Later in the war, when the US joined in, there was a local American air force base. The war was very close to here in fact, there were ammunition dumps all around and it was dangerous. Ma and Sprig had, at one time, joined the older children in Derbyshire and they also spent some time in North Wales, though I don’t have an idea of the time – when it was, how long they stayed or why they came back. I mentioned the Skinners yesterday and the American air force took over part of their farm for their planes. They built concrete runways but it was soon discovered that they weren’t up to scratch, when cracks appeared. They had to add several feet more of concrete before they stabilised. In later years, the Skinners’ sons and daughter had this concrete broken up and sold for road foundations, which was considerably more lucrative than farming.
The children were Roy, Aubrey and Doreen. None of them ever married and they lived on the farm all their lives. One of the boys joined up early in the war, but he couldn’t cope with being away and was invalided home. The house is lovely, 17th Century, and had hardly been updated for years. It was well off the road and they had no mains services at all. There was a generator for basic electricity and they had their own well. After her brothers died, Doreen managed there for years on her own, just coming into town on market day. She looked a picture book old-fashioned farmer’s wife, with curly brown hair and a ruddy, apple-cheeked complexion.
There are lots of other ‘concrete roads’ in the area, from Air Force days. They’re quite potholed nowadays, after all these years of being driven over by tractors. Eloise learned to drive on some of them – she was keen to pass her driving test as quickly as possible and, after her 16th birthday, persuaded her father and me to take her out on these bumpy tracks – it wasn’t illegal as they’re not public roads. She never got out of second gear but it was excellent for learning clutch control and the dimensions of the car – as she put it, you had to know where the wheels were.
The US Air Force people were friendly, which had its good points and its less good.