Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2024

'Taking the Queen's Shilling'

As in the past joining the British Army was rarely an attractive proposition, recruiting sergeants would result to ruses, often with a publican’s help, to snare unwilling prey. That is what happened to an unsuspecting, ‘ railway navvy’ during a rowdy Saturday night in the Three Choughs Inn, Blandford in November 1858. He was with a group of construction workers who were employed to build the new railway line from Wimborne to Blandford. The ‘ navvies ’ were not particularly popular with the locals and had a reputation for fighting, heavy drinking and general rowdy behaviour. ‘ Taking the King, or Queen’s Shilling’ has long been slang for enlisting in the British Army as for many years a shilling (5p) was akin to a signing-on payment made to new recruits. The recruiting sergeant would ensure his target became drunk and would then slip a shilling into a back pocket. The next day the unfortunate and hung over victim would be hauled before a magistrate who would confirm that he was the Br

Stourpaine & Durweston Halt

Stourpaine & Durweston Railway Halt opened on the 9 th July 1928. Practically everyone in the two villages at the time had walked down to the Halt to watch the departure of the 8.06am to Bournemouth. Local newspaper the Western Gazette reported that the locals had adorned the Halt with flags. However, just seven passengers joined the train which included local clergyman, the Reverend C Cooke. Unfortunately, because the Halt stood on an open embankment it proved to be exceedingly cold for passengers waiting on the platform the following winter. So, the following April, the railway company built a ‘ substantially-built shelter for the convenience of passengers.’ Although the track through the Halt was single line, there was a passing point just to the north of the Halt. The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway or ‘ S&D’ connected Bristol and Bath with Bournemouth West, a station now long closed. The line was used for both freight and passengers and its stations included Sta

Dorset Bounty Immigrants

Life in Dorset in the 1830s was pretty tough for ordinary folk. Agricultural wages were among the lowest in the country and farm mechanisation was reducing available work. At the time, there was also much social unrest with riots in Poole, Blandford, Handley & Sherborne. So it was no surprise that several Dorset families decided in 1836 to become ‘Bounty Immigrants’ and seek out a better life in Australia. This was an early assisted passage scheme sponsored by the new colony and the Australian land owning Macarthur family. For its time, the scheme was incredibly progressive. Each family was given a three year contract, a wage, a cottage rent free and a plot of land. Among the first Dorset Bounty Immigrants were the Arnold & Norris families from Child Okeford, two Butt families from Winterborne Stickland, the Coxs & Elliots from Farnham and the New, Thorn, Vincent & three Weeks families from Handley. They all arrived safely in New South Wales on 8 th April 1837 and mai

Tarrant Rushton & Berlin Airlift

Tarrant Rushton airfield played a key role in the 1948/49 Berlin Airlift. At the time, Flight Refuelling was based at Tarrant Rushton and it was Sir Alan Cobham’s company that supplied the German capital with fuel. After the Second World War, Germany was divided into Russian, American, French & British zones. Berlin, the country’s capital was similarly divided but was located deep inside the Russian occupied sector. In June 1948, the Russians decided to block all road and rail access into the Western occupied parts of Berlin. By doing so, they hoped to starve Western Berliners of food and supplies and to force the United States, France and Britain to withdraw from the capital. The Allies responded by supplying Berlin from the air, known as the Berlin airlift. Flight Refuelling operated twelve Lancaster & Lancastrian aircraft which had been converted to carry fuel. The company’s first aircraft, laden with fuel, left Tarrant Rushton for Berlin on 27 th July 1948. The company’ tw