Saturday, 4 November 2017

William John Bedford

William John Bedford (Born April 1919, died September 1999)

A short narrative by his granddaughter Jen.

During WW2 a young man called William John Bedford enlisted in the army.
Private W J Bedford service number 6459205. He enlisted with the Royal fusiliers who have their garrison at the Tower of London.
At some time during his service he transferred to The Royal Army Medical Corp. and was with 32nd RAMC at the fall of Singapore on the 15th February 1942.
The Queen Alexandra hospital came under heavy Japanese shelling. A Japanese soldier was sighted and a British soldier went out to meet him pointing at his red cross arm band recognised to protect military personnel during armed conflict. The Japanese soldier ignored this and shot at the soldier though he missed. Further information can be found here:- BBC WW2 peoples War
I cannot envisage what happened next but the survivors, about 200, were tied up and forced to march to buildings a fair distance from the hospital. Many were not spared on the journey.
These survivors were divided into three rooms with no ventilation or water, some died during the night.
11 am the following morning men were told to leave in groups of two on the pretext of getting water . As the screams and cries cold be heard it became clear that the Japanese were executing the prisoners when they left their room . Those that survived became Japanese prisoners of war.
Why Bill Bedford, as known after the war, was spared I do not know, he very rarely ever spoke of war, probably to protect his children and grand children . I know he bartered for his life. I know that he helped save Japanese lives to spare his own. The funny thing is, if you ever asked him, he would say it was never that bad.
How he got home I am not too sure as he is no longer with us and the army records have no proper record of him returning.
This is a small part of the history I have of a remarkable man that without him I would never be.
The war years were never good for the living or the ones that died.
He only met my nan because her mothers house was bombed when a lot of family were home on leave, and as his sister was dating one of my nans brothers. Many of who died when the bomb fell on my great grandmothers house - but that is another sad story of love and sadness
LEST WE FORGET those that died, those that endured , all that fought to give us hope. Let us show respect not just for one day but in how we live our lives everyday.

Retrieved from the War Office Records:

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Tottenham Grammar School - Graham Bedford

Although I didn't shine academically at school, I will always be very grateful that I had the privilege of attending this school. 
In my opinion, Grammar schools should never been abandoned because as well as the high academic  standards, they also taught pupils the value of loyalty, honesty and self discipline. They also opened students eyes to a wider vision of the world and the opportunities that lay ahead.
This school had a four hundred year history, producing many notable characters over the years and yet within two decades of being made a comprehensive school it was closed down, demolished and turned into a housing estate! The following text is taken from Wikipedia.
Tottenham Grammar School

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tottenham Grammar School
1988 (grammar in 1967)
Voluntary aided grammar school, and later comprehensive
Sarah, Duchess of Somerset
White Hart Lane
Middlesex (Greater London)
N17 8HL
England, UK
Local authority
Middlesex then Haringey
Somerset, Morley, Bruce and Howard
Became Somerset School in 1967 then closed in 1988
Tottenham Grammar School (TGS) was a renowned grammar school in North London, with local football connections.

A Tottenham grammar school had existed for centuries. Its origins are unclear, possibly dating back to 1456 but in 1631 a legacy was left by Sarah, Duchess of Somerset to extend the existing school house and provide free education to poor children from Tottenham.
Tottenham Hotspur
In 1882, pupils from the school and from St John's Presbyterian School formed Hotspur F.C. at All Hallows' Church. The name came from the Hotspur Cricket Club, of which boys from the school were members. This football club subsequently became Tottenham Hotspur F.C..
Former building
In 1910, the old school was knocked down apart from the Masters House (later to be destroyed by bombs in World War II). The new building on Somerset Road, built by Middlesex County Council, was used as the school until 1937. The new building was opened by Algernon Seymour, 15th Duke of Somerset on 12 October 1910, and cost £10,327. The school had four houses - Somerset, Morley, Bruce and Howard.
In 1971 it became the Education Department of Haringey Council.
New building
On 26 February 1938 due to increased numbers at the school, a site was opened on Creighton Road near White Hart Lane by Middlesex County Council. It housed 450 boys. In the early part of the war, at the time of the Blitz, the boys were evacuated to Chelmsford, to be taught at King Edward's Grammar School in the afternoons.[2] The boys lived around the village of Writtle, west of Chelmsford; some also went to Hatfield Peverel, specifically Hatfield Peverel Priory.
From 1941, once the Blitz had finished (10 May 1941). An Army Cadet Corps was formed, along with an Air Training Corps in 1942 - 1571 Squadron,[3] now known as Aylward Squadron.[4]
V2 explosion
On 15 March 1945, a V-2 rocket landed on the corner of White Hart Lane and Queen Street, killing two fourth-year boys, with another losing his right arm.[1][5][6]
New buildings
In 1960 new buildings opened for the sixth form and laboratories. By this time the school had 700 boys.
In 1967 the school merged with the Rowland Hill Secondary Modern School in Lordship Lane, which was named after Sir Arthur Rowland Hill and had opened in 1938, to form the Somerset School, a voluntary-controlled boys' comprehensive school. The school's houses were now Baxter, Coleraine, Drayton and Hill.
Due to falling numbers this school closed in 1988, by which time it was situated on one site on White Hart Lane. The Lower School was demolished to become a housing estate on Somerset Close. The Upper School was demolished in 1989, becoming a housing estate on Somerset Gardens, and a site for Middlesex University - halls of residence for the Tottenham Campus, which closed in 2005 (the former St Katharine's College teacher training college).
The sale of the school provided £9.1 million, which was used to set up a charitable foundation, the Tottenham Grammar School Foundation.
Notable former pupils

