John and Sylvia Hazlewood - War Memories

My name is John Hazlewood. I was born in Colsterworth in a house next door to the Chapel on Back Lane. There were 3 cottages, the Warrens lived in one, we had the centre one and Tommy Childs lived in the end one because there was only one room downstairs and one room up. I was born on the 7th of January 1933. I went to the local school under Mr Harrison, Mrs Harrison, Mrs Ball and Miss Lowe. It was a good school; they were strict but no more than normal. I think it did us good, we were kept in order. I left school at 14 and went the United Steel Company and worked there as a welder, a training welder at first. There was a big welding shop and we could build anything with metal like gates or anything you like, and if anything broke, say of steel, we welded it back together again.

C.B.Bailey was the boss when I was there. In 1951 I went into the Army to do my National Service. My name is Sylvia Hazlewood and I was born at Woolsthorpe by Colsterworth on the 4th of April, 1937 at my great-auntie's house. My mother and father were visiting my grandparents who lived at Bridge End. I went back to Grantham to live until the outbreak of the War when I came and lodged with my grandparents at Bridge End, Mr and Mrs George Scott. At the age of 5, I had to go back to Grantham to go back to school. I was at the Huntingtower Road Primary School. I came back to live in Colsterworth in 1945 but I kept at the Huntingtower Road School until February 1946, then transferred to Colsterworth School but passed at the age of 10 to go to the Girls` Central School in Grantham.

At 15, my first job was at North Road Garage as an apprentice stores assistant and from there I went to work at Burton's Garage in Grantham, and was there until such time as I left to have our son, Gary, in 1961. He was educated at Colsterworth School and then went on to the Charles Read School at Corby Glen. He was Head Boy there. He is now a motor mechanic at Corby Glen and also a Retained Fireman, 1st Responder Paramedic. When I was called up to do my National Service, I started my training at Blandford in the R.E.M.E. (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). I only did 10 days there and then I went to Barton Stacey on a driver training course. This was in April 1951 and I was there for 8 weeks and then moved on to Arborfield. But I was only there a fortnight when I was posted to Germany to no. 1 Armoured Workshop at Rodenburg. When I got there, they wanted men for recovery work which I volunteered for. We had to go out and recover anything that had broken down or had an accident. These were not vehicles left over from the fighting in the War, these were current breakdowns.

For instance, one of the Queen's Bays commanders had gone over this bridge which would only carry 40 tons and this tank weighed 80 - 90 tons and of course the bridge collapsed. This was on a Whit Saturday morning and we spent all the week-end and our Bank Holiday getting the tank out. We had to send another transporter for it the long way round because he wanted it out on the other side of the river as it was required for a big parade up that way on Whit Sunday morning. We got it out and spent the rest of the week-end putting the new bridge in. Germany was still in a mess, there was a lot of bomb damage and ruins about. I did my training for the Recovery Mechanics Course in the centre of Duisberg which was badly damaged. All the motorway bridges were 40-ton. The original bridges had all been blown up by the Germans to hold up the advancing Allied Armies and the Royal Engineers had replaced them with Bailey bridges which would only carry a weight of 40 tons.

In Hamelin, the Germans had blown the bridge over the River Weser there and they had put so much explosive in the charges, they had blown all the windows out in the local church. Everywhere they had blown up a bridge, a Bailey bridge was put in. The weight restriction on the Bailey bridges meant that we had to a long way round sometimes. We had to transport some tanks once and I had to go miles round and we got stuck under one of the low bridges. We had to let the tyres down on the trailer, squeeze under and then pump the tyres up again off the Diamond-D engine which took all day. Altogether the journey took 3 days and nobody had told them what we were doing. So we were posed as absentees, absent without leave, and they had all the Military Police out looking for us. We said, 'Well they couldn't have been looking very hard!' We got arrested when we got back to camp until we explained and then it was all took as fun then. I had to go into the camp at Belsen once to recover a D8 tractor bulldozer. They had been using it to clear up the mess.

I was in the Army for 2 years. I thought of staying in but they could not guarantee where I would be sent and I wanted to stay where I was. So came out in 1953, Coronation Year. I was home on leave when the King died, George V1, and I came out just as they were getting ready for the Queen's Coronation. I was lucky; I missed all that bulling and polishing. I came home and went back to work, welding, on the mines. When they closed I went to Coles Cranes, but they closed when the Accro Group to which they belonged, went bust. I went and worked for a bit at Grantham Electrics but I got fed up with the grime, so I went coach-driving. In the meantime, I had been doing some part-time driving for Gem Coaches and I had got my PSV (Public Service Vehicle) licence. I did my last 20 years coach driving for Nesbits of Somerby, then Farrars at Melton Mowbray and finished up with Smiths of Corby Glen. I liked coach driving, it was brilliant. I went abroad quite a lot, into France for instance taking school children to Normandy. For some of the time, Sylvia came with me as my courier. We did Switzerland and the Black Forest and the valleys of the Rhine and the Moselle. It really was a wonderful time. Then I retired nearly 10 years ago.

