Foxley Remembered

This is the story of Foxley Camp as put together with the help of many contributors for an exhibition and weekend of remberance in June 2019. The Community Association gives thanks to all those who gave of their time and memories to make this project possible. 

Foxley Camp 1939 to 1962

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FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: MILITARY BASE   -   THE CANADIANS 1940 to 1942

 

The Canadians brought timber over from Canada to build an army camp at Foxley, code named QZ. In the event of invasion it would be the Head Quarters of the 2nd Canadian Pioneer Batallion. The first troops from the Battalion to arrive were Royal Canadian Engineers from both the 1st and 2nd Battalions. They billeted in the Manor house and began work on 27th January 1940, only to be curtailed for a time as that winter was the worst the UK had seen for 35 years.

 

Major Davenport remembered seeing the birds frozen in the trees. There had been driving rain during the night and as the temperature dropped the poor birds froze where they perched.

 

As soon as the weather permitted the Sappers were hard at work building huts that would stand the test of time.

By all accounts the Canadian troops settled in well to life at Foxley and were soon mixing with the villagers; going to the local dance held in Mansel Lacy village hall and walking down to the Moorhampton Hotel where they were introduced to the local cider.

 

One Canadian soldier, Sapper Robert Knowles touched the lives of the Evans family in particular. Ernie and Emily Evans ran Mansel Lacy post office and a note from ‘Bob’ Knowles kept by Charlie their son, gives a hint of the Saturday night excursions by some of the Canadian soldiers. It reads:

 

“I don’t think anything serious will come out of our trip to the village on Saturday night. We came right back here and were waiting when Weinflach[?] returned. Just say you can’t remember for sure. You see a lot of soldiers and get their names mixed up a lot.

 

Ask Mrs Evans if she can get the rabbits over please.” Bob

 

Bob Knowles had made firm friends with Ernie and Emily and was a frequent visitor to Emily’s kitchen. 

 

Bob’s mother, in a letter dated 8th November 1941 wrote to thank them for looking after him.

 

“Dear Mr and Mrs Evans, I am sending a bit of Christmas cake, tea and sugar. Robert enjoyed so much his little visits with you and said it was almost like going home. The people of Mansel Lacy seemed so glad to see him. Again I want to thank both of you for your kindness to my son.”

 

By then his posting had arrived and he was no longer at Foxley. Tea in the post office kitchen, rabbit pies and Saturday nights out had come to an end.

 

Bob was with the Royal Canadian Engineers and it was their job to enable the army to move. In the earlier period in the UK, they constructed military bases (as in the case of Foxley Camp) and air bases. They also improved British road-ways to facilitate the movement of military traffic and built defences like beach obstacles, pill-boxes, anti-tank ditches, and minefields.

 

In the mobile warfare conducted in Europe their role required the engineers to work alongside other combat troops at the front, under fire, to open routes for the tanks and infantry to continue their assaults.

 

In her letter of 8th November, Bob’s mum also wrote: “he has been away a year and a half now and it seems as if there is no end to these troubles.”

Sadly, Sapper Robert Edward Knowles of the Royal Canadian Engineers, Service No. B/26293, died on active service on 11th  December 1941 and is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in the UK.

 

 

 

Another Canadian at Foxley Camp was Dick Children. He fell in love with Betty Merrick after meeting her at a dance in Mansel Lacy Village Hall. Betty was one of three sisters who lived at The Smithy in the village. Her sister Joy dated Dick’s friend Hank Norton and although love did not blossom for them, Joy and Hank kept in touch for many years after the war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Dick and Betty it was a different story. They were married in St.Michael and All Angels Church on 25th October 1941. By this time Dick’s unit had left Foxley for the South of England so he and several of his friends had to travel back to Mansel Lacy for the wedding. Hank Norton was Dick’s best man.

 

After the war Dick went home to LePas in Canada to be demobbed and visit his family before returning to a long and happy life with Betty farming in Herefordshire.

 

 

 

 

By the end of 1942 all the Canadian troops had left Foxley.

