After the phoney war of the previous year the realities of conflict began to bite in Timsbury in 1940. In April villagers were convinced that a bomb had dropped when something was seen falling from an aeroplane. People ran for cover only to discover that it was in fact a propeller from a twin-engined plane which became embedded in the ground. An eyewitness said, “The plane was flying very low at the time and I thought it was going to crash on to a roof of a house. Suddenly I saw sparks which seemed to come from the engine but this may have been caused by the propeller getting loose”.
There was great excitement in the village in May when Queen Mary paid a visit to the residence of the Dowager Lady Sysonby at Parish’s House. Although the royal visit was a private one the news quickly spread and the Queen was welcomed by a large assembly of villagers and schoolchildren. Business premises and homes were decorated with bunting and national emblems. The Dowager Lady Sysonby was the widow of the first Baron, the title having been created in 1935. The family seat was at Great Tangley Manor, Guildford.
January was a very dry month in 1940 but it brought the coldest and most severe frosts for 100 years. The temperature of 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit on January 20-21 was the lowest recorded locally since records began. The rainfall on the other hand was the lowest for over a decade and there were only two days in January when rain was recorded.
Because of the war British Summer Time began six weeks earlier than normal on February 25. The news was greeted with enthusiasm by most people and a large number took advantage of the change to go for a stroll in the country after tea on a Sunday. Churches had already dispensed with evening services because of the blackout restrictions.
Difficulties in dealing with the influx of evacuees from London occupied much time at Clutton Rural District Council’s monthly meeting. A constant cause of concern for Timsbury Parish Council was the poor supply of water in the village and it was suggested that the emergency reservoir might be used. It was said that Timsbury with a population of over 1000 was practically waterless for 2 months in the summer and suffered a shortage for 4 months.
The Timsbury Comforts Fund for those serving in H.M. Forces benefited to the tune of £1-3s. as a result of a revue given by Mr. Fenton of High Littleton and his party of talented juvenile performers known as “The Starlets” at the Church Room. A large enthusiastic audience thoroughly enjoyed the evening and a comedy number, “Please leave my butter alone” by Mona Biggs was considered to be worthy of special mention.
1940 was a big year for my father and the Timsbury Male Voice Quartet of which he was a member. Together with George and Bill Fear and Bert Fricker he attended a radio audition with Leonard Urry and within weeks the four had made their debut on the air. Billed as the “Singing Miners”, the quartet sang in the “May We Introduce” section of the programme “Monday Night at Eight” which was compered by Dave Burnaby.
Timsbury Church School said goodbye to headmaster Albert Lewis and Miss Edith Evans who had taught at the school for over 40 years. At a special retirement ceremony Miss Evans received a fireside chair while the headmaster was given a gold wrist watch, a cheque and a book containing over 250 names by village rector Rev. J.C. Rose. Sadly within a fortnight Miss Evans who was said to be one of the best known and most loved individuals in Timsbury was taken ill and died.
There were two other sad fatalities in the village in 1940 and both lived at Foundry Cottages, Bloomfield. Serena Berry, aged 36, died from tetanus after scratching her thumb while cleaning out a pigeon-house. She was admitted to Bristol General Hospital three weeks after the scratch but died of asphyxia caused by the tetanus infection. Then later in the year Ronald Gregory aged 19 died in hospital after falling off his bike at Marksbury. He had been cycling to meet his father who was returning from work in Bath when he collided with a member of the Home Guard during the blackout and landed on his head.
Timsbury Athletic were beaten 2-0 by Coleford Athletic in the final of the Midsomer Norton Minor K.O. Cup but as the year progressed sport took a back seat as the war intensified. The Weston-Super-Mare and District League was the only one still operating in Somerset by the end of 1940 at a time when Bristol and Bath were amongst those cities experiencing the horrors of the blitz.