham near Salisbury and after two or three months there, (and two operations), I was transferred to another military Hospital near Bath for a further three operations.
When I returned home I went back to work for the firm again, and bought a new motorbike. Father said it was the worst thing I could have done because now they would send me away to work in the Salisbury area. So I found myself working with a Wallis and Stevens Expansion Engine with a driver who had been a PT instructor in the army. What with being in a Military Hospital and having to work with this driver was very hard going as he was a very tough chap and yet he was very good hearted. He had been banned from one Estate around here because he shot into a covey of partridges killing three or four of them. The keeper caught him because they had one cooking in the oven in the sleeping van. They went to court for this.
Working with this driver did me a lot of good because of his military style. He once bagged up a sack of Hornets from a loft for someone near where he lived and he was also banned from a local pub because three or four chaps set about him – he sorted them all out. I worked with him for many years and we had several big bust ups but we always finished up on good terms.
Thornes were the biggest threshing contractors in the area and they employed many people from around the area. When I started working for them they had two tractor sets and twelve engines, most of which were Wallis and Stevens of Basingstoke, but they also had some Chas Burrell of Thetford engines. They were also Timber Merchants, Engineers, Gate, Hurdle, Spar and Sheep Crib makers but they also sold pea and bean sticks and bavins, which were used in bakeries.
Sometime around 1947 all of the engines were cut up and sold for scrap. One of the engines was called the ‘Romford Express’ named after the depot where the engines were kept. I believe that if Robert Thorne had been still living the ‘Romford Express’ would not have been cut up for scrap.
All the engines were replaced with tractors; many of them came from the USA on the Lease Lend. We were supplied with a Massey Harris 55K. Others were Internationals, McCormicks, Deerings, Cases, Fordsons, Olivers, and Marshalls. We had several caterpillars that were used for timberwork and for dragging out butts of trees for the timber wagon. Before the caterpillar tractor and the timber wagon came in, horses and traction engines were used. This was a very hard and rough job both for the horses and the men, (who were called Carter’s) and the engine drivers and their mates. Later on the horses were used on the farm and contract work for the DCC. Because there were so many horses to shoe and ironwork to mend they employed their own blacksmith. He used to light the fire in the engine and get up steam for the sawmill.
Before all these engines were cut up we used to haul pit wood down to the Somerset collieries at Radstock. This pit wood would all be loaded by hand; two skids would be rested on the bed of the lorry. It took several of us to load it because we had to roll them up the skids. Sometimes there would be someone the other side pulling on a rope. This lorry was a Thornycroft Sturdy, which was often pulled out of the woods with a crawler tractor. I can remember the side windows were broken out once and flat tin was put in there in the place of the windows. Then it was a problem for the driver to see behind, you were very much like a horse with blinkers. I was often the driver’s mate as I only had a motorbike licence.
When we arrived at the collieries the chains, which held the timber on, were undone and the timber was unloaded. If it was Larch or Fir you had to get out of the way a bit quick. All this timber was cut into lengths and used for pit props. Then we would go over the weighbridge and then load up the coal. The chap on the weighbridge only had one arm; I expect that he lost it in a pit accident. The lorry would then be backed around to where the coal came up in what was called tubbs. These tubbs were pulled up by wire ropes by an engine, which was set up high up on a platform so that the driver of the engine could see what was going on. When the tubbs came up from the pithead, house coal would go in one direction across to the right. Ours, which was steam coal, would be tipped into a cradle and then emptied out onto a screen. Underneath the screen from where we shovelled the coal was a chap shovelling out the slack. This chap was in such a state; all one could see was the whites of his eyes. We would then have to shovel up the screen onto a lorry. The big lumps of coal would be put around the outsides as high as the headboard and the slack and small coal in the middle. All the way back I can never remember any of the coal falling off. When the colliery became nationalised a belt was put in to take away the slack. They also had a canteen that we used.
The coal that we hauled from this colliery was delivered to farms, which used engines and also some, which were Steamrolling Contractors. Others were the Dorset Farmers Ltd or farms that had sterilising plants. Often loads were brought back to the depot where the engines were kept, but hauling all this coal and pit wood finished when the engines were cut up.
I have never done a great deal of tractor driving only when the drivers I was working with were away sick. One set was with a Massey Harris 55K and the other was with a McCormick Deering W9. This was a very much different job than tractor driving on a farm. I have never done a great deal of ploughing.
This firm was very interesting to work for because you had so many different jobs to do. Sometimes you could be working on the farm the next day in the Sawmills. One summer another chap who lived close to me and myself spent all the time cutting up cordwood. That was not a bad job because we could walk to work and we always brought home a shoulder stick for the fire. I also spent nearly all of one summer working around here with a horse and cart, for the Dorset County Council. This road was all broken up and it had to be remade and then tarred. Two men would be brushing the road in front of the tar pot, another man would be spraying the hot tar over the road, another man was working a pump along side of the tar pot and another was leading the horse in the tar pot. These tar pots were very much like a portable steam engine. Two more men would be spreading the chipping’s over the hot tar. One lorry would be used and myself, with a horse and cart. Sometimes I would be using a water barrel. The water was pumped out of the river at Alderholt Mill and used for damping down the road.
