As a baby, Fred Tew’s mother pushed him in his pram from Hinton in the Hedges to Mixbury, a distance of approximately twelve miles. As a young man Fred met his wife to be, May Horwood, who was born in Finmere. Miss Horwood has lived in several properties in the village, including the one now occupied by Mrs Beal. They wed during wartime on 6th January 1940 at the village church. which at the time had no vicar. To perform the marriage ceremony, the vicar from Water Stratford was seconded. After the ceremony, Fred asked the sexton. Jack Merrick, how much the service cost and was told "Couple of Bob (10 pence)," but to this day has been unable to find an entry in the church register.
Fred was called up for national service and had to attend a medical at Bedford, where he was to be given bad news. He stood in cubicle number five when the commanding officer called out "Hide," Fred misheard hint came out and signed Hide’s medical report The commanding officer was not amused and asked Fred if he were serious signing the form Tew. He explained that he heard someone shout five when in fact it was Hide. He was later given the bad news that he was not considered fit enough to join the forces and, yet to this day he has never had an injection or been to hospital.
As the war developed Fred secured employment, in the construction of Finmere aerodrome during the early 1940’s, which was to be for training. The choice was between that and a job at Calvert brickworks. At the brickworks, which was the major employer of the area, apparently anybody who applied for a job was taken on. But if they were not up to standard, their services were cancelled. Upon completion, the aerodrome was officially opened by Squadron Leader Hull, who later became Fred’s next door neighbour. With the construction of the aerodrome now complete, Fred was unemployed, until a conversation with the Squadron Leader, which in him being offered civilian employment as a stoker of the boilers at the aerodrome. Before taking up his duties he had to be medically examined by two doctors of the RAF. They found him to be fitter than many of their own officers. This put Fred’s mind to rest after never really finding out why he failed his medical for national service. When other airfields were being raided by the Germans, it was not uncommon to see 40–50 aircraft on the aerodrome. These included Spitfires, Hurricanes, Wellingtons and Mosquitos. Fred was also involved in clearing some trees in a wood at Shelswell Park, to store new aircraft awaiting their duty. When the land had been cleared it was covered in cinders, which from the air gave the impression of tree tops once the grass had germinated.
The landlord of the Red Lion was Jack Horwood, who tried to guarantee that his regulars had a pint of the best for six old pence. This was achieved by giving the impression that the pub was not open for business. This was necessary because like most other supplies during thee war, beer was rationed and only delivered very two weeks. Residents of the surrounding villages would go on their push bikes and cycle to the Red Lion soon after the delivery had been made. It was not only the inhabitants of surrounding villages that were customers of Mr Horwood but also the Land Army, who occupied half of Little Tingewick House. Finmere did not remain unscathed during the war either. Fred can recall sitting in the Red Lion one evening and hearing a whistling sound pass the building. Fortunately for all inside the only damage was to a pig sty with a sow inside, she apparently walked away only slightly shocked.
The village boasted less than 36 properties and although families were larger, the total population was considerably less than today. Evacuees were also cared for in seven thatched cottages in Fulwell Road. These were situated on the left-hand side of Fulwell Road, going out of the village towards Fulwell. There was also the village shop owned by Mrs. Holyoake, Post Office, Police Station, the Home Guard (based in the Saddle Room at the King’s Head), a firefighter and the ARP (Air Raid Wardens). The vicarage had one of only a handful of telephones in the village, another being in the Police Station.
When it was announced that war was over, the celebrations began in earnest at the aerodrome but before things got too excited Fred left for home. He was to be greeted by the sight of the village being decked out in bunting and flags and spontaneous parties. Groundworkers at the aerodrome were given flights over Germany to witness the damaged which had been inflicted and the evacuees returned to the respective homes.
The seven cottages they occupied were offered for purchase, £30 each.
Interview and text by Ian Hudson for the 50th Anniversary of V.E. Day