Norton Bavant Snow Scene
Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene Norton Bavant Snow Scene
A Boy's War by John Pincham  


Alice would relate how they used to keep two pigs. When fattened up and killed, one would be smoked and made into bacon for her family to eat and the other was sold to pay for two more piglets. Her children, she’d had six, would go gleaning – collecting wheat around edges of fields and missed by the farmer. The wheat so collected would help feed their pigs and chickens.

Number 5 Norton Bavant, Mrs Bessie Pincham (John's mother), Alice Taylor & Dorothy Taylor. Front row: Margaret & Roger Pincham, John Pincham was at Harvest Camp in Sussex.
The autumn of 1939 was fine and harvesting was fun. Wheat  took longer to ripen than it does now and grew on longer stalks. Having been cut and bundled into sheaves by a combine harvester it was left to dry in stooks  and then collected for threshing. There was great excitement when as the harvester reached the middle of the field the rabbits trapped there made their get-away pursued by men and dogs. Rabbit pie was frequently on the menu.
Alice had another daughter Violet married to a cowman Tom Hoddinott. Violet was a large woman with a big heart who, lacking children of her own, acted as a second mother to the children of the village.  Her first husband, an RAF officer, had been killed in the First World War.

Violet took a particular liking to Roger whom she minded while Mum with Margaret in a pram, took me along the busy road to Heytesbury school. We were accompanied by village children some being Hoddinotts, Violet’s nephews and nieces by marriage. They were fascinated by my genteel sandwiches.


Violet and Tom’s cottage being two knocked into one, had two front doors and two staircases. The garden, well-manured, contained luscious vegetables and some chickens. The farm piggery was immediately next door.  I suppose one just got used to the smell.

Tom had a wonderfully broad Wiltshire accent, often not understood by Mum, Italian prisoners later employed on the farm were also to learn broad Wiltshire. We were told Tom only left the village once a year to buy clothes in Warminster. He worked for Mr Drake who had over 100 Friesian cows, a massive bull, duly secured, was kept in a small field opposite the Taylor’s cottage. Tom’s special responsibility was to look after the calves. He knew but would not disclose where to find excellent mushrooms.
Heytesbury School 1939 - John Pincham is the boy with the blond hair on the far left of the photograph.
Heytesbury School, which I attended, had two rooms. A smaller room for under sevens and a larger one for seven to elevens and also used for whole school assembly. As at Norton Bavant toilets were outside and earth closet. Across the road was a small sports field.
Norton Bavant had a church close to the manor house, which some of us attended, several farms, a disused school, no shops and no pub. Its scattered population numbered about one hundred. There were no street names Alice and Dorothy’s address being 5 Norton Bavant and Violet and Tom’s 12 Norton Bavant. A bus service, perhaps every two hours, ran to Warminster where Mum went shopping.
A mobile food seller with a van visited Norton Bavant.  We collected milk in our own containers from the farm that had modern milking equipment. Only a few cows had to be milked by hand. Driven in twice a day for milking, each cow knew its stall. The village lanes along which they were driven were strewn with cow dung.
One day Roger came home covered in the dung. He’d been behind a cow at the wrong moment. Margaret, then two years old, had a narrow escape when she climbed out onto the cottage windowsill to the alarm of Mum in the garden. Fortunately Mum managed to run upstairs and pull the little girl back inside.

Whilst at Norton Bavant we were given National Registration Numbers.  As the fourth eldest in that four-generation household mine was WSTT 76/4. During the war we had identity cards. Should they be reintroduced perhaps I can again use my Norton Bavant number.




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