One of the jobs I was involved in while being a lorry driver’s mate was loading bark into a railway box wagon. All this bark had been chiselled off the butts of Oak trees and also some of the branches, with what was called a rineing tool. They were then stacked up to dry, broken up and then bagged ready for going away to Tanneries to be made into leather.
Other jobs were log haulage and pea and bean stick haulage. We took the pea and bean sticks around to local market gardeners and agricultural merchants. Bavins would be delivered to the local bakeries. One bakery would give us a bag of donuts. Sometimes we would deliver bales of straw to market gardeners to rot down for compost. One market gardener would give us a bag of tomatoes.
When food was rationed we were provided with extra rations for threshing. One of the engine drivers wives wrote to the Ministry of food for extra food because her husband was away working all the week and living in a sleeping van and it was a problem to get the food to go around. Some of the farmers also were provided with extra rations as well for us, so on the whole we did not do to badly.
Not long after I bought this new motorbike I was sent to Downton and up Wick lane to Botley farm. I believe we had three or four days work there or it may have been more. Whilst we were there I can remember going up to the top of Gallows Hill, which is on the edge of Whitsbury Down to collect firewood to light the fire in the engine.
When we had finished up at Botley we had to move to Woodfalls so we had to go up through Downton. I believe we filled up with water in the river by the tannery. As we were leaving Botley Farm and coming down Wick Lane I said to the driver whose name was Frank that I had never steered such a thing as this before. But he replied that he was aware of it so when we crossed the main road into Downton I took over the steering wheel. One would have thought that a snake had been running up the road. First of all I would be into the kerb, then into the middle of the road. As this was what you called ‘chain steering’ it was unbelievably light on the road and very easy to turn. But Frank said to me, “what you want to do Clifford is to sit in this seat” (which was right up in the roof of the cab) “and steer with your right hand and use your left hand as a brake.” I did this and one could see all those white lines, which were straight for a long time afterwards.
After we finished at Woodfalls we had to shift to Alderbury. As the road was blocked with snow from Downton to Alderbury we had to go up the main road to Salisbury and take the Southampton road. Coming down Lode Hill into Downton, Frank pulled her up told me to put the brake on, which was a wheel you had to turn on clockwise. On turning back to the steering he said he was going down the hill in big wheel and would I drag her into the bank to keep her back while he held the reverse. We then puffed on up the A338 to Salisbury. As the back axle was broken, every time you went over one of those drain covers which was in the road the big back wheel would hit the fly wheel and then sparks would fly out of the wheel very much like a grinding stone. After passing through Salisbury we were now on the A36. When we arrived at Peters Finger Frank said to me, “let’s have her Clifford”. So he took the wheel to take her across the road for water and noticed that the brake was still on. I had forgotten to unwind the brake wheel after leaving Downton. I do not think at that time there was any swear words used.
After we topped her up with water - she was not too bad for water because we had a spare tank on the side of her - we started again and puffed on through Alderbury to Witherington Farm. Just before we approached the farm we had to go up a hill and as it was that hard winter of 1947 there was ice on the road, we started slipping so I had to get off the engine and chuck down cinders for her to bite on.
At this farm we had a fair number of rick’s to thresh. We then finished up near Pepper Box Hill, which is on the Salisbury to Southampton road, the A36. I well remember riding my motorbike from home to Pepper Box Hill without getting out of second gear because the roads were covered in ice. I picked up Frank in Fordingbridge and we were going down the hill by Trafalgar House when the bike slid out from under us on the ice. All my life I can never remember being so cold. Frank was not to bad because he was riding pillion behind me.
When we did arrive at Pepper Box the sheet on the machine was froze solid with ice candles about six inches long all around it. We took the engine off the machine and the farmer had just bought a Marshall tractor, which I believe they found her difficult to start. However because of all this snow we were held up. When I did arrive home nearly froze after being in second gear for about an hour, I said to father that I was not going any more until the roads get clear of snow and ice and the weather improves.
After all the snow was gone and the roads cleared, we returned back to threshing; we still had many more rick’s to thresh. So in this year of 1947 Verwood Carnival was Whit Monday the 10th June. After that we had another weeks work up at Barford Down, between Downton and Alderbury. Having finished it all the work we coupled it all together and set off back to Verwood.
The machine was coupled to the engine then the baler elevator, sleeping van and straw tier. When we moved around with this outfit you had to have two on the engine. Frank was the driver who did all the swearing and I was the steersman. I always had to jump out of the engine and block the rear wheels whilst Frank changed the gears, sliding one cog into another and then pinning it. The block I used was put under the rear wheels for safety and to keep her from rolling back.