 

FOXLEY CAMP: MILITARY BASE - THE AMERICANS 1942 - 1944

 

Next came the first American unit, which set about extending the military base at Foxley through 1942. (It is not yet known which unit this was. The search continues.) They also widened the road in Mansel Lacy from the Red House through the village up to the camp. The narrow lane could not accommodate their wide vehicles. As the war progressed the lvillage saw the arrival of tanks and ‘semi’-trucks with huge trailers carrying pontoon bridge sections.

 

 

 

 

Tom Prosser and Joe Haines from Bishopstone worked on this sector as carpenters. When building work finished in 1943, now aged 17 the cousins travelled by train to Worcester to join up. Tom went into the RAF where he trained as ground crew. He was posted overseas in October 1944 and landed in India in November working on Dakota aircraft for 62 Squadron. He moved down through Burma and ended up in Rangoon in January 1946. Joe went into the Royal Marines and spent his 18th birthday on the beach of the D-day landings. He then fought up through France and Germany. Both survived the war.

 

The American troops were not as quiet and reserved as the Canadians had been. Mrs Perk’s who ran the village shop remarked that the American’s “livened things up”.  As they began to fill the camp, traffic in the small village became a bit of a nuisance, requiring a letter to be written requesting a speed limit and a one-way traffic system. 

 

 

 

During 1943 many American units came and went but from early 1944 Foxley was filling up with US Battalions convening before deployment to the continent. Some of those station there were:

 

1310 Engineer General Services Regiment

453 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

18 Field Artillery Battalion

463 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

180  Engineer Battalion (Heavy Pontoon)

480 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

196 Field Artillery Battalion 

481 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

203 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

50 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

204  Anti-Aircraft Battalion

519 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

22 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group 

522 Engineer Battalion (Heavy Pontoon)

23 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group

553 Engineer Battalion (Heavy Pontoon)

26 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group

602 Engineer Camouflage Battalion

386 Anti-Aircraft Battalion

4228 Quartermaster Sterilization Company

406 Field Artillery Battalion

681 Quartermaster Laundry Company

408 Field Artillery Battalion

900 Quartermaster Laundry Company 4 Platoon

411 Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion

690 Field Artillery Battalion

414 Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion

740 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion

445 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

749 Tank Battalion

source: backtonormandy.org

 

 

 

One American soldier, Eugene Whitt was with the 16th Tank Destroyer Group, 749th Tank Battalion stationed at Foxley Camp. The 16th TDG was made up of the 749th, 747th and 745th Tank Battalions. They sailed from New York to Cardiff aboard the SS Santa Paula. The ship carried over 2000 men on board and was part of the largest convoy that had sailed from the US up to that point in time. They arrived at Cardiff on 22nd February 1944, then travelled by train to Moorhampton Station and on to Foxley Camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On arrival the men were glad to find they were billeted in buildings rather than tents but concrete floors and inadequate stoves for heating, together with mattresses stuffed with straw were a few things they did grumble about. The heating stoves were notorious for not giving out enough heat to warm even a couple of feet from the stove. After a cold patrol or training session the men would jostle for position in front of the stove but there was always one who managed to hog the few inches of heat!

 

 

Food was also very different for them as rationing and shortages in the UK meant they ate mostly mutton (which they complained tasted like horse meat) and they had powdered eggs - not what they were used to. However chocolate and gum were not in short supply!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eugene and his company enjoyed patrolling the Foxley area and could be seen marching down the main road to Moorhampton, which must have been quite a sight for the locals. For them it was the quiet, beautiful countryside before the storm of war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 749th were thankfully spared taking part in the infamous training exercise at Slapton Sands in Devon as their commanding officer came down with measles. Operation Tiger was a training excercise for the D-Day landings and on 28 April 1944, eight tank landing ships, full of US servicemen and military equipment, converged in Lyme Bay heading for Slapton Sands for the rehearsal. However,  a group of E-boats from the Kriegsmarine, alerted by heavy radio traffic infiltrated the slow-moving convoy and sank two of the ships and damaged another. This was compounded by a series of tragic misfortunes, including communication problems which led to more deaths from live Allied fire. 

