Memories of Tony Wilson

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St Georges 1948 - 1950

- My name is Tony Wilson and I now live in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. This may be suitable for your website. If so I'll also do something on living at Fort Brockhurst as we lived in quarters both inside the fort, next to the Sergeants' Mess and in the old blocks in Gunners' Lane. I enjoy reading your site and it certainly brings back memories.

In 1948 my father was stationed at 245 Armanent Battery, RA at Fort Brockhurst. As there were no vacant married quarters at Brockhurst we moved from my mother's hometown of Sandown, IoW to St George's Barracks, Gosport. The married quarters were in Weevil Lane and we lived in the block opposite the main entrance gates to the RN provisioning yard. My younger sister and I attended St Mary's RC School at Annes Hill. Being married quarters there were plenty of other kids to play with and there were many places to explore. At the far end of the married quarters was a modern block built in a different style to the original ones and it was this block which was the recipient of a bomb during the war, the subsequent fire destroyed the building. There were sheds dotted around the compound which contained powdered lime and there were bomb shelters between the blocks. Just inside the gates was a .22 rifle ramge. There were a number of mature walnut trees within the boundary and we would throw stick to knock down the nuts.  Taking the skins from the shells left an almost indellible stain on our hands.  I wonder if these trees were originally planted to produce. rifle stocks or perhaps ships' fittings?. Eventually accomodation became available at Fort Brockhurst and in 1950 we moved there and that will be another story. (Added 14th Dec 2008)

Fort Brockhurst 1950 -1956

In 1950 married quarters became available at Fort Brockhurst so we moved from St George's barracks.  At the time Dad was Battery Sergeant Major (BSM), 245 Armanent Battery stationed at the fort. Later he dropped to his substantive rank of sergeant. The quarters were next to the Sergeants' Mess. One entered the fort over the main drawbridge and into the keep. The guardroom was on the right and there was a spiral staircase to the top of the keep. In the open area in the centre of the keep was the telephone exchange on the left and the MI room on the right then the QM's clothing store. Inside the fort the brick NAAFI and cookhouse were directly ahead with the parade ground to the right of this building. Away to the right were the Officers' Mess. Once out of the keep bear left for the Sergeants' Mess, past the stables and dry victuals store on the left, the sports store on the right and an earth ramp on the right up to the top of the fort. This was into the sergeants' area of the fort. There were two quarters, one either side of the mess and during out time there we lived in each. The mess was in the corner, cookhouse on the left next to the first married quarter and the dining room and bar directly ahead.

The first quarter was as you approached the mess, this was the best residence as it had rear as well as front windows. The rear windows looked out over the moat to Gunners' Lane and there were water and sewerage pipes across the moat at this point.  Rats used the pipes as a runway and one of the gunners had a dog named Rastus which was a great ratter. A hand water pump was situated on the lawn at the from of this quarter but unfortunately it was disconnected, there were boot scrapers at the front doors of each of the buildings. I wonder if the pump and scrapers are still there?  There were dozens of water and moor hens nesting in the bullrushes in the moat and jackdaws nested in the gun ports around the place. Some of the gunners used to capture young jackdaws, keep them as pets and teach them to talk. I well remember the old man's BSM roar from the other side of the square when he saw a gunner hanging over the side of the keep with a mate anchoring his legs whilst the hanging soldier held me by the ankles whilst I tried to reach into a gun port to retrieve jackdaws from a nest in a gun port. Dad kept chickens and even a pig in the old ammo stores above the sergeants' area of the fort, fattening them up for Christmas. There were plenty of fish in the moat, mostly roach but also perch and rudd. We used to catch fish using a length of thread and bent pin hooks with compressed bread or a flour and water dough as bait, unfortunately the fish were inedible because of the stagnant water. The rabbits which made a warren in the broom and gorse on top of the fort were edible however and made a nice stew.

Memories of the time we lived in the fort are the explosions at Priddy's Hard and an aircraft landing short of the airfield. At the back of the fort and across the moat were ridges of tailings from when the fort was built and a family of badgers could be seen here very early in the mornings, they had dug a sett under a large tree stump. We called this area "The Woods".

Bicycles were our mode of transport and when I was 14 years old I would cycle every morning to WH Smiths in Stoke Road, deliver newspapers and cycle home for breakfast then off again to Gosport Central School in Whitworth Rd.  After school another newspaper run and back to Brockhurst. Arriving at the Brockhurst intersection the fort's sports field was on the left, just after the road leading to Brockhurst Halt Station and HMS Siskin. The right hand road led to Elson and Hardway with a left hand fork into Gunners Lane. The Boynton family had a market garden on the intersection and this backed onto the moat. In Gunners' Lane (I'm sure it was more often known as Lovers' Lane) there were strip allotments between the road and moat.  Up to the drawbridge on the left with another large market garden on the right. A minor road to the left led to another drawbridge leading to the officers' area of the fort.  Then it was past the spider accomodation of the troops on the left and School Lane and then Anthony Grove on the right. Next on the right were the married quarters, first New Block then Old Block. In about 1953 we moved into 6C Old Block on the ground floor. Opposite these blocks was the huge "Cow Field" in which there were a number of shell holes in which tadpoles and newts bred. In the winter this field flooded and then iced over making for great fun. Further along Gunners' Lane were some old oak trees then a concrete pillbox at the right side of the road. Behind the pillbox was "Horses Field. and behind this was "Brick Field" which was probably where the bricks for the construction of the fort and accomodation blocks were made. This field had orderly rows of dog-rose bushes producing rose hips every year. At the top of Gunners' Lane was a guarded entrance to the Armanent Yard. There were two fire water towers at the back of the blocks, brick towers with reservoir tanks at the top. We would climb the inside pipes of the tallest tower and the exterior of the shortest one.  In the latter we put fish we had caught from the moat. Every year the oak trees attracted migrating swallows which swarmed at sunset before settling in the trees. In 1956 I left school and joined the army myself as an apprentice at Arborfield. Eventually I made my way to New Zealand where I spent 32 Years in NZ Customs and am now retired in the Kingdom Of Tonga in the South Pacific. Tony Wilson (Added 8th February 2009)

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