Whilst we were threshing I fed the sheaves into the machine and Frank kept the steam up in the engine. Going around with this outfit there was quite a lot to learn. It was different than working on a farm. Setting of this machinery was a rough job and in the winter when the ground was wet, first of all you had to set the machine. If the ground were very wet we would have to rope it in with the engine. Two big pins would be pulled out of the wheel on the near side and a big block was rammed under the back wheel. This block was also used for gear changing and then the rope would be pulled out. By pulling out of these big pins in the wheel it disengaged the wheels and therefore the drum was free for the wire rope. When the machine was set and levelled up, blocks would be hammered under all the wheels. Busell blocks would be hammered above the front carriage to keep it steady. Sometimes runners would be used to pick the head up. These runners were about a yard long and about one inch one end and about three or four inches on the other end. They were also good for striking the machines off of brick walls and gateposts. In wet ground setting of the baler was always a problem with an engine because you could not keep on running around the ricks the same as a tractor, because you would cut up too many big ruts. The engine we had was a Wallis and Stevens Expansion and I believe I am told when the expansion was worn it became a problem to shut her off. These balers were always a problem to set because they were so heavy. Often times we would have to strike them over with a big screw jack because if they were not set right they would not work.
After we hitched it all together and put my motorbike in the sleeping van and out on the road. I can’t remember whether we filled her up with water at the tannery or not. There was no bypass at Fordingbridge in those days; you had to take her through town and all around bank corner. We then filled her up with water at Ringwood. They had a bypass there then but we had to take the whole outfit around the market place and fill her up in the river by the bus depot. I had to jump out of the engine and put the shovel in the water and then the hose on top of the shovel; then the hose would not suck any dirt because if you got any dirt in your injectors then you were in trouble. We arrived back to Verwood about 4.0pm.
Another year we finished the season at Boscombe village near Boscombe Down. I rode the motorbike up picking Frank up in Fordingbridge. We coupled it all together, cleaned it all down and oiled all the wheels. I then put my motorbike in the sleeping van and rode on the tractor with Frank. I cant remember whether the tractor was an international W9 or a Massey Harris 55K but however with this long outfit after passing through Salisbury and Fordingbridge with no bypasses it took us all day to get back to Verwood.
I remember once father telling me he could remember when Robert Thorne started contract work with one set of threshing tackle. I believe father also told me he did work on Salisbury Plain and he had a small sawmill at Romford Mill. Later on he bought more sets of tackle as some of them were going bust and he also took on the drivers and their mates with them.
Father also told me that Mr. Thorne was a man to his word and a good Christian gentleman. Father told me once a customer came to him one Sunday to see him about business but Mr. Thorne told him to come again on Monday morning. He did not talk business on the Sabbath. They always had a time of prayer between nine and ten in the mornings. As business began to grow they built a new sawmill on Dewlands Common on land, which they had bought. They also put some of the engines and machines there. They turned the sawmill at Romford into a workshop for maintaining the engines and machines. All the drills and lathes were driven with belts and overhead gear with a petrol engine. In later years Mr. Thorne lost a leg and was blind but he still knew what every one was doing and was always a good Christian Gentleman.
Once I remember while I was a lorry driver’s mate we were sent to Moreys Gravel pit at Blashford near Ringwood to pick up a load of gravel to fill up holes in the road, which led up to the sawmills. As this was a long wheelbase and was not a tipper the drop sides were bent out like bows and we shovelled it all off into the holes in the road. Later one of the engine drivers rolled it in with a Burrell Traction engine.
Once we were threshing down at Gorley I believe it was for a Mr. Viney. Our threshing team were as follows: one man with one arm, one with a crook, one with one eye and one with a withered hand, but, however we seemed to complete the task which was set before us.
One other time when we were threshing and baling up at Botley which is up the end of Wick lane near Downton, the chap who was minding the dust and cave and returning the wires on the baler; he was always a bit on the weird side. I believe I am right in saying some nippers had him in a pram and let him fall out of the pram into a chalk pit and this is what affected him. He always took snuff from a cocoa tin with a mustard spoon; he was very polite and well educated. He was often seen up and down the A338 Downton to Salisbury road on his bike with bowler hat and whiskers gone all brown with snuff and picking up all the rubbish along side of the road. He would also sweep chimneys for people in Downton.
As I stated before Frank the engine and tractor driver with this threshing and baling outfit was a very hard and tough man. We used to receive 5/- a day from the farmer, which was called grubb money; of course this is in old money. Sometimes Frank would charge the farmers 10/- (50p) per day when we did extra work for them and he always gave me my fair share, sometimes I would say to him that I must get some grubb today. He would say “don’t get any tomorrow I will bring you on some Clifford”.
Frank would often be sent out with Timber Cutters with the Engine or Tractor to hold back trees whilst cutting, often times he would climb up the top of a tree and cut off a branch with an axe, anything dangerous he would do.