 

(Ironically, we now know that the number of US servicemen killed that day was 749; the same number as the battalion’s name saved from taking part.)

 

After departing Foxley, the 749th Tank Battalion landed on Utah beach on 29th June 1944. They fought alongside many other units through France, Belgium and into Germany. Eugene Witt survived the war and his son, Jack, has fond memories of his father’s long friendship with those in his unit and evenings spent listening to their stories.

A message from Eugene’s son Jack:

 

“…. thank you for helping keep their memories and sacrifices alive. The impact of what we owe to that generation is ebbing away with time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: US MILITARY HOSPITALS    1944 - 1945

 

99th US General Hospital Unit

 

At the beginning of 1944 a London based contractor moved on site to construct two purpose built hospitals. Building materials came by train to Moorhampton Station and then up to the camp by truck. 

 

On 5th June 1944 the 99th US General Hospital personnel arrived at Foxley Camp. They took over the hospital on site no.1. The hospital on site no.2 was still under construction but nearing completion.

 

 

 

One nurse wrote: “The camp was situated in a beautiful valley about 10 miles from the nearest town. It was a dual-purpose camp ….One requirement was to make each ward identical. It meant salvaging everything available from glass containers to pieces of bunker. Desks were mess tables. The stoves smoked……. The second problem was the pitch mastic floors. Every footprint left a mark……The floors were waxed and by continual polishing were left in good condition.” 

99th General Hospital Archives

 

 

 

 

 

On 16th June 1944 the first 127 battle casualties arrived at Moorhampton Station predominantly from France having received initial treatment at a forward hospital.

 

 

“Hospital trains began arriving. Each train-load was received in a more expectatious manner than the last. The hospital was soon operating to capacity”  99th General Hospital Archives

 

 

On 28th July, after just over 7 weeks operating at Foxley Camp, the 99th General Hospital unit departed from Moorhampton Station to Llandudno to await deployment to France. They were transported to Utah Beach on the USS William Pepperell and the HMT City of Canterbury. There they set up a forward field hospital and remained there until September 1944.

 

On leaving Foxley one nurse from the 99th wrote: “The hospital was in operation for seven weeks when the unit was told it was to go to France……Everyone left Foxley with fond memories, rich experiences and an eagerness to get started on another assignment nearer to the front.”  Source: 99th General Hospital Archives

 

 

156th US General Hospital Unit

 

On 25th July 1944 when the 156th US General Hospital Unit took over from the 99th, there were already 1087 patients on site. What the young nursing staff lacked in experience they made up with dedication and enthusiasm.

 

Lieutenant Colonel Sullivan wrote: “Even though many of the nurses were young and inexperienced they were always willing to do more than their share and give unstintingly of their off duty time. This is particularly true of nurses helping to entertain bed and ambulatory patients. Since there was a definite lack of space for relaxation of ambulatory patients the nurses helped to alleviate this situation by planning many unique and entertaining ward parties.”  Source 156th General Hospital Archive

 

The 156th General Hospital had several areas of expertise for which patients from other hospital units would be transferred: the treatment of hand injuries was the hospital unit’s main area of designated expertise. Captain F. D. Troutman of 156th devised a piece of apparatus which proved invaluable in the rehabilitation of injured hands; a ward for the hospitalisation of sick nurses both from Foxley and other general hospitals was operated successfully; the hospital became the main centre for the care and treatment of psychotic patients; and patients were transferred to Foxley from all over the UK to come under the care of the Chief Medical Officer who was an experienced Gastroenterologist both in civilian as well as army life.

 

As well as treatment for sickness and injury the hospital took great care of the recreational needs of both patients and staff. The Special Services Officer organised for movies to be shown on each ward during the week and separate showing for officers and men three times per week. Shows were presented and dances were held regularly. They took great pains to maintain the areas around the hospital planting out the gardens and cutting the grass.

 

Through its time at Foxley the 156th treated almost 8,000 patients.

