During the 2nd World War

When war was declared on Sunday, 3 September 1939 and brought things pretty much to a grinding halt so far as golf was concerned. Any plans had to be shelved. H A (Bill) Strange, the Club Captain had at least been able to enjoy the most important part of his year but Percy Batty, his Vice Captain, was left with little to look forward to.

The board met on 11 September to discuss the possibility of closing 9 holes for the dura­tion of the war in order to economise on labour and other costs. They realised that, as in 1914, they would very shortly lose members and staff to serve in the Forces and that petrol and many other supplies would be rationed.

One can imagine how difficult it must have been for them even to contemplate closing some of the holes particularly after the 4 years of effort that had just gone into developing them. Understandably they tried to postpone a decision and called a further meeting for the following week when Clarence Woodhouse, the Secretary, was able to provide them with a financial forecast that the club was likely to end the year with a credit balance. Perhaps clutching at this straw, the majority continued to baulk at the idea of closing part of the course and the Chairman's proposal did not even have a seconder. There also seems to have been the vain hope that income could be generated from the many members of HM Forces stationed around the Newark area. Letters were duly despatched to the various C.O.s offering very attractive rates for block membership (e.g. £3 per month entitled up to 10 officers to play without green fees).

Service personnel were then probably much too preoccupied with more serious concerns to think about golf. Little seems to have come of this initiative. By December 1939 the board realised they had no option but to close part of the course and decided on the front nine. They let the land for grazing to Captain Platt, of Barnby Manor, at a rent of £30 per year as from 1 January 1940. Part of the agreement was that he would erect the necessary fencing and that the club could regain possession of the land whenever it wished without formal notice.

A letter was sent to members informing them of the decision and the reasons for it. Not unexpectedly, a number of them replied saying they would resign if the subscription was not reduced. The board agreed to a substantial reduction but even so a total of 31 resigned at the end of the 1939/40 season. Many, of course, would have resigned for reasons other than the closure of the 9 holes, but it must have been a big blow to lose upwards of one sixth of the membership at one go. Members serving in the Forces were made honorary members for the duration of the War.

In January 1940, the Secretary wrote to Mrs Drabble, the Secretary of the Ladies Section, enquiring why the ladies had not held their Annual Meeting. She replied that the LGU had decided that no handicapping or competitions would take place during the War and that hand­icaps would therefore remain as at the commencement of the War. Mrs Drabble ended her let­ter by tendering her resignation as the Ladies Secretary.

The board nevertheless decided that the men's club competitions and Medals would go ahead as planned for 1940 but that no official club matches would be played. However, by early July 1940, it was decided that the competitions would be discontinued for the rest of the season because of lack of support. The Captain's Prize for 1940 was not played until 10 August the following year. Poor Mr Batty! He certainly had a Captain's Year to forget. J H Knight, the Captain in 1941, fared better. His Captain's Prize was played for on 7 September 1941.

Members who lived during those years will know how difficult life was in wartime Britain. In 1940, there was, of course, the very real threat of a German invasion. Everything took sec­ond place to the needs of the War effort and the country's defence. Where there were not actu­al air raids there was always the threat of them. On 7 May 1941, 36 people lost their lives and 100 or so were wounded when Ransome & Marie's factory in Newark was bombed. The fac­tory was at the time making bearings for use in the Spitfire's Merlin engine.

There were gas masks. There were the Black Out curtains in houses, shops, factories and yes, golf clubs. They had to be drawn so that no light was visible from outside. The top half of car headlights and rear lights had to be masked; the same for bicycles and even torches. Following a Government recommendation, the club put posts at intervals on fairways where an aircraft might attempt to land.

There was strict and severe rationing rationing of food, alcohol, sweets and chocolate, clothing, footwear, petrol - nearly everything. It was very difficult to find golf balls to buy and members at Newark were asked to leave any spare clubs they had with the Stewardess for the use of visitors.

