At last a bright, still, clear and moonlit night for the multitude of candles at Bengairn in Manor Road
More pictures on the next page.
The full moon shone brightly throughout the event!
I make no apologies for re-cycling the following information about former inhabitants of Bengairn, Sandy and Kathleen Munro, who were foremost among the most community spirited and active villagers for a generation.
A softly spoken Scot from Easter Ross, Sandy’s arrival in the village in 1943 was the result of a fortuitous combination of his volunteering for the RAF, the presence of a bomber airfield at nearby Chipping Warden and an unexpected delivery of beer to the Star Inn! When interviewed for the Sulgrave History Society’s Oral History Project, Sandy explained the attraction of the village as follows:
“….the one thing we came to Sulgrave for, above everything else…… was that the brewers in this area had the deliveries on different days and the word used to go ‘round that there was a beer delivery at Sulgrave today…………….So everybody knew on the camp where and when the brewers were going to deliver so we made a beeline for that particular village. But of course as soon as the word got out ‘there was beer at so and so’ everybody, I mean everybody, I’m not talking about dozens I’m talking about hundreds … cycling…..and of course they’d drink them out, you know…..you see, this place was surrounded by army people. Search light battery up in the field just above the vicarage; the RASC at Culworth and the RAF at Chipping Warden, RAF at Silverstone, you see, and all these people were quite prepared to bicycle any distances if there was any beer to be had. So that’s how we used to survive then. Because the beer on a NAAFI canteen in these places was always pretty lousy.”
Aircrew at Chipping Warden were encouraged to find billets in surrounding villages. My auntie Dorothy Wootton lived on her own, sadly because her husband had been killed when a Wellington bomber crashed on the building he was constructing at Chipping Warden airfield and her son was a prisoner of war in Germany. Sandy took up residence with her and he explained why he finally settled in Sulgrave as follows:
“The reason I stayed in Sulgrave was …. it’s a romantic little story……Mrs Wootton said to me – my niece is coming home from Reading where she’s working in a munitions factory. Now I think you’d like to meet her and I’ve written to her and asked her if she’d like to meet us so we’re going to meet, not in the Six Bells but down in the Star. And so we went on the Saturday evening, down to the Star, and she said to me; the place was packed with soldiers and all sorts of RAF people; and she said ‘that’s my Niece just coming in the door’ and I looked at this young lady who was just coming in and I thought, oh, that’ll suit me very well. And so we got together and did our old fashioned courtship and so on and I came back from time to time after I’d left this district and went up to…….Lincolnshire……….and we duly got married on December 8th 1945. The wedding was at Sulgrave Church and the reception was in the Six Bells clubroom, which was the room above the pub.”
Young as I was at the time, I do recall that the announcement of Sandy and Kathleen’s engagement broke the hearts of quite a few young ladies in the village!
I have reason to remember the day very well. The ladies of the family took over the preparations and dressed me up as a page boy in a ridiculous outfit of dyed parachute silk, in which I absolutely froze and worse, I became the butt of much humour from other village boys. My cousin Valerie, on the other hand, evidently enjoyed herself greatly!
Sandy said little about his wartime service with the RAF but whilst away from Kathleen and stationed in Lincolnshire he did many operations as navigator with his Canadian pilot, Flying Officer Wilkinson. However, in February 1945 their Lancaster crashed on returning to its Lincolnshire base and Fred Wilkinson was so badly injured that he was not expected to survive. Sandy thought never to see him again but he made a miraculous recovery back home in Canada and the two were re-united here in the village some 45 years later. Sandy joined another crew and made his final bombing raid in April 1945, appropriately to Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. In the midst of all this, Sandy’s elder brother, also in the RAF, was reported killed in action.
After the war, Sandy and Kathleen set up home in Sulgrave, initially with Kathleen’s mother (my aunt Gladys) in what is now called Wootton House and finally in Bengairn. They had two daughters, Carol and Hilary. For more than fifty years they were always to the fore in village affairs. Kathleen was a stalwart of the WI and as a professional accountant Sandy gave freely of his time in sorting out the often muddled affairs of village organisations. Ever a calming influence, he became a friend to all and a confident to many and is still much missed by those who knew him.