Fred and Cicely Buckle

Interviewed on 9th August 2005, at their home in Miller Close [If you are using the CD-ROM version you can hear them]

Fred Buckle was born on Good Friday, 30th March 1923, at 27 Wetherden Road. His parents were James Frederick Buckle from Thurston and Amy Dora Tweed from Bury. James was with GER before it changed to LNER, a signalman up to the time of the Beeching 'axe', and retired just as diesels were taking over. James' father was Walter Frederick, a ganger on the railway line. {Note: although there are 18 Buckles in the 1871 census, the connection with Walter, if any, is not known. Walter was buried in Thurston, and James & Amy were cremated in Ipswich.} Fred had an older brother Ralph (see the 1928 school photo) and a younger brother Terence who died in a WW2 bomber, on his 1st or 2nd sortie (see Roll of Honour in St John's); and a sister, who became a domestic.

Cicely (pronounced like 'sice-ley') was born on 3rd October 1924 to Florence & George Rush, living then in Oak Lane; she had an elder sister, Cissy. The Rushes came from Thorpe Morieux; {Note: in the parish cemetery are George (1950), Katherine Grace, Cicely's sister-in-law, and Charles and Syble Mary Rush, who are not known to Cicely.} Her father and brother worked on Street Farm, then owned by a Mr Barker, and their home in Oak Lane was a tied cottage. But in 1936 George fell ill and so could no longer work on the farm, so the following year they moved to Jubilee Terrace, a row of council houses built in a field at the back of Wetherden Road, her home for the next 41 years.

Fred then lived more-or-less over the back fence from Cicely. When he left school he did a short spell with Hawes the printers, then found an office job at the bacon factory. Cicely worked at Wright's radio shop for a while, and then she too went to the bacon factory. War came, and Fred went off with the Navy (see below), so they didn't see much of each other. After demob. he joined F J Nunn & Sons, and in 1947 they were married, living in Jubilee terrace with her parents. They had a son and a daughter. Fred was also in the volunteer fire service for many years.

Fred worked at Nunn's for 13 years or so as a fitter, on tractor engines; then he moved to Bakers in their engine workshop, and finally he transferred in about 1965 to Barber Greens in Bury, who made road-making machinery, being made redundant when he was 61. In 1979 the Buckles moved to their present home in Miller Close.

Early Days

Fred: There was no electricity; water came from the pump/well up the road - still visible [I can't see it!] in the front garden of No.X. There was no sewage, just a loo in the back yard; (Cicely: "We had candles - if you had to go to the loo in the night the candle went too!"). Father had a sty "with two or three pigs in, same as everyone else", a nice big garden and an allotment. The allotments in those days were (i) where Pightle Close is, near the telephone present exchange, (ii) in front of the bacon factory, where industrial site is. We (brothers and sister) had to do our share of work on the allotments. They remember neighbouring kids - Risleys, Burches, Brenda and Dot Reed (who both married Bakers) were Cicely's friends.
Cicely lived in Oak Lane, in the first house on right - there were only 2 more houses in the road then. The Oak pub was right on the corner, next door to a garage (perhaps the present Organ Store) called Ball and Gibson: they were lovely people who came from Islington, 3 girls and 2 boys. On Fridays the mother did a big tray (wood with brass handles) of cakes. Half the cakes were eaten by the time they got home!
When they moved to Jubilee Terrace the rent was 4/6d per week.

The Railway

Fred's father was one of three shift signalman on this busy line, Frank Kerridge who lived in Victoria Row, Ernie Bowles who lived in Wetherden Road, and father; they worked 6am-2pm, 2-10, 10pm-6am - a different shift each week. Each of them in turn them had the weekend off while the other two worked 12 hours each, eating on the job: Fred took his dinner along to him at w/ends, and sat there while he ate. Shunting horsemen weren't on duty at weekends so the signalmen also had to feed and water the horses. There were big heavy gates - 'we used to open the gates, and had to lock them before they put the signals down'.

The other station staff were Stationmaster Duddle, a booking clerk who lived down Wetherden road, two porters - Bill Rudland and an old uncle of Fred's, Latimer Bonfield, who came from Thurston - and the horseman, Mr Scase.

