Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) - Recollections by Grisell Pasteur

Grisell Pasteur lived in Fairseat from 1934 until her death in 1995. During WW2 her husband Hugh was the Home Defence organiser for the area.

After the retreat from Dunkirk, the Government realised that the war would be long and bloody and that our Army would need great expansion. The big estate belonging to the late Sir Philip Waterlow at Trosley Towers (about 360 acres) had recently been sold to a businessman, Mr Shamoon, who had spent 3-4 year years debating what use he could make of the land (he had already demolished the house, Trosley Towers) The Government requisitioned the land and set about building an OCTU (Officer Cadet Training Unit) as rapidly as possible, mostly in thick woodland, which made up the greater part of the estate. Concrete bases and Nissen huts sprouted like mushrooms, water and electricity were laid on, but for the first lot of cadets, there was very little comfort. Dripping trees surrounded them, roads were almost non-existent and washing arrangements were very primitive. Some of the cadets came to our little church in Fairseat and were grateful to be asked to our homes for a bath and supper. Later, chaplain Revd. Nichols was appointed, who sometimes took the service. Gradually the camp grew to about 15.000 men with a meeting hall, a parade ground, and concrete roads. The camps were named alphabetically A to E with different regiments in each. In due course Toc H centres were opened, one of which was in the house next to Fairseat House (now known as Court House). There a retired Army Officer, Colonel Greenfield and his wife (Note 1), made the cadets welcome and provided sandwiches, cake, tea and coffee and a general refuge from the rigours of camp life. Many residents of Fairseat and nearby villages came as volunteers to serve the food, wash up and chat with everyone. Part of the cadets’ training was to learn to ride a motorcycle, so a steady stream of learners began to drive through the village. Later a big parade ground provided a more suitable place, and we saw them no more. The slopes of the North Downs – a favourite place for walks – was out of bounds to civilians, but the Army spent many agonising hours running up the steep slopes, carrying full equipment. After the War, the camp was gradually dispensed with and squatters moved into some of the Nissen huts and created dreadful housing problems, but that is another story, which happily ended after much controversy in the building of Vigo Village and the creation of Trosley Country Park in the 1960s.

Note 1: Lt Colonel Herbert and Dorothy Greenfield owned Court House from 1939 to 1944 when it was used by Toc H. Herbert Greenfield was a friend of Tubby Clayton who as an army chaplain in Flanders in 1915 with another chaplain Rev. Neville Talbot opened Talbot House a rest house for soldiers at Poperinge, Belgium. It became known as Toc H.

Author: Grisell Pasteur
Editors: Dick Hogbin, Tony Piper
Acknowledgements: n/a
Last Updated: 01 September 2021