Local residents Graham Cooper, Michael Wills and Mr Murray all have memories of a Military Camp on the site of the present North Leamington School playing fields, between Kenilworth Road and Cloister Crofts.
Access to the camp was by gates on Kenilworth Road, where until recently traces of the gateways could still be seen in the hedgerows alongside the school fields. There may also have been a bigger, vehicular entrance, off Cloister Way. At that time there was only a handful of houses in Cloister Crofts, and Almond Avenue had not been built.
Graham Cooper, who grew up at The Gables, the Kenilworth Road house closest to the site of the camp, has clear memories of a series of wooden-walled buildings, with gables supporting sloping roofs.
Michael Wills was taken there one day in about 1950, by Pauline Mullis, a fellow-pupil at Lillington Infant School who lived there with her family. He too remembers a number of prefabricated-looking buildings made of wood. In Michael’s recollection, they were not very big – but they did have windows! That made a distinct impression on the Infant School pupil. Perhaps he was expecting something much more stern-looking, as the camp was known locally as a Prisoner of War camp.
Bryn Poore who lived in Kenilworth Road in the 40s clearly remembers sitting on the footpath by the gates to his house and having sweets thrown to him by American soldiers as they marched along the road before turning into Cloister Crofts, presumably en route to the main gate.
86 year old Mr D J Murray from Dereham Court also remembers wartime camp residents. Growing up in Whitnash, he used regularly to see the Italian contingent being driven by civilians along Golf Lane, where they helped on the farms, digging turnips. They sometimes threw one to the children as they passed by. The Italians were not all Prisoners of War. Some, including a family from one of the older houses in Upper Villiers Street, were Internees who already lived here, having married into local families. When no longer required for military purposes, the huts were occupied by families, who were sometimes referred to by local children – much to their parents’ disapproval – as ‘the squatters’.
The huts were demolished in the later 1950s. Within twenty four hours of posting a note on Facebook, Barry Franklin received a message from one of Pauline Mullis’s cousins. He discovered that Pauline now lives in Rugby, and made arrangements to go and see her.
………… to be continued
This article is based on research by Margaret Rushton and Barry Franklin, with contributions from Graham Cooper, whose own article first appeard in the Lillington Local History Society Newsletter, March 2014, Michael Wills and Mr Murray.
Extracted from The Leamington Omnibus, LHG Newsletter, Spring 2014