Father told me once he could remember of two fatal accidents concerning Traction Engines. One was the other side of Fordingbridge. They had been using the roping gear; the pins had been pulled out but after use were pushed back into the wheel and had not been keyed. They should have been keyed on with two split pins, so when the Engine came out onto the road and down the hill she went out of gear. It was father and son on the engine, the father told his son that he couldn’t hold her and told him to jump, he jumped into the bank but his father was killed when the engine tipped over.
Another one was somewhere around the Verwood or Woodlands area. A lady was riding her bike along side of the engine talking to the driver when something caught in her front wheel and she fell off under the rear wheel of the engine. The driver pulled the reverse lever back but could not stop her soon enough and she was crushed to death.
One day when we were threshing near Barford Down I cannot remember if we had the engine or tractor, but however when combines first came out there was a small one working nearby which was power driven and pulled by a tractor. It was one of the small ones about as big as a binder. When I arrived back home that night I told father where we had been working and that there was a small combine working up there as well in one of those fields which run up to Pepper Box hill. “Yes” he replied “they have come to stay” and this was nearly the end of the threshing contracting days other than the reed combers.
Other jobs I was involved in whilst being a lorry driver’s mate was we did a fair amount of log haulage to Bournemouth and Poole and also we would haul hurdles to sheep and wool fairs.
I well remember being sent to Somerley Estates one day with a driver with a Guy (I cant remember whether it was an Otter or a Vixen truck). We had to haul out cordwood alongside of the road for another lorry to pick up, but however one of our bosses came around and took the driver on home because his little boy had swallowed a pin. I then had my dinner, but the driver did not return so I thought that I would see if I could drive this lorry. But I carried on until the driver returned and this was my first attempt at lorry driving, I have learnt a lot since and made a lot of mistakes.
Another job I was involved in while I was a lorry driver’s mate was moving an Allis Chalmers model M crawler which was used for timber haulage. Two big runners was placed on the rear of the lorry by the tailboard which I believe were made of Oak. These runners were very heavy and thick and were bevelled off at each end. I believe the drivers would always try and park the lorry on some low ground somewhere or back her up against a bank so it was not so steep for the crawler to run up the runners. I did see this crawler come down the runners sideways once, also I remember once when she was backed up on the lorry one of the cross members was broken. We had to deliver this crawler to the Forestry Commission at Lyndhurst and because the bed of the lorry was broken we had to build it up underneath with cordwood. I believe there was a ramp there so that the crawler could be unloaded on the level.
Sometimes during the summer we would be sent out with a baler to bale hay. Sometimes hay would be swept into the baler with a sweep and other times it would be put into a rick. When it was put into a rick Frank would back the baler into the corner of the rick and he would feed the hay into the baler and I would work the baler. Working of these balers was a very dirty and black job, what with the dust from the hay and all the wires being covered in grease which prevented them from going rusty. Needles would be pushed through the chamber by the press; wires would be threaded through the needles and tied. When the needles were pushed along in the press the needle would push up a trip and it would put the feeder out of gear. You would then wait for the ram to clear the hay, which was in the chamber, and then wait for the ram to go back again so you could push your needles through, hold the needle then put the feeder in gear. Then the hay would keep the needle tight so you could thread the wire through. On the end of the baler was a press, which controlled the weight of the bales; if the hay was pushed into the baler too fast the only way to slow it down was to screw down the press. Then you were in trouble because you had a lot of very heavy bales. When the pickup baler was invented and the combine came in all these contracting jobs came to an end.
Dorset Farmers Ltd.
In the spring of 1956 father sold Gold Oak Farm to the Cranborne Estates and split it up between my sister and me. I took the first job, which came along which was a part time driver and store-man for the Dorset Farmers Ltd of Verwood. I thought I worked hard on farms and for threshing contractors and timber merchants but nothing as hard as this job. First of all we had a trainload of fertiliser all in 1¼ hundredweight bags, which was wheeled on the lorry. We then crossed over the railway to the store and stacked them all on pallets ten high. It nearly killed me. Everything we done was carried on your back or shoulder. I said to my mate who was the foreman “I cannot stick this job,” but he said to me “you will be all right Clifford when you get used to it in about 12 months”.
As store-man all the work was hard and heavy, loading of lorries and unloading them, bagging up coal and coke. I used to load up a Morris 10-cwt van with about 1 ton for the rep to deliver while he was collecting orders. Later on the rep was supplied with a car, which came from the Head Office at Dorchester. I then took on driving this Morris 10-cwt van.
We used to put about 1 ton in her. I well remember going to a farm once with this van, with 10 sacks of wheat in her. When I arrived there I asked the farmer where he wanted it? He said to me, “up there driver,” which was up 10 or 12 steps in a granary. I told him that I was sorry but I could not do that, so I took it back to the store and delivered it with the lorry on my way home.
When I took on lorry driving first I did not like it at all. Gateposts and brick walls always seemed to get in the way. Sometimes the hydraulic jack would be used to strike her over.
