My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Postcards from my collection

I hope you enjoy this set of postcards sent from Charlie to Maudie in 1904. There is a previous post about Charlie and Maudie here

Dear Maudie, I'm sure this sweet set will please you. très bon! With love Charlie

Dear Maudie, only 7 weeks to Easter!!! It’s pouring with rain again and I’ve been playing all the funeral marches I’ve got to cheer me up. It seems like sacrilege to play anything more lively in Godalming. Metcalf has just started on an eight mile tramp through the mud, so we’re all happy. Adieu pour joyous! Charlie. 

Dearest Maudie, I was quite overwhelmed with gratitude to receive such a beautiful card from you this week. It’s too kind of you and I shall never forget it. (You don’t mind me mentioning that I had that one already, do you?) Easter is getting nearer and nearer. Doesn’t the tempus seem to fugit?  Metcalf went to a dance last week he can’t dance, so he wallflowered and talked scandal with all the other old women. With love, Charlie.

Dear Maudie, the C. M. will do very well, thank you. I haven’t quite decided yet what I shall send you when this set is finished. I’m not going out at all on Monday, as I’m sure to be in great demand. Who is the luckless wight you mean to fix? Love Charlie. 

Dear Maudie, only four weeks to Easter! I suppose it wasn't you who wrote to Metcalf on the 29th? He didn't have a chance of accepting, as he could not recognise the writing. Isn't the weather simply lovely? With Love Charlie. 

Dear Maudie, this is the last of this sweet set. How quickly the time does go, doesn't it? With love, Charlie.

The six cards featured here were sent to Maudie at her Brighton address, whilst the set in the previous post were sent to an address in Hove

 I have an earlier set sent in 1903 to addresses in Guildford and London.

The clues on the postcards proved too tempting to ignore, and a little online searching revealed the following;

Maude Alice (Maudie) Anscombe was born in Brighton, Sussex, England in 1884 daughter of Henry Anscombe and Alice Anscombe née Hacker. Henry and Alice also had a second daughter Gertrude Mary (Gertie) born three years after Maude. Sadly, Gertrude died a few months after her fifth birthday in 1892. I don’t know the cause of death, although it may be reasonable to assume it was influenza.  The first great flu pandemic to be widely recorded was the Russian flu of 1889–1893, which returned annually until 1901. In Great Britain, the winters of 1891 and 1892 were the worst. The epidemic was characterised by huge morbidity. In 1891, 125,000 died from influenza, and in 1892, there were 250,000 flu deaths in Great Britain. Brighton suffered with exceptional severity. 

When Gertie died the family were living at Belmont Villa, Prestonville Terrace, Brighton.  Henry was employed as the assistant manager at the Gas Works, Croydon, London. Which may explain the London address on one of the postcards. Is it possible the family had a London home and a home in the country?

1901 finds the family still living at Belmont Villa, Brighton. They now employ a servant (Mabel Whyborn born in Worthing, Sussex). Sometime between 1901 and 1911, they move to 2 Granville Road, Hove, Sussex. Maud is now 27, unemployed, unmarried and living at home with her parents. 

1915 sees an interesting development when a Miss Maude A Anscombe marries a John W Metcalf at Steyning in Sussex and in 1922 they have a child - John A Metcalf. (The registration of birth records his mother’s last name as Anscombe.)

Did Maude choose 'Metcalf' over Charlie?  It certainly looks that way.  

Maud died in Guildford, Surrey in 1971 and approximately 30 years later I purchased her postcards from an auction. There is obviously a lot more to this story, and I hope to delve further as time permits.

Do you have any thoughts or questions? I would love to hear from you.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday 285 : Postcards / Hotels / Buildings

Please pay a visit to Sepia Saturday for more postcards, hotels and buildings.

Source documents
Postcards as described above.
Census records 1891, 1901, 1911.
Birth, marriage, death and parish records.
East Sussex Family Database.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Further Training - A Guest Post by John Flitney

See previous post here

Si vis pacem, para bellum. (If you wish peace, prepare for war. ) The motto of the Royal Navy.