We have lived in this house 36 years though we lived in the larger house across the road when we first got married, and then did a swap for this house which is smaller. We were married at Colsterworth church, a nice white wedding and bridesmaids, all the works. We have been married for 48 years. When I was a child in Grantham I can remember the bombs dropping on Aveling Barfords and British Marco. Once the bombs missed Aveling Barfords and flattened St Anne's Street, the school and all round there. One Good Friday I was at Colsterworth when the planes came over looking for the aerodrome. One bomb landed on South Witham School and a row of houses, one at the bottom of Stainby Hill, and when a plane came over Bridge End my Grandma went outside and shook her rolling pin, shouting for it to go back to Germany as she wasn't going to burn her hot-cross buns for him or anyone! In the early hours of the morning in April 1944, I was with my grandfather. As a treat we used to go shepherding together and sleep in the outhouse. We used to go round with the lantern checking up on his yoes (ewes) - he had some late-lambing yoes - and we had just got back as far as the dutch barn when there was thunder and lightning and heavy rain.

My Grandad looked up and he said "Oh! My dear!" There was a plane right over Goffin's Farm (North End Farm) heading towards Stoke. He said, "We hope it doesn't land on the village!" but it didn't it crashed in the park, just past the gates where the bridge is. Last year I was lucky in that I was able to tell some of the families of the Canadian crew that were killed that the plane went over with the engine on fire. The crash had been put down to pilot error. My mother and my grandmother were big British Legion members. My grandmother had joined back in 1929; I think that was when the Women's Section was formed. It was the called Ladies Section at first. The British Legion itself started in 1921, and it wasn't until 1971 that it was granted the title of the Royal British Legion and had a Royal Charter. My grandmother got involved as, although my grandfather could not go to World War 1, 5 of his brothers went, and I think he lost 3 brothers.

Their names are on the War Memorial and on the one in the Church. When the Ladies' Section started up, she joined probably because the other women joined. It was a bit like the Women's Institute; if one joined they all joined. When I joined at the age of 17, I helped with the sale of the poppies each November and I still do. People give generously these days as they have always done. I helped my grandmother to begin with and then I was allowed to collect on my own. I did down the east side of Colsterworth High Street one night and the west side on the other and across and up the Stamford Road. I belonged to the Colsterworth branch - which covered Stoke Rochford, Stainby, North Witham, the whole are. At one point there were 154 lady members. I moved to the Grantham branch when Colsterworth closed down and then to the Corby Glen branch. I took over the Ladies' Standard in 1958 until closure in 1960. Now I am the secretary of the Bourne Branch. I also serve on the Lincolnshire County Women's Committee for the Women's Section. The Colsterworth Men's branch started in 1923. Mr Innocent was one of the people who started it and Mrs Innocent helped form the Ladies' Section later on. It was a big thing for a small village to belong to this organisation which covered all the country.

John's mother took the Ladies' Standard over in about 1929-30 and Mr. Cliff Bradshaw trained her. For the men, my great-uncle Harold Wheatley was the first Standard Bearer until about 1950-51 until he was taken ill. John took over in 1953. My father was a member from the First World War and I joined when I came out of the Army. I was given the job of Standard Bearer and was made Chairman of the branch in 1956. We had to close in 1960 because we only had 3 members by then. We had a hut by Ramsay Court on the side of the road and the Cadet hut was at the back of it. We made enough money to fun the Branch by having raffles and coffee mornings, having our own premises helped. We met once a month and attended to Legion business like welfare. Ex-servicemen would apply to us for help. We raised the funds for this ourselves mostly. If the amount required was beyond our means we did get help from the General Fund which comes from the Poppy Appeal. Before Remembrance Day we would order the number of poppies we thought we would need, also the wreaths, and the car poppies. There was more variety then. The poppies are made near Aylesbury at a large poppy factory. Ex-servicemen, many disabled, and their dependants are employed there. We went on a visit there once and one of the lads making the poppies was blind. You should have seen him make poppies! He could make them quicker than sighted people like me. We watched him make the Queen's wreath that she laid on the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

