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Oral Reminiscences - Cis Terrey

My life began on 1st October 1919 at "The Lilacs", Helmdon. Sadly my mother passed away 6 weeks later on 17th November. My father's sister came to look after my two sisters, brother and myself. She was widely known as "Aunt Pat".

At the age of 5 I started at the village Church of England School as it was then, but when the new school was built it changed to council. Life was happy then. My father was a sheep and cattle dealer so we had plenty to do helping with the animals. We had our own donkey cart and later I used to ride a pony shepherding my brother. A familiar sight were the sheep and cattle being driven through the village. At the age of 11 I left Helmdon School and attended Brackley High School for Girls. We had to cycle through all weathers until I left at the age of 16 to help at home. A few years on and the rumbles of war. I joined the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) and won my badge and also a First Aid Certificate.

September, 1939, we were at war. Petrol, food and clothes were rationed. Our life had changed, the Blackout was in operation, troops were always on manoeuvres around, and at the age of 21 I was in the first women's Call-up. I joined the Women's Land Army and worked on the farm from morning till night, ploughing, sowing, reaping and mowing, etc. We had to plough up acres of our grassland.

Evacuees arrived in the village; a searchlight was installed in Wappenham Road. We were able to watch the soldiers trying to pick up the German Planes. A contingent of Canadian soldiers on manoeuvres rested for a while through the village. I had just milked our Jersey cows and carrying a pail of milk past the tanks they held out their mugs which I filled, and soon emptied the pail and also the cake tins.

We had a Prisoner of War camp at Sulgrave and I used to fetch the German prisoners to work on the farm. Some of them were good workers so we encouraged them with a little food, usually huge Yorkshire puddings, which they loved. We were working in the fields at Sulgrave when we invaded France. The sky was full of planes going over and they realised that something was going on. They were talking between themselves in German but we had to keep very calm.

The Home Guard used to have to guard the viaducts, as that line was a direct route for moving ammunition. We watched Coventry burning from the top of our field when the bombing was bad the village was lit with flares. On the lighter side we had some good entertainment with soldiers and airmen and often their wives. We were in the Reading Room on one occasion when news came through that the big battle ship the German Graf Spee had been sunk - there was great rejoicing.

The day we were waiting for at last arrived, with Churchill announcing on 8th November 1945 that the war with Germany was over. We had great rejoicing that night, and again 8th May, V.J. Day.

Sorry to say life has never been the same as pre-war. My father passed away in June 1947. I was married in 1948 and our two daughters Celia and Julia were born in 1951 and 1954 respectively.

Helmdon was altering, a lot of newcomers. The Women's Institute managed to survive. We farmed for some years at Astwell Mill.

Julia was married in 1974 and George passed away in January 1979 and sad to say Aunt Pat in September 1979.

Eventually Celia and I moved to 77 Church Street, leaving the old home after 65 years. Life is still going on with many changes in Helmdon, but sad to say not for the better. With two railways closed and poor bus service, no Post Office or shops, that's Helmdon now in 2000.

Cis Terrey, January 2000

Article from the Helmdon W.I. Millennium Scrapbook, reproduced with their permission
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