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Remember When?

More of Shuttleworth in the early days.

By Denis Kimber, published in 2003 newsletter

A principal feature of the early days was the high proportion of ex-servicemen among the students were with some old enough to be my father! It would have been intriguing to hear about their battle experiences but there was a strict code and, anybody who started relating some wartime event, was soon reminded by one of his mates getting a hanging lamp to swing: a reminder, probably derived from the RAF, to keep off such topics. I remember that two of them had been on the D-Day beaches and I asked about it: 'God it was hell! The NAAFI queues! And there was always the danger of being posted'

The most hair-raising event occurred at Hill House when one of the students, an ex-Commando, went berserk one night and went for another student with a knife. Staff knew nothing about this until next morning but ex-service students at Hill House dealt with him. They rang friends in the mansion to seek a bed for the potential victim and then endeavored to knock out the raving student! When he came into breakfast the    following morning he certainly looked the worse for wear! He later became the subject of a police inquiry. He was the brother of an identical twin who had died from an infection as a child and from that time had gone off the rails on occasions. His arm was scarred with attempts he had made to commit suicide and the sound of bells set him going!

Sadly his girl friend jilted him just when he was about to leave Shuttleworth and within weeks he had married a waitress from a Biggleswade restaurant. They had a daughter. He then had one of his 'turns' and attempted to commit suicide and was put on probation. One night, after visiting the pub, he returned home and murdered his wife with a hammer. His daughter might have been killed too but he changed his mind at the last minute. He was sent to Broadmoor and I have heard no more. He was the most notorious of Shuttleworth students and I have deliberately omitted his name out of respect for his daughter and former friends.

Another student, Pengelley-Phillips, an ex-Royal Marine, was with a party that visited the Hare and Hounds one evening and, in the middle of the night, I was woken by the sound of someone calling 'Help!' I recognised his voice and went to his bedroom on the top floor of the mansion. The handle had been removed but the night porter had come with me and he found a screwdriver so that we could get in. There were five beds in that room and one was empty! I aroused the others and we started a search for the missing student. We even went on the roof and it was from there, looking over the parapet, that I saw Pengelley-Phillips lying on the grass below an open window. It was obvious that he fallen out while relieving himself. We called an ambulance and I accompanied him to the Bedford Hospital. He had broken his back and, sadly, was incapacitated for life.

The Swiss Garden was in a dilapidated condition as the number of gardeners had been reduced during the war. Mrs Shuttleworth returned from gardening down there one day and was adamant that she had seen the ghost - the 'grey lady' who had come near her as she was weeding a flower bed. The condition of the garden encouraged the idea that it was haunted.

At the end of my first year we had a dinner party and, afterwards went to the Swiss Garden, but not one of the students would venture into the area where the young lad was supposed to be buried. Nevertheless, it eventually became a popular area for night-time activity. One student was dared to sleep there! That was asking for trouble: his friends organised haunting trips and a violin was played to him as he 'slept'. This   common use familiarised the Swiss Garden and made it more difficult to believe the ghost story.
More Memories. (dates and names reserved ! )

Another little caper during Rag-week was a game of tennis between Shutts and the National Collegeof Agricultural Engineering at Silsoe.........using a Hillman Imp as the ball......

It all began early one bright morning as the milk recorder arrived down the Old Warden drive. He had to negotiate his way past an impromtu ceremony taking place on the cattle grid at the start of the parkland. No doubt he was puzzled as to why a group of lads should be diligently welding a wheel-less shell of a Hillman Imp across the cattle grid. 

Probably the NCAE students (for it was they) assumed they had been rumbled and the alarm would be sounded, for the standard of welding was pretty poor really. They decamped rapidly but it was a while later when the car was collected and brought back to college by Shutts students. It was lifted bodily into a long-wheelbase Landrover ( I'll keep your name out of this, Lionel ! ) and preparations were made for the return of service, into the Silsoe court......

The plan was, if I remember rightly, to strike back at 3pm the following day, with a massed strike. I don't know whose plan it was, but I suspect they left farming soon after this to join the Marines or Parachute regiment as a strike strategist.

There were three teams detailed for the operation ( for a good deal of face had been lost by Shutts in the NCAE dawn raid). One vehicle was to be used as a diversion and drive right into the main gate at Silsoe and cruise round throwing crow-scarers out of all windows and generally 'drawing fire'. When the defences of NCAE had woken up and set off in pursuit of team one, team two would follow into the grounds of the college and 'unload' the Imp into the ornamental pond oustide reception. Team three were to help extract the first two squads and get them away up the A6. And whilst it was hardly "clinical", it did sort of work! 

