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Cliff Iliffe - Memories
Picture of Cliff on his first birthday
Cliff on his first birthday 6 May 1924

When my Dad, Joe Iliffe, first came to Rushden he was employed at the Rushden Hall eventually working up to be the Butler - before he met mother.  Then he met mother and they got married.  When the Great  War came he joined up, with his boss Hugh Sartoris, in the 5th Enniskillin Dragoon Guards.  Hugh Sartoris was the son of the gentry family who owned the Hall and Park in Rushden.

Joe Iliffe Butler in the centre with members of the Sartoris family
This picture was taken in Rushden Hall grounds.
Joe Iliffe Butler in the centre with members of the Sartoris family

My earliest memories as a boy at is my first residence in West Street Rushden, just off High Street. You entered from a big double gate and went under an archway.  There was a big garden and then it went through to our garden and yard into the premises which belonged to the shop in High Street.  You could drive straight through with a horse and cart, or a car.  The farmers used to bring their own reared pigs (we only dealt with pigs) and they sold them to Gramp.  He had got a registered slaughter house there.  As you wanted them, he used to slaughter them and sell them in the shop as fresh meat or made up produce like Pies, Sausages, Haslit, Chitterlings and Faggots.  My father worked in the workroom making the stuff and mother and her sister were in the shop selling. 

Photograph of Joe  Green with young daughter Flo Photo of Flo Green, outside the shop in High Street, Rushden
Picture of Joe Green with young daughter Flo (Cliff's mother)
Flo Green (Cliff's mother)outside her parents shop in High Street

There were two shops, one was where Nan & Gramp lived above the pork butchers shop, and further along the High Street, near what used to be the West End Club, was another lock up shop which sold fruit and vegetables and sweets.  There were a lot of boiled sweets, pear drops and things like that and I think they used to make their own Ice cream.

Daughter Flo Green with her father Joe outside their shop in High Street, Rushden.
Daughter Flo Green with her father Joe Green
(Cliff's mother and grandfather)
outside their shop in High Street, Rushden

I went to school at Alfred Street , about three hundred yards from where we lived.  My teacher's name was Mrs Swannell and we used to have Religious teaching first thing in the morning.  In the junior class we always had a big sand tray that you could stand round and put little models in and play.  All the boys wore shorts and a jacket or pullover and caps. No school uniform.

It seemed as though nearly every street had a shoe factory.  Some of the big ones were amazing.  Where we lived in West Street was a dead end, and at the bottom of the street was the sports field for John Cave ’s shoe factory, which was in College Street .  We used to go in there as children and have a wander round and play. 

All the factories had buzzers to call the workers to work.  If you weren’t there when the buzzer went you were locked out for fifteen minutes.  You lost 15 minutes money so you had to get there on time.  People went on bikes, walked and there were plenty of buses.  Practically everybody came home for dinner because they lived so handy.  The buzzer used to go at 12 o’clock and they would come back at 1pm , or, sometimes the dinner hour was half past twelve to half past one.  Then the buzzer went again at 5 o’clock or quarter past five .  Then all the people and bikes went home.

At night there were Whist Drives, and we had three Cinemas in the town.  We used to have a lot of home entertainment – mainly aggravate each other.  I got on alright with all my family really.  On Saturdays a lot of the men went to the Rushden Football Ground in Hayden Road , to see their local team play.  Usually they never went any farther afield. 

We moved from West Street to Church Street. Mum and Dad were working with mother’s sister at the shop in those days, because my grandparents had retired. So Mum and Dad thought they would like to start up on their own in the same sort of trade so they opened up in Church Street . There was living accommodation as well.

Church Street

The shop at 22 Church Street , that Mum and Dad took over, was previously owned by the organist [J Enos Smith] of St Mary’s Church.  When they started up – they had to buy the meat in, in those days, as there was no provision for slaughter house.  They started off making all their own meat pies and sausages.  They used to open about 6.30 am , all day, until about 7.30 pm , in the week.  On Thursdays they shut at 12.30 pm ; closing at 8 pm on Fridays and 9 pm on Saturdays. 

As children we could go into the shop, (I had two brothers Ron & Howard and two sisters Joan & Peg) but we were really kept out when they were serving.  As we grew up we had one or two jobs, cleaning up and that sort of thing.  I had my training by helping out gradually, and watching Dad. 

