New rules, new regime and new cash at troubled Ramsay School

MAJOR changes are underway at Sir William Ramsay School in Rose Avenue, Hazlemere following an injection of Government cash and the approval of a new academy trust to run the school.

Two years ago the school and its parents were devastated when an Ofsted inspection ruled the school ‘inadequate’ and criticised its safeguarding arrangements as ineffective. 

The report said there were a high number of “serious behaviour incidents” and some pupils were at risk of discrimination and physical harm.

The Department for Education warned the school’s academy trust it was in danger of losing its Government funding unless there were significant improvements

A new head, Paul Ramsay, took over in September 2022 and in his first week he introduced a stricter school uniform policy and banned hoodies.  In his second week he reinforced punctuality rules, banned false eyelashes and nail extensions. 

Despite those and other changes Ofsted inspectors did not think things had improved enough when they made a short follow-up inspection early last year. They didn’t remove the ‘inadequate’ rating.

Arrangements were made late last year for the school to be taken over by the Aylesbury based Insignis Academy Trust which runs four other schools in Buckinghamshire. The trust’s board oversees education standards and finances of all its schools while a governing body is appointed for individual schools to oversee development plans.

A new head of school, Neil Stocking, took over at the beginning of this term and the trust has appointed a new finance officer and a specialist ‘lead practitioner’ for maths.

The trust is  also appointing a head of safeguarding based at the school – an area, says trust chief executive Garret Fay, “which remains a key concern for the local authority and Ofsted.”

In the past it’s been felt that the 1970s design of parts of the school has exacerbated bad behaviour. So now the Government has granted £1.38 million for a complete redesign and renovation of the school toilets, an extension of the canteen and other safety improvements.

In addition, from late last month, new rules covering “core routines and lesson expectations” were issued which, Mr Stocking said, had already led to improvements in behaviour.  

A new system to improve reading levels is being introduced and students are being told they are expected to be in full school uniform at all times and that if mobile phones are not switched off and kept in bags they will be confiscated.

The school has specialist school status as a Visual Arts College and has a state of the art performing arts centre. Former pupils include Little Mix singer and anti-discrimination campaigner Leigh-Anne Pinnock, pictured above, receiving an honorary doctorate from High Wycombe’s Buckinghamshire New University.

In the school newsletter Mr Stocking said: “I am writing to reassure parents/carers and students that bullying and behaviour management are at the top of priorities to address. 

“We have put in place a detailed school development plan that includes the development of character and community within the school. This includes ensuring that all bullying and behaviour incidents are dealt with effectively and communicated promptly with all involved. We will not tolerate bullying at our school.”

*One in 10 primary school children in Buckinghamshire said they experienced bullying at least weekly according to a survey published last month and commissioned by the county’s NHS Trust. The figure reduced to 1 in 14 for secondary school children. Thirteen per cent of primary and 28 per cent of secondary age groups said they were victims of cyber bullying…an emerging problem says the report.

Spreading the word and the light

Pat and Ron Hedley with fellow walkers set off from Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. Pat is in the red coat at the front with Ron to her left.

TYLERS GREEN prostate cancer sufferer Ron Hedley is doing more than raising money for research into the disease.

As his series of nationwide walks continue to gather momentum he’s getting an increasing number of letters from men who had themselves checked out following the attendant publicity his local walks attract. 

Consequently they are thanking him after discovering their PSA (prostate specific antigen) level was high leading to further tests which could lead to vital early action against the cancer.

Ron’s latest walk saw football and cricket fans combine for a “Ron’s March” as part of the Bob Willis Fund to raise funds for research into prostate cancer. They set off from Sunderland’s famous Stadium of Light at the behest of local football hero Mick Harford, who is himself being treated for the disease.

Ron, 74,  and his wife Pat, of Old Kiln Road, have a busy few weeks ahead with a series of walks involving cricket enthusiasts like themselves.  