 

 

On 21st May 1945 the 156th General Hospital Unit received the order to close and transfer its patients to the 123rd General Hospital. Although victory had been achieved in Europe war still raged with Japan and the 156th were to be deployed in the Pacific arena. 

 

Colonel Patton, the Commanding Officer concluded his report in May 1945 as follows:

 

“It can be seen that the 156th General Hospital has performed a remarkable duty while in this theatre of operations. From an untried group of personnel thrust into a difficult setting and suddenly receiving battle casualties and sick soldiers incident to the St. Lo breakthrough we have evolved into a smooth, well knit, highly efficient unit. All personnel have worked hard and contributed unselfishly to this goal. We point with pride to the record of eight deaths in nearly 8,000 patients and only two deaths in the year 1945 (3,059 admissions). - As we close this plant it is safe to say it is in good repair and the grounds can best be described as beautiful. There is an abundance of grass, a profusion of flowers and an air of refinement about the grounds that is conducive to the care of the sick.”  Source 156th General Hospital Archives

 

 

123rd US General Hospital Unit

 

After dark on the evening 29th July 1944 the 123rd US General Hospital unit arrived at Foxley. They had sailed 5 days from New York to Scotland on board the Queen Mary. She was carrying more than fifteen thousand passengers without a convoy so that she could sail at top speed. Planes gave her an escort out at sea but returned to the mainland when darkness fell. For all that she arrived without incident. The unit then had to endure a 12 hour journey by troop train to Hereford.

 

In the morning light Tom Glennon gave his impressions of the area “…that of open country, farms and woodland, green grass and dense wood, a quiet setting for a work connected with the violence of war.” - The Officers Club - Thomas Glennon  Source: Camp Foxley

 

The 123rd took over the new hospital on site no.2. It consisted of 114 single storey buildings most connected by covered walkways. The concrete pillars supporting the walkway roofs were a hazard in the early days to personnel during the complete blackout. Many of those injured suffered broken noses and black eyes.

 

 

 

 

Thirty Seven buildings were used as wards, giving the hospital a capacity of 1,442 beds. The wards held about 20 patients on each side. Each ward had at least one private room, a toilet and a shower room. The nurses desks were at the end of each ward. 

 

Ladies from the WI in Mansel Lacy would go up to the hospital to roll bandages. Mrs Perks remembered there was a telephone on the nurse’s desk and the soldiers would just walk in and use the phone (probably to call home!).

 

Eight buildings were used for male officer’s quarters with a large building housing the toilets and washing facilities. 

 

Tom described the view from the officer’s quarters and the nearby building which housed the toilet and washing facilities:

 

“Being situated on slightly elevated ground our quarters afforded an excellent view of the immediate countryside. Our hospital area lay in a narrow valley formed between two wooded ridges about two miles apart. This land slipped gently to the mouth of the valley, then, as the ridges ceased, merged with the slightly undulating contour of the surrounding countryside.” - The Officers Club - Thomas Glennon  Source: Camp Foxley

 

The nurses were housed in 12 similar barracks. They were cramped with eight to ten beds in each hut. Clothes and personal items were kept in a locker at the end of the bed. There were no toilet or washing facilities in the huts, the nurses had to go outside and up the hill to the bathroom block. However, one luxury the nurses were grateful for - there was plenty of hot water up there for a bath.

 

The 123rd General hospital officially opened its doors to patients on 4th August 1944. The same day first train-load of patients was transferred from a hospital train at Moorhampton Station to the camp by ambulance. Between three and five convoys per week were received by the hospital up to March 1945.

 

The hospital had several sections: 

 

Surgical Services this unit alone admitted 2,955 patients between 7th August and 31st December 1944 

 

Physiotherapy Section was staffed by two physiotherapists and three enlisted men and they had to be innovative in making equipment. 

 

“One improvisation was a bicycle mounted on a wooden frame. By substituting a steel shaft for the front wheel the bicycle was made stationary and the height of the base of the frame was great enough to give the rear wheel movement. By increasing or decreasing the pedal tension the physiotherapists were enabled to give patients leg exercises which ordinarily would have been omitted.