With that in mind the navy, in 1830, converted the third rate ship of the line HMS Excellent to a gunnery training ship and moored her at Whale Island in Portsmouth harbour. She was replaced by the second rate HMS Boyne in 1834 and finally HMS Queen Charlotte, first rate, in 1859. Both being renamed HMS Excellent. The guns were fired down a range on the island. The size of the island was increased with the spoils from the expanding dockyard. Eventually HMS Excellent became a ‘Stone Frigate’ a naval term for a shore establishment and continued as the navy’s principal Gunnery school.
(Third, second and first rate of a ship indicated its size and the number of guns it carried. Third rate had 48 - 60, seconds 90 - 98 and firsts had a hundred guns or more.)

Excellent’s reputation for discipline was well known and it was with a feeling of trepidation that I arrived there on the 20th May 1959. The place was immaculate and all personnel were correctly dressed at all times and moved smartly around the establishment. It was a case of having to as the shout “You ‘orrible man, report to me!” could come from anywhere. Except, and I found this out later, there was just one place on the entire island you were told to do the opposite. Between the main accommodation area and the parade ground was an area of grass and trees with a collection of flowering shrubs. Paths across this place took you through the shrubs and past a small menagerie hidden within. Here were housed several species of parrot and one of these was quite vocal. It was a large green job and should you foolishly enquire of it “Who’s a pretty boy then?” the reply you got very succinctly, just two words, told you how to depart the area. It was the only thing that drew any complaints from visitors to the island it was so rude. I just cannot think where it might have learnt such language and me such a delicate young lad too…………tut tut!!

Training continued but now was concentrated on guns large and small. The biggest I experienced was a 4.5in. twin turret, all enclosed and hydraulically operated. The shells and cartridge were separate and supplied to the turret by hoists from the magazine. These were then manually taken from their hoists and placed on the loading tray and then mechanically rammed into the breach. The faster you could do that the better the rate of fire. The Bofors 40mm (1.57in.) twin open mountings were loaded with clips of five rounds at a time and if you could keep the feed going each barrel was, in theory, capable of firing 120 rounds a minute. A short trip in a lorry would take us to Tipner rifle range where we were taught all about the hand held weapons, mainly the Browning .303 bolt action rifle, Lanchester submachine gun and the heavier Bren machine gun. After tuition, in classrooms, on cleaning and maintenance of the weapons, how to use the sights correctly and how to reload their magazines we would go out on the range and shoot at various targets at differing distances. Snap targets were the most fun as they would appear suddenly in different positions for just a few seconds so you had to spot them then aim and fire quickly. We also took turns in the butts marking the shots of other classes. This was done by lowering the target after the ‘all clear’ whistle, all the targets were coloured black and white so we would paste a contrasting colour square over the bullet holes and then raise the target again.

Also at Tipner we learnt basic fire fighting techniques. Fires of different substances were lit to simulate possible situations aboard ship and allowed to get well alight before we had to put them out using the correct method, such as foam for oil fires. On larger blazes we used two hoses, one to create a spray that acted as a heat shield the other to fight the fire. One incident I heard about involving Tipner was about security at night. I’m not sure of when exactly it happened but at the time paraffin was still a popular heating fuel. The oil company Esso had added a coloured dye to their brand of the fuel and were doing a serious advertising campaign for it. The security guard, each night at Tipner, mainly to protect the armoury there, was made up of part of the duty watch from Excellent. The Officer of the Watch would at some point in the night travel to Tipner to check all was well. On the particular night in question the duty officer was the Paymaster, the supply officer responsible for money obviously. He arrived at the gate at Tipner at about 2am and wanted entry. The man on duty there correctly asked to see the officers ID card. He hadn’t got it, and I imagine the conversation gradually got more heated. “I’m sorry sir but I cannot let you in without seeing your ID.!” “I am the Officer of the Watch and need to get in to sign the security log here, open up at once!” “No sir! I do not recognise you and I would still have to see your identification card even if I did. It’s the rules!” “But, but I’m S. O. Cash!” “ I couldn’t care less if you was Esso Blue you aint gettin in ere wivout your ID!!”

We also travelled to Fraser Gunnery range at Eastney in Portsmouth to fire the bigger guns. I remember using ‘breakup shot’ (centrifugal force caused the filling of the Bakelite shell case to break it apart shortly after it left the barrel) on the Bofors. What was used in the 4.5s I do not recall. I cannot imagine we lobbed large, albeit dummy shells, out toward the busy seaway of the Solent.