I had the dubious pleasure of riding in the front of the short-wheelbase Land-Rover chosen as team one's transport. Crammed in along with me were eight others each armed with a supply of croweys. My simple task was to pick a crow-scarer out of my lap, hold it while the guy in the middle seat lit it, then hurl it out of the sliding window by my left shoulder. As we progressed, seemingly in slow motion, the place came alive. Students spilled from the buildings, sirens started to wail, raft-building stopped, tractors roared into life and started to head us off!

Confusion mounted and I must have lost my steady rhythm of load, aim and fire, because just as I raised my hand to launch another squib, the lethal charge exploded deafening all of us and numbing my hand completely. (I assumed it had been blown off to start with, but fortunately I have always suffered from a weak grasp on things so it simply opened my fist up and made it sting a bit!) This was really the onset of things going wrong for us in team one: by the time we got round to the front of the college. The tractor had blocked our exit so we were obliged to start a lap of honour round the buildings again, which now resembled a hornets nest which had been well and truly stirred up. Cars of all sorts were chasing other cars and it became necessary to take to the large mown lawns to the front of the college. They had defended the open road frontage by laying railway sleepers along the newly-planted hedgeline beside the A6. Thankfully team three had lifted one aside, making an escape route which our cars were flooding out of and fish-tailing up the public road amongst nonplussed afternoon traffic. Cars from NCAE chased us a good bit of the way home and gave us cause to use up our remaining scarers out the back door of the Landy, to encourage them to keep their distance.

One of our cars that was being closely followed, was an elderly Triumph Herald which had a conveniently located bung-hole in the floor between the front passengers feet. Much resourceful calculation of fuse-length was employed on the snaking roads home in order to light and drop a crow-scarer through the hole and time it to explode under the pursuer's car, causing it to bounce in a cloud of white smoke! I suspect bloodlust got the better of our brave lads however when they decided that the only way shake off such a determined follower was to tape together three croweys and twist the fuses together. Clearly the resourceful calculation had left them by this point, as they failed to consider the relative diameter of the hole in the floor and three lit crowscarers taped in a bundle...... I shall pause to  allow you to imagine the looks on their faces as they realised what they had do......

I believe the results were spectacular and apparently effective in shaking off their pursuers, as the driver of the chase car couldn't see the road ahead for tears of laughter.


Another stroke of luck we had on that trip was that the car we dumped didn't go through the bottom of the pond and into the boiler house for the college which apparently was situated directly beneath the shallow ornamental water feature.      Oops!

Well of course we got back home a few at a time, having taken different routes and were all feeling pretty smug that the ball was now in their court.

Still patting ourselves on the back, we sat down for a favourite tea of Spag Bol, when the cry went up from the doorway "SILSOE ARE BACK!!" As one body, we stormed out of the dining block, leaving the staff to clear over a hundred full plates of food and knocking chairs flying. Outside we were greeted by the sight of that blasted Imp, upside down opposite the courtyard entrance, stuffed with straw and burning. Silsoe had hit us at our most vulnerable: feeding time.  We were terrified of incurring charges by using fire extinguishers so CO2 cylinders were dragged from the Tavern and blasted at the flames, quickly fanning them to an inferno, perfect!  I can't seem to recall just how it was finally extinguished but it might have been put out by the s**t flying off the blades of the fan as John Scott arrived on the shameful scene. Happy days.......and as I said, it could have been disastrous for any one of us at any point in the proceedings, still, ignorance is bliss, and we were very, very happy............


Feel free to correct me on any of this, but if the truth takes away from the story, I shall refuse to believe you!!                         Tim Durrant (Circa 1979 ! )


Howard Barbour, NDA 1966-8, SU President 1967/8- now living in Washington State in the USA, was in the Inter-College run of 67- here's what he writes

I can remember a few of the team members from the 67 attempt on the colleges run.    Apart from myself there was Geof Hadfield, Keith May and Billy Russell [I have a picture of the team somewhere].    There were nine members in the team plus at least that many in support.    We started at Seal Hayne, but the principal there wouldn't let us on to the estate, so we parked at the gate, slept in Reg's coach and ran up to the door at 4.30 am.    We ran in teams of three, running half mile sprints for an hour each team, laying in the back of a Morris Traveler when we weren't running.    I remember our navigators sent us the wrong way near Bristol and from then on we were sunk as far as the record was concerned.    Somewhere north of Bedford we thought we still might make it, so we switched to running in relays out of the coach. 
We missed the record by about 10 minutes as I recall.