Rubber strips cut from discarded bicycle tubes were nailed to wooden blocks in such a manner as to present openings for the insertion of fingers. This item of equipment proved satisfactory in exercising the muscles and tendons of the hand.”  - 123rd General Hospital Archives 

 

Rehabilitation Section went into operation when the first hospital train arrived. Using a daily training schedule patients were given such things as punch bags to restore strength. Recuperating soldiers built a miniature golf course near the ward and hikes were taken under supervision.

 

Laboratory Services opened on 2nd August 1944, with 275 enlisted men volunteering for blood donor service. In January 1945 a team spent two days at the hospital appealing for type ‘O’ donors on behalf of men wounded on the front lines. They were not short of volunteers and the appeal exceeded the required quota. The laboratory building was damaged by fire at the beginning of 1945 but the service continued to function while re-buliding work was carried out.

 

X-Ray Section through introducing efficiencies could check an average 300 patient convoy and make films available on the wards in 12 hours or less.

 

Dental Section opened immediately after the unit arrived at Foxley. However, cold was a major problem in the building. 

 

“The stoves being very small and without attention from five in the afternoon until seven in the morning it was impossible to hold the fire overnight so each day the routine was repeated - search for wood and paper, a flame and failure, finally success and the brave little stove would strive to cast a breath of warm into the chilly atmosphere of the clinic. How cold it could be in that particular building can be understood when it is mentioned that on a couple of occasions the water in the developing tank showed a crust of ice. In the surgery room of the clinic a hot plate was set on end by the windowsill and insignificant as it was it did offer the operator a chance to relieve the numbness in his fingers during the early hours of the morning.” - Officer’s Club - Thomas Glennon

 

Heavy rain illuminated another more serious problem. The sewage and drainage systems were inadequate and the sewers would back up and flood the dental clinic and laboratory. During October 1944 the problem was so bad the section closed and during November the clinic flooded three times. The Headquarters Building was flooded by what was described as “waves” running down the driveway by the building.  The problem was finally solved by digging ditches and putting in additional drainage pipes.

 

Despite the difficulties with the Camp, on-camp entertainment carried on in abundance and locals were invited to see films and attend their dances too. Like the Canadians before them the Americans spent time in the village and further afield. Mansel Lacy didn’t have a pub but Moorhampton did. However, unlike the Canadians the Americans were not appreciative of what Moorhampton had to offer.

 

“First reports told of the English ‘pub’ situated in Moorhampton where one might quench his thirst with a glass of beer or even a scotch and soda. And, of course, one had a picture in his mind of a cozy country inn, quaint and attractive, complete with the rustic simplicity as the period of Sam Weller or Mr. Pickwick and a bartender possessed of sideburns, a bald head and a cockney accent.”-The Officers Club - Thomas Glennon  Source: Camp Foxley

 

Tom went on to described what actually met them at Moorhampton:

 

“The town itself burst upon us in a total of four buildings, red brick and rusty, three of them unquestionably dwellings and the fourth resembling more the farmhouse of an extensive farm, which it was, than the tavern of our dreams” The Officers Club - Thomas Glennon  Source: Camp Foxley

 

Conditions in the pub were less than hygienic. After noticing that the glasses were washed in the same bowl without a change of water all night, Tom and his companions chose to try out the pubs in Hereford!

 

VE day was celebrated in style on the 8th May 1945, with parties held in the village and all over Hereford town. Although they joined those celebrations the 123rd, like the 156th, was required to move to the Pacific front-line  where war still raged with Japan. Thus bringing to an end the presence of the Americans at Foxley Camp.

 

On 24th June 1945 the 123rd General Hospital Unit received their orders to prepare for redeployment to the Pacific. By the end of June there were only four wards open with 33 patients. The hospital officially closed its doors on 6th July 1945. However, in August the war in Japan had ended and thankfully the 123rd were no longer required to redeploy to the Pacific. Two days away from Gibraltar the ship turned around and sailed to the USA.

