David Hilson

David Hilson was born in Turvey in 1932. His mother’s maiden name was Wooding, a very common name in Turvey throughout the 19th century. Dave remembers that when he was growing up in Ladybridge Terrace, he lived next door to Woodings on either side, making three in a row with his grandmother, who lived with him! His grandmother kept a laundry with three other ladies on Ladybridge Terrace, using the Tandy’s Close field (before there were houses) to dry the laundry. Dave says he was put in the bath after the sheets for a wash every Monday.

Dave and his friends got up to a lot of mischief during the war, and he also remembers the stories of the men who came back, because he would go and listen to them talk in the Reading Room. He later qualified as a carpenter and worked on the construction of many of the houses in Tandy’s Close. He met his wife Beryl at a dance in the village; she grew up in nearby Stagsden. You can hear her voice in the background in some of these clips. Together, they raised their family in Turvey and have never lived anywhere else.

David remembers finding out at a friend’s house that war had been declared in 1939.

 

 

“Not an awful lot, I can remember going to a friend’s house.  They never discussed it in front of me, my family didn’t.  Then I went to a friend’s house and they were discussing it and I was shocked at what was going on, what was going to happen cause they expected an invasion and these people were discussing it as if we were going to be invaded and it frightened me and I went home to my mother and said about it and she said it’s nothing to do with you and it wasn’t discussed.”

David remembers the games he and his friends would play with the bullets jettisoned by returning aircraft in World War 2.

 

 

“Yes, they jettisoned the bullets. (Beryl: The ammunition before they landed.  They left, they dropped all the stuff they’d got left in the planes before they landed so that it didn’t explode).Yes, they used to jettison it on to what was Turvey Park, we used to go hunting for bullets, and then in the day time they would have a fire, but the fire had to be put out at night because you couldn’t have a glow but what we used to do, we used to throw the bullets in the fire and run like hell, because every 6th bullet was a tracer. (Interviewer: What does that mean?) Well it, where the bullet went, you could follow it, it was what they called a tracer bullet, don’t ask me how but every 6th bullet I think if I remember rightly was the tracer bullet so if you put it in the fire, they’d all explode but then one tracer would come up, a dummy then there was a tracer and we used to hide behind the trees.  Francis Bailey used to be the main one.”

David Remembers the trouble they got into after playing with flares, which one of his friends stole from the Nissen Huts of the American Army stationed in Cold Brayfield:

 

 

‘If you pulled, well you had a flare and if you pulled the top off, the flare went off.  So we used to throw them in the river and they didn’t go off, they still kept flaring, so you could see the fish, so it still kept going in the river, the water didn’t put them off, so you actually, you could see the fish in the river. (Interviewer: Didn’t you get told off because of the blackout or anything?) Well,nobody seemed to know. (Beryl: Yeah but once you all got caught didn’t you? When it went off in your face and you went to -) Ah yes, one went off in my face and burnt both my eyebrows equally.  Now, Brian Horne, he lost one eyebrow, we had to explain this at Harrold School so we must have all been eleven, twelve, we must have been because we were at Harrold School.  So we all had to go before the headmaster and explain why some of us had got singed hair, some had only got one eyebrow.  But my eyebrows were, I don’t think they’ve ever grown actually properly, both sides of my eyebrows got burnt, but it was equal so it didn’t show quite so much as Brian’s did.  And Francis Bailey, he lost a lot of his hair at the front so it, yeah, it went off and that was in Tandy’s Close, there was a , there was no houses there then just a field but we used to sit in there, playing about with these flares.”

David remembers how he was taught to swim by a German prisoner of war:

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“They didn’t mix at all, because they used to bring them out from somewhere else.  We were more involved towards the end of the war with the German prisoners.  One young lad in particular used to sit on the banks of the river while we went into the deeper water, he would sit on the bank of the river and say ‘a little bit further’ you know and that, so he literally taught me to swim.  He was there in case we drowned or got into difficulties. So that must have been towards the end of the war because they weren’t allowed out before then.  They all worked on the farms towards the end of the war you see, the German prisoners, but I never saw any Italian prisoners working on the farms, I don’t remember them.”

David remembers dances at the Village Hall, like the one where he met Beryl. Having learned to dance with a chair (because there weren’t enough girls to go round), Dave describes the dances:

 

“Oh yeah, because if you get up and ask, but you see, the thing was it was a bit embarrassing, because, before I met Beryl obviously, the boys at the dances, the proper dances, would all sit one side of the room at the big school, right, and the girls would all sit the other side of the room.  So you walked across at the start of dances and say may I have this dance, they’d say I’m not dancing with you, so then you had to walk back and your mates would be cheering, well done boy, and they knew what had happened, they knew what had happened, if you walked back without this girl, they knew what had happened didn’t they.  They would be sitting there cheering you.”

A transcript of the full interviews with David Hilson may be found in the Voices Archives

 

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