Click on the Diary link above for updates on our progress.


January 25th

If you would like a copy of the DVD, please contact Stephanie Daniels at

December 12th - guest blog post by Chrissie Galley

........ and suddenly it was all over!   

Sunday 1st December was the long-anticipated premiere of the DVD, Bedford Physical Training College during World Wars 1 and 2, shown at the University of Bedford theatre.

Two hundred guests were guided to the venue by the skirl of the pipes,(played by Pipe Major Donald Reid and Pipe Sergeant Richard Galley in WW1 uniform), hinting at part of the story which would unfold of the College's close involvement with the Highland troops who descended on the town in 1914.   Once inside, visitors were greeted by the sight of members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry with an intriguing display of WW1 first aid equipment and medicaments.

As we waited for everyone to settle into their seats in the theatre, Maria King entertained us with a wide range of wartime songs and tunes and after a warm welcome from Steph, the programme got underway.   A powerfully expressed poem (Highland Fling), written by Maureen Hanrahan, had been included in the printed programme to set the mood for an interpretation in dance by students of the college.   This moving evocation rightly received a heartfelt response from the assembled gathering, who were all greatly touched by the students' physical interpretation of the heroism, comradeship and cruelty of war summoned up by Maureen's words.

Although I had seen some early 'rushes' of the DVD, I just wasn't prepared for the astoundingly professional film which Steph, Anita and Nigel had worked so hard to deliver. As the cameras rolled, all around me I could hear the enthralled response from the audience, who were truly drawn into the story and engrossed in the unfolding tale.   We were transported by archive footage, contemporaneous witness accounts, input from historians and researchers, re-enactments, original contributions and a myriad of photographs expertly woven into the theme.

A party without cake is just a meeting and so, of course, the afternoon ended with a slap-up tea which we all enjoyed while Maria continued to roll out the tunes in the foyer accompanied by at least one 'elderly' couple singing their hearts out.   

I'm sure Steph and Anita will have their own impressions of their experience to share, once they manage to get their lives back again!   I hope very much that they feel their steadfast commitment to achieving their original aim was worth the uphill route it sometimes took. They have not only produced a magnificent documentary record of a fascinating period of the College's history, but through their tireless encouragement and infectious enthusiasm masterminded an opportunity for a diverse group of people to contribute and experience the privilege of sharing the journey.   

November 18th

We visited the dancers again today to see how they're getting on.   They are rehearsing really hard and giving so much of their time.   They are top young 'uns!

November 16th  - guest blog post by Chrissie Galley

Steph, Anita and Nigel have developed a close relationship over the past months of making the DVD, discussing war and families so it is with particular sadness that they report that Nigel's mum, Brenda May, sadly passed away at the weekend.   I am sure that Nigel will receive their generous support in his bereavement and that they will all find comfort in the friendship that has been fostered.

November 11th

Not long to go until the December 1st launch of the DVD. We are now looking forward to meeting up with over 160 people who are, in some way or other, connected with this project.

The Sound Lounge, Bristol

Last week Nigel, Anita, Jenni and I were in a studio 'The Sound Lounge' in Bristol, to record the voice-over of the DVD script, make adjustments to sound levels and add sound-effects. I don't suppose you will even notice the sound of 'a river' as a photograph of the River Ouse appears - but I did!

Jenni does her bit
Jenni Mills did a really professional job reading, recording and making suggestions about our script. Jenni (who used to present 'Woman's Hour' on Radio 4 and is an author with Harper Collins) had to sit on her own headphones on (or 'cans' as I now know they're called) in a small sound-proofed studio watching the screen showing the DVD and reading our prepared script at the appropriate time. Anita and I had spent hours preparing time codes on the script. We were next door in a larger studio watching the same thing while the producer recorded her voice, made suggestions about intonation and took charge. Timed to every second, all the hours Anita and I put in checking each clip paid off, ensuring that, on the whole, it went very smoothly.
Anita recording her part
Next came Anita's bit. There is a short section in the DVD about the WW1 history when Anita reads an account of a recorded interview of a student who was at Bedford PT college in 1914. Another professional job was achieved with Anita needing little prompting and few takes. We disappeared for an hour while the producer, Claudio, did a mix. I can recommend the Boston Tea Party for a wonderful veggie breakfast at 4.00 in the afternoon. Later, we all viewed the 'finished' edition, made final decisions and adjustments before leaving for home, at about 9.00 p.m. It had been a long day. Not the end of the procedure, though, as next day Claudio had to upload all files electronically for Nigel to deal with on his return home to Bedford. What would be do without Nigel? Not only a super technician who has learned all kinds of new things, but such a decent, funny and kind man. How easy it has been to spend so much time with him.
Nigel learning from Claudio
We had no idea when we started this project that we would end up in an editing suite a year later producing a DVD about the war with Claudio, who is German. We had some most interesting conversations about the war and our perceptions and interpretations of events.

