Oral history

Over the years the Club has built up a library of oral history recordings in two main collections:

  • Radley Remembered – a series of interviews with people with memories of Radley up to and including the 1953 Coronation
  • A Tale to Tell – interviews with people who live or have lived in Radley with interesting tales to tell about their lives

Recordings have also been made as part of the research by the Club for its ‘Radley Primary School’ and ‘Farming and Rural Life in Radley’ projects. Material from these recordings were used in the preparation of the Club’s publications, The History of Radley CE Primary School and Radley Farms and Families 1600-2011 respectively.

All the recordings are listed by subject category in the archive catalogue.

Links to audio files of the interviews in the various series are generally available on request from the Club archivist – there’s no charge but you may be invited to make a donation to the Club.

World War Two memories

Club member and past chairman, Christine Wootton, is preparing a series of short accounts of Radley experiences in the Second World War. While she’s making use of recordings from the Club’s oral history collection, this is a wider project using material Christine has acquired during research on other topics. Some of her accounts are about the war experiences of individual Radley residents (often in ways unrelated to Radley) and some about life on the home front in the village. Below Christine explains how the project came about.

Some years ago Radley resident, Bill Small, gave a talk at the Radley Retirement Group about his time as a prisoner of war. He was captured in May 1940 at Dunkirk and the 80th anniversary reminded me that I had a transcript of his talk. I felt that it would be good to share his experiences with the wider community and this set me off thinking that it would be useful to record, in an easily accessible form, the wartime experiences of more Radley people.

The project is still work in progress. The first accounts were published on the Club website in April 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8/9 May 2020 with more added in subsequent months.

First published in November 2020

When war broke out Reg White was 17 and living in London. His account provides an insight into what it was like working as an electrical engineer in a factory making instruments for the Navy and then his experiences in 1945 in the Navy on a fleet repair ship supporting the British Pacific Fleet. Read Reg’s story

Brian Talboys was nine in 1939 and spent the war years living in Radley. His memories cover what life was like in the village, evacuees in Radley, soldiers travelling back from Dunkirk, the Home Guard and Upper Thames Patrol, the armed forces stationed nearby, and the changes after the war. Read Brian’s story

Beryl Buckle (née Stimpson) from Lower Radley was a pupil at Radley Primary School when war was declared. Her account has lots of detail about her family (including her father’s tragic death working on the railway), evacuees and rationing, life in Radley in general, her work in a local bakery and her wedding to David in 1944. Read Beryl’s account

David Buckle’s account of his life in the early years of the war includes his time in Ramsgate where he witnessed the soldiers returning from Dunkirk and life in Radley living at Bigwood Camp, and working on various local farms before he joined the Royal Marines in 1943. Read David’s account of his life in the early years of the war and his service as a Royal Marine

First published in October 2020

This month’s accounts feature the wartime memories of four ladies who were all children during the war.

Dot Hewlett was in Southport on the Lancashire coast near Liverpool where her father, a civil servant, was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service. Read Dot’s story

Nancy Homewood grew up on Peach Croft Farm in Radley where her father was the tenant. Read Nancy’s memories

Margaret Higgs and Iris Lancaster were brought up in Oxford where their fathers were employed at Oxford colleges. They both remembered Neville Chamberlain’s famous radio broadcast on the day war was declared. Read the accounts by Margaret and Iris

Dot, a Club member, has lived in Radley for many years. Nancy, whose husband John did much to promote the Club’s oral history programme, is in a nursing home in south Oxfordshire, while sadly Margaret and Iris both died a few years ago.

First published in September 2020

As a soldier in the British Army, John Nicholson had a fascinating war career from the Normandy beaches right through to Germany and the end of the war as an infantry signaller. His story takes us from fierce fighting in the Falaise Gap, the Netherlands, the Battle of the Bulge to the northern coast of Germany. Read John’s wartime tales

The timeline of the wartime career of Peter Hairs as an RAF pilot and then instructor takes you on a tour of airfields all over Great Britain. It also illustrates the myriad of RAF training establishments and their acronyms. Read about Peter’s RAF career

Tony Money served as the Radley College archivist for over 40 years. As archivist, his interests included the World War Two defence line known as the GHQ Line, which ran south of Abingdon, and the duties of Radley pupils and staff as part of the Berkshire Home Guard and Upper Thames Patrol. Read about the GHQ Line and Radley College’s contribution to the Home Guard