This month there’s an Afro Caribbean walk in Slough organised by the town’s significant Anguilla community.  Next month there are walks from Kent CC’s Canterbury ground; from the Minchinhampton Old Golf Course near Stroud in Gloucestershire;  Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham; South Devon’s CC ground at Newton Abbot; and with Surrey senior cricketers in West Horsley. Interviews with the BBC and Sky are also planned.

You can donate to Ron’s March at Details of the walks, if you would like to join them, are on 

Oh dear, it’s that sinking feeling again…

ACCORDING to council leader Martin Tett it was the wettest February in Buckinghamshire for 248 years…and boy, all that water created its own chaos under our feet here in Penn and Tylers Green.

Two significant  sinkholes have brought major engineering problems for the water companies, Affinity Water and Thames Water, as well as Buckinghamshire Council.

Early last year the Hazlemere to Penn road, the B474, was closed for six weeks by Curzon Avenue after what Affinity Water described as a “large and unexpected” collapse of a water main, causing “significant damage”, collapsing the road verge. 

Repair work had to be suspended several times as further leaks kept springing from adjoining pipes and specialists were brought in by the council and the water company to advise on ways to secure the whole underground network of pipes. 

By the end of February 2023 the road was reopened with council and Affinity engineers fairly confident the problem was resolved for the foreseeable future.

Except it wasn’t.

Early last month a sinkhole emerged again just a few yards from where last year’s collapse occurred. With a groan, Affinity engineers rushed to the scene and after a few days draining excess water away, repaired their broken pipe.

Then, to their horror, they discovered it wasn’t the broken pipe that had caused the subsidence. It was the subsidence that caused the  broken pipe. 

The house where Rushmoor Pond used to be.

The buck has now passed back to the council’s drainage team to discover what an earth is going on under the Penn to Hazlemere Road and what needs to be done to shore the whole thing up permanently. It’s going to take weeks, possibly months.

The prime suspect is a pond we can no longer see.

For as long as anyone can remember there was a natural pond at the corner of Curzon Avenue and Penn Road, known locally as Rushmoor Pond.  Then, earlier this century and much to many people’s surprise, permission was given to drain the pond and build a house on it.

One train of thought last year was that the original collapse occurred because the drought of the 2022 summer followed by a wet autumn and winter actually altered the structure of the sub-soil, shifting and fracturing the various water pipes and drains.

This time around all the gallons of water that drenched us this winter obviously has to go somewhere.  When Rushmoor Pond was there the water would have flowed into it, perhaps causing a bit of natural flooding as it overflowed. But it can’t do that any more.

Steve Broadbent, the councillor overseeing this particular debacle, seems to agree.  “It appears to be caused by a historical issue,” he told this blog. “We apologise for the inconvenience and thank motorists and residents for their patience.”

He can say that again.

Oh dear, it’s that sinking feeling again…(hang on, haven’t we been here before?)

MEANWHILE, just about a mile away, opposite the Horse and Jockey pub in Church Road, Tylers Green there appears to be, on the face of it, an even bigger catastrophe.

A year ago a relatively small sinkhole appeared in the pub car park. Little, well nothing, was done about it for a few weeks while Thames Water, the council and the brewery argued over who was responsible for the repairs (if you think life above ground can get complicated it’s nothing compared to the subterranean world of pipes, sewers, drains and cables).

Eventually Thames Water took responsibility and repaired what turned out to be a broken sewer pipe. It was a big job. The village’s pumping station at the end of New Road had to be closed down while a fleet of big tankers ferried away the effluent. By August though all was mended and life returned to normal.

Except it didn’t. 

Just like Curzon Avenue it all began to unravel again. By October sewage was escaping again from the same spot,  only worse than last time. The pretty garden at Dell Cottage was completely overwhelmed by raw sewage. Thames Water came back with bigger machines in November and told this blog that with a fair wind all should be repaired again by Christmas.

Dell Cottage garden flooded with sewage. Picture published in Bucks Free Press

Well, here we are approaching Easter and it’s pretty obvious the work needed is proving far more extensive than originally thought. New trenches are appearing on the back common, presumably en-route to the pumping station.

New excavations on the back common.