We are currently working on design of the DVD cover and the commemorative programme - just got to cut the DVD next. Sadly, Nigel's mother is poorly at the moment, so this might have to wait a few days. Our thoughts go out to Nigel.

Yesterday Anita and I went to the University to see the students rehearsing the dance for the first time. We took a flag, a prop, for the occasion. It was wonderful to see the students giving their time freely for an event about the community spirit or their predecessors. The dance itself, inspired by a poem written by group member Maureen Hanrahan, we found to be very touching. Maggie Killingbeck is doing a great job with choreography. It was the first time we had seen Maggie in front of students - a wonderful teacher. The University students are coming to the fore and making other contributions. Some first-year performing arts students, led by Hayley Bloodworth, are going to help out on 1st December, looking after the older visitors and serving tea. All-in-all a real Community effort.

November 7th

We are absolutely delighted that our project has received a mention in the English Heritage Magazine, Conservation Bulletin, alongside one of our Archive photographs. There are hundreds of projects supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, so we feel most pleased to merit an inclusion alongside prestigious World War One projects. The bulletin can be found at

November 4th - guest blog post by Chrissie Galley

26th October turned out to be a most atmospheric and quite moving occasion, despite the fact that it took place in 'The Cabin' at the bottom of Anita and Steph's garden! They had arranged for some re-enactments to be filmed by Nigel and had decked the room out with patriotic bunting and period furniture to represent Bedford Corn Exchange in WW1.

the 'Sergeant' waiting patiently with his pint of 'beer'

The scene was set for two handsome kilted 'Highlanders' eagerly awaiting the arrival of a pretty College student.

The appearance of 'Miss Stansfeld' was more nervously anticipated - by us all! I think we tried to make sure we were on our best behaviour for her, as she bore an uncanny resemblance to her predecessor and carried off the role with consummate ease, albeit with a twinkle in her eye.
'Miss Stansfeld' greeted at the door

Great pains were taken arranging the lighting, selecting camera angles, rehearsing the players - all with the eye of seasoned professionals.

Anita checking the viewfinder

Nigel at the controls
I offered to take some photographs of the event, and although I did manage to capture some shots, everyone was so busy and engrossed in the the filming that they invariably appeared as a blur dashing around the set!
just a blur!
It was fascinating to see how the vision for this part of the story was brought to life and to witness how at ease Nigel, Anita and Steph now are with the technical exactitudes required to bring it all about. I'm sure they feel it's been quite a journey, but they should all be very proud of how they've honed hitherto unfamiliar skills. Can't wait to see the finished article!

October 22nd - guest blog post by Chrissie Galley

Last weekend, Richard and I were invited to go round and see the latest 'rushes' and, as there was a real possibility of tea and cake being involved, we were delighted to accept. In reality, we were highly excited about seeing the film as Steph and Anita have thrown themselves into every aspect of producing a multi-faceted piece of work and we were keen to view the results. This has been a completely absorbing task that has pretty much taken over their lives lately. With deadlines on the near horizon there has been precious little time for them to stand back and take an objective view of the format and content of the the DVD and every opportunity for a little self-doubt to creep in. And, as Richard and I witnessed, there was absolutely no need for that at all. I have to say that we were full of admiration for the professional results Anita and Steph have achieved. The film was wholly absorbing, entertaining, informative and the technical and creative insights displayed in its production were, well, flabbergasting. They should be very proud indeed of what they have achieved and I, for one, can't wait until they have the opportunity to share the finished article with everyone and to see them receive the plaudits they have done so much to deserve.