The Government had power to requisition anything considered necessary for the war effort. Some golf clubs had their clubhouse requisitioned, others their course for military training or for defence purposes (particularly those along the coast). Others, like Newark, lost part of their course to agriculture and some lost the whole course. The old 9-hole Southwell course suffered this fate and the club was not revived after the War. The Newark directors may have hoped that by making an early decision to let half the course for grazing they might preempt a Government directive to put it to some other agricultural use. They would then, in due course, have been able to recover the land largely undisturbed. If they hoped this they were disappointed, because in January 1943, the War Agricultural Committee served notice on them to plough up the 70 acres consisting of the first nine holes for food production. One of the many wartime slogans was 'DIG FOR VICTORY'. Major Platt (promoted since the start of the War!) agreed to farm the land at a rent of 12/6d an acre and to carry out the necessary cultivations. The board gave notice that when the War was over they intended to seek com­pensation from the Government for the cost of reinstating the course, and they instructed B G Selby & Sons to make a record of the condition of the 70 acres as at January 1943.

As each year of the War passed the prospect of victory grew more likely but for the club things just seemed to get more and more difficult. The engine to provide electricity broke down so it was decided to make do with candles. Heating in the clubhouse was only turned on at weekends. Seventeen more members resigned in March 1942 and the one remaining greenkeeper appears to have left then.

The board's report for the year ending 31 March 1943 includes the following appeal: "The directors make a most earnest appeal to the members to continue their Membership because if many more should resign the club would have to close down. If the course were allowed to run wild the cost of putting it in order after the war might be prohibitive in which case the golf club would be unable to re-open. Therefore, it is essential for every member to realise the necessity of keeping the club going in its present restricted form until happier days return."

A working party was formed consisting of members of the Green Committee and a few co-opted members to help look after the course. They did their best but obviously struggled to cope. Things got to the stage where Mrs Palfreyman who lived in one of the cottages was offered I/- (5p) per hour to cut the greens and if her husband helped her he was to be paid l/3d. Life in the clubhouse was little better. Miss Robb, the Stewardess, was instructed to put on sale half a bottle of gin and half a bottle of whiskey PER WEEK, only members to be served and only one short drink per member per week.

Yet throughout all the war years, the board continued to meet fairly regularly. The Annual General Meetings were always held at the appropriate time and directors were elected and committees formed. Attendance at the AGMs averaged only about 15, including the directors. Members always seemed to respond generously to appeals for help and this ensured the club's survival. In 1943, for example, a letter was sent to debenture holders asking them if they would be prepared to surrender all or part of their holding to strengthen the club's financial position. A total of £725 was surrendered - a magnificent response!

The board justified this latest appeal as follows: "The directors would not have sought relief from the obligations of the company but for the War which must necessarily defer the possi­bility of repayment. They are impelled by their desire that the younger generation now in the Forces shall have their golf in Newark after the War."

Two stories from the War Years: one light, the other tragic! The first involved Harold Mumby and his two playing companions. They had just teed off at the start of their game when they were approached by a lady golfer. She asked if she could join them as they were only a three ball. They readily agreed and when she prepared to tee off from the men's tee, they obviously pointed out the ladies tee just in front. She replied "No, this is fine" and proceeded to hit her ball a long way past the men's drives. She then introduced herself. She was Jean Donald, the top Scottish amateur golfer. She was then serving at a nearby RAF station. After the War, she won the Scottish Ladies Championship three times and was picked three times for the Curtis Cup team. She died in 1961 at her club, Gullane, aged just 66.

The tragic incident from the War occurred just months before the end of the conflict when a four-engined RAF Stirling Bomber crashed on to the course, killing a number of the crew. It happened on 14 January 1945 . The bomber, from nearby RAF Wigsley, was on a night fly­ing exercise when it flew into the ground, apparently while descending in low cloud and poor visibility.

An account of the disaster was given to us in 1995 by a local resident, Ike Pollard, then 82 -years-old. He could recall the tragedy very clearly. "A friend and myself were returning from nearby Beckingham and making our way home to Barnby-in-the-Willows, the road passing the back of the golf course. It was sometime after llpm when we heard the crash, not a quar­ter of a mile in front of us. When we turned down Barnby Lane, we came across the crashed bomber lying on the course just off the road."

Ike's account is confirmed by RAF records. The bomber crashed at approximately 11.30pm that night, and an RAF Medical Officer and an ambulance were called from nearby RAF Winthorpe. The pilot and rear gunner were found to have suffered extensive injuries and were taken to Winthorpe. Sadly five other members of the crew were found to be dead.

The site of the crash was just behind the present third green and towards the back of the men's medal tee at the fourth. Members may notice that the trees are only about 50-years-old at this spot.