Cotswolds at War – Saturday

Dear Bill,
    What a fantastic day you missed at our station. With fine weather, enthusiastic and period costumed visitors and the lure of steam today at our Cheltenham Station the atmosphere was brilliant and smiling faces everywhere. This is the real reward for being a volunteer on a heritage railway.
    The day started early for some of us (dawn had just broken) and the “car parkers” were out and about. Just as well, because so were our early bird guests as the image below shows.
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    In the station environs the Ledamun brothers, Paul and Bob were also up and about and by the time the first guests were entering the station they had, with the assistance of our “Billy Goat” vacuum cleared the pine needles. branches and fir cones from Platform 1 and the access ramp – happy bunnies indeed – albeit by the afternoon there were enough new cones to satisfy the needs of one of our younger customers. Her father declined the offer to go onto the embankment and collect a few thousand more.

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    My first duty this morning was to ensure that power was available to the staff from the Flag and Whistle at Toddington for them to get their wartime soup kitchen up and running. Breakfast was a bit early for soup, but I understand that they did do quite well at lunchtime. I heard a rumour however that the roasted whole pig on offer to hungry passengers (at Winchcombe ?) had been quickly devoured and that there was anxiety that another could be procured to meet the gastronomic needs of tomorrow’s passengers. Something about the early bird getting the early worm???
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 Whilst on the subject of birds, first potentially some sad news. I went into the compound under the Evesham Road Bridge to see how the Robin’s nest was faring and it appeared that something had disturbed the plastic sack in which the nest had been constructed. There were lots of small animal footprints around, but no sign of Mum Robin. We must hope that she has not abandoned the nest and I will keep a discrete look for any progress, for the meantime here is a view of the, I hope not abandoned, nest.
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    And next the good news. John Leeson’s plastic hen has appeared in its hen house in his Dig for Victory garden – no eggs, plastic or otherwise, have been observed.

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    As the visitors arrived it seemed that among the well dressed and patriotic servicemen and women, we had managed to attract a small, but vocal minority of less patriotic and distinctly “shady” characters. The gentleman, or so I believed him to be, offered me a wide selection of time pieces at extremely attractive prices AND without purchase tax.P1060212
    Also on the platform we had entertainers from ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association – set up I believe in 1938) keeping morale high during those dark moments on Platform 1 when passengers realised that they had just missed their intended train.
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    Other colourful characters that arrived at the security (revenue protection) checkpoint at the top of the platform 1 ramp were a troupe – if that is the correct term – for a group Morris dancers and their wives. who were apparently travelling along the line to entertain the troops. This jingling group crowded the barrier whilst we ascertained their bona fides and well outnumbered the security staff. Having assured us that their only intent was to dance for our visitors and gain access to the beer tent they were allowed to pass.
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    Today was a first for this retired soldier. One of our visitors dressed as a Sergeant  presented himself to me with his 37 pattern webbing in distinctly bad order. It turned out he had only just purchased it from an internet source – what happened to the QMs stores??? He had no idea how to connect it together correctly so in full view he had to be undressed and his webbing readjusted and clipped together correctly.  Even worse was to follow when he admitted that he had no Blanco. I had to advise him that it was probably a first: a Sgt being dressed by a Col. In the interests of privacy there is no image available for publication of this incident.
    And finally an image of the camouflaged Anderson Shelter and the security detail for today’s event. You may note the sign inquiring whether our visitor’s journey was necessary. Whilst and authentic sign from the 1940s this was perhaps unfair given the fact that our guests had already parted with their money for travel on our trains.
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    A super day and a great event. The happy smiles and good comments from our returning passengers were a wonderful end to the day.
Bob and Ros

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