In May 1942 King George VI and his wife, the present Queen Mother, paid a visit to Bath to witness for themselves the horror of the blitz which had devastated the city on the last weekend in April. While the royal couple examined the ruins of one hotel rescue workers still laboured to recover bodies from the debris. The Somerset Guardian of the day described the attacks in graphic detail:
“German bombers rained their loads of death and destruction on the defenceless city”, it wrote, “and swept the streets with machine-gun fire after first lighting up the city with a shower of flares”.
The year had begun with the sad news that Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hatherell had received official notification from the Admiralty that their son Percy was missing. He had been serving as a signalman on the battleship Prince of Wales and had been clearly visible on a film shown to the public of the momentous sea battle with the German battleship Bismarck. Percy also had the honour of carrying out the duties of signaller from the decks of the Prince of Wales to the battleship carrying the American President Franklin D.Roosevelt before his meeting somewhere in the Atlantic with Churchill. It later transpired that Percy lost his life when his ship was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers at Singapore.
Alarm bells were also ringing later in 1942 for the well-being of another popular Timsbury resident Sergeant Norris Lloyd Jeffery. Lloyd as he was generally known was reported missing in the Middle East where he had been with the army since September 1941. Thankfully in August his name appeared on the list of names of prisoners-of-war in Germany and it later emerged that Lloyd had been taken prisoner in the Western Desert and then marched hundreds of miles through Sicily and Italy where he escaped for 12 weeks and finally into Germany. After the war Lloyd was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) for exceptional services rendered at Bir Hacheim in the Western Desert.
To aid the war effort the Timsbury Comforts Committee was formed. In May 1942 the secretary Mr. I. Roberts reported that there were 86 Timsbury men in H.M. Forces and 6 women in the Women’s Services. 2 men were missing and 2 were prisoners-of-war in Germany. During the previous 12 months £1-19s-6d had been sent to everyone serving abroad and prisoners-of-war each received a parcel paid for by the committee every 3 months.
Following the Bath blitz the Mayor set up an Air Raid Relief Fund and Timsbury did its bit to bolster the kitty by arranging a football match at the Timsbury Senior School ground. A good crowd turned up to see a Timsbury and District XI lose 3-1 to a Pick of Bristol side with the fund benefiting by £15. Amongst those representing the Timsbury team were Bernard Jeffery, Alan Lewis, Harold Purnell, Jack Hasell, Harry Hasell, Bryan Adams and my father.
In April 1942 the Bristol Education Committee recommended to the City Council that £4090 be borrowed to cover the cost of purchasing and equipping a new remand home at Timsbury. It was proposed to acquire Renny’s (now Rosewood Manor) in Love’s Hill and evacuate the boys’ remand home which at that time was at Marlborough House. An intended annexe which was included in the original schedule was omitted due to cost.
A mixed choral society was formed in the village under its conductor Madame Hilda Lewis who was well known in the area for her musical talents. The chairman of the group was Mr. Oliver Lewis and its objects were to promote musical interest and in general assist in the welfare of various charities. To those ends they then gave their first public performance 2 months later when a large appreciative audience turned up at the Church Room and helped to raise £11 for the Timsbury Comforts Fund. Apparently the choir under Madame Lewis “exceeded all expectations and greatly impressed the audience”.
Commander Edgar Young was the lecturer at the 5th. annual one day school held by the North Somerset Left Discussion Group at Kingwell bungalow. Some 100 students assembled for morning lectures and 150 in the afternoon. The war position was high on the agenda and the central theme was the urgency to open up the Second Front. In the evening there were items from the Abertillery Unity Male Voice Choir.
Finally the weddings took place in the village of Pte. George Rosewell and Marian Shearn at South Road Methodist Church and Guardsman Arthur Peploe and Evelyn Curtis at St. Mary’s. The latter ceremony was conducted by the Rev. J.C. Rose and his brother the popular entertainer Clarkson Rose was attracting large numbers to Bath’s Theatre Royal where his Twinkle Company was appearing. According to the newspaper critic of the day Clarkson set the standard “in this class of intimate revue”.