This blog has asked Thames Water two or three times what’s going on, but answers came none.

The company has, however, invited residents around New Road to a meeting at the Horse and Jockey, presumably to explain there’s going to be some disruption coming their way (Don’t expect them to pay for the drinks; according to the Financial Times the company is on the verge of collapse with £32 billion worth of debt!).

In the meantime, hang on to your wellies.

Local news

Fun Run charity – Our biggest community event, the Penn Seven, Fun Run and Party by the Pond, will be held on Saturday, 15 June and raise money for research into dementia. The event is being held in memory of Elaine Cullip, of Ashley Drive who ran more fun runs and Penn 7s than anyone else before her death from Lewy Body dementia last year.

Over the top Plans to demolish Gorse Glade at the bottom of Tylers Green back common and replace it with a new three bedroom house have been rejected by Buckinghamshire Council who said the proposed new building would be “unduly domineering” and out of character with the setting of the back common. 

Memorial care – The Penn and Tylers Green Residents’ Society is asking Chepping Wycombe Parish Council to take over responsibility for the plaques by the First World War memorial trees on the front and back commons. The plaques are often damaged and cost about £50 to replace.

Pond revival The Friends of Tylers Green Middle School have embarked on a scheme to reinvigorate the pond area in the school grounds to attract more wildlife and enable pupils to enjoy outdoor environmental  lessons in the area.

Private vineyard – Plans have been submitted to build a large house surrounded by a private vineyard on one of the last remaining open fields by Witheridge Lane, Penn, next to The Old Cottage.

Speeding hotspotHammersley Lane in Tylers Green remains a hotspot for speeding. The local neighbourhood action group heard that around one in 14 vehicles exceed the speed limit. 

Easter egg hunt – The Friends of Common Wood are organising a family Easter egg hunt in the wood on Easter Saturday morning, 30 March. Tickets from this link: 

Tory victoryConservative Steven Roy was elected in the Hazlemere ward by-election for Buckinghamshire Council last month, defeating independent candidate Leigh Casey by just 33 votes. The results were Mr Roy (687 votes); Mr Casey(654); Mark Titterington, Lib Dems (426) and Adam  Dale, Labour (113). The turnout was 26 per cent. The by-election was caused following the death of Conservative councillor Ron Gaffney.

Gomm Valley inquiry gets off to a bitter start as Taylor Wimpey accused of moving the goalposts AGAIN

THIS MONTH’S detailed planning inquiry into Taylor Wimpey’s plan to build 544 houses and other facilities in the Gomm Valley, between Hammersley Lane and Cock Lane, Tylers Green got off to a rancorous start with the developers once again being accused to trying to usurp the process.

Just weeks before the start of the inquiry Taylor Wimpey said it wanted to change the wording of its application so that a number of items due to be discussed at the inquiry would in fact be agreed at a later stage – a process known as reserving matters. They included issues involving the proposed new school building and a planned employment area.

But Buckinghamshire Council cried foul. It said the layout of the school and employment area had already been published and commented on by participants to the inquiry. Basic facts about them needed to be known if the inspector is to find the development acceptable, the council said.

The inspector, Matthew Woodward, will have to resolve the issue in the first part of the inquiry, but its not the first time he’s been called on to resolve a bitter dispute between a local authority trying to play things by the book and an ambitious developer keen to hurry things along and start building. 

He earlier rejected council claims that  the inquiry should be called off because the company had not followed proper procedures, saying he would deal with the matters raised during the inquiry.

Mind the gap

WHEN IS  200 metres not 200 metres? That’s just one of the many questions the Gomm Valley planning inspector Matthew Woodward is going to have to answer.

The council is dead keen that there should be at least a 200 metre gap between the last house in Tylers Green in Cock Lane (the new Ashwells estate) and the first house in the Gomm Valley development, also off Cock Lane.

That way, they say, the urban merger of Tylers Green and High Wycombe would be avoided. In other words, we could still call ourselves a village and not a suburb.