The last time we went, there were 3 Falkland veterans working. There is a little village nearby that is where they live. Every year we would write in to go to the big Royal British Legion Service in the Albert Hall on the nearest Saturday to November 11, the date on which the First World War ended. I was lucky in 1995 to be chosen to go. We had to be there at the Albert Hall by 7.30 in the morning ready for the rehearsals. This was in civvies. We had to practise walking down the steps in twos into the body of the hall, dividing and marching round the edges of the arena and up to the seats allotted to us. Then we had to do the same again twice, this time to a drum beat to keep us in time. We had a Regimental Sergeant-Major in charge. Oh my! When he shouted, you jumped! Next we marched down the steps to the music, but everybody else was practising to their music and it wasn't easy. I was very fortunate the year I went because I went in right at the beginning. Sometimes people don't go in until nearly halfway through. It was the first year that they had the River Dance. The youngsters performed really well, I could never get tired of seeing that. We had a full dress rehearsal just before lunch which was served just across the road at a college nearby. We did the Service in the afternoon which was for anyone. The evening performance, when the Queen is present, is for members of the Legion only. They take a film of the afternoon performance just in case, and sometimes when you are watching the television at night, you are actually seeing something that happened at the afternoon performance. The time I was there, they had some war widows marching, including Colonel H's widow (from the Falklands conflict), and one of those ladies wandered off course, but they inserted the perfect bit of walking that they did in the afternoon. After tea, we went and did the evening service.

It was wonderful. It was brilliantly organised and there was a lot of hard work went into producing it. I was lucky to go. It was a privilege; I was honoured to take part. Sylvia came at night but during the day, she went to watch the Lord Mayor` Show which was held on the same day. It was the first year that they had observed the Two Minutes Silence on the actual 11th of November throughout the land for some years. London came to a standstill. The horses were pulled up and the procession stopped for those two minutes. Everybody observed the Silence, nobody moved. We got home about 2 o'clock in the morning and we were there for the Parade and the Remembrance Service in Grantham at St Wulfram's at 10 o'clock the next morning. We go every year. When I was coach driving I wasn't able to take a very active part. By now we belonged to the Grantham branch and in 1983, we walked in one Saturday in November and someone said, 'Well you needn't worry about a standard bearer, here is one just walked in through the door!' So that is how I got the job. We wear all black, a black suit and a black beret with the Legion badge on it, and white gauntlets, white shirt and a Legion tie. We march along through the town to St Wulfram's and lay wreaths on the War Memorial and go in for the service. Five years ago I started to carry the R.E.M.E. standard.

I belong to the R.E.M.E. Association, the Lincolnshire Branch. We meet once a month at Boston. We went to a barbeque there last Saturday and we will be there tomorrow night as well. I also meet up with my old comrades from 31 Armoured Workshop at the Hilton Hotel in London for a weekend every year. There are about 14 of us still alive. Somehow service in the Army produces a comradeship that is unique. All the old soldiers say the same. When I had trouble with my eyes, one of my old comrades rang me up one night to offer to take me to Lincoln hospital any time I needed a lift. He said, "I'll pop down, take you to Lincoln, look after Sylvia, see you back and then pop home myself." He lived at Liverpool! The comradeship is marvellous and we were all National Servicemen. For a long time I gave my blood to the Blood Transfusion Service and I was proud to receive a certificate when I had given 100 pints of blood. I had to give up when I was 70. We are very supportive of the Legion but we do have other interests. I love cricket and I have been a scorer since 1953. To start off, I scored for Colsterworth in the Norman Blankley Coronation Cup competition for villages within 16 miles radius of Colsterworth. Dr Norman and Mr Blankley presented it in commemoration of the Coronation of our Queen. In those days even Stainby had a cricket team! I have been scoring cricket ever since. When Colsterworth couldn't raise a team, I agreed to do two matches at Sproxton and I am just starting my 12th year with them now. I was their secretary for 11 years.

I also go and score for the M.C.C. 3rds at King's School in Grantham and I shall do 4 more major matches for the King's School later in the year as well In the winter I follow my hobby of stamp-collecting, I have nearly 17,000, not counting my first-day covers. You get a lot from stamp-collecting. It ought to be taught in schools, it would teach the children geography. I keep busy with my stamps in the winter and with my collections of glassware and pottery dogs. We have very happy and active lives. We have no regrets though we sometimes wonder what would have happened to us if my mother had allowed me to marry at 20 when we had the opportunity to go to Australia. John could have gone and worked on the Woomera Rocket range there and only married couples were being accepted, but my mother refused permission. But we don't regret it because we don't know what the outcome would have been. But we had our families around us and that meant a lot to us then and it does now. We keep busy, me with my stamp collecting and my dogs and glass collection.