” Remember, remember, the fifth of November, ….gunpowder, treason and plot” was a childhood
rhyme to relive the epic of Guy Fawkes attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Children would
have made their dummy of Guy Fawkes around September and he would be toted around until the 5th,
with slogans and little kids screaming “Penny for the Guy, Mister?”
“Penny for the Guy, Mister ?”
…….and then he would be ceremoniously dumped on the bonfire that had been getting bigger and
bigger all through the autumn months ready for lighting on the magic night.
Bonfire night, 5th November
All the money that had been collected was spent on fireworks and usually brought along to the village
bonfire. So Guy Fawkes was our “event” and Halloween never seemed to feature in our calendar and
then it was time to think Christmas.
Village firework displays all over the UK
Other fine memories of November are Rememberance Sunday, the second weekend of the month,
and the fact that NO motorcycle trials ever took place on that day apart from the Jersey 2 Day Trial
which was always held that weekend and being the only event saw quite an influx of riders making
their way over the sea to the Channel Islands. Many happy drunken memories of that one! …. and the
trial was pretty good too.
Jersey 2 Day 1971
The RAF Teams at Jersey in 1972
The Saturday of Rememberance weekend was always the start of some fantastic pheasant shooting
with the local Lincolnshire farmers when I was based at RAF Coningsby. John Chatterton, a wartime
Lancaster pilot, always invited myself and good friend Sqn Ldr Paul Day to his shoot and this would
herald a week of good shooting with friends as we toured all their farms with day to day invites. After a
couple of years of this Paul and I would always put in for a weeks leave to cover all the shoots.
Manor Farm, Low Toynton, Horncastle …. The start of a week’s pheasant
shooting at John Chatterton’s farm
Like most things of a farming nature the plot was always the same and had been going on as long
as anyone could remember. First shoot was John’s, arrive in good time for the 1100 brief and 2
minutes silence to mark the weekend. Funny thing that I remember was that after all the welcomes,
dogs sniffing, whinning and having mini fights then when the 2 minutes of reverance was called all
the dogs were as quiet as church mice!
Ready for the “off” at a standard UK farmer’s shoot
Always the first drive, across the road from the farm around the old
Now on a farmer’s shoot this is what we would call “walked up” and part driven. So some people
were allocated “stop points” where game would either run or fly to and everybody else would walk
fields, woods, vast acerages of ploughed clay like dirt and anything else on the walk from A to B
shooting anything in range on the way. If like myself you had a faithfull friend then you would be given
a ditch or hedge to walk along where of course the majority of the game would be. At the lunch stop
as we were ferried back to the farm in a tractor drawn trailer John would always activate the trailer lift
and for those not paying attention the body of the trailer would gently rise until the whole thing was
about 12 feet off the ground and we were getting beaten about by low branches on the lane leading up
to the church and the farm. With experience of this “tradition” you could tell when you were on the rise
as the mud coming off the trailer tires suddenly stopped flying into the open trailer and landing on
people, guns and dogs.
Coming home for lunch…… if only they knew!!
Lunch was always in the barn on bales of hay with the host usually providing a hot soup ladelled out
by the women of the house, while everybody went through their lunch packs. Every year one farmer and
son could always be seen adjusting their sandwiches which were always cheddar and beetroot. Every
year they would discard the beetroot and when asked they would reply that the wife always made their
sandwiches and niether of them liked beetroot but they hadn’t got the courage to tell her!
Classic “stop guns” standing in oil seed rape
After lunch the shoot continued the same format finishing around 4 pm in the UK gloom. Now various
sages would appear with pencils and old notebooks to record the day’s achievements, compare with
year’s before, and pronounce the fate of game shooting in general. Unlike a commercial shoot all
these farmers only ever shot their own land twice a year, once in November and again just after
Christmas but they would feed the game on their land in the hope it would stay around until shoot day.
Thanks to farm subsidies they would also plant a host of worthless crops including mustard, oil seed
rape and sugar beet which pheasants just love to run around in.
At the end of the day invitations would then traditionally be given to the selected and chosen few and
always followed the same style. ” Ah, Tony, we are having a walk round at my place on Monday,
perhaps you and the nice dog would like to come?”…….and so the sequence of the November shoots
The “nice dog” gets yet another invitation
I have to go as well as I’m the handler
All these farmers were very pro RAF and indeed many of them had served during the War and some
of their stories were fascinating to say the least. Fred Panton who was just a lad during the conflict
had a small family farm of 9 acres and about 50 chicken when the war came to an end. With everything
rationed Fred was out every night snaring rabbits catching about 200 a night and then selling them
locally for what would be the equivalent of $8.00 each. Very soon this spare cash was invested and by
the time I was shooting with him he was farming 700+ acres and sending over 3,000,000 birds to
market. Fred also bought a local dissused airfield and renovated the hangar and Air Traffic Control
tower even putting in manequins in full wartime uniform. His final acquisition was to buy the
Lancaster gate guardian from RAF Scampton as he didn’t want to see anyone buying it and getting her
airworthy and competing against the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Fred Panton in the white boots at his East Kirkby airfield
The refurbished wartime ops room with manequins in RAF uniforms
Fred, I see is still alive and well and his airfield of East Kirkby is now almost fully operational and the
old Lanc has been restored to just short of “airworthy”. I can only imagine that most of the other
farmers in the November syndicate have now all passed as the last time I shot with them must be
over 20 years ago and a lot of them would have been in their 90’s by now.
The Lancaster takes pride of place in the rebuilt hangar
Fred with “Just Jane” ….. such a shame there is NO money in farming!
Now being on this side of the Pond November also heralds the 4 day biggest holiday of the year,
namely, Thanksgiving, so very soon all the TV channels will be instructing us on how to make the
Green Bean casserole. Immediately after Thanksgiving it will be the switch to Christmas decorations
and once more we will be after the covetted 1st prize awarded by the town.
…… and then its Brenda’s Birthday so I’d better remember that one or else !!