The Penn and Tylers Green Residents’ Society is also very keen on maintaining the gap. In its evidence to inquiry it says the gap would be “much less” than the required 200 metres under Taylor Wimpey’s plans.

In his evidence the council’s top planner, Adam Smith, says it’s a “key issue” that a physical separation is maintained between High Wycombe and Tylers Green through the provision of an undeveloped area of land.

Ever the nit-picker however, Taylor Wimpey’s planning consultant Robin Shepherd highlights the exact wording of the council’s local plan which outlines its policy on the issue. The wording says there should be an undeveloped gap of “approximately 200 metres or more”. He maintains there is a 200 metre gap but admits “it is a matter of judgement… whether it avoids the coalescence of the settlements…”

The internet helpfully tells us that 200 metres is the equivalent of two football pitches or two Big Bens or four Leaning Towers of Pizza or  half the height of the Empire State Building.  Travelling on Cock Lane at 30mph it would take you 14.2 seconds from leaving the last house in Tylers Green to arriving at the first house in High Wycombe.

So is it all a fuss about nothing? What’s the betting that within a generation someone’s going to say: “What’s that empty field doing there. Fill it with houses.”

Sitting on a scandal 

A LOCAL  man has told Penn’s MP Sarah Green that he could have blown the whistle on the Post Office’s cover up of its faulty Horizon system years ago if he hadn’t been gagged because he signed a non-disclosure agreement and the Official Secrets Act.

The man, now retired, had worked for the Post Office for over 30 years and was a member of the team that delivered Horizon, Ms Green told the House of Commons.

However, he felt he still could not speak out because he could be prosecuted for a criminal offence and sued for the money he received when he took voluntary redundancy. She said his frustration was “palpable.”

Ms Green said her constituent told her: “Non-disclosure agreements should not be so restricting to avoid malpractice being reported or to allow the company to blatantly lie when under investigation.”

However, Business and Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake urged Ms Green to encourage her constituent to speak out. 

He said the Official Secrets Act would not apply in this case and that a non-disclosure agreement does not prevent anyone from talking to the police or any authority about a crime. “I am very keen the gentleman passes on his evidence to the (Post Office) inquiry,” he said.

Ron Johnson, a war veteran who cheated death twice in one day

Ron, celebrating his 100th birthday. He received a personal greeting from Queen Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, due to his 62 year friendship with her father.

A MEMORIAL service is being held this month for Ron Johnson, a war veteran who lived in the village with his wife Sybil for 34 years before moving to be nearer his daughter in Shrivenham. He died in November aged 102.

A big friendly man with a big friendly smile Ron spent many of those years greeting strangers and locals alike to St Margaret’s Church.

You would never have guessed it from his cheerful persona, but Ron had a dramatic Second World War experience, cheating death twice on the same day.

He was a 22 year old lieutenant and glider pilot in September 1944 flying in men and machinery to Arnhem and Oosterbeek as part of Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated attempt to shorten the war by capturing vital bridges by the Dutch-German border. It was his first operational flight. 

After three days under heavy fire he received a nasty head wound when a mortar bomb exploded near him, killing two comrades standing next to him. He returned, concussed,  to his trench an hour or two later after being patched up at a dressing station only to be then shot in the back by a sniper. The bullet exited through his right arm. 

Too injured to be moved as his friends were forced to retreat, Ron was cared for by brave Dutch families but inevitably, after ten days, he was taken prisoner by the Germans.

After a long, rough journey he eventually ended up under armed guard in Spangenberg Castle in central Germany where he spent a bitterly cold winter with hardly any food but starting a life-time friendship with fellow prisoner Major Bruce Shand, later to become the father of Queen Camilla. 

By the following April, with the end of the war in sight, Ron and his friend Bob Garnett escaped when the Nazis decided to march the prisoners east. 

“We thought it probably wasn’t such a good idea to be marched towards the Russians, so we got away and hid in the hills for eight days with a few biscuits,” he recalled, with typical sangfroid, in an interview with the BBC. They made themselves known to advancing American forces who kindly put them on a plane to Paris and back to Britain.