October 10th

It is a while since the last blog. So much to do in so little time!In early September we re-wrote the WW2 and middle section scripts, filmed three former soldiers in Kempston Keep, edited the Kempston Keep film footage and other audio interviews. We designed invitations, viewed Imperial War Museum footage and researched a possible studio location to record the voice-over for our DVD script. We visited the Park Campus at the University of Bedfordshire, Luton to view film footage of students at Graduation Days for a short clip to include at the end of the DVD. Yes, we are now thinking of how to end this epic and feel at last we might get there!

We had further discussions with Laban Association's Maggie Killingback regarding her offer to choreograph a dance to the poem written by Maureen Hanrahan, who was the very first person we met in connection with the project, in early January, when thick snow lay on the ground. It's incredible to think our project is coming to its climax. Later that week the invitations for the screening arrived with us and we started addressing envelopes and despatched some with the help of Volunteer Jo.

The next task was to contact George Hogg, a Highland Dance teacher, to discuss the possibility of filming him dancing. Anita spent time mixing the College song we recorded some months ago. In the end, she decided the simplest version was the best.

We undertook further filming with former Bedfordshire soldier Tony Winton in Sharnbrook and re-enacted a WW1 student working at her desk in our house! The WW1 section looked decidedly bereft of moving footage, so something had to be done, and our good neighbours obliged by dressing up and taking the part of students and staff.

Highland dancer George Hogg and his dance partner Hilary graciously came to the Dance Studio at Polhill Campus and allowed us to film their moves - which were brilliant!

We reviewed further rushes and project helper, Andrew Payne, undertook to try and repair and improve some of our old photographs.

We planned to film ex-Bedford student, Athelie Knowles in Castle Donington on 9th October. Athalie had worked as a dance teacher with Rudolf Laban in the 1940/50's and was a mine of information about the history of dance and was a most engaging character. Her memories had been recorded previously, but we really wanted to capture her lively spirit on film, so we were very shocked to hear that sadly she had suddenly died on Saturday 5th October. It reminds us exactly why it is so important to record 'All Our Stories' before it is too late.

Yesterday (October 9th) we decided instead to spend a long day putting all the pieces of our jigsaw together and for the first time were able to view all sections of film to ascertain running time and choosing the music to add. We have been thoroughly blessed by the Martyn Bennet Trust and by Martyn's mother, Margaret, who has given us permission to use some of her and Martyn's music. Martyn was a wonderful bagpiper and a DJ, who died at the age of 33, but his music is wonderfully evocative and contemporaneous, so for the Highlanders we talk of during the WW1 section his music is a great gift. We are also hoping a new member of our team will devise some original music. 

Tomorrow, Steph is meeting Maggie's dancers at University of Bedfordshire to explain what we are trying to do. Replies to our Invitation to the first viewing are beginning to arrive. We still have so much to do, including planning the actual day of the showing, confirming recording studio for voice-overs, more viewing and editing of rushes and post-production things! Nigel has been a complete star, working all hours on the technical side and stretching himself above and beyond what we could ever have asked. Like us, he is so keen to deliver something engaging and worthwhile. The pressure is intense, but we hope to get there.

August 24th

This is a particularly unexciting update as, quite simply, we are slogging away at it. We spent from 10 a.m. till 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday 29th With Nigel, redoing the beginning and working at the between-the-wars years.

Specifically, what we have been doing is spending many hours poring over the footage we have, creating a narrative, recording a rough voice-over, looking at what our interviewees say about their experiences, choosing sections from their interviews, looking at photographs and film and trying to put it all together in a way that has some meaning, is engaging, tells the story and will do everyone proud! After that, and a little at a time, we email what we have imagined to Nigel, listing the clips and photographs and where they fit under the narrative. Nigel puts it all together on a timeline, adds all kinds of transitions of his own, as well as choosing and editing clips that he finds that will better illustrate the story. After that initial process, we meet up, as we did on Tuesday, and try to improve the way the story runs together. It's a really enjoyable part where we can all be creative and drink lots of tea. I suppose this is bread-and-butter for professional film makers.

Nigel, 'Hilda' and Steph
On Wednesday, we took a trip to see our nominated mentor, Jenni Mills, whose feedback and support, though painful at times to hear, has been invaluable. It was Jenni who shared a couple of weeks back (and in the nicest possible way) that our work so far just didn't cut it. On Wednesday, she viewed the ten minutes we offered which was the re-worked beginning she had been concerned about, and the between the wars section, which she hadn't seen at all. And she liked it! Her exact words were that she felt "gripped" by it! It made sense! She said we had really taken on board her feedback and that our project was on the right track.
Steph and Jenni mean business

We are so delighted. Now we simply have to try to maintain the standard as we start on World War Two and re-do World War One. No problem, then ......

