‘Wrens treated
us like brothers’

A Christmas card sent from the camp by Fred Cole
A Christmas card sent from the camp by Fred Cole
Solent Excavations Ltd laying a water pipe under the mud of Langstone Harbour for Portsmouth Water in 1988.  'Picture: Portsmouth Water.

NOSTALGIA: Laying water main to Hayling in foul-smelling mud

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My picture last week of Wrens at Stockheath Camp, near Havant, during the war, brought a reply from John Bull of Gosport. He was sent there in 1945 with the RN Cadet Force. He says the picture brought back many happy memories.

He joined the cadets in 1939 and had some wonderful experiences even though the war was on.

John Bull in 1939 when he joined the Royal Naval Cadet Force.

John Bull in 1939 when he joined the Royal Naval Cadet Force.

He says: ‘We had a lot of good times learning the ropes, but most of us would say the week we spent at RN Stockheath that summer of ’45 was easily the best.

‘Two teams – mine from RNB, Pompey – battling with HMS Dolphin, Gosport, at cricket, swimming, a boxing tournament, and swinging about in high trees.

‘But the best bit was the Wrens — they treated us like young brothers, cheering us on — sharing their chocolate rations and, amazingly, feeding us fried bananas, something we had not seen since 1939. Unforgettable.’

Another who was at the camp as a sailor was former soldier Fred Cole from Yorkshire.

Fred Cole at Stockheath in 1943.

Fred Cole at Stockheath in 1943.

He had been in the West Yorshire Regiment and been demobbed, but at the start of the Second World War he joined the Royal Marines. But as he was 42 they thought better of it. But he still wanted to do his bit so he transferred to the Royal Navy.

Here we see Fred when he was posted to Stockheath and a Christmas card he sent from the camp to his son Tony in 1943.

His granddaughter Jane Burrows, who lives in York, contacted me as she is researching Yorkshire servicemen. Please contact me if you have any relavant information.

I shall always be interested in any stories from those who were in the camp.

n Thanks to everyone who has shown an interest in my forthcoming book The Naval Camps of Bedhampton and Stockheath.

Thank you for your patience. It is still in production and I don’t have a confirmed publication date. I’ll let you know when it is.