The platelayer gang looked after the line between Thurston and Elmswell - in those days they had a man walk the line every day between Thurston and Elmswell and Haughley, up one way and down the other, checking the line: he had a hammer and a bag of blocks to wedge the rails tight. This was their job during the day; they had another duty on foggy nights: they sat in a little hut in the field beside the line near the 'distant signal' and placed detonators (yes!) clipped to the rail. These went off as the engine went by, alerting the engine driver (and signalmen too) that he's passing the distant signal approaching the station. They sat in the hut keeping warm over a fire, and when the detonators had gone off they went out and clipped another one or pair in place for the next train. You could hear these across the village - as kids we never had a clock, but knew the times of the trains: 8:20pm every night was the continental train passing from Harwich to B'ham. {NB: the signal gantry in many of the pictures of the station was called the 'home signal'.}

A nice perk We were more fortunate than the other kids - farm pay was terrible, but father's job was secure and we had Privileged Tickets - we could go to Yarmouth, maybe, or Felixstowe, and we even went to Leeds for a holiday with an uncle who lived there (he was a railwayman too, so could come down here for a holiday himself). Such was the advantage of being 'railway children'.

There were various sidings: one for Moys coal-yard, one (splitting into 2) for the bacon factory, one the other side by the vets was Jewers' coal-yard, one where the cattle-pens were (on the north side in the Haughley direction). They used to bring a lot of cattle in there, and drive them off by road. There was also a goods shed where the industrial site is, and a siding into that.

School

They both went to the Old School from 5-14, walking home for dinner and back again. [A generation before, Cicely's mother Florence had herself walked to school from Oak Lane, also walking home for dinner.] Henry Sterne was schoolmaster, a real discipliarian; Miss Durrant lived opposite Tate & Lyle, in the house on the corner; Infants had one teacher in one small room; the other two classes were in another bigger room; there was a gardening space outside. Girls had cookery in Woolpit, getting there by bicycle when older (perhaps they walked when younger - they had to walk that far anyway to go to the doctor's, which was then in Pepys House, and the dispensary).

The school bell would ring - we'd be up at shop corner...

Bacon Factory

An office boy job came up at the bacon factory, better money; Fred's brother was in accounting for the elecricity company at Finborough Hall, and Fred hoped to get into the same profession.

His boss was a Scot (James/Jock Henderson); he ran the scouts, and his wife ran the cubs - no girl guides then. Whereas most working folk were paid cash on Saturdays at the last minute, Friday night was pay night at the bacon factory: "I went round with my governor, bringing the envelopes in trays."

The factory was run by a Dane, Andriesson. It was started in 1912, owned by shareholders, run for the farmers who supplied the pigs. It was Andriesson and Henderson he was hauled in front of for ticking off: [what for?] - a lot of things [say no more!]. He thinks there were about 100 on the payroll when he did wages,... ... 7 in their office, the factory office had 3, two vans went out delivering. A lot of stuff went out bulk by railway - shunting horses moved the trucks and they hitched them to the back of the Passenger train which came in at 5pm: traffic (at going-home time) had to wait at the level-crossing gates while they hitched up, the drivers all swearing at the signalman. Smaller packages (sausages, pork pies, wonderful range....) went to the station by hand-cart, into the goods van.

Cicely had to do something more important for the war effort than Wright's shop, so she joined the bacon factory rather than going away from home into the forces. She started on 5s a week, and stayed there until her daughter was born.

Once a year the factory had a pig show in their field, where the first factory house was built; this finished with the war, when the government took over the factory. Turned it into an abattoir, one day sheep, next pigs,....

When the war started, 2 or 3 in the office were terriers and just went, leaving a shortage, and Fred got promoted. A Home Guard unit was set up, with Henderson in charge and Fred had to do more work for the HG than the factory. He says he was Pyke to JH's Mannering (referring to Dad's Army)!

After the war Fred could have gone back to the bacon factory - serving people's jobs had to be kept open - but after the outdoor existence of RN he couldn't stand the idea of being back in an office.

Churches

Cicely was Baptist - the Chapel was quite near where the family lived. Harry Pearson was the baptist minister at the time they attended there.

