Warren Wriglar ( 1923 –




JC  So, Warren, can you tell me when you were born?

WW  I was born on the 29th March, 1923.

JC  And you were born in Beaminster?

WW  I was born in St. Mary Well Street, Beaminster.

JC  And your parents were who?

WW  My parents were Henry Charles and Ellen Louisa.  He was, at one time, a milkman because there were lots of independent little milkmen about who had a few cows and there were no restrictions on the selling of milk. He usd to go round with his pail and his dipper and I remember that when he filled up a pint jug he used to add a little bit extra.

JC  And did you have brothers and sisters?

WW  Yes I had two brothers, one is Peter who lives in Bath Close in Bradpole and I have another brother who still lives in the original house in St. Mary Well Street, Reginald Webb his Christian names are, because Webb was my mother’s Maiden name.  And they are both retired.

JC  And you went to school in Beaminster?

WW  I went to school in Beaminster.  I went to the Boys School in East Street, which is now a private house, coming out of the Infants School I suppose at 7 and going on to the Boys School to the age of 11.  And then you took the examination to see whether you could go to the Grammar School and, having passed that, I went to the Grammar School in 1934.

JC  Right.  So that we are talking about…… prior to war breaking out…… five years before the start of the war  Do you remember the Second World War?

WW  Yes, I do, very well.  Because I remember that war was declared on a Sunday, Sunday, September 3rd, 1939, and when I opened the Museum, after it had been refurbished and repaired to be a new type of building, I remember saying that when we came out of the service it was a day just like this and so quiet it was as if people had stopped breathing.  That was the impression and, of course, in those days there was no trading on a Sunday, no sports activities, no movement traffic wise because Sunday was a different sort of a day.

JC  So it would have been announced on the radio.  Presumably some people would have heard it there and the message came through to the Congregational Chapel?

WW  As the service was going on, and in our sort of innocent way we did expect that immediately a bomb might come through the roof.  I don’t believe anything very much happened between September 3rd and the start of 1940.  That was the active time wasn’t it, 1940/1941?  And I can say a bit more about that later on.

JC  So having heard that war had broken out, how old were you then Warren?

WW  Well I left school in September ’39 and I was sixteen and a half.

JC  What did you do when you left school?  What was your first employment?

WW  The first thing I did, because everybody did this when they left school, they tried to get a job and I managed to find (? unclear) errand boy for a general outfitters in Bridport.  There was a biggish shop at the top of Down Street (?) which is now flats and that was owned by Alderman Reynolds of Bridport and I used to cycle to Bridport six days a week, with half day Thursday, for 7s. 6d.  And Alderman Reynolds, this is how they used to operate in those days, used to stand at the back entrance and give me my 7s. 6d. on the way out.  But I only worked there from leaving school until Christmas because I was then approached by the man who later became the Clerk to the Beaminster R.D.C. in 1947, Mr. Bob Travers.  He invited me to go to that office and give up the job with Reynolds.  So I went there after Christmas in 1940.  And this office was a little building next but one to the hairdressers in Church Street and it was the office of Robert Lee, Solicitor, whose name plate I have in my garden shed, whose brass plate is there.  And he, as well as being a Solicitor, was also the Clerk to the Beaminster Rural District Council and that is where my Local Government service began and ended in 1980.

JC  So it was a very long period of service.

WW  Well, this is what you did in those days.  Because it was a privilege to work there because it immediately elevated me out of the ranks of builders’ labourers.  Do you know what I’m trying to say?  

JC  It was a real self advancement.

WW  There was a legal atmosphere about that place because I used to have to type legal documents  without making any errors.  That set the standard for me for punctuation, for correctness, for correct spelling.  Because Engrossing documents didn’t allow mistakes to occur.  You couldn’t put alterations in legal documents you see.  And as an aside to that the downstairs telephone was the old candlestick type with the earpiece hanging on the side and there was a little two………………. an exchange to service the two upstairs telephones in the two offices where you cranked the handle.  And when a call came in a little thing like an eyelid came down.  It’s old hat now isn’t it?  (Laughter).  But, anyway, there I was and there I stayed until – well I suppose it must have been the, coming up to the end of 1941 but because my time was limited that is when I was transferred as a sort of a temporary arrangement to the Food Office.


JC  Right, now where was the Food Office based?