 

On leaving Foxley, Tom Glennon wrote: 

 

“The memory of thousands who passed through our hospital wards between battlefield and home gives now a pleasing satisfaction to us in having been part of the united effort which ultimately replaced with peace and quiet, the violence of the years of war. Each one of us to the end of his days will recall the incidents of hospital life in England, what was drab, what was difficult and uncomfortable will be covered with the slight forgetfulness that time always effects, what was heartening and good and helpful will stand out stronger in the set thoughts of recollection.” -The Officers Club - Thomas Glennon  Source: Camp Foxley

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: POLISH REFUGEES    1945 - 1950

 

After the 123rd General Hospital Unit left Foxley in 1945 the camp came under the control of Captain William Hawker, a resettlement officer with the British Army, and was used to house Poles who had fought alongside the British during the war.

 

With the annexation of Eastern Poland (known as the Kresy) to Russia, many Poles could not return to their homeland.     Polish military would be classed as traitors to Russia and imprisoned or murdered. This was the fate of many who made that journey home, including those involved in the Warsaw uprising against the Germans.

 

At least in England they could be safe to bring up their families in peace. At Foxley and many other camps around the country, the army barracks were converted to housing for the demobbed Polish military. They were joined by their families after arriving in England by ship from the Middle East and from Europe.

 

Initially utilising the barracks, as they had been for the troops, it meant that families had no running water or toilets and bedrooms were made by separating off a sleeping area with curtains. Things improved when properly converted accommodation became available. Although very basic it was still better than had been experienced.

 

 

 

 

Each housing unit comprised a kitchen, toilet and three other rooms. There were no bathrooms and no hot water (except in the bathroom blocks previously serving the military), so everyone used a tin bath and water was heated on the kitchen stove. The walls were hollow breeze-block and with only a coal burning stove in one room for heating it meant they were very cold. There was no plaster on the inside of the walls. Families whitewashed the inside to improve the appearance. Many erected porches to help keep out the wind and planted vegetable and flower gardens.  Chickens and rabbits were kept and one person even had a goat. They made every effort to turn their very basic accommodation into homes.

 

Even at the very beginning the camp had lots of amenities. The Canadian and the entertainment huts were put to good use. There was a general store, as well as butchers and a grocery van and a fish van visited the camp each week. 

 

One of the buildings was used as a church, where Father Ernest Choweuiec celebrated twenty years in the priesthood. He was later replaced by Father Lewendowski who remained close to the families after they moved out of the Camp and into housing in Hereford. 

 

 

 

 

The cinema was still in use and showed films during the summer (with no heating it was too cold to use in the winter). There was a licensed club known as the Rovers Club and in the entertainment hall an Anglo-Polish band sometimes played. A Polish Saturday school was established in another hut where children were taught the Polish language and culture. It was originally called the “Porto San Giorgio” after the area in Italy where many of the children had previously gone to school.

 

Initially, adults were offered training in different trades like cobbling and carpentry to help them find employment. Although this seldom led to a career. Some for the men found work locally in the factories, others re-took qualifications they had in Poland before the war and some moved out to the larger cities around the country. Others took up the chance to emigrate to other countries, especially the US and Canada.

 

 

 

As time went on the Camp settled into what the residents called “Little Poland” keeping their traditions and language alive. The men, some having a little English already from fighting alongside British troops, learned English more readily as they needed it for work. The women and young children though had less contact outside of the Camp. Although school aged children attended Mansel Lacy School in the village, it was not until an English speaking school was set up on the Camp in 1952 and all the children learned English that it became widespread through the community as a second language.

 

 

 

Despite the hardship of the living conditions, which their parents worked hard to mitigate, Foxley Camp became a happy place for the children and gave them fond memories for the rest of their lives. 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: HOUSING ESTATE    1950 - 1961

 

Although the camp was housing a large number of Polish families there were still empty huts. With the post-war housing shortage many people in Hereford found themselves homeless for one reason or another. Some of those decided to move onto the camp without permission. Although they were evicted, they returned as they had nowhere else to go and there was no rent to pay.

