Memories of Long Preston during the War
Other annecdotes about Long Preston
Jim Delves now lives in Harrogate.
Jim came to the Railway Exhibition at Long Preston in 2009, which reminded him of his long chats with Adam Beatty, the signalman, and
inspired him to write about his memories of staying in Long Preston.
My memories of Long Preston during the 1939-
I always consider Long Preston my "home", even though I was born in Calcutta. My Father was an engineer, representing British manufacturing companies in India, was born in Long Preston.
My parents, Victor and Clare Delves, brought me back when I was 2 ½ , and I lived with my Grandmother and Aunt Madge at Lochinvar, until my Parents returned from a second appointment in Calcutta.
Before the War we lived in Surrey, but we always came up to Long Preston for holidays, and in fact we were staying at the Maypole in late August 1939, when war was inevitable, and I remember helping Billy Clayton, the publican, to ensure that the blackouts on the widows were O.K. I was then, at 15, "roped-
At the beginning of the War I was a day boy at Epsom College, and we lived at the back of Epsom Downs. The 1st Canadian Division , having just arrived in England, camped on Epsom Downs, and somehow the Luftwaffe got to know, and started bombing. My Father decided to move his office to Long Preston, so I finished my education at Ermysteds, as he had done before me.
My Parents rented a house on Back Lane, just beyond the end of Pendle View, and on either Easter Monday or Whit Monday in 1941, I was home from school, and we were sitting in the rear living room, which had a marvellous view over the Ribble valley, when I heard an aircraft engine, looked out, and there was a Dornier 217 German bomber cruising south on the other side of the valley, at only about 500 Feet. I could easily see the swastika on his rudder. He disappeared in the distance,-
We then moved into the cottage next to Fred Stork's shoe shop near the Boars Head. Again my bedroom looked over the valley, and one morning, as I was getting up, I heard aircraft engines, and there was an RAF Whitley bomber, very low, coming towards me, with his wheels down, as if to land. He then turned South and went out of my sight. There had been RAF personnel around the village, so I speculated that they had secretly built an airfield locally-
In actual fact, I later learnt that the Whitley had been on a leaflet raid over Germany as they did in the early years of the War. He had got lost on his way home, and was running out of fuel, and spotted a large field, where he force-
Mrs. Stables, the farmer's wife knew nothing of the drama in one of their fields, until the kitchen door opened and the fully-
Long Preston was on the route the German bombers took to bomb Manchester and Liverpool, in fact there was a searchlight at the top of Moors Lane, below Beacon Coppy. On a clear night we used to walk up Moors Lane to watch the searchlights, and we could see the flashes of the bombs and ack-
My father had to go to London for meetings from time to time, and before the London Blitz started, my Mother would go too. On one occasion as they got off the train the porter said "Mr. Delves, you have missed the Blitz here!" The night before a train was going North through Long Preston, it was dark, and the driver obviously was unaware that the bombers were overhead. He opened the fire-
John Mellin found it next morning when he was starting his milk round, coming up Back Lane in his trap! There was a great hole in the road, so he had to turn round, and come up Station Road. The trouble was that not only had it blocked Back Lane, it had broken the main sewer from the village to the filter beds near the Ings.
There were two other railway incidents that I remember. I was very lucky, in my school holidays Adam Beatty, the signal man, used to invite me into the signal-
My Father and I used to go fishing in the Ribble, -
The train of course was a special, not scheduled. An inspection team were checking the track, above Langcliff, walking along it, and with no signals in sight, they were unaware of the oncoming special, and one of the team was hit and killed. I understood that even the driver was unaware what had happened until he stopped for coal and water at Hellifield.
The other incident, -
The train gathered speed, and when it went through Settle was estimated to be doing 90 mph, and the brake-
The first time I had the experience of travelling on the Settle – Carlisle line, was when I joined the Army, on my way to Glasgow for initial training at Maryhill Barracks! I don't think I took in the scenic beauty of the journey, but that is another long story!
Jim Delves -
Other Anecdotes about Long Preston
I thought that I would add in this note, some other points that might be of interest in the Village Archives. Long Preston is only a small village, yet it has some claims to fame in the War.
Both my Aunts, Marie and Madge Delves, were awarded the Royal Red Cross as Matrons in the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Corps. (Always known as the QA's for short.)
Aunt Marie was a regular in the QA's before the War. During the War she served in the Middle East, and was sent with PAI Force, (it stood for Persia And Iraq), a force sent there to stop the Germans capturing the Middle East oil supplies, if they had overcome the Russians at Stalingrad. She was a Matron in a British Army hospital in Baghdad. Aunt Madge was a reservist, but was recalled and was a Matron all during the Siege of Malta, then after D day, was a Matron in a Hospital in Bruges.
John Clark was born in Long Preston, and he and my Father went to Long Preston school together. He and his Wife, Molly, lived at Mount Pleasant. He went into the regular Army before the War, and retired in the rank of Major just before the War. When the War started he was recalled and went to India, and retired after the War as a Brigadier.
Just to make you laugh! I did an Engineering Cadetship at Bradford Tech, (as it was then,) during the War, for a technical commission. I was enrolled in the Royal Corps of Signals, and when they saw I had been born in India, I was sent there and commissioned at Mhow. John Clark invited me to Lucknow for my commissioning leave. He was Chief of Staff to the G.O.C. Lucknow District. On the Saturday it was Lucknow races, so the G.O.C.-
Enough of my rambling. I hope you are well and the village is thriving, as I am sure it is.
Jim Delves -