WW  The Food Office was in what is now the large conference room in the town offices.  Up the stairs because, well I mean the Parish Council weren’t there then.  I don’t know where they used to meet, the Parish Council.  It was the Parish Council then, now it’s the Town Council but they didn’t meet there.  That was the meeting room of the Beaminster Rural District Council.  It wasn’t then.  The Food Office was there.  This is war time.  Beaminster Council used to meet at Stoke Water House because I remember the Deputy Clerk used to load up his old Morris car and drive off with all the documents.

JC  Well I was interested to see that when I was looking at  the Minute Books of the Rural District Council, that they were meeting at Stoke Water House.  It seemed an awful trek to have to go out there and have their meetings.

WW  Incidentally, this is breaking off a bit, but when the Council moved itself to what was the old Swan Inn a photograph was taken outside Alan Han’s(? unclear) house next to what was Pines and the photograph which I have upstairs includes all the Councillors then and all the staff and I think I’m the last survivor.  And this photograph has been included in one of the issues of the Beaminster Society.  Their little magazine.  That’s breaking off from what……………….

JC  So what work were you doing in the Food Office?  What did that involve?

WW  That involved retailers who’d taken coupons from customers for what was rationed, they used to take the coupons back to the Food Office to get……………. we issued permits so that they could restock.  And again I have a photograph, I was the only man there I think, it was all young ladies really and I’ve got a photograph of them.  I think one married an American in the end.

JC  I would love an opportunity to see the photo if  you’ve got that.  I would very much like that.

WW  I wonder if I can find it while you’re here.

JC  I believe, though I don’t know if it would have been at the same time that you were working there, I spoke with Marie Cox of Mosterton and she said she worked there for a while though I don’t know if it was at the same time that you were there.

WW  Well I tell you what happened in the employment system in those days, people weren’t picked because of academic qualifications they were picked as the best that could be found.  I mean anybody who went to the Grammar School was pretty good, a sort of person who …………..

JC The abilities were there?

WW  The abilities were there.  They could read and write at least and I expect there were lots of changes one way and another.

JC  Oh I’m sure during the war period there must have been an awful lot of people moved from the area into the Forces and moved to other employment.

WW  What happened there was that there was a leak in the roof and they had to decamp and set up in what was, what is now, Country Seats.


JC  Now that is interesting because I didn’t realise that they were somewhere else before they moved to where Country Seats is now so that’s another interesting aspect.

WW  And behind Country Seats was the little office which was run by a Mr. H.V.P. Sealy because he was the Fuel Officer and he had to deal with the rationing of coal and oil in the same way that the Food Office dealt with the rationing of food.

JC  Now, during this period you were also an ARP Messenger.  Now how did that come about?

WW  Well, it was just the way of sort of doing a bit to help and, well, I was only a young chap really, about 17.

JC  And what was the role of an ARP Messenger?  What were you supposed to do?  Were there more than one of you?

WW  I suppose there were but it was only one of me in my memory and I used to join up with one of the Head Wardens, Mr. Gordon Crewe (the late Mr. Gordon Crewe) and our job was to make sure people didn’t show any lights.  I mean I had a steel helmet and an arm band which said ARP Messenger and we used to be outside the door of what is now the Pickwick Inn.  But actually I’ve got something down here about that, there was an Assembly Point for the other people who were Wardens and one thing and the other, behind the newsagents at No. 12 The Square.  You went in off North Street, up through the garden, and all the people who were waiting to go on duty were lying on  camp beds there,  all sorts of men.  It was all men really, but in my case – I know I’ve got a note here about that – when the siren sounded warning that German bombers had crossed the coast I used to have to turn out complete with steel helmet and official armband to support Mr. Gordon Crewe.  When the ‘All Clear’ sounded I returned home and got back into bed only to have to quickly go out again for a repeat performance!  And I refer to this Assembly Point but there’s another part of the ARP training which has suddenly come to mind.  We used to do instruction in poison gas.  In the roadway, I suppose because of the nature of what we were doing, in the roadway outside the White Hart and I do remember sniffing samples of this poison gas because some smelt like geraniums and some smelt like almonds, out of these little minature sample bottles.  And I do remember the name of the instructor was Mr. Duck and I can see him in my mind now, Mr. Duck.

JC  Was he a Beaminster man or did he come from elsewhere?