As this was a Farmers Society everything we supplied was for the farmer and his family and we often found it difficult how to load it. As I stated before this was very hard work and a difficult job to learn but it was a very interesting life. You may have had a hard load to deliver with about 12 or 14 drops one day, then perhaps the next day you may be detailed for Avonmouth or London. If it was London you could make a day of it. On leaving for London which would be about 3.0 a.m. with very few motorways, the main drag was the A30 and A4. The pickups in London would be as follows. C.W.S. at Silvertown where all the cattle cubes and some of the pig and poultry meal were made. Other pickups would be B.O.C.M. and Ranks both of Silvertown. Other pickups would be Erith and Belvedere, Millwall, Greenwich, Battersea, Stratford and Southall. All these were feeding stuff manufacturers and Compound Mills. First time I went to London I had a petrol Bedford. I expect I used about 20 galls. I did not go again for about another year, so all I learnt the first time I had forgotten at the second time and that was not much fun.
Other mills in which we would collect feeding stuffs were in Avonmouth docks and in Bristol. B.O.C.M. were in Avonmouth and we often used to call it down the mouth. I believe B.O.C.M., which was the British Oil, and Cake Mills Ltd was one of the largest compound mills in the world.
After leaving Bristol you would pass under the Suspension Bridge and down the Portway to Avonmouth. Before you arrived at Avonmouth at the end of the Portway one would turn left through the Dock Gate and turn left for B.O.C.M. You would then pass through a pylon. If the traffic lights were red, you had to stop and you had enough time to have a cup of tea there. When the lights became green you would then follow the road up to the weighbridge. Then on to the Lorry Park which would hold about 14 to 16 lorries. You would have to wait there until you were called in on the public address. I believe there must have been 40 or 50 loading chutes. The loader who was loading you would be up about 3 or 4 storeys high. He would then throw your tickets down in a handful of cattle cubes. When I started first going in there the chutes were straight down, then you were nearly buried in bags on the bed of the lorry. After a while they fitted a belt at the end of the chute, which slowed up the bags quite a lot. Even this was not very satisfactory because you could have 3 or 4 bags coming over the belt at the same time, so a long belt was fitted and you could press a button and bring the belt up by the headboard and press another button and it would go back.
The transit shed was better for loading because you could see the loader who was loading you. When you were loaded you would then go back over the weighbridge. If your weights were wrong you would then have to go back for a recheck and have your load pulled all about.
This firm was so good on manufacturing of foodstuff, sometimes the loader would say of a certain item, which was not ready, could you have it on last drive, and they would make it while you were loading.
When grain was delivered to this big compound mill the 2 cwt sacks would be tipped into a grid which was pulled away by a cup belt which took about 20 minutes to reach the bins. As this was one of the biggest compound mills in the world it was quite easy to get lost. They had their own police in here so if you were in doubt they would put you right.
I once remember of a driver who came into these mills to collect a load of feeding stuff. I believe he was mucked about all over the mill on going over the weighbridge. The weigh master told him to go back for a recheck. He then told the weigh master what he could do, put the tipper in gear and tipped it all up on the weighbridge. He had no problem of getting out of the docks because he had an empty lorry and did not need a pass. I don’t expect he ever went into B.O.C.M. after that.
Other mills we would collect from were Crossfields, Pauls, Spillers, Hosegoods, P.B.A. and C.W.S.
Fertiliser would be picked up from Fisons at Avonmouth and I.C.I. at Severnside. Other pick-ups would be in Bristol such as C.W.S. The docks and fruit markets for seed potatoes I can well remember picking up 100 iron piles at Goodmans on Templemead Station and delivered them to New Barn Farm at Horton. During the summer months we would pick up baler, binder twine, and rope at a rope factory at Brislington. We would drive into the factory then go out through another factory where they built the Bristol Buses.
Another pick-up would often times be at Keynsham A.F.P. Viteomealo. The forklift driver there was a nasty piece of work. One day, when I went there, one driver had blackened his eyes.
During harvest we would be involved in haulage of grain. The grain in which we hauled to Bath and Bristol we always returned with a load from the Docks. Other loads of malting barley would be delivered to Malt Houses at Warminster and Frome from the Ringwood Area. We would do 2 loads one day and 1 the next day. This was a very good job because it was all in 2 cwt sacks. I also remember delivering a load of Malting Barley to Abingdon near Oxford, then a return load from B.O.C.M. Avonmouth. This was a good day out.
Other good trips during harvest would be to the Wiltshire Farmers silos at Melksham. You would be able to do one load one day and two the next day. We used to do the same to SCATS silos at Andover. These silos were built during the war for grain storage and I believe they were called the Recomishen Mills. Because the depot where we operated from was in grain growing country and before farmers obtained elevators we were fitted with hydraulic loaders, which was good. They were slow but it gave plenty of time to sort your load out. I got so used to loading 2 cwt sacks that I could tell the farmer when I had the right number of sacks on without counting them.
