Tony Money: The GHQ Line and Radley College’s contribution to the Home Guard

Anthony (Tony) Erskine Money was born in 1920 in Cheam, Surrey, to David and Muriel Money.

Tony served in The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) from 1940 to 1946 where he was a lieutenant (service number 180048). He was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the Military Cross in 1943 in Tunisia. After being a pupil at Radley College before the war, Tony became a don [master] there in 1958 and stayed until his death. He helped with the Officer Training Corps (OTC) at Radley where he was designated a Major.

Although born in Surrey, Tony grew up in Golders Green in London. He came to Radley College as a pupil from 1934 to 1938. Tony’s father had been at Radley as a boy and it was only natural to his family that Tony would follow in his father’s footsteps. After two years at Oxford University he was called up and went into army.

Tony was away from Radley College for the course of the war and for a few years following when he taught in various British schools and one in Germany. He came to Radley as a master in 1958 and taught mainly Latin and English. He retired from teaching in the late 1980s or early 1990s but stayed at Radley where he continued to be the College Archivist until he was over 80. He also served as Honorary Secretary (1963-1988) and President (1994-1998) of the Radleian Society, and a fund-raiser for the College. [Note: The Radleian Society aims to connect and develop the Radley College community, which includes Old Radleians, Radley parents and staff.]

One of his great interests as an archivist was the GHQ [General Headquarters] Line built south of Abingdon in 1940 when France fell and after Dunkirk when there was a real risk that Germany would invade Britain. It was hoped that it would contain an expected German invasion. [Note: Because the British army had had to leave most of its equipment behind on the retreat to Dunkirk, defensive lines were built across Britain in the hope of containing the Germans and delaying their advance. The GHQ Line was Britain’s last line of defence, but fortunately it was never needed.]

Britain’s main defences weren’t along the coast as it would have been impossible to completely stop the Germans there. There were defences, but the most important were on the defence line south of London and along the River Thames. Radley was behind the GHQ Line and so was not directly involved in it; Didcot was outside the Line. The main purpose of the GHQ Line was to guard London and the Midlands’ armament factories, etc. It was hoped that the River Thames would be a formidable barrier because, if the Germans had crossed it, they would have reached the flat land north of Oxford and been able to make speedy progress to Birmingham and Coventry, then England’s industrial heartland.

Tony had never heard of this defence line before he met Leslie Smith of Kennington. Leslie had been going around the countryside tracing the line, which went from south of the Thames down past Chelmsford along the North Downs before crossing the Thames and going as far as the Bristol Channel. It was built by an enormous number of civilians and, during the war, it was top secret. People building a fortification in one place did not know that others were doing the same further along. The line followed high ground and rivers. There was a fortification line of trenches where there was no river, behind which were pillboxes. Leslie Smith went with a friend on a bike looking for the pillboxes; they discovered 24 or 25 in this area. The pillboxes were very solid; they were made of concrete and were ready for troops to occupy if there was an invasion. They are camouflaged in hedges and Tony felt that they should be preserved as historical monuments.

As the river goes in a loop around Oxford it was not thought advisable to use that part of the river, so an eight-mile trench was dug from Abingdon to Appleton. This trench started just south of Abingdon, then went through Marcham, Frilford Heath and Fyfield, before joining the Thames at Newbridge. The trenches have now all been filled in, but up to a few years before Radley History Club interviewed Tony in 2008, people could see where they had been.

Although RAF Abingdon was bombed at least twice, no bombs fell on Radley and it seemed that Oxford was being spared from bombing.

Pupils and staff from Radley College and the evacuated Eastbourne College formed a combined cadet corps and were part of the 1st Berkshire (Abingdon) Battalion of the Home Guard. They did duty in Radley Park, patrolling and stopping cars on the roads to make sure no German paratroopers had landed on what would have been an ideal landing ground. Some also belonged to the Upper Thames Patrol, which guarded bridges and important crossing points in the river between Lechlade and Teddington. A picture taken by the Germans during the war shows that one of their targets was Appleford Railway Bridge between Didcot and Oxford (railways were vulnerable as they moved troops, munitions and industrial materials). The boys and adults would patrol at night along the towpath from Sandford Lock to Black Bridge, the bridge over the railway south of Radley. One of the boys wrote in the College newspaper, The Radleian, that he didn’t know what he was doing most of the time, as there was tremendous security. No-one seemed to know the whole story. [Note: the final article in the series of Wartime memories for the 50th anniversary of VE Day also describes Radley College’s involvement in the Home Guard.]

Radley College Band marching through Abingdon at the head of the 1st Berkshire (Abingdon) Battalion Home Guard (, POX0033592 )

Many Radley College pupils were called up at the end of their school days and many became officers. They were used to living in Spartan conditions at school and so life wasn’t much different for them during the war. A total of 220 former pupils died during the war; many had gone into the RAF and died in the Battle of Britain. One ex-pupil, the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire who was a civilian doing civil defence work received a George Cross, the highest honour for civilians. He was killed doing bomb disposal work in 1940, having previously successfully defused 40 bombs.

Tony Money finally retired in 2007. He died on 17 January 2008 aged 88. Over 250 people attended the Thanksgiving Service for him at Radley College in May 2008.

Interviewed by Tony Rogerson on 19 May 2003

Supplementary information from pages 9–21 of the 2008 issue of ‘The Old Radleian’