Queries received and answered.

January 2015

 Firs School, Midhope Road

Does anyone remember, or have photos of,  Firs School in Midhope Road? I was a pupil there aged about 9-11 in 1957/9. The headmistress was Mrs Gardiner, one of the teachers was Mrs Innes and my best friend was Anne Stollery (we lost touch when I moved to Sussex).


From Jenny Mukerji who has written a history of the houses in Midhope Road.
Firs kept its name when it became a pre-Preparatory school run by Alice M Gardiner in 1955. The children who attended the school usually graduated to Allen House School and The Firs was the precursor to Trees Preparatory School, which was built on the site that later became Hoe Bridge School (formerly St Michael's which amalgamated with Allen House). Although there are a number of postings on Friends Reunited's website, due to copyright and data protection issues only some of the teachers' names are mentioned here. Miss Gordon, Miss Davies, Mrs Grear, Mrs Wallace, Mrs Allison (Art), Miss Ennis (PE) and Mrs Innes were among the staff at Firs School.

By 1967 the school had closed and the life of number 5 changed again.

February 2015

Demob Centre in Woking

When National Service beckoned in March 1951 I decided to opt for a 3 year regular engagement, attracted by the extra wages and leave compared to the 2 year National Service period. Another perk was a demob outfit  -  suit, topcoat, etc., when discharged.  At the end of my time in March 1954 I was stationed at RAF Llandaff in Cardiff, and all I can remember about the location of the demob centre is that I had to travel to London, then a short journey to somewhere south of the city ;  I have a vague feeling that it may have been Woking but cannot be sure. I'm in the throes of writing a concise record of my time in the RAF and am wondering if any member of your Society can help with the possibility that the demob centre  was in Woking. I believe it would have catered for all the services, not just RAF, so would have been a sizeable operation. I place myself in your hands !!

From Bernard Harding
I am a member of the Soc and happened to see this enquiry about demob clothing.There was indeed a Demob Clothing Centre (I can't be sure of the title exactly) in Woking, and I passed through it myself in around  Sept or Oct 1946, after four years service in the Royal Engineers.It was in the former Inkerman Barracks.
I vaguely remember that there was a long row of large counters each dealing with a particular type of garment (shirts, socks, trousers, jackets, coats etc).   Each was attended by a well dressed civilian to give advice on sizes etc.I suspect that they were probably salesmen from the lower end  clothing shops, such as Burtons ("the Fifty Shilling Tailors"?) I could easily be wrong. The last counter was for hats. I said to the salesman "No thanks,  I don't wear a hat". He said "You might as well have one, they are free" (why do I remember this sort of thing, when more interesting and important things are long forgotten?). So I chose a dark brown trilby (I think, I am not a hat expert).   
All the other clothes have long gone to wherever old clothes go,  but I still have the hat which has survived in quite good condition, because so little worn presumably. In fact I see it whenever I turn on my computer, as my desktop picture is a a farly recent photo (2006 probably) which shows me sitting in my 1928 French racing car, wearing the hat (for period effect!).
I realise all this is nothing to do with the simple answer to a simple question, but I thought it might be of interest.

From Les Bowerman
I can help with this. The demob centre was at Inkerman Barracks.

I started my National Service in June, 1951, did initial training at RAF Hednesford on the edge of  Cannock Chase and while there volunteered to do a Russian language course at Cambridge Uni. The aim was that we should learn it up to degree standard in 12 months. It was all a bit hush-hush as we were due to become interpreters capable of interviewing Russian prisoners of war in the event of the then Cold War becoming a hot one. As we were to mix with undergrads, it was decided that we should wear civvies to avoid attracting attention. So, we were sent down to Cambridge towards the end of September and stayed for the first few weeks at RAF Waterbeach, wearing our own civilian clothes. On Saturday 17th November some of us were sent by train down to Woking Station and on to Inkerman Barracks to be kitted out with a set of surplus demob clothing. If I recall correctly there was a choice of three different patterns of suits, ties, shirts without collars, some collars, and shoes. I wangled a free weekend out of it as I was living at Kingfield Green, only about three miles away. I did a reverse-charges phone call back to Waterbeach for leave not to return to Waterbeach until the following afternoon. 

In fact demob suits were not much use in Cambridge as they were already outdated (probably having been ordered for forces personel in 1945/46). Fashion had moved on by 1951 and we would arguably stand out more like sore thumbs in undergrad Cambridge than if we had worn RAF uniform as there were plenty of Air Force people in uniform in Cambridge at that time. The shirts and shoes were very useful, though, and I wore them at work for years afterwards.

As I recall, the demob clothing depot was in a very large building at Inkerman. It was possibly the same building where, in the early stages of WW2 I went one afternoon  my mother and her Westfield & Kingfield Women's Institute friends to tie up parcels to be sent out to the Forces.

From Robin Hoyle
I left the Royal Navy in 1963 and was directed to what had been Inkerman Barracks, Inkerman Road, at St Johns/Knaphill. It was closed soon after my visit and the buildings converted into housing. Although not a National Serviceman, I too was given a complete outfit of civilian clothes including a "Burtons" suit of a pre- second world war cut: the trousers reaching up just short of my armpits. Having reviewed it all, I left it there!

From John Hay
I was a Royal Navy conscript in 1944  and because of my late wartime service was not demobbed until 1947.
I recently replied to this email informing you that I was demobbed at Aldershot and after reflecting, my vague memory recalled me receiving my suit at the now demolished Inkerman Barracks Knaphill Woking. I am very sure of this as I remember being very confused at the time. Having  Googled Inkerman Barracks I discovered many servicemen having been demobbed from this place but none mentioned clothing.
Sorry to have confused you but it was 68 years ago and had faded out of my mind.

From Margaret Bland

I would have been a teenager at the time you speak about and remember that Inkerman Barracks at Saint Johns village, (about 2-3 miles outside of Woking) being a Demob centre for men leaving National Service.   I guess you would have gone to Waterloo to Woking Station and then either caught a bus, or walked to the Barracks at Inkerman. The barracks no longer exist but had been used for various  purposes since the 1890’s including a Women's prison, eventually it was the headquarters of the Royal Military Police.
I hope this information is useful to you. 


  1. Please can you tell me the name of the large specialist Rhododendron nursery that lay to the side of the main road out of Woking and was not far from the railway line. I worked on this nursery for a few months prior to starting a degree in Horticulture at Wye College in 1962.

  2. Please do not send replies to dm12939@gmail.com as I no longer use that address. Send the reply to dcm_1939@talk21.com please.