July 27th 

It has been some time since anything has been posted here and that's for a good reason. We have been very, very consumed in the effort to put all our film clips, photographs and interviews into a coherent story and this past week have shown our first 15 minute clip to people involved with the project and to a media professional.

The feedback has been fairly consistent, with some excellent input. Everyone says we have some great material, but it comes with a caveat - the narrative is unclear, the historical characters and the College are vague and we clearly need to be able to engage our audience from the outset to avoid losing their interest completely!

Our inexperience in working in such a visual medium hit us more squarely on the chin this week than at any other time and, whilst project members are not yet divorcing each other it may be just a matter of time ... After many, many hours of effort, the phrase that springs to mind is 'back to the drawing board'. However, we are determined not to be discouraged by this apparent setback. We have a great story to tell and are focused on doing it justice.

It has been some time since anything has been posted here and that's for a good reason. We have been very, very consumed in the effort to put all our film clips, photographs and interviews into a coherent story and this past week have shown our first 15 minute clip to people involved with the project and to a media professional.

June 27th 

Researching in archives, writing, scanning and editing has kept us busy of late. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Services (BLARS) located in Borough Hall Bedford has been a useful place to visit for WW1 photographs. Archivist Nigel Lutt was most accommodating, as usual, definitely worth a look round for family history. Sadly for our project there are few photos of women doing anything active or useful in WW1. One lovely picture outside Mill Street, but that was about all. So we are on a quest for other sources of possible material. Do let us know if anyone out there has photos or knows of photos of women around WW1 which could be useful. The Heritage Library in Bedford Library is another hidden gem, with charming staff who could not have done more for us. Of course, one find leads to another new search, and copyright law throws up many new challenges.

But at last the creative element of the project has begun! Starting to put together some of the recently filmed interviews, with film we have acquired and scanned photos is bringing our story alive. So far we only have a few minutes film to show after hours of watching film and editing – makes you appreciate how long it must take to make a TV documentary. The WW1 timeline of DVD is beginning to take shape but reveals all the gaps we still have to fill, and all that still has to be done! 

Wanted one male Scots-speaking voice to read a short script! Contact us if you want to be involved. 

Finally, our project is featuring as a programme case-study for the HLF ‘All Our Stories Project’ and as we are mid-way through it we have been asked to provide some details about it. 

Don’t forget, planned date for showing of DVD is Sunday 1st December at 2.00 p.m. at the University of Bedfordshire – an early reminder but not that long away.

June 5th

29th May was a dull and rainy day when we went to film historians Richard and Chris Galley.  Richard is expert on the Highland Regiments  in Bedford  during WW1 and Chris  has researched the Bedford Borough Recreation Committee and  Margaret Stansfeld’s role within it. 
pondering the lighting levels
For the first time we became aware of our inexperience in filming under darker conditions as the lack of natural day light exposed our basic lighting equipment.

chris waiting patiently
After much moving of furniture and many different backdrops for filming to ensure maximum light we undertook the interviews.   Both Richard and Chris did superbly, with few retakes and lots of stories to tell.  

"what about here?" .......

....... "or here?"
After a wonderful lunch that Chris and Richard provided, Nigel went home to download film on hard drive to enable us to view and start editing.  This is the challenging part of creating this DVD – putting together the story we want to tell, linking the interviews, hoping  the footage is compatible.  For a group of amateurs it is a daunting time!

This week I also met with Maggie Killingbeck, University of Bedfordshire Principal lecturer in dance,  to discuss  a suitable venue for showing the completed DVD and to look at the possibility of a collaborative project with her students.

May 19th

Following on from the audio interview in which Jean Ceriog-Jones shared her memories of being taught by the Bedford PT students in 1936/37, we thought it important to film her memories.
Anita and Nigel ready to shoot

Jean ready to be shot!

The team in action

May 1st

Another busy few days.   Met Brian Crisp of Biddenham on Monday and recorded some lovely memories of his time in the Home Guard with his father and brother. Brian’s father, a first world war veteran, was amongst the first to volunteer in the local Home Guard and, not to be left out, Brian courageously added 3 years to his age and joined up too  - at the age of 15!