Ron with the Mayor of Renkum in the Netherlands on a reunion visit 20 years ago.. Picture: Berry De Reus

Ron stayed in the Army after the war, becoming a captain, and he married Sybil, a hotel receptionist, in 1947. He began a successful career in business and in 1974 they moved into Finch End, off Wheeler Avenue for a long and happy stay in the village.  He ended  his career as a financial consultant for the Allied Dunbar insurance company. 

Sybil and one of his daughters, Diane, died before him and his remaining daughter Valerie is organising this month’s memorial service  which will include the children and grandchildren of the families that cared for him in the Netherlands. 

Speaking to fellow veterans of the Arnhem campaign. Picture: Arjan Vrieze

Ron never forgot the Dutch friends he made in 1944 … and they never forgot him. He returned to Arnhem every year until he was well into his eighties, staying with the families who helped him and visiting schools to talk of his experiences and spread his Christian belief of the importance of love and forgiveness. In return the Dutch presented him with honours and gifts. 

Oliver Heal, a life of style, a sense of history and a passion for funny socks

Oliver Heal. Picture: The Furniture Makers’ Company.

OLIVER Heal, a leading light in furniture history and perhaps the world authority on Sunbeam cars, died at his home, Baylins Farm in Knotty Green, aged 74 from cancer. He was also a church warden at Holy Trinity, Penn.

He was the grandson of Sir Ambrose Heal, the famous art deco furniture designer, and great, great grandson of John Heal who founded the Heal’s department store business.

He was the last member of the Heal family to become chairman of the business before it was sold to another company and he wrote a book on the history of Heal’s.

Oliver also carried out extensive research into Baylins Farm which his grandfather bought in 1919 as a crumbling 15th century farmhouse and transformed it into an Arts and Crafts haven.

In addition, his passion for heritage vehicles earned him a lifetime achievement award from the National Transport Trust.

His wife Annik, who survives him along with a son, three stepdaughters and five grandchildren, is the grand-daughter of the French engineer Louis Coatalen, who designed Sunbeam’s most successful racing cars. Oliver spent 30 years researching Sunbeam and published an award-winning biography of Louis Coatalen four years ago.

An unassuming man with style and good humour, mourners at his funeral in Penn Church last month were asked to wear a splash of colour and “funny socks” to reflect his colourful life.

Welcome tweets

A very useful free app comes into its own at this time of year when birds are finding their voice again.  The Merlin bird sounds app picks out individual bird song in your immediate surrounding.  On a Sunday morning in late February during a short walk down the wooded path from the village hall to Ashley Drive the app picked up 10 species including a  blackcap, wren, coal-tit and a (query) firecrest. Couldn’t see – or even personally hear – most of them, but it’s lovely to know they’re there.

Regional news

Murder charge  –  Paul Gill, aged 39, has been charged with murder after the body of 40 year old Paramjit Gosal-Gill was found at a house in Seeleys Road, Beaconsfield on 23 February.

Work suspendedWork on the new housing development at Slate Meadows, Bourne End has been suspended until September after archeologists discovered the bone of an extinct cow, an auroch, thought to be up to 4,000 years old. A more extensive, professional dig will take place this spring and summer to discover if the site was a prehistoric settlement.

Potholes overwhelm  – Bucks Council leader Martin Tett has admitted that there are so many potholes on the county’s roads some of the repairs being carried out are temporary “make safe” repairs that “won’t last very long” and will be made permanent when the weather improves. He said 30 separate teams are working throughout the county repairing potholes.

Drug arrests Further details of an intensive week-long police crackdown on drug gangs operating so-called County Lines  has revealed that South Bucks had the second highest number of arrests in the entire Thames Valley Police area. In all 12 arrests were made for offences involving cocaine, heroin, cannabis, crack cocaine, dangerous driving and kidnap. Oxford was highest with 14 arrests whereas there were 11 arrests in Reading,  nine in Slough and five in Milton Keynes.