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Dad at Gestetners - Manufacturers of Duplicators

After his time as a milkman Dad had several years of ill health which was put down to damage to his stomach when  held as a Prisoner of War. Needless to say he found it difficult to hold down a steady job. However, as his health improved he managed to get office based work at Gestetners, the duplicating machine manufactures ( further down see a youtube video of a typical machine of the 1950's)
Although we may smile at the antiquity of the machine, in those days it was cutting edge technology!!
I'm not sure exactly how long Dad worked for Gestetners but it was over 10 years, as can be seen by the photo below.

Jen has the actual book for safekeeping

Mum & Dad enjoying a dance at a Gestetners' Party

Below is a link to Youtube:

A typical 1950's Gestetner machine! 

Gestetner's in Broad lane, Tottenham were once one of the largest employers in the Tottenham area and was world famous for the manufacture of the stencil duplicator.  The company opened in Tottenham in 1906 having first been established at premises in Cross Street, Islington, London.  At their height as a business in the 1950's and 60's the company employed in excess of six thousand people from the local area and were widely recognised as being one of the finest companies to work for. At the time most people knew of either family, friends or neighbours who worked for Gestetner's such was their reputation as an excellent employer.

The company was founded by David Gestetner who was born in Hungary in 1854. As a very young man he worked at the stock-market in Vienna where he was employed to make copies of the day's activities by repeatedly handwriting the results. He decided there had to be an easier way and, as a result of his efforts to try and find a better method, his experiments led him to invent the use of a stencil to reproduce multiple copies of documents. His innovation in office copying machinery changed the landscape of the business and finance industries effectively heralding the beginning of the modern office and the demise of the City clerk, whose main function was to copy documents by hand. 
gestetner_blue_plaque.jpg (113754 bytes)
David Gestetner moved to London and in 1881 established the Gestetner Cyclograph Company to produce stencils, stylos and ink rollers. To protect his invention he took out many patents and he was also to invent other notable devices such as the nail-clipper and the ball-point pen although the latter is generally credited to his fellow Hungarian Laszlo Biro. David Gestetner had been born into a Jewish family and remained devout throughout his life. He had married his wife Sophie, nee Lazarus, and they were to have seven children of whom his only son Sigmund Gestetner succeeded him on his death in March 1939.  David Gestetner died whilst on holiday at the Hotel Ruhl in Nice on the 8th March 1939 and he is also buried in Nice.
david_gestetner_124_highbury_new_park_circa_1905.jpg (27007 bytes)

Friday, 30 December 2016

Dad the Milkman - and Hero!

After leaving Harris Lebus Dad became a milkman for United Dairies.
I don't remember exactly how long the job lasted but it was several years, I know this because all through my younger teenage period I went with him at weekends. Getting up at 5am to go out in all weathers was no fun at all but it had to be done if I wanted some pocket money!

It was during this time there was a huge influx of immigrants from the West Indies and many of them settled in Tottenham. I always remembered they would want gold top milk (the best, with cream on top). If I mistakenly left a red top I was in big trouble when they caught up with me!!

Christmas time they would always invite us in for a drink (mainly rum!) and, yes, I do remember Dad getting a bit tipsy one Christmas.

Anyway, it was as a milkman Dad also became a hero. One of the houses on  his route was on fire when he arrived there. He could hear there were people inside so he went in after them - saving two women and two children from probable death.

Below is the type of milk float he drove.
Believe it or not you could get your driving license in those days for driving one of these!
Thankfully, Dad didn't own a car and didn't want one so the roads were safe.