WW  No he came from Dorchester.  Exactly the same as another man who used to some from Dorchester who was in charge of ARP County-wise, George Baines.  In one of the rooms at the…………………… well this was later on because ARP continued aftr the war.  There was a room set aside for ARP uniforms and I was sort of in charge of that.  But I mean, as regards doing any………….. I didn’t do any messengering , it was just one of those things.  But we did…………….  I remember having to tackle the Maths Mistress at the Grammar School for showing a light in the house here which is occupied by Jim Colbourne now.

JC  And so the blackout was taken extremely seriously?

WW Oh yes it was, because I go on to say later on that, I mean the Germans were aiming for Bristol when they came across here, but I mean I’ve been lying in bed and heard bombs going down as they returned when they hadn’t bombed anything perhaps or were being harrassed by RAF fighters.  I mean bombs were dropped in Tunnel Road and bombs were dropped up the Hackthorne Road because I know I came home from a dance only to find my –  the rest of the family, under the kitchen table.

JC  Really, because of the bombs that were falling?

WW  But, if you go back – I mean we’re going out of context now but that doesn’t matter because you’re editing this aren’t you?

JC  We can edit it if we want to and we can take out anything you want to look at.

WW  Before 1941, I remember, the soldiers who came back from Dunkirk which was 1940 wasn’t it?

JC  It was end of May, beginning of June, 1940.

WW  They filled Beaminster Square.

JC  That is fascinating that you’ve told me that because I have only this morning been transcribing some memories from the gentleman who was the manager of the Gasworks and he was the first person, Mr. Smith, the first person who has mentioned people in The Square after the evacuation of Dunkirk and it was one of the things I’ve written here to ask you about because no-one else has mentioned that to me.  But he recalls seeing people sitting and lying in The Square.

WW  Yes, and so do I.  And just going on from that I mean it was all about the same time wasn’t it.   I remember standing at the back of the Public Hall which was full, absolutely jam packed full, at a concert given by the American servicemen.  And in fact their Cookhouse was inside high railings beside the Public Hall where the Social Club is now, all their Sawyer Cookers were outside.

JC  So those would have been like big ranges?  Weren’t they?  The Sawyer Cookers.

WW  Like boilers, with lids, steaming away.

JC  The whole town of Beaminster must have felt very different with, presumably there were troops here before the Americans came, and then later with the Americans.  It must have changed the atmosphere of the town considerably.

WW  So I understand, because I wasn’t here you see, when it came to January……  29th January, 1942, when I was two months short of 19, this doesn’t concern Beaminster in wartime, but it concerns me in wartime.

JC  And Beaminster man in wartime.

WW  And, in fact, this is digressing a lot, but when I speak to the Camera Club I’m going to say ‘Do you know in 1942 I went up to Oxford, not if I may say to one of the Colleges, but to the Barracks of the Ox. & Bucks. Light Infantry.’  

JC  And that was on joining up?

WW  That was to serve, as the army put it, for the duration of the emergency.  Because you could have been in for a long time and I was in for qute a long time.  But anyway the point I’m really making is that my connection with Beaminster sort of ended then.


JC  Though, presumably, you……….. did you get to come home on leave during the war years or were you abroad for most of it.

WW  Well I was abroad from …………….. well I’ve got to say something more about this because what I’m bringing into this for the Camera Club is VE and VJ Day because I was abroad then, didn’t know anything about what was happening here in 1945.  But those events were an important part of my army service because I was in the position of going to France and didn’t go because of the technical differences, or something, and every one of my unit was killed except one, and the other one I was in South India preparing to invade Japan.  And they dropped the bombs.  But even after that I was in the army for another eighteen months because you came out on a Demobilisation Number so instead of coming home at the end of 1945 I didn’t get home until the end of 1946 and in the interim I’d gone back to Egypt on three occasions and then into Palestine.

JC  So what sort of regiment were you with?

WW  Well it so happened that I was in the Ox. & Bucks. for preliminary training then they formed REMY that’s what released me from being a footslogger and probably being killed very rapidly in the invasion of France in 1944 and of course then it was a different life because you were ….. you had not only a tool kit but a rifle as well.  You had a rifle because you were a soldier but you had a tool kit as well.  That is why I never actually came across any officers or saluted anybody for two years.  Because it was a different set up.  You were on a gun site and if anything went wrong it was up to you to sort it out.

JC  So during your travels during the war years did you get back to Beaminster on leave at all?  Was there any possibility………… because I was wondering about transport during the war years?