This grain haulage was very hard work but it was very interesting. It was good to see a neat and tidy load. Our trips to Avonmouth we worked as a team, 4 or 5 of us would meet at Browns tearooms in Bristol for bacon and sausage rolls and a cup of tea. Then we would all go off to the docks and mills at Avonmouth. We would all meet up again at Claverton Lay-by, which is in between Bath and Warminster. Then sometimes we would help one and another unload on the way home. But when they brought in a bonus scheme all this of helping of one another finished because it meant every man for himself. There was no fairness in it whatsoever because the drivers with the biggest lorries had the best jobs and the best money.
During summer months we would be involved in wool haulage. This wool would be collected from farms. The Dorset wool would be delivered to the Devon and Cornwall Wool’s at Buckfastleigh. Hampshire and Wiltshire would go to South Molton. I nearly lost a load once. After that we would take them back to the store and put them on with the forklift, then rope them on with the forklift. Smoke used to come out of the rope where they were braced on so tight. Then the sheet was put over and roped again so it would not move. This was a very good job because it was a high and light load like a load of straw and going down into Devon there was no return load.
I believe all these wool-grading depots were connected to the Farmers COOP’s.
When I started lorry driving first for the Dorset Farmers at Verwood I drove a long nose petrol Bedford; that was a good lorry to drive but not so good for farmyards and gateways. First time I took her to London she had very small mirrors and no indicators. It was a guess what I am going to do. All our vehicles at that time were supplied by the C.W.S. Motor trade department of Bristol.
I took a lorry back there once to have a tailboard fitted. It was a Bedford with a Leyland engine, 122CHY. At this trade department they built bodies on vans and lorries and I believe at one time they operated coaches. I believe this depot was out at Staplehill.
Other journeys we were involved in are as follows. We would sometimes go to Andover to collect midds from the Junction Flour Mills. This was a good run. Other journeys would be Southampton to Ranks Flourmills. During harvest you could be queued there with grain for hours on end and then you would have to queue again for compounds.
Other pick-ups would be at Totton, which was Fison’s for fertiliser. We would also collect creosote and tar from the ‘South Western Tar Distilleries’, which was close by. Close by there was also a factory where the Allis Chalmers was built.
After about 12 months with a petrol Bedford I was supplied with an S type Bedford with a diesel engine in her, which was a good lorry to drive but she was a bit under powered.
Whilst we were driving petrol vehicles at two local garages we would receive one penny per gallon. In one of the garages it went into the kitty and we had a share out at Christmas. At other garages we would receive in old money one shilling and some were even two shillings.
Some farmers and customers would give you a bob or two sometimes if you looked after them. We also did very well with coal deliveries.
Another of our journeys was to Shepton Mallet. B.O.C.M. had a store there. This was a hard run the roads were not very good and was hilly. During harvest we hauled a fair amount of grain down there. This was very hard going because it was a load both ways. I remember picking up a load of grain once on the Down between Cranborne and Handley. They loaded me up, I roped and sheeted her down, and they left me with the tractor gone. I was stuck on the Down at the bottom of the hill by the river. I tried several times to get up over the hill but had wheel spin so I decided I would take the valley road down through Pentridge. All these sacks belonged to B.O.C.M. They were about a one hundred and a half. I took this load onto B.O.C.M. at Shepton Mallet and then returned home with a load of feeding stuffs.
During the hard winter of 1962 and 63 this store closed down because the roof fell in and it all went back to Avonmouth.
The winter of 62/63
Here are just a few thoughts of the winter of 1962 and 1963.
I was booked in for Avonmouth. I built a hard standing here outside from where we live. I went out one morning and started her up, went to pull away. She slid over into some bushes and therefore I was stuck and could not get out. They sent another lorry to pull me out going up the hill (holler) the chain broke and I backed her back home which was about a ¼ of a mile and left her there until they sent out an A.E.C. Matador to drag me out.
I then left her by Cripplestyle Chapel then sometimes I could not get her out of there because of snow and ice. I often had to wait for someone to come along with a Land Rover or Tractor to be pulled off.
I always carried a chain in the cab. Sometimes when it broke I put a bolt in between the links.
One day in 1963 I was detailed to pick up a load of rolled barley at Ludwell near Shaftesbury. It was not a very good area to go in the snow and ice. However I slid down over the hill by Wingreen, turned in left then right towards the farm when I hit a snowdrift which was as high as the cab. I baled out of her and jumped in snow up to my knees. I then walked up to the farm. They came out with a crawler to drag me out.
