The Reminisences of Vice Admiral Sir Louis Holland Le Bailly who grew up in Oakridge


The Reminisences of Vice Admiral Sir Louis Holland Le Bailly who grew up in Oakridge


Oakridge Lynch from the 1920’s by Vice Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly K.B.E., C.B.

An extract from Oakridge's 'Whats On' newsletter from some years ago.


Oakridge Lynch from the 1920's

Reminiscences of Vice Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly K.B.E., C.B.

I was in the Pacific at the time but I am told that in 1945 my father, Major R. F. Le Bailly, then aged 79, cast his vote for Churchill at Far Oakridge, returned to The Folly and died a few days later. His grave is in the Churchyard and my mother, whose ashes were scattered in the garden of The Folly she loved so much, has her memorial in the Bus Shelter which she asked should be built after her death and which Bert Weare built giving his labour and skill at no cost to my mother or me.

Going through some old letters of my father, who was a great correspondent, I came the other day on the following: (22nd July l 924) “we are migrating to the country so that we may feast our senses on the everlasting hills rather than on the sordid sights and sounds of the cities of the plain" (Like many others when l came back from France my father had found it difficult to get work and we had moved continually in the hopes of finding some). He continued: "Farewell Bristolians. Our hearts are not breaking at the prospect” And in another letter dated 31st August he records "As foreshadowed in my previous letter we are now installed in our new haven of rest 600 feet nearer Heaven and even if we get no nearer, it may help " And later (in the same letter): "As I write, a bevy of children are disporting on the village green, which is opposite ‘our tumbledown nest’, prancing around a beribboned Maypole” The village carpenter (probably Bert Weare who was our earliest acquaintance and who was helping to make the cottage habitable) opines that it is in honour of St. Bartholomew "the patron Saint of our Church” Happily the children are on vacation and we are not so disturbed by the terrible cracked bell that summons them to school and in another letter just before Christmas: "We have found an abiding place in the lovely Cotswolds, in a Parish of 700 souls” And on May 1926: "There was 6” of snow here this morning. Unknown to the oldest inhabitants – and in Oakridge those less than 80 years old are regarded as youngsters!”

So it was then we bought what was then known as The Paddock, which, because we saw on its title deeds (which went back many years) was once called The Folly, we rechristened so that The Folly it became. There was one outside tap, an earth closet and of course no electricity. There was a pump leading to a well in the kitchen.

We bought it from Miss Ivornay for (I think) £400. It was known in the family as "Le Bailly's Folly". As Frank Fry reminded me the other day we started off on the wrong foot because my mother refused to allow the village school to continue to have their gardens on our land. She needed it to grow vegetables and anyway having lived much of her life in the Middle East ( her father was a Civil Engineer) she was determined to install a proper sanitary system with a Septic Tank and soakaway (At one time or another we had all had typhoid and she was determined to have satisfactory drainage).

So once Bert Weare had made the cottage habitable and had inserted retaining pieces to prevent the front wall of the house bulging out he was given the designs of the system, which as always he built superbly and I suspect it is still there!

For our shopping of course we patronised the Misses Peacey (and Mr Peacey} and one of the Miss Peaceys knitted our socks on a knitting machine of extraordinary ingenuity of which I have never seen another model. Even better, when the holes became too bad she could re-foot them. If anything was wanted from Stroud then Jim Gardiner (from Waterlane) with his one leg used to drive his Model T Ford, with wooden spokes in the wheels, into Stroud on Fridays. He always took orders during the week and returned on the Friday evening dropping them off.

Miss Wright presided at the Post Office. Mr de Freville was the Vicar and Percy Dearmer used occasionally to take the Services. Because my mother suffered very badly from sciatica and rheumatism Mrs Bernal Gardiner used to come in to help her; and we cooked on a Valor Perfection stove. We had hip-baths once a week. It was my job to carry the hot water upstairs and then down again emptying it on the roses.

Mrs Gardiner had two children; Winston, a telegraphist in the Navy (and therefore a boyhood hero of mine) who sadly I’m told has died and Queenie who married and went to live (and I am told still lives) at Tunley.

Mr Bateman from across the way used to come and help my mother and father in the garden, occasionally smuggling my father dandelion wine of extreme potency to the fury of my Mother. Bert Weare’s son and daughter (Leslie and May) used to bring up the milk every morning.

As the years went by our fortunes slowly improved. In 1939 whilst building a Railway in Turkey my father had come across an antimony mine into the development of which he put every penny he had or could borrow. And when the first load of antimony was on the jetty in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey came into the war against us and all was lost.

Fortunately he joined the Royal Naval Air Service and so we kept going till 1920. Gradually the Turks were made to pay back little by little and so the first excitement was when we got the telephone. Until then the nearest was at Bisley and my mother talked the G.P.O. into shouldering most of the cost of putting poles to Oakridge on condition we put out a notice saying "You may telephone from here” and so Bisley 14 was born.

The next dividend (again of course through the ingenuity of Bert Weare) was to install a stove and a hot and cold water system in the cottage (and a half sized bath.) My father's bedroom was over the kitchen and I recall that when the stove was installed he cut a hole in the floor so that the warmth permeated upwards.

