Category Archives: Club news

Compendium of WW2 memories published

Between April and December 2020, over 20 accounts of the World War Two memories and experiences of Radley people and life on the home front in the village were published on the Radley History Club website. The accounts were produced by Club member and former chairman, Christine Wootton, and were published initially to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day in May 2020. Some of the accounts are about the wartime experiences of individual Radley residents (often in ways unrelated to Radley) and some about life on the home front in the village.

The accounts are based on recordings from the Club’s oral history collection and material acquired by Christine during research on other topics.

You can read the individual accounts online here or you can now download a PDF (2.3MB) containing all the accounts grouped in the following eight categories:

  • Military service
  • Life in Radley
  • Radley Home Guard
  • Life in Oxford
  • Life in London
  • Life elsewhere in England
  • Life in Germany
  • Escape from Germany

Patrick (Paddy) Dockar-Drysdale, 1929-2020

Patrick (Paddy) Dockar-Drysdale pictured at his house, Wick Hall
Paddy pictured at Wick Hall in 2006

Paddy died in hospital on 9 December, aged 91. His wife Olwen had died not long before, in May.  

His family roots were in Radley and he lived as a boy in Park End farmhouse. He went to school and university in Oxford, with a spell of national service in between. After that he had two main ambitions: to work in the theatre and to travel abroad.  He was soon to combine the two, as stage manager for a theatre company which set up in St John’s, Newfoundland.  By then he had met Olwen, while working together as stage managers for a theatre in Surrey. They married shortly before travelling.

Paddy and Olwen stayed in Canada from 1955 until 1982. Paddy switched from theatre to teaching English as an assistant professor at Newfoundland’s university and then to publishing in Toronto. His specialisms were the use of language, dialects and lexicography. While in Canada he and Olwen had four children, two boys and two girls. They travelled widely and enjoyed the excitement of living in a young and fast-growing country.

On their return they came to live in Wick Hall and threw themselves into restoring and enhancing the grounds and gardens. They planted over a thousand trees and introduced fallow deer into the park. Olwen led on the gardens and became technically qualified. She also became a highly successful chair of the Radley Flower Show – and a keen competitor too!  Once a year they opened the Hall grounds to the public, who could see the transformation they had achieved, enjoy teas provided by the Radley WI and contribute much needed funds to the Flower Show.

Paddy became an expert on village history and was one of the founder members of Radley History Club. He was elected chairman at the Club’s second AGM in September 1999, having previously served as secretary. He was chairman until September 2002 and stayed on the committee until September 2005. He was instrumental in the Club’s production of the Millennium Map and was the editor, financier and lead writer of the Club’s first book, The History of Radley, published in 2002. This remains the best overall account of our village’s origins and past. Later he wrote a well-regarded book, Faith and Heraldry, on the stained glass in the church. His publishing background is evident in the editorial and presentational quality of both books and in their readability. His continued support for the Club included hosting its meeting in July 2007 at Wick Hall with a conducted tour of the grounds by Paddy and Olwen, followed by supper on the front lawn. In recognition of his long-standing dedication to the Club Paddy was made an honorary member in May 2014. 

He owned land in the village and was conscious of the contribution which the land could make to the community. He was a strong supporter of the Radley Neighbourhood Plan, and of the Radley Lakes strategy in particular, and was always ready to discuss how his own holdings might help improve access to the Lakes. He was very happy for people to walk freely in Radley Large Wood, the ancient Abbey deer park, and last October signed a historic agreement for this to continue securely into the future.

In recent lockdown months, and by now over 90, he was to be seen at Zoom meetings of the History Club and of the Parish Council, still taking a very active interest in the things in the village that mattered to him. Paddy had a quiet and courteous manner and was very well-liked by everyone who knew him. He will be widely remembered with affection and as a force for good in the village.

This obituary is an extended version of that by Richard Dudding published in the January 2021 issue of the Radley News.

More WW2 memories published

More accounts were added to the list in July and August.

July’s set featured three couples from Radley. Eric and Joy Riley both spent their childhood living in north London. Brian and Valerie Mott both came from the London area, though Valerie spent the war with family in south Wales. The final couple, Denis and Jenny Standen, were both children in Oxford.

For August, in recognition of the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, five short articles of people’s memories of World War Two taken from the Souvenir Programme for Radley’s celebrations in May 1995 marking the 50th Anniversary of VE Day were published. Read more

Below is a photograph from the Club’s archives of a children’s fancy dress party held to commemorate VJ Day. It’s likely the party was held in a field on the other side of the Lower Radley mobile home park (where 3 Lower Radley now is) which was opposite the old village hall. The photo is labelled ‘V.J. Party 1946’, which is a bit of a mystery. However, it’s possible that the party was one of a series held after 1945 until well into the 1950s to celebrate VE Day and similar events, and so the date of 1946 may in fact be correct.