Having loaded this rolled barley I then went out on the A30. I believe I was going to Henstridge or Stalbridge, I can’t remember which; but I never arrived that day. Not knowing the area very well I saw a diversion and I found myself going towards Gillingham, met a car on a bend and we skidded into one another. The step was ripped off the wheel so I rang the transport at the office at Wimborne who told me to come on back and take the Blandford road. Having left Shaftesbury on the Blandford road, at the top of what I believe is Cann Hill an Artic was stuck and could not get up the hill. The copper who was there asked me where I had to go and I told him out near Fordingbridge. He told me best thing I could do was go back around Salisbury. I then said to him if I was any help I would go down the hill and pull the artic up. So I went down forward and hitched on a chain and pulled her up the hill, went to turn around and I found I had no lock. So I got down under the front and found I had bent the drag link. I then went on in front of the artic, which was going back to Bristol. We then parted at Wilton. I arrived home about 8.30. My wife was nearly up the wall.
Another time at Holt we went off the road into some bushes had to leave her there all night and had a lift home. Most of the time there was two of us on a lorry and this made it quite a bit easier.
We also were stuck in a snowdrift at Midgham, which is on the back road from Fordingbridge to Ringwood. We left the lorry there all night and started to walk home. My mate, who I had with me had to go back to the other side of Wimborne but we phoned a rep that lived at Verwood and he came and picked us up.
Another time three of us were delivering with one lorry in the dark when we got stuck in a snowdrift and had a puncture in the front wheel. We then had to shovel all the snow out under the front axle before we could jack her up.
That night when we were stuck in a snowdrift near Midgham Farm after being pulled out with a tractor it took us all day to get rid of that load.
I went back to Verwood with my mate that night and walked home which was about three miles. The road was had less snow from Verwood, Ferndown and Wimborne than it was from Cranborne to Wimborne because of drifts. The road between the two Honeybrook Farms was filled up with snow so we had to go across a field in one gate and out of another.
One other time during 1963 we were detailed to haul grain from a store in Wimborne to Winterbourne Stickland on my S type Bedford. I had a hydraulic loader so we loaded from my lorry to the other, as we did not know how many sacks there were. So I finished up with about half a load before we approached the farm the road went across some fields and over a hill. As I only had about half a load I had wheel spin and the other driver who I was with told me to back her and have another go. Which I did but the front of her slid over the bank then we put the chain on her and pulled her out with the other lorry.
I was once going up Dead Man hill out of Cranborne when I had wheel spin on black ice, the wheels were going forward and I was going backwards. So I backed her back down by the bakery and had another go so I managed to make it then on ice snow and mud. The slower the wheels went round the better they would bite.
Just after I started working for the Dorset Farmers I was sent to a farm at St. Giles with an O.B. Bedford to collect a load of grain from ricks that had just been threshed which were out in a field. As it was wintertime I was pulled into the field with a tractor and was again pulled out. This entire load went to the mill at Poole.
During the hard winter of 1962 and 1963 farmers would group together and we would have several drops at different farms. It made it a lot easier for us because after the roads were clear it was still a problem getting in and out of farmyards.
Two of our drivers once filled up the porch in the Reading Room at Alderholt for the farmers to collect. The forest ponies came in and were so hungry they ripped the bags all to pieces. My wife heard this on the bus going to Fordingbridge; it worried her because she thought it was something to do with me.
I believe this is all I can remember of the hazards of snow and ice of 1962 and 63 but when the roads became clear our Depot Manager decided all lorries would be based at Wimborne, but I told him I would find another job. But after several weeks he told me I could keep my lorry at home and I would be working in the area around here.
The Verwood depot
Just a few more memories of the Dorset Farmers depot at Verwood; which was on the station yard. I believe there was about eight of us all together with manager, office staff, store man and drivers. We were all very happy there and had great fun. Sometimes during the summer we would pick up bales of hay for our manager because he owned a fair amount of land in the Verwood area and he also owned several poultry farms.
We once picked up an army hut for him at Warmwell, which he used as a poultry house. The driver who I went down with was so bad tempered because he was working for the manager and not the Dorset Farmers he kicked the window out with his boot and the manager would not let him go any more. So me and another driver finished it off and in the end we did very well out of it.
I remember once another driver and myself were sent to pick up a cabinet from a lady in Verwood for me to deliver to Bath on the way to Avonmouth. When we got to the store our manager asked how much did she give you. We told him she gave us eight fags in a packet but we did not smoke. But to finish with he gave us ten bob so we did not do too badly at all.
Several times when I was delivering in the Verwood area I went into a ditch. Once I forgot a small bag of poultry food and had to get Thorne’s to rope me out, as this was my fault I worked all Saturday afternoon for nothing.
Another time when delivering around Verwood as many of the roads were gravel and sandy tracks I had delivered something to our ex-depot manager at Verwood who had built a bungalow on what was known as common land. As this was only a sandy track in which I was on I met a car and pulled over. I then heard a hissing sound and I found out I had a puncture and was stuck in sand and could not get out. I then walked across the track to phone the Wimborne depot. This man where I phoned said he knew what had happened because where our ex-depot manager had built this bungalow with a fence around it he had been out there and driven all the iron piles down in the ground and you have driven over one of them. So then Robert Thorne Ltd had to come out with an A.E.C. Matador crane and lift her up while I changed the wheel and then they had to rope her out.