Brian went to Queens Park School and recalled his PT training taken by “the ladies from the PT college".  “They used to come along in ones or twos,  all dressed up in their black gym slips, and took us for PT.  Unfortunately it was in the playground which was just hard tarmac and was all physical jerks rather than  anything else, no vaulting over horses or anything like that.  I don’t suppose we wanted to do these physical jerks but they certainly made us do it!”  

Hopefully the PE lessons of today are looked on with more enthusiasm! 

As for many 13 year old boys when the war started it was an exciting time.  Brian recalls that they didn’t really know what war meant.  The blackouts were a godsend to children, they had a whale of a time, on bikes hunting for bomb fragments, bits of parachutes etc.  They expected a deluge of bombs and poison gas, from the propaganda from Spain, but didn’t wear their gas masks for long.

At the age of 15 Brian was in the Biddenham Home Guard with veterans from the first World War who  told him what it was like in the trenches.  They did not deter Brian, who described how every time there was an air-raid siren they assembled at Biddenham golf course, listed as a potential landing ground for either gliders or German parachutes.  They had to turn out and patrol the area 2 or 3 times in a night initially.  Remember they also had jobs and family.  It was very time-consuming  and the poor old HG (local defence volunteers in early days) were exhausted by the end of the night and this went on for quite some time until they realised they couldn’t keep this up and organised a unique system of call out – one knocks on a neighbour’s door, who in turn knocks on another.  No mobile phones in these times.

To begin with there were few weapons, so Brian’s father was a very useful volunteer, with his own old Boer War Mark 1 Enfield rifle and 10 rounds of ammunition.  He was going to stem any invasion with 10 rounds! Surprising what they found to use - bows and arrows, scythes and pikes, to defend the nation.  Gradually weapons were purchased from America and came over packed in grease.

They had to pour boiling water over them to get rid of grease but eventually they got weapons.   Brian said “Whether the HG would have been any good or not I dread to think, I suppose during my time with them I thought we were God’ s gift to England’s defence, but once I got into the Army and found out what real soldiery was about, I thought, no, perhaps not. That TV programme ‘Dad’s Army’, a lot of that did happen, and I think I was the original Pike!"

They did their best.  They manned  defences, summer and winter;  they had anti invasion exercises against other units of HG or the regular army. On one occasion they had an attack against Bromham HG and walked right through not  seeing any  sign of the ‘enemy’.  Later they found out there had been an alert of German prisoners of war escaping and Bromham had gone to hunt for  them.  Still a victory in my book!
Brian, kneeling front left
The church bells had been silenced from beginning of War One and one of the things the HG were going to do if there was a threat of invasion was to ring them again, thank goodness they were never rung.

Next it was Jean Ceriog Jones of Kempston.  Jean remembers going into Bedford College of Physical Training on Saturday mornings to help students in their teaching.  She was given tuppence to go, a lot of money in those days, but being a bit of a tom-boy would have gone anyway. Jean always liked sport and PT and recalls it being a really enjoyable experience as the college in Lansdowne had so much more apparatus than her school  had in those days. 

Jean (nee Redmond) was born in Bedford and went to Harper Girls' School.   She told me that Miss Stansfeld was there in the gym watching the students teach as they moved around the gym.   She thinks she was the only one from her school to be selected, but there may have been others.   If anyone else attended these lessons or was taught by students please do get in touch.   You can email us at

Jean also has some fond memories of the war in Bedford.  "It was exciting for a young person, you met loads of people coming and going into town. We were just getting used to boy friends, I was 16, 17 by now.  There were lots of air force along the embankment, not so many soldiers and I remember having my photo taken with an airman with my friend."  Jean  saw Glen Miller at Queens Park where he practised near the gas works.  Her friend was friendly with an American so they could go and listen to the band.

It wasn’t all fun and romance for Jean and her friend.  While at school they were asked to help with evacuees. They met children at the train station, looking sad with their gas masks hanging  around  their necks, holding hands.  They walked with them along Midland Road reassuring them until the billeting officers took over. 

On another occasion they were asked to go to Town Hall, to help out in Evacuation Office  there, doing odd jobs.  One day they were sent upstairs to the Mayor’s Parlour and saw soldiers everywhere, all along long corridor, sitting or lying about.  They didn’t know why they were there, didn’t ask.  They saw a lot of these soldiers. They were sent backwards and forwards with messages, fraternising as young girls do. 