Photo of children's fancy dress party held to commemorate VJ Day in August 1946 [sic]

Details of 2020-2021 programme announced

Note: Some of the details are provisional owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
The format/venue for each meeting will be added to the list once confirmed. Meetings will be by Zoom until a suitable venue is available that allows all members to meet safely. Talks possible via Zoom are marked below with an asterisk. Alternatives will be found, if necessary, for those talks not possible by Zoom.


*21 September: Martin Buckland The Wilts and Berks Canal, Past, Present and Future. This historic canal linked the Kennet and Avon Canal near Trowbridge in Wiltshire with the River Thames near Abingdon. Martin’s talk tells us something of its history, its current status and the continued work of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to return the waterway to a ‘navigable state’.
ZOOM meeting (members will receive an email with details of how to join the meeting)

*12 October: Mark Davies The Pre-Raphaelites in Oxfordshire – Artists in Wonderland
Mark’s talk on the links of members of the Pre-Raphaelite group of Victorian artists with Oxford is illustrated with examples of their work. Mark has spoken to us before and is an Oxford local historian, author, and guide specialising in the history of non-University Oxford, with a particular focus on the city’s waterways.
ZOOM meeting (members will receive an email with details of how to join the meeting)

*9 November: Stephen Barker Oxfordshire in the Second World War
Stephen looks at the ‘home front’ in the county and significant events in which its people were involved overseas. Stephen is a historian and heritage adviser, and another return speaker. His talk was first written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry attack on Pegasus Bridge during D-Day in 1944.
ZOOM meeting (members will receive an email with details of how to join the meeting)

*14 December: Victoria Bentata Einstein and the refugee scholars of Oxford
Victoria tells us about Albert Einstein and other academics who sought refuge in Oxford from Nazi tyranny. Victoria is an Oxford Green Badge Tour guide and member of the Oxford Guild of Tour Guides. She last spoke to us on Oxford and Medicine.
ZOOM meeting (members will receive an email with details of how to join the meeting)


*11 January: Dick Richards “Unknown and yet well known”: the final journey of the Unknown Warrior
The 11th of November 2020 saw the first centenary of the burial of The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey and the unveiling of the permanent Cenotaph in Whitehall. This talk tells the story of the Unknown Warrior from the conception of the idea; the selection; the journey to Westminster Abbey and the burial. In addition, we will learn something about the national remembrance monument that is the Cenotaph. Dick returns to the Club a year after talking to us about the history and legacy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for whom is a ‘Champion’ and Volunteer.

*8 February: Liz Woolley Kingerlee: the family and the building firm
Liz describes the history of this fifth generation Oxfordshire family business which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018. Liz is a local historian specialising in aspects of the history of Oxford and Oxfordshire with a particular interest in the city’s ‘town’ as opposed to ‘gown’. She is a regular visitor to the Club, having given us a talk each year for the past 11 years.

*8 March: Simon Wenham Living the Lexicon: James Murray and the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary
Simon describes the trials and tribulations behind the creation of this influential book by its editor, James Murray. Simon is a member of the part-time tutor panel of Oxford University’s Continuing Education Department, where he teaches courses on the Victorian period.

12 April: Tim Healey Pagans and Puritans: the story of May morning in Oxford
The talk discusses the history of the Oxford tradition of gathering at 6.00 am to celebrate May 1st. Tim is a broadcaster, musician and writer.

*10 May: Alastair Lack The Oxford of Inspector Morse
The Inspector Morse novels, by Colin Dexter and the popular television series based on them are set in Oxford. Alastair read history at University College Oxford.  He then had a career at the BBC, mainly working for the World Service. He is a Green Badge Guide and member of the Oxford Guild of Tour Guides.

*14 June: Nic Vanderpeet Spitfires over Oxfordshire
The Spitfire, the famous British fighter aircraft of the Battle of Britain, later played an important role in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Nic is a learning and outreach officer for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock.

12 July: Tom Crook The Great Stink! Engineers, sewerage systems and the Victorian battle against dirt
The talk discusses the notorious ‘Great Stink’ of summer 1858 in London, its causes and the approach adopted to combat the problem. Tom is a Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at Oxford Brookes University.

August: No meeting

*13 September: AGM followed by Radley Remembered – a presentation of memories of Radley taken from the Club’s extensive oral history archive.