Another time when delivering to a farm at Woodlands this was a new customer and I did not know what the drop was like so I backed down the lane by the old Post Office. The lane was all overgrown with hedges as I pulled the right hand down I thought the front wheel on the near side would drop in the ditch. So I pulled her forward a little and I tried to get her straight but as I backed her back a little the front near side wheel dropped in the ditch right on the front axle. So I baled out of her and had a look and I thought if I tried to get her out I would then have the back wheels in there as well. So I walked up the road and rung our office and the depot manager got in touch with Robert Thorne Ltd and this was another job for the A.E.C. Matador. The driver said to me that if I put the wire rope up over the jib I can lift her up and pull her out at the same time.
Before the depot at Verwood closed all our coal and boiler fuel was collected from Poole, which belonged to Wood’s then Corrals. This was a big wharf where it came in by boat. This was not a bad job because if it was a wet day you did not need a sheet and there was very little dust in the coal. We also had a small mill on Poole quay where we used to collect feeding stuffs from. Only one lorry at a time could be loaded there. I was loading there once I used to back her in so that the drop-side was level with the chute where the cubes and the pellets came down all the meal came off a ramp. One bag of cubes came down the chute; the bag seemed to wrap around my neck like a scarf. I then found myself going over the drop-side. I then grabbed hold of the drop-side and hung upside down like a bat, let go rolled down on the floor back up again on the bed of the lorry. There was another driver who was helping me load and I told him what had happened and he said he never saw a thing and would hardly believe me.
Another time I was stood on the tailboard pulling the sheet over the bar and as I was wearing rubber gloves my hands slipped and I fell backwards on concrete. With a bit of luck I saved myself with my hands. These sheet bars were good things, when it was wet you could fold the sheet back by the tailboard and tie it back tight and you could drag all the bags back to the tailboard and not have to untie the sheet. When you had a high load such as Ranks or Mc Dougalls you could take down this sheet bar and tie it on under the bed of the lorry then it did not interfere with your load and if you wanted it was quite easy to get at it.
Just after I started working for the Dorset Farmers I picked up a load of fertiliser to deliver to Gussage St. Andrew, which had to be put into one of those granaries, which was on legs or staddle-stones. As this was seven tons and she was sat well down on the rear wheels this was almost level with the granary floor but I did manage to get it all in there. I did just manage to get them eight high as well but it was hard graft.
Another time I had eight ton to deliver to a farm at Wimborne. When I arrived I asked the farmer where did he want it. He said “in there drive and I want then twelve high”. I then told him I was sorry I could not stack twelve high, but I would stack them in tens. When I finished he gave me fifty pence. So I did not do to bad.
Once one of our drivers, who had a Leyland Comet with a load of fertiliser on to deliver to Boulsbury farm, Damerham. As he approached the hill at Eleven Cross from Cranborne the road he wanted for the farm came right back to meet him and therefore he could not make it. So he backed her back into a track – which went into some fields up towards the down – went forward to pull right hand down, but could not make it. He tried to back her back but had wheel spin so the front of the lorry was in the bank but could not go back or forward. So they had to come down from the farm and off load it onto a trailer and then pull the lorry back off the road.
When we were based at Verwood me and another driver was detailed to go to Bisterne to a farm where the barn was full of Malting Barley. All this Barley was to be put into railway box wagons on Christchurch Station. This was another job which was very hard graft because Christchurch Station was only down the road from Bisterne and all those two hundred sacks had to be topped unlike Verwood because there you could carry them in on your back or shoulder. I always shouldered them because I could control them better than on my back.
I remember once when we were at Verwood I was on all one day hauling wheat from High Lea Farm, which was only a few miles away. All this wheat, which was in 2¼ cwt sacks, came out of a loft. These lofts were all right when you started but when the springs went down the loft got higher. When I arrived back to the store our rep who was there then jumped up on the lorry and wheeled them back while me and the storeman carried them in. By the time I finished that day my shirt was broke all to pieces.
One day I was sent to Avonmouth to pick up a load for the mill on Poole quay. Having arrived, our mill manager asked me if I would go around the back. So I backed her back in between the mill and another warehouse. As this was so narrow with only a few inches either side and these S Models doors were so wide I could not get the door open wide enough to get out so I had to get out through the window and climb up over the load. As this load was midds in hessian bags, which was 1¼ cwt, they all went up on a chain.
On the way home one afternoon I pulled her in off the road where years ago they used to park the steamroller or the tar pot. I jumped up on the back of her to brush the bed off and as the back wheels had dropped into a hole and the front wheels had to go up over a hump so I could not get her out. As this was a country road, which was not used very much, so I had to wait until someone came along. However one chap came along with a mini-van. I stopped him and asked him if he could give me a push and he replied don’t be so silly, how can I push a thing like that, which weighs about four-ton. So I asked him if he would try and he said yes, but he did not think he would be able