A couple of days later they were asked to help set up a canteen in the Corn Exchange;  the soldiers were no longer there.  Gone, all cleared up, all hush hush.  They found out that the Scots regiment had come from Dunkirk, there had been no room down south, so they were billeted anywhere people would take them.  So many of them.  Jean said they were never allowed to ask anything, but they saw the soldiers around town, walked with them. She didn’t know why the authorities wanted them over at the Town Hall to help, like many women during the war she played down her part. "I don’t know what we were supposed to be doing!   We’d meet the soldiers who had gone out and they knew us.  We would just walk around the town."   Without a doubt they were a great comfort for those young men who had endured such hardship at Dunkirk.  Who knows where they went next but I am sure they took fond memories of a brief time in Bedford.

After this Jean joined the Land Army. But that’s another story!  Thank you Jean for sharing this.

April 27th

Today we were delighted when our local paper Bedfordshire on Sunday featured a two-page illustrated spread about our project!   In an article entitled "Springing into the Nation's War Effort" reporter Rupert Marquand wrote that, "Bedford's physical training college provided much-needed assistance during the First and Second World Wars" and he was discovering the project "being undertaken to document this history and valuable role the students played in the town".

It was a super piece with lots of information about the project, some of the stories about the College and details of the Archive and getting in touch with us.    Sadly, our blog details weren't included.   However, what's really good is that, as a consequence of the article, someone has already been in touch who knew the college very well during WW2 and who had personal experience of it.

We are delighted to have more people and things to follow up.

April 26th
The Princess Royal (and Anita & Steph)
This was another exciting day when, as guests of eminent Professor Celia Brackenridge, we attended the Centenary Lunch of the English Lacrosse Association. The lunch was held at the Richmond Athletic Ground where, exactly one hundred years ago this week, the first lacrosse international match had been played. The patron of the English Lacrosse Association is HRH the Princess Royal who flew in by helicopter not only to attend the lunch but also to address us. The Princess Royal’s speech was most impressive, paying attention to the history of the Association, the history of the game of lacrosse (even reading an excerpt from Queen Victoria’s personal diary) and making us all laugh with tales of her days as a lacrosse player and the lack of attention her daughter had paid to her advice about sports – even horse riding! It was a particular thrill for us to be introduced to the Princess by Celia, with whom we are very busy helping to establish the Levick Boyd Archive for Women’s Lacrosse.

An unexpected treat was to meet Margaret Turner, an international lacrosse player and President of the Lacrosse Association in Wales for many years. Now in her 90s, Margaret is another incredibly fit ex Bedford student who was at Bedford during WW2. She was able to share even more stories about the College in those days, so we feel a trip to her house near Cardiff is going to have to be arranged. Another unforgettable day.

Steph says goodbye to the Princess Royal

April 24th

Today, Nigel, Anita and I took our longest trip to Cirencester to interview Erica Burgon (Brache) who, like Hilda and Wendy, was a student at the College during WW2.  
Erica with Steph and Anita
As with all the ex Bedford girls we have met, Erica was as sharp as could be and shared her memories with great clarity and insight. Doubly interesting was the fact that Erica’s older sister and Mother had also been students at Bedford.   Her Mother was one of Miss Stansfeld’s earliest students, having attended the College from 1908 – 1910.

It was a long day for Nigel who drove there and back and who had been down in London at the Laban Institute until late on the previous night.  

Nigel salutes our progress

April 23rd (St Georges Day) and April 25th 

Spent the afternoons recording Colonel Tony Winton and Colonel Mark Adkins. More fascinating history lessons for me! Two very different stories from two people experiencing life in Bedford during the war. Tony was born on Battle of Britain Day and was a young child of five when war finally finished and Mark looked back as a slightly older boy of nine at the end of war. If they had things in common it was that for young boys wartime was exciting. Tony described the joy of being able to identify the sounds of the planes flying over the skies of Bedford, on their way to or from the many Bedfordshire airfields. While Mark remembered rushing to a bombed out site, where a new playground had been created for him and his friends to play toy soldiers amongst the rubble.
Colonel Tony Winton
Tony went to Froebel House School initially, which was part of the Training House (College) School, a very progressive school, learning through play and sitting in circles, and then to Bedford school at the age of 8. He recalls PE lessons with hoops and beanbags and most of his PE teachers were Margaret Stansfeld’s young student teachers. I loved Tony’s stories about his father in the home guard during the war – yes they really did use pitchforks in the early days! But he had his own shot gun too so he was considered unusually well-armed. They also made weapons from bread knives and wooden handles. With a shortage of weapons the home guard were the last to get the more professional and deadlier gear.

