Growing-up With Southall From 1904 (Memories of R.J. Meads)


                          We had been visiting my aunt at Bushill Park, Enfield, and were on our way home in Enfield High Street when a Zeppelin was sighted and, while we were watching it, burst into flames. We learned afterwards that Lieut. W.L. Robinson had been responsible. This was September 3rd, 1916. 

                          Before the war ended men were called up from 18 to 47. They were so hard up for men that an uncle of mine was taken into the Army for home service despite the fact that he had 6 children, and 3 fingers off  one hand. Women took over all sorts of jobs and I well remember, having been to the gas works for some  coke, a group of women just leaving off work and as they came out of the gate quarrelling like mad. Mr.  Baker the gate man, kept them on the move till they got right to the end of Gas Factory Road, off gas works  property, and then the best fight i’ve ever seen took place, with all the rest egging them on; hairpulling,  clothes ripped off, blood everywhere. I did not stop to see the finish. 

                          To help with the labour shortage, the Government instituted a “labour” exam. This meant that boys of 13 and physically fit sat for an education exam., and those that passed could leave at thirteen and a half. I sat for it myself at St Ann’s School, Hanwell, but left school before the results were known. 

                          Osterley Park had a big training camp. The then A.S.C. ( Army Service Corps ) were stationed there and every day you could see drivers under instruction with lorries with solid tyres. Some friends took me over the camp one Sunday afternoon, and I remember well all the bell-tents and the earth ovens. This would be autumn 1915. It was years afterwards that I learned that my wife was stationed at the camp in 1917, having joined the Queen Mary’s Army Corps in 1916, and after training was drafted there as a cook. She told me by that time cooking arrangements were greatly improved. She was 7 years older than me. 

                          Also at Osterly was a prisoner-of-war camp, mostly Germans who used to work on farms and all had a big red patch on their clothing. They could be seen shopping in Southall and playing local football clubs on Norwood Green. 

                          On Thursday November 23rd, 1916 Their Majesties King George and Queen Mary visited the Maypole Institute Hospital, giving only two hours notice of the visit, and were shown round by Dr. Chill and the Matron, Mrs. W. Taylor. At the time there were 102 patients.