The Particular: Blanche’s story

Blanche Rogers of Yateley is 74 – and her story in Episode 3 of ‘The Particular’ documents much of the social changes in the UK across the 20th and 21st century.

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She begins with powerful testimony about the death of her father when she was just two years old, falling into a threshing machine in one of the fields around Yateley – an accident unlikely to happen today with much tighter health and safety at work.

“He was walking along the side of it in hobnailed boots and he slipped into the mechanism of it and it trapped him by the legs.  By the time they got up Yateley [Cottage] Hospital to get the equipment to go down there and cut his legs off, one from his knee, and one from his ankle, and got him to Reading Hospital, well he died within quarter of an hour of being in there.”

After a brief period living with her Nan in Sandhurst, she returned to live in Yateley for the rest of her life at the age of four years old, starting out like many families immediately after the war in one of the many Nissen huts abandoned by the RAF on Yateley Common, and the area that was eventually to become the Manor Park Estate.

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My own Nan, Joyce Holland, with her sister Meg outside one of the very Nissen huts Blanche talks about living in after WWII in Yateley.

She shares what it was like to live in one of the ‘old tin huts’ once home to the air force personnel, and the thrill of being one of the first families to move into the new wave of post-war council housing that was to replace them.

“I couldn’t wait to run the water and have a bath, because the other time [the Nissen huts] you had to do your water, and put it into an old tin bath and just sit in front of the fire and have your bath, because otherwise it used to be too cold.”

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My own Nan’s Dad in front of another one of the Nissen huts in Yateley that Blanche discusses living in before the arrival of council housing.

She shares some of the ‘particular’ parts of life that have changed over that time – like the workplace, transport, and education.

For example, she shares how, for many of her age when young, work meant working in an electronics factory in Camberley.  With little in the shape of public transport, it meant the start of a relationship with a bicycle that lives to this day – Blanche can still be seen to this day, on her bike around the village.

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Blanche and her trusty bike, as she leaves the interview, on one of those streets which provided council housing as the Nissen huts were cleared.

“When we first left school and went to work, we had to bike to Camberley every day and back because the buses weren’t as regular as they are now anyway, but for the amount of money you earnt, you couldn’t afford to go on the buses all the time.”

One of her other jobs was in the ‘rags factory’ on Rosemary Lane, Blackwater, where her job was to sort the rags out into different piles – woollies in one pile, cottons in another and so on.

A startling revelation is how she says she was treated at school.

“I didn’t like it at all.  I didn’t get into trouble, but I used to get thrashed so many times by the headmaster at Yateley…… Gaffer Gibbs he was.  I hated him. Everyone else was alright, mostly lady teachers and that, they were fine. He was something else.  And Peter [Blanche’s brother], the same. He’d thrash him for the least little thing.  If he was in a bad mood, we’d suffer.  And I think it was because we didn’t have a Dad.”

A short account from Blanche which covers plenty of terrain – even managing to take in Bob Dylan’s appearance at Blackbushe Airport in front of 200,000 for a special concert in 1978.

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