For the first time now I was doing ‘duty watches’ every fourth day which meant extra work in the evenings or weekends. This involved cleaning work around the establishment, sentry duty and security patrols during the night. Also fire fighting if necessary, as a first response before the civilian brigade arrived. When not dutywatch evenings were mostly free and we were now allowed ashore, though as Junior seamen we had to be back aboard by 2359. Along Commercial road was a small cinema that screened nothing but cartoons in an hour and a half programme with two programme changes a week. I was a regular there twice a week. Also I spent a lot of time racing the dodgem type cars on a delightful figure eight track at Southsea funfair. There were the routine weekly mess inspections and kit inspections but they were less frequent now. There was also the inevitable parade ground. (I would have loved to use one of Uncle George’s fabled Oxometers here just to measure the amount of ‘bull’ applied.) So even more marching and rifle drill. We learnt even more complicated ceremonial drills such as firing squad at funerals, reversing arms as at street lining or mourners at state funerals. We simulated being an armed landing party and the formations required for that and how to defend ourselves should we have to form an anti-riot squad ashore.

Shortly before we finished our course at Whale Island we were issued with our tropical kit. This was a pair of white square rig suits, white shorts, blue shorts, knee length blue socks and a pair of brown leather sandals and white canvas shoes plus a white canvas kit bag to stow it in. This gave a clue that our next posting, known as a draft chit, could involve travel to warmer climes perhaps. Not long after the completion of the training our draft chits arrived. Myself and a small group of the other members of the class were to join HMS Scarborough, recommissioning on 28th September 1959 in Portsmouth after a major refit.

To be continued...............

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Game On

Two of my favourite childhood pastimes were Hopscotch and conkers but at school I would usually be found in the middle of a gang of kids playing British Bulldog a game more or less banned from playgrounds now. 

Hopscotch via

At home we played card games like Whist, Cribbage and New Market competing for matchsticks or pennies. Another favourite was roulette. Probably not the games you would expect children to play, but we loved them, and I'm pretty sure it didn't do my brother, sister or me any harm. Sadly, I don’t have any photographs, partly because we didn't take many back then but also because game playing was taken very seriously.  When I met my future husband back in 1966 he had little choice but to join in. He still talks about being paid on a Friday afternoon and fleeced by his future in-laws on a Friday evening! It may not be far from the truth. We still played for pennies, but it could mount up and wages of about £3.00 a week didn't go far. He obviously didn't mind too much as we are still together forty-five years later.

In this photograph taken in 1972, my husband Terry and my dad are playing table football a much gentler but no less competitive game.

Mum helpfully captioned most of the photographs in this album. We always spent at least one day with my sister and her family over Christmas. Their house was just perfect, large enough for plenty of fun but small enough to feel warm and cosy. My sister has written more about the house here

My sister's children Christmas 1972
From the top Jacqueline, Paula, James and Michael Wood.

Peekaboo in the park 1976.  
Me doing the peeking and our son Steven running to hide.

I was an agent for Freemans catalogues back then, and this photo of Steven was chosen for the February edition of their 'Happy Families' Competition. It was published with the caption “It ain't arf cold, Mum", but Steven is warm and cosy in his Freemans coat and bobble hat.

A boy and his dog - probably the best games of all...

Steven and Kelly - May 1983.

Another family favourite

Steven and I getting in a twist while mum awaits a turn. Dad suffered from Rheumatoid arthritis so Twister was a bit beyond him, but he never said no to a game of cards.

A sign of things to come? Well yes and no.

 This is Steven, Terry and I playing a slightly larger version of table football with Steven's son Kip.

The victors!

One final photograph before I put the games away. This is Steven's younger son Tristan contemplating his next move. I can't remember what we were playing, but this is a favourite picture of mine because it sums up Tristan's competitive nature and sense of fun. 

The boys are grown up now, but it's lovely to have these memories to look back on.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday No. 282 Chess : Games : Musicians. Chess was one game we didn't play.  I'm sure we had a board and the pieces but probably none of us could understand the rules.

See who else is playing over at Sepia Saturday

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