Yeovil at War

"Home Flash" for serving Yeovilians



Yeovilians serving up with the Forces heard of the familiar sound of the parish church bells and interesting sidelights on how the old town is faring in wartime in a "Home Flash" on the BBC Forces programme on Wednesday, arranged by Jennifer Wayne and introduced by Mr George Holloway with comments by Mr EA Stagg, headmaster of Grass Royal School. Listeners first heard the arrival of a train at Pen Mill Station, then the Mayor of Yeovil (Mr WS Vosper) sent greetings and "God Speed" to all Yeovilians with the Services, whose gallant fight, he said, was watched with increasing pride by the people at home. To illustrate the Mayor's comment that "Things at Yeovil are very much the same" the "exiles" were taken on an imaginary tour of their home town, beginning with market day scenes, Mr John Snell (Messrs W Palmer & Co and R & C Snell) selling a beast, and Mr AR Taylor (Messrs RB Taylor & Sons) talking to Mr JF Broughton a prominent agriculturalist and Chairman of the Rural Council. After a picture of countryside sites and farming conditions and prospects, Mr Broughton said what would interest the "boys" most was would they have somewhere to live when they came back. He told them his Council had a program for 600 houses, and on the farms there was plenty of room for them when they returned. After a short "sound effect" of a hotel scene at the Half Moon, Mr Stagg interviewed an average housewife, Mrs Haim of 49 Hendford, and heard from her of queues and shopping difficulties with an assurance to the menfolk that the children were very healthy and had plenty of food. Mr Stagg took up the same theme in a talk to the "old boys" of the schools, remarking that 1200 meals were served to the children every day from the schools canteen. He spoke of familiar figures in the youth of the serving men and women, Mr John Reid former headmaster of Reckleford School, now hail and hearty at 88, and of Mr George Perry former head of Pen Mill School, who did fine work for Somerset football. Mr Stagg alluded to wartime sport, entertainments and war efforts (like the recent "Salute the Soldier" Week, which produced £40,000 above the target of £420,000 to equip and maintain a Battalion of the Somersets for a year), of the cases of refreshments for Yeovil's tired war workers, Nine Springs and other beauty spots, and of the recent exhibition of 1500 photographs of service men and women seen by thousands of Yeovilians during "Salute" Week.

The microphone also picked up incidents at the British Legion Club, the singsong (a weekly feature), and Mr Sibley, the secretary, making some comments during a skittles match. The president (Dr HE Unwen) sent the greetings of the "old soldiers", and spoke of the greatest time they would have when the present generation return from the war. "But Yeovil," said the commentator, "was not all beer and skittles, good when and commented that at Lock's seed warehouse men had been working sixty-five hours a week for eight months." Then the Forces heard from Mrs Flower, head of the WVS ("from the doctor's house in Hendford") of what Yeovil women are doing in mending for the soldiers, providing them with refreshments from a mobile canteen, and in many other ways.

"From the big office in Middle Street", Mr John Goodchild, editor of the Western Gazette, sense the forces a news letter, telling them of interesting happenings in the old town, assuring them that Yeovilians were of good cheer, that the "old George" was still where it was in Middle Street, that the Choughs and the Mermaid were still going strong, and that the Town Council had cleared up most of the mess made "by the things which flew in the night". Regretfully he spoke of the passing of the older generation of Yeovilians, mentioning especially the most recent, Mr "Pat" Mayo, at the age of 85. Finally he said that a good deal had been done for the "youngsters" when they came home. There was much talk of reconstruction and of developments round Milford Lane way, where the Council contemplated a big housing scheme.

The broadcast ended with Sunday morning scenes in the town listeners heard Sgt Maj Guppy "fall in" about 250 members of the Borough Company of the Home Guard (commanded by Major HCE Oliver, MC) on the car park in front of the Law Courts. The incidents recorded included the march past of the Company, with Major HCC Batten, DSO, Second-in-Command of the 3rd (Yeovil) Battalion, taking the salute. Then over to the old Parish Church and the sound of some spirited touches on the bells by the ringers, under Tom Setter, and including Charlie Norman, now 82, and a ringer for 67 years, "who often climbs the 113 steps to the Belfry". The choir was heard singing the 150th Psalm, there was a voluntary by Mr A Gare, wartime deputy for the organist. Mr Norman Hyde, and the twin brother members of the choir, Michael and Peter Norris, sang "I know that my Redeemer liveth" as a finale. So "with the ten Bells of St John's ringing as you so often heard them and as you remember them even if you are far away from home", Yeovil said "Goodbye" to her sons and daughters in near and distant places.

The programme will be broadcast the game tonight (Friday) on the Forces wavelength at 6:30pm.


Western Gazette, 28 June 1944