 

Squatting became such a problem that in 1950 Hereford Council took over the camp and set about converting the disused hospital wards into housing. By December 1950 the first 36 homes were nearing completion. The Foxley Camp Joint Committee, made up of representatives from Hereford City Council and Weobley Rural District Council agreed that homes would be allocated equally between applicants from Hereford City and Weobley Rural District. The first 18 units were let by March 1951, with most applicants from the Rural District.

 

Each hospital ward had been converted into seven housing units. These were two or three bedrooms, single storey with an entrance hall and toilet, kitchen and living room. The homes had running water and electricity but no bathrooms. 

 

There was a communal shower block on the camp but many preferred to use a tin bath at home as the Polish community had done since their arrival.

 

There was still no plaster on the walls inside, so some families pasted newspaper onto the breeze-block and hung wallpaper over the top to make it more homely. There was still only one coal heater in each dwelling so the winters were cold in those houses.


The rent was 13s 6d a week and the rent man set up his office in one of the houses, with residents paying their money through the open living room window.

 

By the time a Primary School was established on the estate in January 1952, the population on the Camp had risen to 1700 and was still growing. This was more than twice the size of Pembridge, the largest Herefordshire village. Despite the size, relations between the two communities was good. A tenants association was set up with an English Chairman, Polish Secretary and a committee of six Poles and six Brits. They liaised with the Council on all matters relating to the Camp.

 

The amenities on the estate expanded with empty huts being converted to lock-up shops and one converted to public toilets. The licenced club and the grocery shop were run by Mr. Czernay who’s wife was the Secretary of the tenants association. The cinema was still in use, although still only in the summer as no heating had been installed. The camp had a frequent bus service and a library was provided in one of the disused huts by the bus stop. It opened three evenings and two afternoons each week under the supervision of Mrs. Gardner the librarian.

 

In July 1952 the Council sold off the surplus, disused huts together with surplus equipment such boilers, sinks, cisterns and iron piping. Two of the Canadian huts went to form community halls around the county and some are still in use today.

 

In 1953 a sub-committee of the Tenants Association, the Coronation Committee, organised celebrations for the Queens Coronation and after a “street” party on the open grassed area, the children were each presented with a commemorative spoon.

 

Life ticked on for the residents of Foxley with a steady increase in tenants and children attending the school. Like any large housing estate it had its share of petty pilfering and undesirable neighbours but on the whole there was a strong sense of community and a lively social scene. The Polish community continued to hold their colourful Feast day parades and children’s concerts and Sunday School for the British children was held in a large tent in one of the open grassed areas. The social club, dances in the entertainments hall and the cinema all thrived.

 

However, as time wore on the state of the housing became problematic. When families moved out the houses were left empty and the rats started to move in. The council was spending less on repairs and maintenance as they looked to build homes in the City.

 

In July 1957 Councillor David Shaw, Chairman of the City Housing Committee, had confirmed that there would be no further allocation of accommodation at Foxley from 1st October. The council were building new houses in the City and aimed to rehouse 100 families per year from Foxley, which would enable the estate to be closed by February 1961.

 

Building work was slow and families were moved out piecemeal. Those left behind found conditions worsening at an alarming rate. Children played in abandoned huts or in the rubble of those which had been demolished. The council was bombarded with complaints about the state of the housing on the camp and the general conditions of the area.

 

In July 1959 Councillor David Shaw, then Mayor of Hereford, and a party of councillors undertook an inspection of Foxley Camp. They were shocked by the conditions they found. After picking their way through mud, rubble and squalor they returned to the Town Hall to instruct the Housing Committee to take immediate action to rehouse the families and clear the Camp.

 

Nothing changed and an exasperated Mr Harold Morgan, the Chairman of the Foxley Tenants Association protested loudly at one of the monthly council meetings. He was removed from the public gallery of the council chamber for “noisy interruptions”. The Foxley tenants also sent a petition to the Ministry of Housing & Local Government demanding a public inquiry. Despite all this, the Camp did not close until March 1961.  Even then, 18 families were still living on the estate while the council tried to find them alternative accommodation. The last to leave were the Bradbury family.

