A Lavington lad’s wartime memories

Among the oral histories at Market Lavington Museum is a recording by Gilbert Jenks. He was about eight years old at the start of World War II in 1939 and was a pupil at Market Lavington School. Aged eleven, he moved on to secondary school in Devizes, travelling there in the back of the bus, whilst the fare paying passengers sat at the front.

Many of Gilbert’s memories from this time coincide with those of Aubrey Chapman. (See World War Two memories and Christmas carols.) Gilbert remembered there being soldiers camped all around the village. Some were stationed in the old bus depot in the Market Place. Others were camped at Ladywood, near Canada Woods. Those in the woods near Russell Mill Lane had anti-aircraft guns. There were Italian prisoners of war at Bouverie House (The Old House). They were collected by lorry each morning, guarded by a soldier with a gun, and taken to work on various farms.

Gilbert talked of the Home Guard doing target practice in the field behind the church, where the land sloped down to the Northbrook stream. They fired a big gun, a Blacker Bombard. These could send a 20lb bomb about 100 yards. Local boys would pull it back up the hill with a rope.

Gilbert was one of a large family. They moved from their council house on Spin Hill to one of the new homes in Northbrook Close.

This picture shows the Northbrook Close homes, completed, on the right at the top of the hill. Gilbert said that only the first four were built before the war. The rest of the land designated for development was used by Dauntsey’s School to grow potatoes to feed their students in what had been Market Lavington Manor House. Gilbert remembered Mr Jack Marks preparing the land up Northbrook along with his shire horse and a couple of land girls.

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