Comment: ‘Sadness and joy’ at the old Council Offices

Council Offices, Victoria Road, Bletchley
Council Offices, Victoria Road, Bletchley
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HERBIE, the newly acquired rescue dog, took me for a walk around Fenny Stratford the other evening and after playing dominant male with the local cats (from a safe distance) and investigating choice sniffs on the lamp posts, we chanced upon the old Council Offices.

And the newly displayed To Let sign caused me to muse what next would fate decree for this iconic premises.

While as for its bygone days, with the artistic brush of imagination and a palette filled with a little knowledge, the mind’s eye pictures a pastiche of perhaps romanticised reminiscence, which from times of peace and war evoke a kaleidoscope of emotions.

On the plaque is the name of the council’s surveyor, John Chadwick, who designed the building and poignantly he also designed the war memorial at Old Bletchley, upon which appears the name of his only son, Douglas, who died of wounds sustained in the Battle of Fromelles in World War One.

Then in World War Two there would be further sadness when the brother of a member of the Council Office staff was killed in action in Burma.

He was Glyn Hankins and his sister, Olive, would name her son Glyn.

During World War One the council had insured the offices for £2,000 against air attack which became a much greater threat following the outbreak of World War Two, when the Council Offices accommodated the Report Centre.

Here air raid reports would be received and as a full time member of staff Olive, having worked the first shift voluntarily, helped to maintain a telephone watch for an average of 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

In fact in company with Mr W Bradbury she carried out not only all the clerical and administration work of the A.R.P. Dept. but others as well.

Born in Bletchley, the only daughter of Mr and Mrs W Hankins, of 46, Windsor Street, Olive had attended The Cedars School, at Leighton Buzzard, and then worked in Bedford and later in the offices of J.L. Shirley Ltd., in Bletchley Road. In 1937 she married Carl Moser, who after leaving Banbury County School had joined the Banbury Advertiser before moving in 1933 to the Observer at Leighton Buzzard.

In 1934 he became the local reporter for the North Bucks Times but following the outbreak of war joined the Army in 1940 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 135th Field Regiment. After the Fall of Singapore in 1942 he was reported missing and it was burdened with this uncertainty that Olive carried on with her duties.

Then, dated June 20, 1943, she received a postcard stating that Carl was a prisoner of the Japanese and thus with some measure of comfort during March 1944 as secretary of the Bletchley Aid to China Fund she attended a reception at the Mansion House, London, given by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. As throughout the country, on the morning of Wednesday, May 2, 1945 the Civil Defence personnel ceased their duties and of the original members it would be Olive who worked the last shift at the Report Centre and sounded the last siren.

Yet the war with Japan would continue until the dropping of the atom bombs. In the aftermath she then received a card from Carl. This was sent from Bangkok on September 2, 1945 and on Saturday, October 13 he arrived at Liverpool aboard the Empire Pride, saying only of his experience that it had been ‘jolly rough.’

He now returned to his journalistic profession and in late 1945 was offered the position of the Bletchley District Gazette. When this was bought in 1951 by Home Counties Newspapers he became the editor of the North Bucks Times and in 1972 he joined the Milton Keynes Development Corporation as press officer.

Carl died in 1993 and Olive in 2003 and their grave is in St Mary’s churchyard.

Just one tale of sadness and joy from the wartime annals of the old Council Offices. In fact just one tale from the continuing annals of human conflict.

But then I was jolted back to the present when Herbie noticed the local cats regrouping and in the ensuing commotion my musings abruptly ended, with the certainty that humans are not the only species unable to co-exist on this planet.