Edwards' Coaches of Bishop's Itchington: The Second World War and Beyond

The life and times of James Edwards

Edwards' Coaches Maudslay WD5529 outside village shop, Bishop's Itchington c 1936.
Image courtesy of Harbury Heritage

(Continued from part four)

In 1939 came the second world war. Jimmy was very busy taking workers to AP (Lockeed), Flavel’s, Tachbrook Aero, Ford’s and other factories. One day, two gunners came from an anti tank battery R.A. and took away his biggest bus. He was paid for it but you could not say you wanted to keep it. That was called commandeering for the war effort and was the same as his dad’s hay in the first world war.

He had an old Austin 12 car he had paid £100 for. During the war he was offered £500 for it, but could not sell as he needed it to ferry drivers about when the buses had to go to be repaired. He used to take the buses to Loughborough in Leicestershire to be mended, and have new engines put in. The government said he must not take them that far because of wasted petrol, but Jimmy said he if he took them to Leamington they would be off the road for a week; at Loughborough they did them in a day and he fetched them back the same day or the next day.

The Home Guard

The mechanics were working all day and in the Home Guard at night and weekends. The boss was killed when a mortar exploded; he was an officer in the Home Guard. Three of Jimmy’s drivers were in the Home Guard. One of his drivers, Bill Cox, was Jimmy’s nephew (he died recently aged 70).

When the war came he said ‘What shall I do Uncle Jim?’ Jim said ‘Join up and you’ll get a good driving job’. He joined the RASC and became a sergeant driver (Royal Corps Transport now) in Egypt. Then they were sent into Greece. Bill was captured by ELAS rebels and was missing for three years, believed killed. Jimmy was worried because he had advised him to volunteer for the army, but after being a prisoner and marched bootless over mountains, beaten and starved, he came back to Bishop’s Itchington and lived to be 70.

Jimmy’s son Tom got his dad interested in fishing after he retired and he enjoyed that, though his health was getting bad. Jimmy got ill with his chest, through the gassing and hard work (and heavy smoking). He sold his business to the Midland Red in 1944. He sold his buses to a small firm but kept the grocery shop going. Betty and Mrs Edwards ran the shop.

Died on the last day of 1952

Jimmy got worse in 1950 and later on had to go into hospital in 1952. He went downhill very quickly and died on the last day of 1952. The bell ringers were ringing the New Year in at Bishop’s Itchington, but stopped for a couple of hours when they heard that Jimmy Edwards had died.

Mrs Mabel Edwards lived to be 86. She died in October 1981. She served in the shop until she was nearly 85, and loved to go into the shop and put her overall on. She served petrol until decimal coinage came in! The shop is still going with young Tom in charge (54). And petrol and the garage when he gets a new mechanic! Betty is head tea maker (59)!

And that is the story of Jimmy Edwards, except a lot of things I could have put in about birds nesting, catapulting, fishing, swimming in the brook, laying in the stinging nettles to ‘die’ when he was about six… perhaps I’ll write another chapter later on…

Originally written 02.05.1983. Digitised by Haidee Powell – October 2009

Harbury Heritage reference HM1304

More from World War Two