WW  After the initial six weeks I got some leave, very short leave, and I used to come back on the Bridport Railway.  This is another facet of my life isn’t it.  The Bridport Railway.  And I think I walked from Bridport to Beaminster, got home at half-past one with everything.  Full kit, rifle, bayonet and everything and caught the quarter past three bus in the Sunday afternoon to go back to Oxford.  So I didn’t come home on leave very often and the irony is this, that if I was on a train with lots more soldiers many of them coming into Birmingham would say ‘There’s my house down there’ and I had to stay on the train for an interminable long drawn out journey all around these villages from Yeovil Pen Mill, Chetknowle, Evershot down to Maiden Newton and then catch the Bridport train.  And when eventually I came home after I’d been demobbed I thumbed a lorry.  Do you know, when they come home to Plymouth, or Devonport, after a few months at sea the band is out there and all the people are waving a welcome.  I came home in a lorry loaded with scrap metal and I’d been………….  When I waved goodbye to my mother in October 1944 she didn’t know, and I didn’t know, that we should not meet for another two years.

JC  So the ‘Heroes Return’ was anything but?

WW  No flags flying for me but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything.

JC  Do you think other people, coming home from fighting abroad, would have found the same thing?  That there wasn’t the kind of thing you see on the newsreels?  There were no……………… no bells………

WW  Those coming home to small villages would have had to make their own way really.

JC  And did you have a ‘Demob’ suit when you came out?

WW  Yes I did.  And funnily enough I ……………… they’d been talking about the Archbishop of York possibly becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury – no, no, that’s not right.  He’s retiring and they are trying to find who should replace him and I was demobbed at York and I remember being hauled into the train through the toilet window because that was coming down to Templemeads.  The winter of 1946 was jolly cold and I’d come back from Palestine then with just an army overcoat and I was standing on the platform at Templemeads Station wondering what was going to happen next and a guard got out of a goods train and he said ‘Where are you trying to get to?’  I said ‘I’m tring to get down to Bridport.’  ‘Well’ he said, ‘We’re going to Weymouth.  Hop in.’  And that was 3 o’clock in the morning.  And that is……  when I eventually got down to Bridport and you can see how much time that took to get down there it’s with the scrap lorry that brought me home.

JC  I think that’s something that when we talk about people’s memories of war sometimes that’s something that gets forgotten.  The coming home after all that time away.  Did Beaminster feel just like it always had, did it still have a timeless quality or did it feel changed?  Either because of your experiences or because of changes here.

WW  Well I think it felt changed because, as you say, even although I was home other people had to serve on a little bit longer and then, I suppose, National Service came in didn’t it?

JC  I would think so, certainly in the ’50s.

WW  So that……………… even more.  It was a quiet place.  it was always quiet but quieter than it had been.

JC  Well, that is absolutely fascinating and I think many of the things you’ve told me about are questions I would have asked about your experiences in the town.  Is there anything else you can think of that you’d like to share.  I know you’ve been making a few notes yourself.


WW  I think its amazing how once you start talking things keep coming into your mind.  But what I haven’t mentioned was when I was working in Mr. Lee’s office the upstairs premises opposite, which is just above the Dental Surgery, and behind the Coop storage, Mrs. Long lives there.  She’s always tackling me about going to the Chapel at Charmouth.  I don’t want to commit myself to that because some Sundays I don’t feel as if I want to and you don’t want to commit yourself to travel with anybody if you don’t feel like going.  It’s better not to say.  Number 1A Church Street is occupied by Mrs. C. Long and that upstairs room is full of soldiers because premises were requisitioned.  I mean soldiers took priority because they had to be somewhere and it is a funny thing but, in my experience, I was always being billeted in private houses and you would never – this isn’t any concern of Beaminster at all, but you’d never believe how many places I went to in my service life because they were always going off on Convoy.  I was attached to an anti-aircraft battery and they were hauling these guns about all over the shop and I know I once slept on Doncaster Racecourse in the lorry and woke up with frost all over the blankets and  you used to go 80 miles a day and then had to stop off and there was no…………….. it was a hard life.  But really I don’t know, you just got a bit stoical about it.  You thought well you can’t do anything about it.

JC  Were you aware of evacuees in Beaminster during the war?