Bishop dies –  The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, died suddenly last month aged 68. He had been  bishop for over 20 years and played a key role in the investigation into disgraced former Tylers Green vicar Michael Hall.

Landmark’s removalThe totem pole, above, which was gifted to Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 by the government of British Columbia and erected in Windsor Great Park is to be taken down as it has come to the end  of its natural life. In accordance with the traditions of the indigenous people who carved and painted the pole, it will be laid on the ground and allowed to rot over several years to return it to the earth.

First Premier – Windsor is set to get its first Premier Inn after the hotel group bought the former Boots store in Peascod Street, a couple of hundred metres from Windsor Castle.

Knifing tragedy Lance Oldale, 51, who lived in Hazlemere, stabbed to death two pensioners in Bourne End before killing himself, Bucks assistant coroner Ian Wade ruled at an inquest last month. The bodies of Jeffrey and Susan Farrance and Mr Oldale were found in the couple’s Bourne End flat two years ago. Mr Wade said Mr Oldale was a paranoid schizophrenic with serious mental problems. 

Builders bust – Administrators have declared that the Beaconsfield based building company Inland Homes and its subsidiary companies, which went into administration last October following cash flow problems, cannot  be rescued. Arrangements are now being made to see how creditors can best be accommodated. 

Dim lightsIn a trial, Slough is reducing the brightness of its street lights by 40 per cent until 10pm; 50 per cent from 10pm to midnight and 60 per cent from midnight to dawn to save money. There are concerns the move will increase accidents and crime. 

Bafta success – Writer/director Yasmin Afifi, who graduated from Beaconsfield’s National Film and Television School a year ago, won the Bafta for Best Live Action Short Film last month about two terminally ill patients in a care home who form a friendship. A care home in Beaconsfield allowed her to use all their facilities for filming after managers were so moved by her script.

Ross Stringer, who directed an animation film Crab Day while studying for his master’s degree at the school last year also won a Bafta when it was named the best British short animation movie.

Scary landing The occupants of this Tiger Moth walked from the cockpit uninjured after it hit a power line while descending to an airfield in Tring and flipped over during a crash landing in a field. An Air Accidents Investigation report last month concluded, unsurprisingly, that the plane had descended too low during the landing approach last September. Picture published by the BBC.

80 years ago this month : Digging – and knitting – for victory; women in trousers and top secret work in High Wycombe

Continuing our monthly look at what was happening here in 1944

March 1944

IT BLEW hot and cold in March 1944 (in one day, 29 March, in High Wycombe the temperature ranged from minus 5 to 20 degrees), and there was hardly any rain. But spring was in the air – as well as several hundred bombers  – and for many people their minds were working on what to grow to eat.

Food had been in short supply for three or four years by now and nearly everyone turned to growing their own, whether they enjoyed it or not.

Gardening guru Cecil Middleton drew hundreds to his allotment talk

Tylers Green Village Hall was packed to overflowing when the Monty Don of his day, Cecil Middleton, gave a talk at the invitation of the Penn and Tylers Green Gardens and Allotments Association. 

Mr Middleton, as he was known to all and sundry, was one of the inspirations behind the Dig for Victory campaign and had an audience of  millions listening to his 15 minute Sunday afternoon programme on the BBC. 

“Turn your gardens into munitions factories,” he urged the gathering from the village hall stage. “Vegetables are the munitions of war.  Do you know a Swede contains as many vitamins as an orange? So what’s all this fuss about no oranges!”

In Wycombe 60 members of the Women’s Land Army paraded through the town driving a line of tractors, binders  and harvest carts in an attempt to attract more women to work on local farms. They were led by a Scottish piper.  It was all too confusing for the Bucks Free Press diarist… “all the women wore breeches while the only man present wore a kilt,” he mused.

Here in the village children were often called on to to help on farms or on garden plots transformed into allotments. Mr Filby, the head of Tylers Green School, frequently noted in the school diary how many boys were legally absent for “agricultural work” and where they had been dispatched. The girls were assigned to fruit and berry-picking.