As a family with 4 children Tony was indebted to his mother for her ability to ‘eke’ out their precious rations and for bottling fruit and jam making. Father grew fruit and vegetables and found ingenious ways of storing them to last the winter, particularly potatoes. The potato clamp is a new one on me! A prize for anyone who can tell me what this is. Like many mothers during the war doing their very best in most difficult circumstances , Tony’s mother played an important role in keeping the family well fed and well clothed. It was a privilege to hear Tony’s very touching story of how the family celebrated when war finally ended and reminded me of why we are gathering these stories.
Mark had a vivid first memory of the war, with his mother, going into a cupboard understairs, during an air raid which blew in the windows their house. He felt very safe with his mother not frightened at all, unlike the occupants of the two houses at the end of his road in Putnoe Lane who were killed by a direct bomb attack. Mark’s widowed mother, too, had a hard struggle with rations. With only one child and fewer coupons to buy essential foods meals had to be inventive. The impact on small families was hard. Relatives and visitors bringing their ration books made their menus much more palatable.

As a young school boy at St Andrews he remembers walking around testing the gas masks in the playground, when later Mark went the Bedford School and joined the army cadets and was inspired to become a soldier in army. He now writes History books, mainly war history. Can all this be attributed to that day he sat under the stairs? These are just a few of the stories of Mark and Tony, we have recorded many more.

April 21st

Today, Anita and I went to meet up with Marian Maul, who after my trip to the
Retirement Centre in January, came forward to record some memories. Although the
idea was to give Marian some training in the equipment and the kinds of questions to
ask, she shared with us some of her extraordinary life story and interests. Marian’s life
sounds incredibly full and busy and I said to Anita how funny it is that, if you want to 
get things done, find a busy person and it will be done!

Marian gets it!

 April 18th

There aren’t many times in your life when you can use the word ‘honoured’ to meet
people and for it to be truly meant.  However, this day, a visit to a meeting of the Burma 
Star Association, Bedford branch, ‘honoured’ is the most appropriate word. 

We were  able to meet three veterans from the WW2 conflict in the Far East along with the wives and partners who made Anita and I most welcome. Anita took her recorder and we were able to record some memories and experiences that were deeply moving and, at times, completely chilling. The atmosphere of reflection as we all sat together around the table is hard to describe – but I know that Anita and I felt a deep respect for everyone present and feel so grateful to have had the privilege of sharing time with them all.

April 16th
Did my first audio interview today, with Ted Roberts – usually Anita’s job but she has trained me in new technology. 
Ted, formerly of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, has been a great help with this project. He is a former Bedford Modern schoolboy and was 16 when war ended in 1945. He was able to recount lots of memories about life as a schoolboy during the war.  Interesting stories, including the day a bomb was dropped in Kempston, rationing, billeting soldiers, blackouts, and Americans. A photo of him in 1940, wearing BMS uniform including boater, shows him standing outside his house with wooden boards on front door, protecting the glass panels, and hoping not to incur the wrath of the strict fire wardens. No chink of light was ever to be seen at his house! Ted has been another delightful interviewee, who has found us a couple of his friends, both Colonels, to interview next week. 

We were due to film Sheila Porter tomorrow after a lovely audio interview, but had a call from a friend saying she is not well. We send our best wishes for a good recovery and postpone filming for a week or two.

Today has been a bit traumatic as just before I was leaving to interview Ted, first the builders arrived to fit new windows and then young thrush chick found me. A bit young to have fallen out of its nest, but it seems to have (or been pushed!) I thought I had made a resolution not to save any more young birds, but this one is different – it called me and does not seem to be injured. Did the usual thing, left it for its mother etc.,but when it kept opening its beak as I passed it on the floor I was hooked. To keep a long story short,in between Ted’s interview and tea for builders I have managed to keep it alive with mealworms soaked in water (so far). As evening draws on and no parents coming forward I will have to put in a box for the night.  How often will I have to get up?!

p.s. Think it’s a thrush chick! Any tips?