Fred's family went to St John's Church. They used to have Sunday School on Sunday morning. Fred was confirmed there, and he was in the choir until he left school. Rev. Sayer was one of the nicest persons you ever met: wide as he was tall, a woman hater (but not 'one of those'), and he had a manservant who ran the Old Rectory. "Joey we always called him (JD to his face, Revd. Sayer to other adults)". Always had a men's choir (he wouldn't have a woman in the place), and an organist George Hammond from Stowmarket who came every Friday night for choir practice. They started half-hour early and George would play all the latest hits on the organ, in the church. The organ was hand-pumped - Hilton Baker was a polio cripple, he'd be pumping the organ like billy-o. Then in would come Joseph, so George would break off, but "It's OK - I've been outside quarter of an hour listening!"

The boys had the run of the ground floor (only): "We was never allowed on the stairs".There was a full-sized billiard table in one room; he remembers Tidget Mulley poking the score up with a cue, sitting there with Joey's mortar board on.

Rev. Sayer led a Sunday School outing to Felixstowe once a year, either direct or catching the paddle steamer from Ipswich. And they also had strawberry tea on that big circular lawn at the front (which is still there in 2005) - the boys used to play hell, but Joey didn't worry about it. He was a marvellous cook, and made the biggest Victoria sponges you ever saw, "about that thick". We (the church choir) always had concerts in the old church hall next to the school: he'd cut up the sponge and leave it on the kitchen table, because he knew we'd go in and pinch every bit of it.

He left just before the war because two old spinsters living up Church Road took too much interest in him (so he hinted on a visit later). And he came back specially to marry Fred and Cicely in 1947, without charge, and stayed for the evening.

Fire Service

Cicely was a telephonist at the Fire Service, 6 of us, from 7 to 10 in the evenings, as well as working at the bacon factory in the daytime - it was a hut beside the PO, but finished up round the back of the Albatross garage, by where fire engine was parked. Elmswell had a fire service long before the war because the GK brewery donated a big steam pump engine. It was parked in the Fox yard, a big copper boiler on the back, 4 rubber-tyred wheels. If there was a fire, the factory hooter would sound once for in-village, twice for out-of-village; Mr Miller (who had a carrier business down Rose lane) would nip along with his lorry and hitch up. Either old Bill Jacobs from the garage or Mr. Baker would light the ready-made fire while the others were arriving, and it picked up steam while they were going to the fire with Bill Jacobs hanging on the back stoking up. For those days it was not a bad fire engine. Coming home from school one day, Dedgy Farrow's bungalow (not quite the far end of Hawk End Lane) was alight; the fire engine was getting water from the pond in the Glades (then just a field) and pumping it all the way up to Hawk End Lane, where Woolpit had their engine (a hand pump, 4 men on each side). This was one of the last times Fred saw the steam engine working - he was quite young, {maybe 10 years old, around 1933} Fred joined the Fire Service just after the coastal floods (1953), and served for 24 years; he knew Frank Redit of course. They had house bells, which made a hell of a racket. In the daytime the siren would go as well as the house-bells, but after 10pm just the bells. A PO engineer would come and check them from time to time (they didn't have a phone). But he had to retire at 55.

About the Village

Fred's War

He got fed up with the bacon factory, so at 17½ he went to Ipswich and volunteered for the navy (having had two RN uncles); he had to wait till he was 18 (otherwise he'd have had to sign on for 13 years, which he wouldn't do). Then he was away until 2nd April 1946, a total of 5 years.

When he had finished training, he went to the Middle East with tank-landing craft: these were cut into three and welded to merchantmen, then reassembled out there in Port Said. Then there was the Alexandria-Tobruk 'spud-run' - they'd creep into Tobruk harbour at night while it was under siege. Then to Benghazi, where they were sunk twice - by Germans and by weather - "talk about scraping your backside on barnacles!"

Next a beach-signalling section was formed in Alex, which Fred had his arm twisted to join. First they did the landing in Sicily, then went to Scotland to train the army for Normandy. They were always the first wave on the beaches, to set up the shore-to-ship radio; they were on Sword beach for 28 days before it was 'closed'. Even now, if he hears morse code he starts reading it...

Then to Scotland again, and out to Bombay for the landings at Ramree Island, Rangoon; on the way to Malaya they were told the A-bomb had been dropped, so the landing would be would be unopposed.

Fred proudly displys his certificate from the Royal Humane Society, awarded for saving a drowning child in the river at Ely.