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE SCHOOL     1952 - 1961

 

On the 8th January 1952 Foxley Camp County Primary School opened its doors. The Headmistress was Mrs Letitia E Kurhan and the first eight children were admitted from the Camp and another nineteen transferred from Mansel Lacy school, making a total of 27 on the first day. 

 

It was at first an infant school taking children aged 5 and occupied just one hut, providing two classrooms. The number of children under 5 living on the camp warranted the Education Authority to expand the school. By 1954 Foxley Camp Primary was both an infant and junior school. Three more blocks of huts were converted ultimately providing 5 more class rooms, a dining room and kitchen. Even with this expansion there was inadequate space.  There was no assembly hall or teachers accommodation, there was insufficient storage space and some of the classes were full to capacity. The school continued to expand with more huts converted to alleviate these problems and to accommodate the growing school. It reached a peak of 262 children on the register in January 1957.

 

By all accounts it was a happy school and Mrs Kurhan was a highly regarded Headmistress. The author of  an Education Authority report stated:

 

“The Headmistress, whose sympathetic understanding of the problems of parents and children alike fits her admirably for the difficult task of conducting this school”

 

Besides the three R’s, Mrs Kurhan was keen that the children should go on school trips away from the Camp and organised an annual outing as well as other excursions during the year. The annual outings to Porthcawl and Barry Island were eagerly anticipated by the children. There were also trips to the cinema in Hereford (one in 1953 to see a colour film of the Coronation), the Cathedral and even for tea in one of Hereford’s cafes.

 

 

During the time the school was open the staff included: Mrs Rowberry, Mrs Bond, Mrs Griffiths, Mr Higgins, Mr Griffin, Mr Preece, Mr Birt, Mrs Lloyd, Mrs King and Mrs P. Davies (nee Smith), who joined the school in 1958 and her memories are included in this exhibition.

 

Mrs Davies remembers her time at Foxley with fondness. This was her first placement on completion of teacher training. The school was situated on a rise across the steam overlooking the Camp, giving it a lovely position. She was appointed as the teacher for Class 1 and took great delight in seeing the children begin to read with enjoyment and enthusiasm.  Outside the classroom were steps which, although they led nowhere, came in very handy for class photos. Although on Mrs Kurhan’s strict instructions the 3 R’s had to come first, Mrs Davies still found time to occasionally take the children outside for their story time.

 

By 1958 the school was being run down and due to close in 1960. No new children were being admitted except for those living on the camp who reached school age. This was a limited number as the families were already being moved out.

 

Foxley Camp Primary School closed it’s doors on 15th February 1961. Mrs Kurhan wrote in the school journal:

 

“It is with much regret that I have to record the final closure of Foxley County Primary School. So many people have helped in so many different ways to make the school a busy happy community. To them all our grateful thanks.”

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

FOXLEY CAMP: THE BEGINNINGS   - 1938/1939

The Ministry of Works set up a central register of accommodation in 1938. This was used during and after the Second World War for the requisitioning of land and buildings for:

  • the armed services
  • accommodation of civil servants

Land was requisitioned under the Defence (General) Regulations 1939, according to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939.

Unbeknown to their owners, on the list for requisition were private Estates around the country. The British government had a plan of how they were going to make the best use of each great house, what government department would take it and what its function would be.  Foxley Manor was to become a military base. Owners had short notice of the imminent arrival of the new incumbents.

Bletchley Park was, now famously, taken over by Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). Students of Malvern School took over Blenheim Palace and British troops were stationed at Wentworth Wooodhouse in Yorkshire, to name a few.

With little warning, in the winter of 1939, engineers from the Second Canadian Pioneer battalion arrived at Foxley Manor. Major Davenport, then a young boy, recalls that he was having breakfast with his mother when the troops arrived at the door. A fateful day, one that the house would not survive. It was demolished in 1948.

 

 

 

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