VE Day at Fox’s – A Maritime Memoir

We thought we would share with you a story that one of our Trustees, Bob Fox recalled of VE Day at Fox’s Halifax Yacht Works when he was a boy. The boatyard was located along Wherstead Road in Ipswich, today it is occupied by Orwell’s Furniture.

“Across Wherstead Road from the Works was Halifax Drive, or as we called it then Rowes Drive. At The rear of 482 Wherstead Road was Rowes or Halifax Dairy. No milking, really a bottling operation, going up the Drive it was the first brick building on the left. The Drive was un-adopted, an unmade up track leading up to Maidenhall Farm, there was a white painted picket fence to the left and right of the entrance & father remembered gates that were closed from time to time. This I presume was to prevent the establishment of rights of way. The Lime trees that lined the Drive were quite small. I recall the R.A.F. Balloon Detachment on Churchman’s sports field just up Halifax Drive & a lorry load of Hydrogen cylinders. Later a Rocket Unit or as they were called ‘Chicago Pianos’, was set up to protect M.S. Bonnington Court, that was aground on Hearth point, (just down river from the end of Cliff Quay and opposite Ostrich Creek). The M.S. Bonnington Court was sunk off Orfordness after being attacked by Luftwaffe aircraft.

As well as a boatyard Foxs had Petrol pumps and was one of a handful of garages open in Ipswich. Mother was the attendant, and a popular lady with farmer customers, and we saw rabbits & eggs a plenty!!! I especially recall the massive manhole covers over the tank fillers (they later made excellent mooring sinkers!). Oh yes! And if we were invaded, the Panzers refuelled at captured filling stations. That lesson had been learned and we had a stock of cement filled tubes & lead wool was on hand to choke off storage tanks. But I digress!

The petrol pumps outside Fox’s (check out the enclosed motorcycle sidecar next to the pumps, a very rare sight today)

Peace needed some celebration and late afternoon Father decided to light a bonfire in the middle of the road, in front of the drive and adjacent to the Fox Petrol Pumps. Things soon livened up, apart from boatyard off cuts, blackouts were torn down by neighbours (sacrificial offerings?) & the opportunity to get rid of accumulated rubbish. Wartime Boatyard production, with staff numbers approaching 40, meant storage space was at a premium and an overflow of seasoning planks we stacked on the left-hand side of the Drive. Quite a lot of that was “tidied up” too! Having decorated the Garage forecourt with purloined code flags, Father went back to the naval craft under repairs and bought out the Distress Flares & rockets. Some were lashed to the white picket fence. The following morning a quite deep, wide hole was burnt in the Tarmac (there were many all over Town apparently) and the insulation was burnt off the overhead electric supply!! Later council workmen came and repaired the road and the tower wagon utilised for electric cable replacement. Apparently, the Borough engineer charged it to Enemy Action!

Not long after the tower wagon, a telescopic affair replaced the streetlights. The bulbs were as big as footballs!

When one is 8 years old memories are Sharp.”

Bob Fox

We hope you enjoyed Bob’s stories and anecdotes. Do you have or know anyone with stories like Bob’s to tell that relate to Ipswich’s local maritime history. We are very excited to be launching a new project this summer to save and secure the multitude of stories of Maritime Ipswich like these. Which now more than ever need capturing in a variety of formats. Be it experiences working on the Wet Dock, Cliff Quay, or sailing down the Orwell. So please keep your eyes peeled for the project launch. Why not also join in on social media to and share with us your #MyMaritimeMemoir.

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