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Ta-ta Templecombe, Winston’s away to Stranraer

Date Sent:  10 July 1941      

Sender: Winston Fricker 

Recipient:  Mrs W P Fricker, ‘Fairhaven’, Templecombe, Somerset 


Dear D 

I am in Stranraer train waiting to move out.  It is very hot and close, but I am feeling alright, I trust that you are alright.  Will send Telegram as arranged in the morning. G.B.Y. Your loving husband Winston 

A hand written postcard with no stamp

The Tower closed to general visitors on 26 August 1939, reopening to the public 1 January 1946.  The Armouries’ White Tower displays were classed as National Art Treasures and discussions regarding their safe storage in the event of war had begun in 1933. Packing cases had been arriving on site since January 1939 although Armouries’ records show that packing started officially on Friday 25 August. By Saturday 26 the first cases were on their way to Hall Barn, Beaconsfield with an overnight stop at Harrods’ Knightsbridge Depository.  Unfortunately, the packing cases were designed to accommodate the collection rather than the capacity of the Knightsbridge stairs and after the first trip vans went straight to Hall Barn.   This initial evacuation was completed on 25 September with the delivery of “2 bales of wood wool, 2 gallons oil, 3lbs Vaseline,1 broom and 1 hand brush”. Five Armouries’ men were seconded as guards causing administrative problems as the shortage of local long-term accommodation incurred higher subsistence rates.  Material from the Wallace collection was also stored there – the common factor being James Mann, who was both Master of the Armouries and Keeper of the Wallace Collection.  

Tower of London marked postcard showing the tower ground and tower bridge in the background

Winston’s postcard shows the Tower at the outbreak of war.  By the time of posting the site was scarred by bomb damage following notable raids in 1940, and the Tower Armouries staff reduced from its 1939 compliment of 17 men to 11 – split between London, Beaconsfield and Caernarfon.  The White Tower now provided dormitory accommodation and recreational facilities for service personnel, even staging a production of “Once A Crook” in March 1941.  From June garrison dances were added.  A small exhibition of arms and armour assembled in the Sword Room (today First Floor East) “to interest visiting troops being shown the Chapel of St John” was all that remained of the former displays. 

Winston was off to Stranraer, a focus for anti – U boat activity to protect and keep open vital shipping lanes through the North Channel. Most of Britain’s shipping imports passed through this area bound for the Clyde or Mersey. Might ‘Dear D’ be Dorothy May, nee Stacey, who married 26-year-old Winston Percy Fricker in July 1939 at Wincanton, Somerset? The 1939 England and Wales Register records 28-year-old Dorothy M Stacey, her surname ruled through and corrected to ‘FRICKER’, living with her ageing parents Ernest and Alice at ‘Fairhaven’, Wincanton. Her profession is given as glovemaker.  Anyone out there able to enlighten us and let us know how Winston got on in his Scottish posting? 

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