Memories of Farnborough - Roaming Farnborough and back to Pinehurst corner and Elles Barracks

We telegram boys knew the layout of the land around Farnborough like the back of our hand, short cuts where no man had been before were often the order of the day. We had to cover quite a large area including the army camps and places which were excluded to the general public, but not once was I ever challenged, the Pill Box Hat was a pass to everywhere, in fact we were not required to carry a pass, albeit we were required to sign the official secrets act at the tender age of 14 years. Just before D-Day we were reminded not to disclose what we were about to see. Due to his duties my father had a pass to go everywhere as well, and we sometimes found ourselves in the same place at the same time, never once did we speak to each other about what we had seen or where we had been, for sure dad would have come down on me like a ton of bricks if I had.

So what has that to do with Elles Barracks, well my dad had his workshop in Elles barracks, and when I was a very young boy he sometimes took me to work with him on his tours of all the garrison electrical installations. Many of the WW1 tanks had been laid up at Elles barracks, they had become a breeding ground for rabbits, but I spent many a happy hour playing on them. Rommel eat your heart out, I won many battles before you.

So where was Elles barracks? Well the entrance is already on the Historic Farnborough site in the Francis Frith Collection. However I think it is the cafe situation which can cause confusion. Telegram boys often had to grab a cup of tea and a bun while on the pedal, so we gave each cafe in the town our own rating, the top rating going to the White Heather Bakery a short distance from the Swan Hotel on Farnborough road. There was a cafe near to but not on Pinehurst Corner (picture ref f9034) the large building on the corner of the cross road of the corner was in fact a newsagents, the cafe was in the small row of shops behind the bill board on the wall, and as a cafe we gave it a very low rating. The large building you can see in the photo is the Rex cinema, which had a car park at the rear which in time became part of the Queensmead shopping complex. Further down the road was the Tumble Down Dick Hotel and then it was the staggered cross roads of the Clock House and Victoria road, Farnborough road, and Rectory road. The roundabout came some time after 1951. During the war on the empty ground more or less opposite the Clock House on Victoria road they built the British restaurant, the staff being very good to the telegram boys, we were given meal vouchers as we were classified as war workers, but as was so often the case we were unable to have a set meal time, the good ladies always had something put by for us. I recall a Yellow pages building being on or near the site in later years.

Now if you turned left at Pinehurst corner just before the bill board on the wall you entered Pinehurst Avenue, and Elles barracks, on the right there was a section of private land with a block of what was then quite modern flats, then a cafe which was more less only used by the army, and a well used phone box. On the left was the first guardroom behind which were the first blocks of two story barracks, then a large air raid shelter, next came our house which was semi detached, our house being the first one. It was named The Hut, and the semi detached house next door was the billet for the regimental police. Opposite our house was the brick built cafe and house I have referred to (still on private land) which had replaced the Old Wooded Famous Tea Hut which had given our house its name. Opposite the house next to us was the second guardroom, and from that point onwards there was no more private land, behind our house was the army field post office to which I often had to go. The army postal staff there became good friends of myself and my family.

A short distance further down the road was the NAFFI shop where my mother purchased and drew our rations. There then came more two storey brick barracks, and then the married quarters, this being before you reached the famous Cinder Track which linked up with the also famous Tin Pan Alley which started at the top of Star Hill, on Farnborough Road. Therefore, it was possible to walk or cycle down Tin Pan Alley, and the Cinder Track to Rafborough, which made quite a difference in respect of distance if you went to Rafborough either via Pinehurst Avenue, or Victoria Road. The other side of the cinder track was yet another guardroom, then my fathers DCRE workshops and a firing range. I recall a Wellington Bomber overshooting the Airfield runway, and only coming to a stop by hitting the tall wall of the firing range, thus saving it perhaps from hitting the married quarters. After the firing range it was more or less an open track road through open land linking to a rear gate of the Airfield, and then the bottom end as we called it of Rafborough. Later The army built the (WVEE) Wheeled Vehicle Experimental Establishment complex near the tracked road, not far from where I had played on the WW1 old tanks, which was the possible root cause of my lifelong involvement in motor vehicles both during my army, and civilian life. My father had a large workshop at home, he taught how to make sets of darts for the troops to use in the various NAFFI canteens. Later we went on to making spare parts which were in short supply for the former private cars being used by the army. We sometimes adapted parts we obtained from the WVEE complex, these parts were often from captured vehicles.

Information courtesy of Tom Watson.

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