October 27, 2021

Robert Webbie tells us of his parents – Eric and Doris

Hello Anne,

Thank-you for your reply and for giving this subject a wider audience.

In answer to you first question…My mother is the shorter (5ft 2ins) lady right on the very corner, I have attached another photo with a pointer to her. (hope it works)

At the start of the war my mother came down from Sheffield to be with her older married sister whose husband, Wilfred Hill, worked for the Air Ministry, he was ex RAF… This was to Worth Matravers and as you said she was billeted in Swanage.

My Father (London. Camberwell) had not waited to be called up, he once told me he didn’t fancy the infantry, and had volunteered for the RAF. On finding out he was  a “techie” after telling the recruitment officer he had built crystal sets on his mothers kitchen table from the age of 14 he was sent into the Radio Detection and Ranging at RAF Worth Matravers.

I have walked the south west coast path and spent time in Worth Matravers and its hard to imagine the windswept fields once housed over 2,000 people.

My Mum was a civilian working in the “labs” as she called it and my Father was out in the “field” I remember him mentioning something to do with the “Battle of the Beams” trying to send the German bombers off course as they followed the radio beams to their targets, talking about spending many a cold night on top of a hill wondering if he was making a difference…… he mentioned the Chain Home Radar and Chain Home Low and also talked about fitting radar sets in the flying boats for the anti submarine patrols in the Battle of the Atlantic. I think he did this in Pembroke docks.

They did not actually meet until after the relocation to Malvern and were married in the winter of 1944, I have attached a photo, the snow is on the ground and his mother only just made it from London! The wedding was at the Church…All Saints Malvern Wells and Wyche and the small reception was next door at the Railway Inn. Her sisters house was just along from the pub.

At the end of the war I believe my dad was offered a chance to stay on in the RAF at an officer level but like most young people he wanted to get back to civilian life. He eventually took a position at AERE Harwell and they settled in Wantage, on a ministry estate, then later on almost  self built our next house and spent the rest of his working life at AERE Harwell (Atomic Energy Research) as a scientific officer.

He built our first television from an old, ex radar cathode ray tube (the picture was very green ) this was before I was born and apparently all the neighbours came in to watch the Queens Coronation. I can remember him “converting” it to receive the new ITV service 🙂 with a big Bakelite knob on the side that went “clunk” when you changed channels.

We had many “days out” to Malvern when we were kids, St Anns Well at the bottom…. climbing the hills to the Beacon, the cafe on the top, the Winter Gardens…especially the boating lake.

My parents hoped to retire to Malvern but this was not to be as my Dad died in 1988 from, you guessed it, leukaemia. (I watched your video on the site)

All in all very happy memories of Malvern and with my wife Jane we still pay a visit and walk the hills, using it as training for the Camino de Santiago. (in stages)

Once again, well done for publicising this subject, they were a very special generation, young lives put to work for the common good, teenage and young adulthood lives lived so differently to how we grew up in our time.

Kind Regards,

Robert Webb.

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