Tring & District Local History & Museum Society

Registered Charity No.  1053276

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THE 1939 – 1945 WAR AND TRING                                                                             Page 2 of 4

The reminiscences of John Bowman continued . . .


He returned on Thursday with our order. On the following Tuesday, if mother was not satisfied, with say, the bacon, too fatty or whatever, he was told in no uncertain terms, and everything would be put right on the Thursday.           


When the war started there were nine butcher’s shops trading in Tring, with the butchers attending the local cattle markets to purchase their meat on the hoof. At least five butchers processed their own meat. Then came a Government Department, the Ministry of Food, and it took over the production and distribution of meat and butchers then received their supplies from government central depots. The local slaughterhouse, belonging to the Tring Co-operative Society, was awarded the license for the Tring area. Its manager and buyer was Mr Gilbert Rance, who lived in King Street.  The local markets continued to operate but were controlled by the Ministry of Food. This ministry also promoted the production of vegetables at home. It gave help and advice to householders and societies about how to obtain good seed and how to rotate crops for maximum effect. If a garden was big enough, its owner was encouraged to keep a pig for meat or chickens for eggs. These animals were fed kitchen waste and meal, unlike today. An egg cost as much as a two pound loaf of bread, however my mother kept chickens so we fared very well. There were many bakers shops in Tring, who baked daily, many of them called daily on houses in the surrounding district. I can remember four different bakers calling at our house, all on different days. So one can see how our lives were well organised.      


 As our armed forces grew in size, accommodation became a problem and small units began to move into the surrounding area. One of the first units to arrive was No. 1 Tractor Battery, Royal Artillery who occupied the stables at Pendley Manor. Nissen huts were built in the wooded area alongside Station Road. The stables, where the Court Theatre is now, became the workshop area. This unit was part of Anti-Aircraft Command, and they serviced and repaired the anti-aircraft guns which surrounded London.     


A Royal Naval Depot was established in buildings at the rear of 51 High Street, Tring, now Metcalfe. This land based ‘ship’ was named HMS Aeolus, after a Roman mythological god of the winds. The purpose of this depot was the supply of kites and balloons to the Royal Navy, for meteorological and shipboard anti-aircraft defence. In the stable block at the Mansion a variety of Army Units were housed. A Field Company of the Royal Engineers was one of the first. I worked at a garage at the end of Western Road, named Wright & Wright (Engineers & Coach Builders). So I saw most of the soldiers who were driving vehicles, they came and asked me to blow up their tyres with the garage airline. At the beginning of the war, due to the shortage of Army vehicles, a variety of civilian vehicles, such as motor coaches and London taxi cabs were requisitioned, and some were modified into pick-up trucks.   

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