John Crampton

Colwick Woods Memories – John Crampton – as told to Jackie Wood 10 March 2011

John lived in the hutments until about the age of 5, moving to a new estate at Clifton with his family mid 1955. His sister was born in August 1953 while they still occupied No.16 (a tin hut). The family moved from here into one of the wooden huts, No 21, as other people were allocated proper housing. The wooden huts were on the bottom righthand side of the hutments as you look from Greenwood Road. These huts were bigger and warmer than the tin huts which were freezing in the wintertime and had square stoves as opposed to the potbellied ones found in the tin huts. They also had a little paraffin stove with metholated spirits in a well – you had to light it and he remembers doing this when he was small. When it got hot you had to pump it because the heat made the paraffin go up the stove so you could light it then. Sometimes the stoves used to glow red with the amount of wood put in them! His mum remembered Mrs Conduit who lived at No 25. The cinder paths were very dirty to walk on and it got traipsed into the huts.

Many people thought these huts were occupied by squatters – and there was a bit of a stigma to them – but they weren’t as people were paying rent for them until they could be moved into more suitable accommodation as this was scarce after the war. The council had put the boiler house and the showers in. He can remember the rent man coming round. His parents lived with his mum’s parents on Colwick Road before they were offered a hut.

Remnants of these huts – steel piping, drains, etc can probably still be found during the winter months when all the vegetation has died off along the footpath which leads down from where the hutments were towards the keeper’s cottage.

There were toilet blocks and a big boiler house where they did the washing as there was no hot water in the huts.

He remembers attending Jesse Boot nursery school. After dinner they were put to bed in camp beds – he would have preferred to play! Apparently the far side of the school going towards town was bombed during WW2.

On the Three Hills site where it went down right to the railway there were patches of concrete as though something had been standing on them – perhaps gun emplacements.

He thinks the two smaller buildings on the periphery of the camp were look-out posts or guard huts.  At the time he was living there he can’t remember any fences being around it.

There was a brick built shelter just past the bowling green – they had punch and judy shows here in the summer time and they all used to sit around on the grass.

He told me someone with a metal detector had found an american dollar on the woods. This chap had done a bit of research and seemed to think that during the first World War americans used to practice in the woods.

A lady who used to live opposite the PoW camp told him the prisoners were let out at 8am – no guards with them – and went around knocking on people’s doors to see if they wanted any odd jobs, gardening doing or if they were going into town did they want any groceries fetching. They had stars on their jackets. No one ever ran off and they all marched back to the camp at approx. 6pm on their own. No-one fetched them.

A deaf and dumb son of Mr & Mrs Hurst who lived at hut No 4 used to come knocking on their door to see if he wanted to play. The lads also used to have a bonfire on a site near where Angela’s hair salon is now.

There were pheasants which made their nests in the tall grass, mainly on the Three Woods side of the hutments – his mum and aunts used to take the eggs and fry them.

At the Keeper’s Cottage he remembers the particular keeper at the time having an aviary in his garden. The kids used to walk around with the keeper who carried a stick. As myxamotosis was prevalent at the time if the keeper came across any with it he used to tell the lads to turn their backs while he disposed of them with the stick.