Lots of people came into our shop on their way to work, for sausage rolls or pies.  They were sold at tuppence half-penny each or five for a shilling.  They bought bags full for their friends.  At lunch time customers came in for ham sandwiches, which were made up on the spot, and at tea-time, on the way home, they would be buying something for the evening like sausages or faggots – it was a really busy shop.  Never a dull moment!

My brother Ron – the eldest – went straight into the business when he was of age.  When he got older and wanted to move on, I took his place.  I went into engineering for twelve months at Whipple’s in Sartoris Road .  Then Ron wanted to get married and he had a job to go to, so I took his place at the shop.  In those days the business couldn’t afford to pay big wages so he was better off.  To start off he was tyre salesman, but in the end Ron had his own shop.  After the Second World War, Ron and Emmie his wife with their two boys took over from Fred Swindall, who had a family butcher's shop in Moor Road .  They carried on with the same sort of thing there.

One day walking along I noticed Eileen who used to work at Clarridges which was just round the corner from our shop.  She worked in the office there, in the shoe factory. It was one evening as I was coming home up the High Street – in fact, it was the day before my brother was married and I was going to be Best Man.  I had just walked down as far as the railway bridge with my pal (because he lived up Higham Hill) and I walked back up the High Street and saw Eileen crossing the road.  I thought “here’s my chance” so I thought to myself  “I’ll cross the road, catch up with her and get chatting to her”.  I did just that and she knew me, and I walked her home that night.  That was the start of something big – 63 years so far!

Photograph of Cliff & Eileen Iliffe on their wedding day 22 March 1945
Cliff & Eileen Iliffe
22 March 1945

While I was in the Army I did my training at Catterick the Tank Regiment, then we all went to different Royal Army Corps Units all over the place.  Some of us went down to Sway to join the 43rd Royal Tank Regiment and we stayed with them right through the war. 

Picture of Ken Morgan, Jack Dodson and Cliff Iliffe at Catterick Army Training Camp 1942.
Catterick Army Training Camp 1942
from left to right
Ken Morgan from Darlington
Jack Dodson from Irchester
Cliff Iliffe from Rushden

We went to various places on Embarkation Leave, then it was called off, and then at last when the Second Front was coming up a lot of us were sent down to Portsmouth, Southsea, and we went over with the tanks on the landing crafts.  After the first wave had gone in to put the tanks on the beach we came back for some more.  We followed that all the way up to Tillbury dock taking tanks to Belgium, because the fighting had moved up to France and into Belgium.  We took the tanks over, then came back and took some more to different stops, all the time.

Cliff on far right with three army colleagues.

I never got seasick.  When we came back the units all joined up again, we went up to Scotland for training and then eventually to Bristol and headed out to the Far East , because the European War had finished.  But they were still fighting out in the Far East , so we took tanks out there.  We were training up to invade some parts out there where the Japanese were, but the Atom bomb was dropped and that finished the war - and that was it.  The War had finished from South East Asia , and we were in India so we came back.  I came back on what they called B Release.  We came home and I went to Knuston, and also to a six week old baby boy Alan - two years later our daughter Janis was born.

Picture of Alan Iliffe aged 2 years, taken in 1947.
Alan Iliffe aged 2 yrs, 1947
Janis and Alan Iliffe c1949

I wasn’t finished from the Army - I still had to spend my time at the nearest Army Unit, and that was at Knuston.  I used to bike down there every day from home in Rushden, report in about 8 am , and come home about 5 pm .  I was the cook there.  We cooked things like shepherd's pie and beef pies.  The food was still on ration and we had proper dinners.  We were just helping the Army cooks because we were in that trade in civilian life.  On the few days I was allowed to have off I would help in the shop that Mum and Dad had. 

The Army had an Ordnance Lorry Depot at Knuston.  The vehicles taken to the Army Ordnance Camp, had our own drivers who took the lorries and cars right back to Dunmow in Essex where they were either repairable or taken for scrap.  They were bringing new vehicles in, or taking old ones back to Essex .

