Kathleen Hacker and Robert Winchcombe were my maternal grandparents. My grandmother was one of ten children and there was nothing I liked more than sitting with her and looking through her black and white photographs and listening to her stories. One of my favourites was how she met my grandfather and how Hitler tried to upstage their wedding.
In 1936 Robert Winchcombe was unemployed after his apprenticeship had come to an end at the Great Western Railway Works in Swindon. He earned some money playing clarinet and 1st or 2nd Alto Saxophone in local dance bands, including the Harry Smith Band, the Moderniques, St. John’s Dance Band, and the New Georgians, who played all over Wiltshire and Berkshire.
Around this time he met my grandmother at the St Barnabas Church Badminton Club. He was an altar server at St Barnabas, sang in the choir and was also a member of the Youth Group.
After his death I inherited a small black engagement book for 1937-38 where he had meticulously recorded all his musical engagements as well as dates with his future wife.
Their first official date occurred on the 17th of December 1937 where Robert has written ‘1st engagement with K.H.‘ It must have gone well as there’s a small ‘K‘ pencilled in on Christmas Day, as well as ‘Went to tea at K’s brothers‘ the day after. They see each other several times each week, play badminton together, attend concerts, go on church outings and visit relatives.
In March Robert was given a couple of weeks work back in the Great Western Railway before they gave him 2 weeks notice during the middle of May. His engagement book then records a succession of interviews – ‘24th May Gloucester for work unsuccessfully‘, ‘28th June South Cerney unsuccessful application for work‘ and ‘21st July Colbournes unsuccessfully, Baines’ ditto‘.
The engagement book ends on the 4th of September 1938. Fortunately I’m able to fill in the gaps which give the story a happy ending. Robert Winchcombe eventually got a job at the Gloster Aircraft Factory in Gloucester, presumably soon after September 1938, and he and Kathleen Hacker were able to get engaged. They were married four days after war was declared, their wedding plans hurriedly changed as the church hall was requisitioned, and started married life in Churchdown, Gloucester.
[This was an exercise for my Creative Writing course which I hope will be of interest]