Thursday, 22 December 2016


Since writing the article "Returning from War" in November, I've now come across a book which I knew had been written by one of the soldiers at the same P.O.W. camp as Dad.

Jen managed to get a copy on the internet for 1p!!
I must admit I felt a twinge of anger that she got it for 1p because I felt the price demonstrated a lack of respect for the guys who had suffered so much during those years.

Anyhow, here's a picture of the book cover.

As we now have a copy of the book it will be kept in a safe place so if anyone wants to read it they only have to ask.

Here's a flavour of the book, which starts off with John (Jack) Fox paying a visit to the camp after the war.

I visited the camp myself in 1992 and although the camp was still there, it was in an extremely dilapidated state. The surrounding countryside is quite magical so I sat for a while trying to imagine Dad there and what it must have been like for him, imprisoned, hungry and so far away from home.
The local village, Fonte Dell' Amore, is like stepping back in time so I assume it was exactly the same when Dad was there.

Sunday, 11 December 2016


I think it must have been shortly after his period as a bus conductor that Dad joined Harris Lebus, the furniture manufactorer. Dad was a warehouse-man based initially at the Tottenham depot. 
He was also a dab hand at French Polishing so maybe he did that too.

Harris Lebus was a furniture manufacturer and wholesaler based in the East End of London in Tabernacle Street with a factory in Tottenham. The firm supplied stores such as Maple & Co., mainly producing bedroom and dining cabinets.

The Harris Lebus Website

HistoryDuring the period of its finest output in the 1900s, the style of furniture is closely associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, identified by overhanging cornices, inset door panels and square to turned legs with pad feet in the manner of William Birch of High Wycombe. The off the peg hardware is unfussy and stylistically well designed. These pieces are highly sought after.
As with many larger firms their designers are kept anonymous. This prolific manufacturer had more to do with bringing the Arts and Crafts style to the masses than any other.
In later years Harris Lebus became a household name being the largest furniture manufacturer in the world.[1]
During the Second World War the firm produced the Airspeed Horsa glider, the Mosquito multi role aircraft. The firm also undertook Top-secret operations, such as building replica Sherman tanks out of wood.[3]
Following the war the firm became part of the government scheme to produce utility furniture bearing the CC41 mark and were central in providing cheaper manufacturing techniques to provide the country with lower cost furniture with which they could rebuild their homes, and in fact their design team invented and patented the technique of facing man-made boards with other woods.[4]The Company also devised and perfected the means of assembling Furniture from preformed sections and completing the construction by curing resin glue lines, utilising 'Radio Frequency' electricity, or 'R.F.' There was no metal fixing required in the assembly at all.
After financial difficulty, caused by a period of poor management which was not Family, the firm finally closed in 1969; however some could say that the techniques developed at Lebus have caused the revolution in manufactured panels in home furnishing and flat pack that many of their counterparts use today.

I think it would have been 1952 that we all moved down to Woodley, I was 2 and Jen 6.
Harris Lebus had a warehouse there, it was sited on the old Woodley Aerodrome which had served as an RAF training school prior to, and during WW2. I believe it was there that the WW2 veteran Douglas Bader crashed his plane. Despite loosing both legs he went on to become an ace fighter pilot. Anyone interested should look up the old black & white film "Reach for the Sky" - circa 1956 - which tells his story with Kenneth Moore playing the lead role.

The hangers, previously used for aircraft made a perfect storage facility for the large wardrobes etc ready for dispatch to customers.
Unfortunately this is the only photo we have of Dad at the warehouse, although there are others taken in the grounds.
For me this was a truly enchanting period of my life. We lived in the Flying School, which was enormous, we even had a playroom big enough to skate inside!
I remember exploring the old outbuildings that were full of aircraft parts - I later regretted not being older because there were enough parts to build my own aeroplane!
As the airfield was our back garden, Dad & I would go mushroom picking at about 6am on Sunday mornings. They were then served up with eggs & bacon for Sunday breakfast.

I also remember taking one of the bedsheets and some string on one occasion........

I climbed to the top of one of the buildings then attached the string to the four corners of the sheet. The other end of the strings I tied round my waist and with no further thought jumped off the roof. Naturally I expected to parachute gently down.......
Hmmm, it was just like the old cartoons, I plummeted to the ground just as the sheet unfurled over my head!!
Ouch, big ouch, but I had discovered gravity, and how it works!! Thankfully, no broken bones.

 The Bedfords' circa 1955 In the "garden"

to be continued.......