Service Above Self
Rotary Club of Taunton

President Rogers first evening meeting of the new Rotary Year. What an excellent evening with eight(8) of our more mature members telling their 2nd. World War Time Experiences. President Roger welcomed guests from Inner Wheel and two guests Dominique and Marie Pascall from LISIEUX. Our first Rotarian to speak was Tony Murray. Tony gave an insight into his experiences more at the end of the War. His father was an RAF Officer and the family did travel during this time eventually residing in Chichester. His father was selected to travel undercover to Germany in an attempt to capture SS Officers. His father brought back from Germany interesting objects such as a large ornamental dagger and an 8 foot long Nazi flag. Both objects resulted in Tony being suspended from his infant school. For full details please speak to Tony. Thank you Tony. Our second Rotarian to speak was David Lowe. David was a young boy residing in The Midlands during the war. The Midlands were heavily bombed because of the extensive number of factories. David remembers being issued with gas masks and the blackout procedures being put in place. He also remembered the AndersonShelters shared with neighbours. Davids father was excused active War duties but was involved as an engineer assisting in the war effort. He remembers they were well fed and self sufficient growing their own food. David attended Grammar School and after the war was part of a Cadet Unit the highlight being inspected by Monty. Thank you David. Our third Rotarian to speak was Jim Greenslade. Jim was very proud to say at the start, that he is an Exonian by birth. Jim was a 6/8 year old during some of the war years. He resided in a modern 3 bedroomed semi with his parents. Exeter was heavily bombed around 1942 But the Cathedral was spared. Father moved them to Witheridge for safety reasons. Raids became less as the war neared its end, but the area became a tipping place for German bombs as they returned to Germany. His most frightening experience was when he and others were subject of an attack by a German plane at a bus stop. Fortunately they all escaped injury.(I think this bit is correct Jim?) Thank you Jim. Our 4th Rotarian to speak was Alan Reeve. Alan interestingly told us how the country at the time of War was divided into areas of vulnerability. His father was in a reserved occupation as the Headmaster of a school in North London. Alan told of how they and the 280 students were evacuated to Wales. He had interesting stories about their stay and eventual return to London in 1944. Alan remembers seeing the Doodle Bugs, because of the height of their London location. Thank you Alan. Our 5th Rotarian to speak was Peter Ball. During the war Peter told us of residing in what he described as the Midland Triangle. He was located in Staffordshire. As previously described the factories were heavily targeted. Although his father was in a reserved occupation he assisted in fire watching. He reminded us of course that Coventry Cathedral was blitzed. He remembered Birmingham being protected by barrage balloons. Peter also remembers the Air Raid Shelters .They were heavily bombed when the Germans decided to drop their bombs on the way home. His final memory were two toys a car and a motor coach which had various ways of working. They were both marked MADE IN GERMANY. Thank you Peter. 6th Rotarian to speak was Denny Calvert. During the war Denny resided in Taunton. In his words what happened in Taunton, NOTHING. But they were well prepared for the Germans arriving. Denny explained like others the importance of the evacuee problem with large numbers arriving from London. He does remember being taken to school for sixpence per week?! The person who took him eventually complained to his mother it was too cheap he would have to ask for more? Denny was born in Croydon. He fortunately moved to Taunton as in 1940 his old house there was hit by a parachute mine and demolished. What would we have done without you Denny?! Thank you Denny. 7th Rotarian to speak was Stan Chedzoy. Stan was born in 1925 at Slough Court, Stoke St. Gregory where he farmed all his life. He still lives on the farm, in a bungalow nearby. The Farm is in the capable hands of his grandson Anthony. His first memory is the River Tone breaking its banks at Athelney. His thoughts were of the first evacuees, who were arranged by the Schoolmaster. The arrangements went slightly wrong ending with 13 people in one house. In September 1939 a boat went down crossing to America/Canada with 1200 children on board. Stan should have been on that boat. Full details speak to Stan. He remembers vividly, listening on a radio at School on 13th December 1939 to The Battle of the River Plate. He joined the Home Guard and after 18 months was promoted to Despatch Rider. His final thoughts were of the prisoners of war coming to work on the farm. Thank you Stan. Our 8th and last but not least Rotarian was John Meikle. John explains his very important part in 1942 when the war was at it's most brutal. As John explained the UK at this time were losing the war. We were losing ships and men because the Germans had a machine 'Enigma'. 40 Commando was set up and came on board Johns ship which was HMS Fernie. 40 Commando were tasked to recover from German HQ Dieppe the Enigma machine and deliver it to HMS Fernie. The operation was a disaster, many soldiers died or were take prisoner. It took another 6 months before success was achieved. A sombre and horrendous story to finish, but not unusual in time of war. Thank you John. HMS Fernie – Picture added by David Lewis. I was really interested in John’s tale.