My Grandad Horace

Claude, William, Grandpa, unknown, Grandpa

An excerpt from him mini biography

“In 1937, grandpa married my maternal grandmother (known as Nannie), Mary Oldfield, whom he had originally met at school, he had started his own coal merchant and haulage business from the Station Garage which was owned by his father and directly across the road from his parents’ pub. There was also a bicycle shop. This was also the year Neville Chamberlain became the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister who led the country into the Second World War.

                                Grandpa and Nannie from a school photo c1924

I am told his dad, Arthur, used to refer to Nannie as ‘that blond over the bridge’; No one’s really sure why he didn’t really approve of Nannie, other than the fact she came from a large family (Nannie had 3 older brothers; 3 younger brothers and 5 younger sisters, making her one of 12 children!) although Arthur was himself from a large family (being the eldest of 14 children). It may also have been the case that Oldfield family were seen by him as ”not good enough” because they did not have their own business, land etc. Nannies father, Fred Sheard Oldfield, was a General Labourer. Perhaps there was a bit of social hierarchical snobbery!

Nannie was a year younger than Grandpa having been born on 30th August 1915 and worked as a housekeeper prior to marriage. Details of their early relationship are a bit patchy at present however what I do know is that they must have caused a bit of a scandal at the time as they were married on 27th February 1937 and their first daughter (my maternal aunt) was born just over 4 months later! We only discovered this when Nannie died in 2012 and my mum found their marriage certificate. It suddenly became clear why, when I asked nannie a number of times how long they had been married and she would always say she couldn’t remember! I am sure this was not the case, particularly so as it was only 5 days after their wedding that grandpa’s father sadly died at the age of 57 leaving everything to his wife, Annie, grandpa’s mum. This fact however may not have helped Arthur’s opinion of Nannie!

Once married Nannie and Grandpa lived at 7 Graysfields, Eggborough. A semi-detached council house, which was brand new when they moved in and in which they lived all their lives. Nannie gave birth to my maternal aunt on 9th June 1937 just less than three months before the outbreak of World War 2. The 1939 Register which was essentially a population count ‘census’ carried out on 29th September 1939 to help with recruitment to the armed forces, shows grandpa as a Coal Merchant Haulage Contractor and nannie an ‘unpaid domestic duties’. Grandpa was age 25 at the start of the war and was subject to conscription under The National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 which was enacted by Parliament on 3 September 1939, the day the United Kingdom declared war on Germany at the start of the Second World War.

There were exemptions to conscription and a man could apply to defer being called up, which is exactly what grandpa did on the grounds of his self-employment as a coal merchant. In a letter to grandpa from the Ministry of Transport dated 9th November 1940 (after the start of the Battle of Britain which began on 10 July 1940), which states
“the Minister has recommended that enlistment should be deferred in your case in order to afford you an opportunity of finding a substitute or otherwise of meeting the position which would result from immediate calling up”

His official notice from the Minister of Labour and National Service dated 18th September 1941 states that he would not be called-up before 15th March 1942. It was probably hoped that the war would have ended by this time! However it was shortly after this, on 7 December 1941 that Japan invaded Pearl Harbour with Britain and America declaring was on Japan the following day.

In the meantime he took his turn at incendiary duty during local air raids. There is one story that on one of his duties on Eggborough Hill with another local man, he had taken his rifle with him to shoot some rabbits. The local policeman turned up, who although he knew grandpa well, insisted on seeing his gun licence which of course grandpa did not have on him. The policeman escorted grandpa home, in the middle of his incendiary duty, to see his licence. When they got home, I’m not quite sure what happened but the story goes that grandpa offered the policeman a drink (alcohol of course!) and started chatting, but the time they had finished the policeman had forgotten all about the gun licence and never did see it…I’m sure grandpa had one though!

Grandpa was called-up on 16th July 1942 into the Royal Engineers or ‘Sappers’. He completed his military training on 15th September 1942 and Military Transport Training on 12th November 1942. Grandpa was due to be posted to Japan but as he was boarding the ship to leave England he collapsed with nerves and was admitted to hospital in Glasgow for a number of months before he was well enough to continue his service. As a result he was then posted to Gairloch in Northern Scotland serving in the 910 Stevedore Company where he worked as a driver loading and unloading ships in secret locations. He was extremely lucky as he had friends and acquaintances that were posted to Japan and ended up in Japanese prisoner of war camps, which would no doubt have been my grandpa’s fate had he boarded that ship. I doubt he would then have been the same man I knew and loved. Victory in Japan took place on 2 August 1945 after the invention of the atomic bomb earlier that year which was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.”


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