1937: The Clouds of War (2)

Last time, it was the height of summer, in southern Derbyshire in 1937. My Dad, Fred Knifton was only 14. One day, with his friends, Jonty Brearley, Bernard Swift and John Varty, he set off to cycle through the Anglo-Saxon village of Hartshorne, to explore the old Stone Age trackway of Green Lane. By the time they got there, it was the late afternoon on a glorious summer’s day.

Even in the 1970s, this was an isolated country area, far, far away from the hustle and bustle of so-called civilisation. In the late 1930s, it must have been even quieter. Nothing except for the gentle humming of the bees, the whirr of the swallows’ wings, the buzzing of the grasshoppers and colourful butterflies fluttering by. A very peaceful, idyllic and rural place indeed. The boys duly set up their canvas tent, taking care to position all of the many guy ropes carefully. They followed their Boy Scout training and carefully cut a piece of turf from the grass at the side of the track, before they started their camp fire.


It was a warm, calm, summer’s evening. Bats scythed through the still warm air. Large white and grey moths fluttered where butterflies had fluttered during the day. There was one bright star. Or was it a planet? Then a second star. And then a third. The night grew darker. The stars formed into patterns. The Plough. The Milky Way. Sparks flew up from the fire and disappeared into the darkness:


I once saw a poster which said:

“Everything is going so well. Everything is perfect. But don’t worry. Some bstard will come along and spoil it.”

On this occasion the idyll was interrupted by the arrival of the local police constable on his bicycle. In later years, Fred was to wonder just why he was up there a thousand miles from the nearest police station and three light years from the nearest house. Had they stumbled upon his still? Did he have a secret girlfriend? Or a secret boyfriend? Did he like following teenage boys out to isolated areas?

Anyway, he sportingly told the four boys that despite their status as Boy Scouts and Ovaltineys they would not, under any circumstances whatsoever, be allowed to camp there overnight, as there were many, many important laws and many, many important byelaws which completely forbade such evildoing.

He sportingly told the four boys too, that they could finish their meal, just this once, before they left and went home and did not ever come back there ever again, even as old men. If they did, they would finish up in the galleys.

Will they refuse to obey him? Will they rise up and slay this bourgeois lickspittle?

We’ll see next time.






Filed under History, Personal, Politics, Wildlife and Nature

28 responses to “1937: The Clouds of War (2)

  1. I imagine the fire gave the boys’ location away to the constable, eh? The video is cute, “We are little boys and girls….”

    • The Ovaltineys used to be broadcast on Radio Luxembourg which was the only source of advertisements on the radio at the time. Ovaltine is a night time drink and it was popularised by the Ovaltineys and their song. I have read that whereas the Germans went into battle in 1939 singing the Horst Wessel song, the British soldier was far more likely to be singing “We are the Ovalineys…..”

  2. Nice to read your fetching story.

  3. Probably protecting a nest of Nazi spies!

  4. Silly rules! Spoiled a great outing for some boys. Great story, John!

  5. They don’t make songs like they used to! What a find!

  6. “Everything is going so well. Everything is perfect. But don’t worry. Some b-stard will come along and spoil it.” – that will forever more be my mantra John!

    • Some days, I can actually tell that something is about to happen, to spoil the perfection of the passing hours. Quite often it’s the postman who has a tendency to bring problems rather than very large lottery pay-outs.

      • Why is that? It seems that the postman never brings good news. The Vikings would have killed the messenger, although I think such extreme behaviour would be frowned upon in 21st century society.

  7. Just William. Wow. I had his books but then I graduated to Biggles. I must go to my special old children’s book store and get some if I can. What a great memory. Thanks John.

    • My pleasure. I didn’t like Biggles a great deal because I always thought it should have been more exciting. If Biggles and Ginger had been in their biplane shooting at King Kong, that would have suited me. I went a lot more for comics, especially the ones that are are all print and no pictures such as “Wizard” and “Rover”. I don’t know if they would have sold those in Australia, though.

  8. “bourgeois lickspittle” Hahahahah! John you’re a poet.

  9. These days William Brown would have an ASBO, the Famous Five would be in care and Biggles would be in a foreign gaol.

    I was once given a lift by policemen when hitch hiking at night because they wanted to get me out of their area. 🙂

    • Kids, including myself, used to do all those things though, and I can’t remember ever getting into trouble for them. We spent a lot of time playing cricket and football in an abandoned field or just wandering around the countryside in general. I don’t remember that we ever had that vicious streak that is so prevalent in modern youth. We were never malevolent in what we did, and certainly never targeted individual people as happens so often nowadays. I do think too that we were helped to amuse ourselves a great deal by the presence of derelict old clay mines and abandoned railway lines, all of which were considered fair game!

  10. Pingback: Eagle Comic (2) | John Knifton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.