Fairford History Society

Monthly Archives: March 2014

March 2014: New Publication


Music in the Window’s of St Mary’s Church

by John Read.

FHS Occasional Paper 13

Take a closer look at the angels in the stained glass and learn all about the medieval instruments they are playing.

Price £2.50p (£2 to FHS members) available from enquiry@fairfordhistory.org.uk or 01285 711768 or St Mary’s Church, Fairford



March 20th 2014: Dad’s Underground Army by Bill King

Coleshill Park Gates (2013)

Colehill gates

At the March meeting Bill King gave his usual informative, entertaining and gripping talk about Dad’s Underground Army, the Auxilliary Units an intentionally uninformative title. These were part of the precautions taken during WW2 if the German invasion had taken place. Bill has had a 35-year interest in this secret organisation. All members had been bound by the Official Secrets Act, and therefore never spoke about it. In 1994 a reunion was organised. Advertisements were place in national newspapers asking all ex-Auxilliers to meet at their old HQ [not named], about 100 ex-Auxilliers turned up. Thus a lot more information has been found out about these brave men.

Each unit was made up of 7-10 people who did not know anyone else. They had three underground ‘hides’ hidden in their area of about a five-mile radius within striking distance of targets suitable for being sabotaged in the event of an invasion. The bunkers were built by Canadian Engineers who were employed to dig holes not knowing where they were or what they were for. Suitable civilians who showed signs of leadership qualities were identified and recruited as suitable candidates for these. They carried on their day jobs as usual but if invasion had come a password meant they would have all disappeared underground away from the families who would not have known they were part of it. In 1940 the password was ‘Cromwell’ and at this time the country had been within a hair’s breadth (or 21 miles across the Channel) of invasion. These units had their specific targets to sabotage, their life expectancy was about two weeks, they would not have survived.

Having given the background Bill went on to explain about the bunkers and equipment that was used and the methods of sabotage which might have been employed. Coleshill House was the training centre for men and Hannington Hall for the women. The men were given a railway ticket to Highworth and told to present themselves at the Post Office, a pre-arranged conversation took place concerning stamps and change and the postmistress, Mabel Stranks, went to the back of the shop ostensibly to get change but in fact ring up Coleshill to come and collect the men.

This is just a very brief snapshot of Bill’s talk in which there was a huge amount of detail.

In June Bill will be conducting a walk around Coleshill, there are a few places left, please contact enquiry@fairfordhistory.org.uk. A mock hideout has been built and there is some evidence of the former occupation of the site. It is thoroughly to be recommended.

Entrance to one of the hides at Coleshill (2013)

Hide entrance at Coleshill



February 20th 2014: Fairford Farms by Edwin Cuss and Chris Peachey


Over 60 people attended the ever-popular February daytime meeting. This year the topic was ‘Fairford Farms’. Edwin Cuss showed about over 100 slides on an agricultural theme. He started off with a general section about local agriculture and the associated trades and activities in the area, including blacksmiths, saddlers, butchers, the Young Farmers, markets, fatstock events and ploughing matches.

 After the coffee break he covered the local farms in the area: Home Farm that provided foodand rehabilitative therapy for the patients of the asylum (now Coln House School); Horcott, Waiten Hill, Milton, Totterdown and Rhymes Barn farms on the west side of

town. Manor Farm Park Farm, Moor Farm in the centre and east of the town. He also covered smallholders.

 As always each picture was accompanied by an excellent informative commentary and this year with the added expert knowledge from local farmer Chris Peachey, which gave the whole event an extra dimension. As well as technical information about breeds of animals and types and uses of farm machinery, Chris commented that Bert Cuss’s horse ploughing was the straightest and cleanest furrow ever ploughed with horses and there were some of his former girlfriends among the photos!

 Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the morning and we wonder what the topic will be next year. The two pictures show Park Farm about 1870 and Bert Cuss showing a fine example of a furrow at a ploughing match

 Picture 79 (2)

‘In War and Peace: Poles Who Came to the West Country’: a new book presented to FHS


‘In War and Peace’  is available from the Anglo-Polish Society, Bristol and the South West. Price £18 with Postage & packing £25



In February FHS was presented with a new book published by the Anglo-Polish Society, Bristol and the South West titled ‘In War and Peace: Poles Who Came to the West Country’. It consists of reminiscences and recollections of Polish exiles who came to this country at the end of World War 2 having been ousted out of their own country. In addition, some of the stories come from Polish children who came to Britain after Poland joined the European Union in 2004.

From the Preface

The contributions range in age from over 90 to about 9 years old. The oldest contributors has served in the Polish Army, Air Force and Navy and had fought as allies alongside the British Armed Forces. Several were soldiers in the Home Army (AK) in Poland who took part in the Warsaw uprising and survived German Concentration camps. Some of the men, women and children who had been deported by Russians to Gulags and forced labour camps in Siberia, the Russian Arctic, Kazakhstan and other parts of the USSR, wrote about their struggles to survive and subsequent lives, including in some cases years in India, South Africa and eventually resettlement camps in the UK….

 Recalling was for some contributors painful but many wrote of happy times, friendship and love they found among the British people………..

 These are stories that if not recorded now would be hidden in the mists of history and Lady Danusia Trotman-Dickenson and the Anglo-Polish Society should be congratulated on their endeavours in getting this work in print.

 The book covers stories from Gloucestershire: Babdown, Daglingworth, Fairford, Northwick Park, Southrop, Spring hill Lodge, Stowell Park and Ullenworth. Wiltshire: Keevil, Charlton Park, East Everleigh, Fargo and Grimsditch Camps, near Salisbury and Ttilshead Down Farm Camp. Somerset: Lulsgate Bottom, Dorset: Haydon Park, Devon Honiton, Ilford Park, Cornwall: St Mawgan.

 There are some stories from Fairford camp’s residents and families some of whom later moved to Swindon. There is also the story of how the Fairford Polish Hostel got its plaque thanks to the efforts of Alicja Światek Christofides – what a memorable event that was and FHS was very pleased to be part of it.

 ‘The book is dedicated to those whose stories will never be told’.