Then the west end of the house started to crack outwards and Bert installed the buttress which is still here and when we recovered from that expense my mother moved up to the attic where Bert installed a dormer window for her and a staircase. By this means we had a spare room for my brother who was by then in the Indian Civil Service so that if he and I were both at home we could both be accommodated. He only had leave every three years and in the intervals we always had a paying guest.

One year I remember an old Aunt in Jersey paid for us all to go over there for a holiday and because my mother could not move very much Nellie Weare came with us to look after me.

One winter, greatly daring, my mother organised a Party of 30 of her friends to go skiing in Switzerland and the travel firm gave us a free trip for her effort. So Mr Stone who ran the taxi from Bisley was ordered and we packed. Alackaday! When the morning came, there was snow and hard frost and Mr Stone’s taxi, stuck outside his garage and. could not be moved. What should we do? There was only one way put and that was to walk to Chalford and take the train to Kemble. But though my father and I had often walked it, and my mother too when her rheumatism was not too bad, the ground was frozen like glass and we had a pile of luggage. Immediately I was dispatched to Bert Weare. He (and I suspect Leslie) quickly arrived with his hand drawn builders cart on which we put my mother and the luggage. My father and I put on two pairs of Miss Peacey’s socks over our boots and the little procession, all of us muffled and looking more like Shackleton going to the South Pole slithered down Farm Lane and along the canal to Chalford arriving in due course in Switzerland with the rest of the people we had talked into making up the Party.

The telephone was a great boon to my mother who could talk to her many relations and also to the village because a Doctor could now quite quickly be summoned in an Emergency. Best of all Mrs Clarke, who kept the shops at Bisley presided over the Exchange and messages could always be left with her so she always knew where everyone was.

I was at sea for much of the Thirties but we acquired a Morris Cowley for which Bert built the garage which was still there last year) and I had a bullnosed Morris for which I paid £3 with a Hotchkiss engine and a ‘dickey’ seat. This I kept outside in Portsmouth Dockyard; and when my ship (HMS HOOD) was in harbour it brought me home with commendable regularity in four hours for the eighty Miles; often, in the winter, with a rug wrapped round me, goggles and fur gloves.

Then came the war. By that tine I think Mrs 'Bernal' had retired and my mother had Mrs Burrus from Eastcombe and Mavis Young from Oakridge in occasionally to help her with my father, who was becoming rather immobile. Roy Tuck used to mow the grass for her. In the fifties Mrs. Burrus looked after my two Aunts who were both spinsters in her home at Eastcombe.

It was in 1940 that the great aircraft drama occurred. A German aircraft was shot down over Oakridge (landing I think in Mr Davies' field) and the pilot (in his parachute) landed in our garden cutting his face open on the sundial and being captured by my mother and Mavis Young (and perhaps Roy Tuck too). He was nearly senseless and my mother (seeing that he was only a boy of 18 or so and thinking that if she was kind perhaps the Almighty would be kind to me in similar circumstances) revived him with whisky so that when Mr. Weston (its Commander) and the Hone Guard arrived in force he was conscious and able to be arrested, and marched off, kindly act became a matter of great discussion in the newspapers; but my mother always held that she was right and I think most people agreed.

As I said at the beginning I finished the war in the Pacific. One evening, one of our destroyers picked up the pilot of an RAF Dakota and he was brought on board my ship HMS Duke of York. We met briefly, but there was some crisis on and when I got back to the Upper Deck he had been taken to hospital in. Hong Kong. He was I recall one of the Tucks from Oakridge.

With Mr. Weston's always very helpful agreement my mother took a great interest in the children feeling that the war was depriving them of so much fun and when she died in 1943 I think it was Mr. Weston who wrote so kindly of her in the local Paper. But then Oakridge was always a kindly place. The Hunts, the Gardiners, the Weares, the Tucks, the Youngs, Mrs. Burrus and her husband the famous Master Builder, the Davies at the Farm who were so good to my Mother in her last hours, the Batemans, Miss White and Miss Councer and Miss Paton, who came to live opposite, Mr. Weston and his wife and daughter, (now Dame Agnes Weston of the Science Museum) and many others such as Mr and Mrs Halliday who lived next to the school all helped to make Oakridge a wonderfully friendly place.

By chance I have now something to do with Rendcomb College near Cirencester. I first heard of it in the early Thirties, at the home of Michael Sadleir (afterwards Sir Michael) who was one of the great authors and educationalist of that era. (His son who was killed in an MTB and who is buried in Bisley cemetery where the Gates are his memorial was my great friend).

Rendcomb was started by the Wills family to help with the higher education of primary school boys from the Gloucestershire countryside.

It is a wonderful encouragement in my old age to keep a connection with Gloucestershire but even more of a joy to find that the vast maintenance task of keeping Rendcomb going is in the trusted hands of Tony Partridge who lives at Oakridge, whose wife was a Weare and also of Frank Fry who recalls exchanging missiles with me over the walls of The Folly in the Twenties.


You can find out all about Sir Louis Le Bailly here :


Vice Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly



“The Reminisences of Vice Admiral Sir Louis Holland Le Bailly who grew up in Oakridge,” Oakridge Archives, accessed May 20, 2024,

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