The camp was on the road between Rushden and Irchester.  As you go up to the railway bridge, on the left hand side is a nice detached house now; that was about where the Headquarters were.  They had all the Nissen huts there, lots and lots of them.  It was quite big, about 100 Royal Army Ordnance Soldiers living there.  They handled all the vehicles. The Nissen huts were there for a long time, I should think they were there until about 1947 and all through the war.  Then when it came up to my Demob time, I finished at Knuston and went back up to Catterick, then on to York to be Demobbed and came home.

German prisoners of War were brought into Knuston from their camp, to help with some of the duties - to clean up and work in the cook house and do general duties.  The prisoners, came out with one of their NCOs in a lorry everyday, perhaps a couple of dozen of them.  They moved about freely – they didn’t want to run away they were just waiting out their time.  They came from somewhere near Kettering, Weldon I think. 

There were no bad feelings between the German prisoners and camp, they were just another soldier, and they were well behaved.  They had their own sergeant with them.  A lot of them could speak English.  They got the coal and coke in for the ovens, so perhaps those working near the cook house were the ones we had to do with. 

With some of the stuff that was salvaged, off some vehicles which were wrecks, the prisoners were able to get some wood off, and stuff to make toys to sell for a little pocket money.  One of these prisoners came in with a toy for my son Alan.  It looked like a little ping-pong bat. He had made about six little carved chickens, which were all connected by a string underneath which was weighted, and then, when you moved it with your hand in a wrist formation it made the chickens look as if they were pecking.  We had it for years.

The prisoners also made canvass bags which looked like a little brief case.  I have still got one in my car today.  It was made with canvass salvaged off the old wrecks that came in, either cars or lorries.  They stitched them up and made them into nice little canvass briefcases.  A German prisoner made this; it had leather straps and a little strip of metal inside to keep the shape.

The Corporal in charge of the cookhouse was Scottish.  He came up one evening with his pal and we went down to the Windmill Club with Eileen’s father for a evening out.  The Windmill was alright in those days.  The Windmill was built originally at the top of Windmill Road where the heel factory is.  Then they got bigger so they got the ground opposite.  If you go past the heel works you can still see the sign for the Windmill club on it. 

S t John’s Ambulance Brigade about 1947

Eileen’s father was in the S t John’s Ambulance Brigade all through the War and he got me interested in it.  (He stayed a Private and he worked duties all through the war).  He was on duty when the bombs dropped in Rushden.  They all came out from where they worked and the streets were streaming with people.  Rushden had only one ambulance to help all those people.  Frank Burton drove one and Cyril Woods drove the other one.

We were living at their (my in laws) house then and I joined St John’s after the War about 1947. I worked my way up and in the finish was a Cadet Officer.  The Ambulance Service was run by the Rushden and District Finance Group and so the regular drivers, there were two regular drivers, were paid.  They finished 12 noon Saturday and three voluntary drivers took it in turn  from 12 noon Saturday until midnight Sunday to cover this area.  We took it in turn every three weeks. 

Cliff Iliffe and Bill Houghton with an ambulance
Cliff Iliffe and Bill Houghton with an ambulance provided by the County Council in 1950

They put phones in our houses for the weekend duties and the doctors rang us by phone.  I kept the ambulance outside in the day time and at night it went back to the Lightstrung where we had a garage.

We were called out for all sorts, general things, maternity, road accidents etc.  We covered Rushden, Higham, Irchester and all this radius.  We always used to take the relatives with us and the patients, and we would wait at the Hospital if there was no more work and bring the family back because we weren’t so busy then. 

The other drivers were Eric Sharpe and Bill Houghton.  We all had a mate to go with us, there was Bill Elliott on with me sometimes.  You could be on all weekend and then about two minutes to midnight the phone would ring!! We took folks to hospital and were away a long time and still had to go to work the next morning.

At the Ambulance Brigade meetings they had the practice nights going through all the bandaging and treatments.  We went to the carnivals or football matches every Saturday in Hayden Road , I enjoyed that.  There was a big Parade every year when someone came down from London came to take the salute, sometimes it was at Northampton Race Course, or Wicksteed Park , or Wellingborough.

Our uniform was black, and you had a white haversack with all the bandages in it.  We had bandages, disinfectant, scissors and that sort of thing. At the big Fete we would patrol, and there was always a big tent there for treatments.

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