First published in August 2020

This month we reproduce 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. We start with Joy Alexander, a WREN in London describing a close encounter with a V1 flying bomb, then Jean Deller on her childhood in Essex with visits to relatives in Radley, followed by Ted and Ida Holst – Ted with a story from his naval career and Ida with reminiscences about life on the home front. The fourth article from Gladys Williams tells how she and friends used Radley Station to travel to and from their duties at RAF Abingdon. Finally, we hear about the Home Guard unit of pupils and staff from Radley College and its evacuee visitors, Eastbourne College. Read the articles

First published in July 2020

During the war, Eric and Joy Riley were children living in north London in Tottenham and Wood Green respectively. Both remember the bombing and both had close shaves – Eric from a V1 flying bomb and Joy from a V2 rocket. Both also remember rationing, particularly sweet rationing! Read about Eric and Joy’s childhood in wartime suburban London

Brian and Valerie Mott both came from the London area – Windsor/Egham and Balham in south London respectively. Brian remembers V1 flying bombs and the family’s Morrison shelter and his mother working as a postman. Valerie spent the war with family in south Wales while her father was away serving in the RAF. Read Brian and Valerie’s memories of life in the war

Denis and Jenny Standen were both brought up in Oxford. Denis remembers sheltering during air raids in the basement of Corpus Christi College where his father was a ‘scout’, watching one of the unofficial wartime boat races between Oxford and Cambridge, and cycling out to Radley where he saw soldiers waiting for D-Day. Jenny, who lived in Headington, remembers mail being dropped from a plane for the American-occupied Churchill Hospital. Read Denis and Jenny’s wartime memories of Oxford

First published in June 2020

David Buckle had what he described as ‘a quiet war’. He served in the Royal Marines from 1943 to 1945, first in a combined operations group in charge of landing craft and then as part of a special brigade that was sent to northern Germany at the end of the war. Read David’s story

Many Radley residents have a story to tell of their family’s experiences during World War Two. One is Amatsia Kashti. One set of grandparents were killed by the Nazis, but the other set escaped from Germany with their family including Amatsia’s mother, first to Paris and then to Switzerland. Read about the wartime experiences of Amatsia Kashti’s relatives

During the war staff and pupils of Radley CE Primary School held gas mask and air raid practices, and took part in fund-raising for the war effort. Obtaining fuel to heat the Victorian classrooms during the winter was a continuing problem. Read about Radley Primary School in wartime

First published in May 2020

Lorre Stebbings was born in Germany and lived there throughout the war. Her family’s home was destroyed by bombing and they frequently had to shelter during raids. When the war ended she and her family were often hungry. Lorre married an English soldier after the war and came with him to England. Read Lorre’s story

Doug Rawlinson was a school boy in London when the war broke out. He was evacuated twice, both unhappy experiences. He served in the Navy from 1944 to 1947. After training at Skegness, he sailed on two ships – one to Australia and the other to Japan. While in Japan he visited Miyajima and Hiroshima. Read Doug’s story

Radley Women’s Institute in wartime While meetings continued as normally as possible, members of Radley WI joined in national campaigns to make jam and to grow onions and other crops. Much time was spent on fund-raising, supporting prisoners-of war and putting on social events for members of the armed forces stationed locally. Read about the activities of Radley WI during WW2

First published in April 2020

Bill Small, a private in the 4th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (a Territorial unit), served in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. He was captured by the Germans in May 1940 during the retreat to Dunkirk and spent the rest of the war as a POW. Read Bill’s story

Charles Lockett joined the RAF in 1931, becoming a squadron leader in 1938. In September 1939, he led No. 226 (Bomber) Squadron to France. Charles was shot down and captured in May 1940 during a raid on Reims. He was a prisoner at several camps, ending the war at Colditz. Christine’s research about Charles started when the Club was given a letter written by him to his wife from Colditz. Read Charles’ story

Radley played its part in taking in evacuees, among them children from a London primary school and several schools at various times at Radley College. Many of the evacuees based in the village lived at Bigwood Camp in Radley Large Wood. Read about evacuees in Radley in WW2