The Woodbridge family outside their grocery shop in Elm Road, Penn in the 1940s.  Rationing was in place throughout the war. Meat, cheese, sugar and fats were all rationed as were foods such as cereals, biscuits, tinned food and dried fruit.  Children and expectant mothers were given priority for milk and eggs.

Coal and petrol was strictly rationed but fruit and veg were not although supplies were not consistent and fruit from overseas a rarity. There were many farms in Penn, Tylers Green and Hazlemere as well as numerous orchards and farmers were under constant pressure to produce as much as possible. Nearly everyone grew their own in their garden or allotment. Picture: SWOP (Sharing Wycombe’s Old Photos).

Meanwhile, unbeknown to the vast majority of the local population, High Wycombe was playing a crucial role in advancing the war in preparation for the invasion of Europe.

During the first week of March the Americans began the first daylight bombing raids on Berlin while the RAF continued with hundreds of night-time raids on the continent – all of them planned and co-ordinated from this area.

At RAF Medmenham, the base of the Allied Central Interpretation Unit, experts made rubber models from reconnaissance photographs to identify landing sites for the D Day operations. Picture Imperial War Museum

Spitfires and Mosquitos flew from RAF Benson equipped with the best cameras of the day to photograph potential targets. The photos were transferred to RAF Medmenham (Danesfield House) where they were interpreted and potential targets  identified. At Hughenden Manor – codenamed Hillside –  experts made maps of bombing targets which were passed to the British and American bomber commands based at Naphill and Wycombe Abbey School respectively.

For the local population however, the biggest concern was how their loved ones were faring.  Every week newspapers in the area brought news of people in the area killed in action, captured as prisoners of war, reported wounded or simply missing. They paid particular attention to the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, where many local men were, currently battling its way through Italy in an increasingly bloody campaign.

A calm oasis in the midst of war. Paul’s Hill, Penn looking towards the church (behind the tree) looking in the early 1940s much as it does today. Picture: SWOP

They weren’t the only reminders that month that war was ever present. On the 24th an RAF Halifax bomber returning from a raid in France was blown 100 miles off course by heavy winds. It was eleven o’clock at night; the weather was foul and, in struggling to control the aircraft, the crew failed to inform ground control they were flying over central London.

The plane was shot down by anti-aircraft guns and it crashed, in flames, in fields at Lodge Farm, Little Chalfont, killing the pilot and injuring three of the crew.

Meanwhile, 21 year old leading aircraftman Leslie Brown, of Hill House in Hammersley Lane, Tylers Green, also died on his own soil. The restricted communique of the time simply said he died “on duty in England.”

Elsewhere that March

  • The local council reduced the rates (today called council tax) by twopence in the pound, partly because services had been reduced because of a lack of labour.
  • WAAF sergeant Edna Morris, whose parents lived in Elm Road, Penn, married Sgt Norman Stretton at Penn Free Methodist Church. Both had been Sunday School teachers at the church before the war and this was the first chance they had leave at the same time since joining up. They managed a few days honeymoon in south Wales.
  • A farmer from Princes Risborough was fined for watering down his milk. He blamed an Italian prisoner of war who was working on his farm, but the magistrates didn’t believe him.
  • A Gerrards Cross woman was fined £1 for contravening the blackout by leaving curtains undrawn. She blamed her “careless maid”.
  • And a Wycombe man was fined after admitting buying US Army socks, blankets, trousers and mackintoshes from two American soldiers in the town and selling them at a profit.
  • To honour the increasing number of US servicemen and women in the town, boys at the Royal Grammar School put on a production of a play about Abraham Lincoln. 
  • And 82 year old Mrs Francklow of Moor Cottage, Penn Road, Hazlemere was widely praised for her contribution to the war effort. She had knitted 26 pullovers, 11 pairs of socks, two scarves and five helmets mainly for members of the Merchant Navy.

If you have recollections of 1944 or any recorded family history of events and memories in this area during the built-up, the aftermath and during D Day in June 1944, please get in touch.

You can contact this blog at The blog will be updated as necessary during March, but the next full update is on 1 April.