April 14th

The call went out a few weeks ago for volunteers to sing an anonymously written
college song for inclusion in our DVD. What great fun we had trying to sing it well and
get everything right technically. Here are a few pictures of a most memorable day.
conducting the choir

serious rehearsal

The Bedford PE Girls
April 1st
Easter Monday, another freezing cold day.   At Richard's suggestion, we wanted to know more about the Americans in Bedford during WW2, so we (Anita and Steph) visited the 306th Bombardment Group Museum in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire.   This delightful little museum tells the story of the 306th who arrived at the airfield in September 1942 and undertook 341 daylight bombing missions over occupied Europe before their final combat mission on 15th April 1945.   Along with wonderful artifacts and treasures about the 306th, the museum is also a tribute to the passion of two local people, Ralph and Daphne Franklin.   Since the museum's inception in 2002, they have dedicated their lives (and money) to recapturing the sights, sounds and experiences of the war years.  The Franklins are regular guests at 306th reunions in America, where their contribution is highly regarded by veterans and their families and they frequently entertain their overseas visitors at the museum with glorious tales of the museum and its fine history.
Ralph and Daphne Franklin - inspirational.

Daphne and Ralph

March 15th
Nigel meets Chrissie and Richard for the first time over coffee and croissants and we share our latest research and ideas.

Chrissie, Nigel, Steph & Richard

March 12th
Steph, Anita and Nigel visit Ely Cathedral to video the stained glass window endowed
by the women's Physical Training Colleges to the Elisabeth Garret-Anderson Hospital
in London. The curator of the stained glass window, Jasmine Allen, had some very
encouraging things to say.

Anita & Nigel

the stained glass window

February 27th
Shela Porter, author of ‘Threads of Time’ and ‘Bridges of Time’ shares her memories of
life in Bedford during WW2.

Sheila chatting with Anita

February 20th
recording Wendy

February 20th
Filmed Hilda Hammond (Moore), a former student of the Bedford Physical Training College 1940-43, at her home in Huntingdon.   Hilda is nearly 91 and a delightful example of the advantages that a fit and healthy lifestyle can bring.   We (Nigel, Steph and Anita) arrived early with cameras on a typical freezing day that this winter has brought.   Welcoming coffee (Italian, made in a cafetiere) helped warm us up as we advised Hilda of the coldness of the day and to stay indoors.   It was too late.   Hilda had already been out on her bicycle delivering the village newsletter!  This was our first recording using a camera and it went well, as the rushes have subsequently revealed.   Hilda was a natural and needed little prompting to tell her wartime experiences at College.   Her stories will be edited and revealed in the final DVD to be shown in November.

Nigel filming Hilda

The talented Hilda returned to lecture at Bedford Physical Training College and was an International hockey player in 1946/47, playing centre forward in matches against Wales, Scotland and Ireland.   Sadly, she told us that she has no photos of her international career.   This was the cue for another quest, and, as with so many things to do with this project, we set off to find the answer to another unexpected challenge.   The National Hockey Museum in Woking came up trumps and Hilda and her family can now have a photograph in their album of the proud International in the centre of the England team photo.

January 30th
Local historian and expert in the Highland Regiments in Bedford in WW1, Richard Galley and his wife, Chrissie, meet with Steph and Anita to share history and plan a way ahead.

January 29th
Eileen Cave

January 28 and 29th
Steph visits the local Retirement Centre to let them know about the project and to invite
folk to get involved.

Memories Group

Creative Writing Group

January 22nd
Anita and Steph meet with poet Maureen Hanrahan to talk about who might like to
write poetry or stories about the College students and the wars.

Maureen and Steph


  1. Very interesting , so many people and organisations to include!! It is so important to record memories and pass on to others the history of Bedford and the war years.

    1. As someone involved with the project, I couldn't agree with you more.

  2. hobnobbing with royalty now!

    1. It was a really great day and HRH was most gracious. The only biscuits I could see were Rich Tea, not a hob nob in sight. You know what they say about the old ones being the best!

  3. Margaret Whitehead13 September 2013 at 09:31

    Margaret Whitehead

    Great site. Quality of photograophs excellent. Fascinating diary.

    We must find ways to make more OS aware of this ... on OSD?


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