BROAD STREET, OXFORD

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Memories of 6 Broad Street

Connie Coppock in New Zealand adds her memories of working here during the Second World War:

I worked at 6 Broad Street when I was a girl during the war. It was the Ministry of War Transport (office was on the top floor and we had buckets catching the rainwater when it poured) back then in 1943. I was 15 and started work on the switchboard (I had only recently left school).

I was promoted a bit later when a vacancy arose and also attended a special course for young civil servants in Oxford held at St  John’s College under a Professor Theodosius. Later I was also employed in completing the petrol returns to be sent to the Home Office.

My memory is not as sharp these days but I can still remember the telephone number of our Ministry office — Oxford 48641. There were seven offices — Princes Risborough, Aston Clinton, Banbury, Chipping Norton, Stony Stratford, Hemel Hempstead, and Scotts Haulage at the Oxpens in Oxford.

Our office had contacts with Bletchley Park. We were known as the Ministry of War Transport Area Office and controlled seven other offices around the region. Our boss was Mr. Robson who owned the trucking company, I think it was H.R. Robson Haulage up in London. The haulage companies had their trucks nationalised but at times when the vehicles were not required they were allowed to be used by the owners for company business (also Scott Transport in Oxpens).

When I worked there Mr Robson told me that right at the base of the old city wall out the back of the building (you could at one time see the remains of the city ditch at the base of it — not sure if you still can, but I remember it was the same in the early 90’s) was the exact spot where the Bishops were burnt at the stake, not that “tourist spot” plaque in Broad Street. But it is only speculation. I don’t know where he got that info from but I recall that it gave me the creeps when visiting the loo. There were no lights then remember! Below us in 6 Broad Street was the American Field Office and up on the next floor was a lady who always dressed in black and rode a “sit up and beg” bicycle. I often took her piles of newspapers. They were all foreign-language publications. I was never allowed to enter her office so I gather she was doing something very hush-hush. We were all sworn to secrecy. We did have a good idea when D-Day was coming as the work we did showed all the various supplies going to the coast and London docks etc. Quite a few of the drivers who came into the office were killed during the bombing in London etc.

When I was last passing through Broad Street I could still see myself sitting at that window on the left at the top of the building looking down on the street.

I remember coming out of our building and just a short distance along to the right was the Post Office in the building which is now Isola. There was only one P.O. during the war years in Broad St as far as I can recall. I was always last out of work at night and had to take the mail to the P.O. All the others had buses to catch out into the country. I guess there could, at times, have been large build-ups of mail as all letters to and from service people had see the “blue pencil” (censored) which would have caused some delays in delivery.

I also often used to take my bike into Howes cycle shop for various repairs etc in those days.

My 2x great grandfather Samuel Taylor (born Headington Quarry 1795) was a mason by trade who, according to my grandmother Mary Ann Taylor kept the Emperor’s Heads in good repair during his working life. We haven’t however got anything to substantiate this family story.

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Stephanie Jenkins

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