WW  Yes I was.  I was, because one of the evacuees’ teachers and his wife lived in the flat above the fish and chip shop and, in those days, we used to be dramatically minded.  I mean there was a Beaminster Dramatic Society which used to put on a play twice a year.  When he was here because I suppose he had to keep some of the evacuees amused, though they were all in private houses.  We know that, and some even married the local boys, some even married Americans.  But he used to put on these little concert parties and I know that I learnt a song and things go round and round in my head, but when I started off my technical training in the REMY I was in Cowdenbeath which is in Fife in Scotland and we all got trained at the Miners Institute.  It was the Mining School.  That’s where we learnt all about generators and things like that and some of the girls were semi-professional singers and they came in to a concert party they organised there and they asked me if I could do a turn and I said yes, I’ll sing this song which was ‘One more Kiss’.  It went down well.  But why did they have to ask for an encore?  Which I hadn’t prepared for and the poor old pianist, and the tension, the hairs on the back of my neck standing because all the senior officers were there in the front row and the little hall was packed and I attempted to sing ‘Trees’ as an encore.  Do you think I could get the key right?  Do you think the pianist could get the key right?  (Laughter) And if you’ve ever seen those cartoons by (? unclear) where the chap in the club has to walk out shame faced and that happened to me and, do you know, after, this was in 1943, and after all those years I still get embarrassed thinking about that.  You’d never…………… it was awful.

JC  So did you sing in any of the concerts organised by the evacuees?

WW  Well I did, I sang this song, but we used to do little sketches.  You know, like these people Morecambe & Wise popping out.  I mean the contemporaries of mine were all in this.  If you ask any people my age they were all associated……………….. same as they were in the choir when they were boys.  They were all in the church choir when they were boys.  When I tried to …………… it’s embarrassing to this day (Laughter) because if you are anything like me everything must be right.  And everything was, gosh, it was terrible

JC  So there was a lot of having to make your own entertainment clearly, not just during the war years but life in general in Beaminster.

WW  There was no television and when television first came in you would plead to be allowed to watch the Cup Final.  A lady up here who worked at the solicitors was about the only television owner in the whole place and we used to have the curtains drawn as if you were going to a concert.

JC  So it was really an event?

WW  It was marvellous and when Hurfords television shop was where Anne Day’s place is, a television showing the Boat Race would block the pavement.  Because everybody said I don’t know how they can afford it because nobody else could and things happened in Beaminster because there was no television and you’d long today for there to be no television.  The rubbish that comes on there these days.  It’s awful.  The standard is awful.

JC  So basically children and young people very much had to make their own entertainment and were involved……………..  Were there things like Boy Scouts and Girl Guides organisations?

WW  Yes there were because I, myself, was in the Cubs.  Gosh you’ve raised another memory for me because in one of the houses, just down the street, was the Rev. Battersby and his wife and he was the Scout Master and she was a Cub Mistress and he had a wooden leg.  And the Cubs used to meet in an upstairs room up here.

JC  Oh, what, further along…………………………..

WW  Opposite the Primary School playing field.  And I can remember going up the wooden ladder into the upstairs.  Yes, and I can remember when we used to have to parade.  The smell of the jersey.  Full of lanolin or something.  There was a distinct smell about this……… I was only a Cub, I wasn’t a Boy Scout or anything.  But things were going on.

JC  And do you remember the Home Guard in Beaminster during the war years?

WW  Well not very well because I didn’t join the Home Guard.

JC  But you were aware that they were around.

WW  I was aware because when the plane crashed at Axnoller farmhouse I must have been home on leave because I went up to see the plane when it had been hauled out onto the road.  So that was one occasion I was on leave.

JC  So that was 1943 I think, is my recollection.  And presumably there were Home Guard people up there at the time.  Again, I’m very much aware of all the different organisations that seemed to be involved in Civil Defence during the war years.  We obviously had the siren outside what is now the museum and I gather that was at the Police Station.

WW  No, that was on the town offices building.  On the end chimney.

JC  And who operated that when an alert came through?  Would that have been done by the police or the ARP?

WW  I reckon somebody who was picking up the signs of the Germans crossing the coast.

JC  So some kind of alert would have come through.

WW  The Fire Brigade were involved in that part of the…………….. at the rear of the town offices building were garages and I think the fire engine was there and the firemen assembly room was what is now the unisex toilet.

JC  Right, well, that’s interesting.

WW  That had to come out underneath that archway, the fire engine.

JC  Well I was going to ask you where the fire engine, where the fire service was based during the war because clearly this is a much newer building on Clay Lane here.

WW  This is a new building, yes.

JC  Well that is absolutely fascinating.  I can’t thank you enough for those memories.  And I’m sure what’s going to happen now is that you are probably going to remember lots of other things.