Chronicles: Charles Frank Guy – a WW1 soldier returns

This week we carry forward the story of Charles Frank Guy when he returned to Ventnor after imperial war service (see Charles Frank Guy – A Soldier on Imperial Service). Returning from India, Charles was given 54 days embarkation leave and started to look for work. Seeing an advert for the British School of Motoring, he paid the fee for one week’s tuition. There were fifty in the class and the group had a single hour-long lecture each day and one and a half hours of driving practice. They learnt about practical engineering and were permitted to watch in the workshops.

Back in Ventnor, Charles got a job driving for the Hermitage, the nursing home at Whitwell. He drove a model T Ford car, often called a ‘Tin Lizzie’. His task was to convey patients to and from the two stations at Ventnor and the station at Whitwell. His employer was a doctor and he was also required to go to Ventnor and pick up parcels and groceries. One of the shops he visited was Framptons, the fishmongers. Shortly, they were taken over by Macfisheries, a progressive London firm who sent one of their cashiers down to work in the shop. This was how Charles met his wife. At first, the couple lived in the Hermitage, but subsequently they moved to Lower Gills Cliff when Charles began work driving for Tarmacadam at their business nearby.

By the 1930s, Charles had changed jobs again and was driving coaches (or charabancs – though he actually called them ‘charabangs’) for Crinages. He recalled the hoods on the charabancs which passengers had to assist in erecting if it began to rain. At the end of the coach season in late September, all the drivers had a dinner in Booth’s Café close by on Church Street. He also did some teaching in a driving school after a driving test was introduced. He also spent time as a chauffeur in private service, enjoying the use of a big Daimler and also a Talbot. He was asked to chauffeur the exiled Emperor of Abyssinia, Haile Selassie, when he stayed in Ventnor in the later 1930s.  Before 1930, there was a universal speed limit of 20 mph for motor vehicles. Two policemen would monitor this by one standing at the start measuring point and dropping a handkerchief to alert his colleague at the end measuring point who had hold of the stopwatch.

During World War II Charles served in the Home Guard in Ventnor and he vividly recalled the air raids on the town. The family lived at 24, North Street at the time and, after one attack, they discovered the house front door upright and fixed at the top of the staircase rather than in its proper position at the front house entrance on the ground floor.

Charles and his wife lived to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary on 3rd June 1972. He died aged 95 at the end of July 1991.

Michael Freeman, Ventnor & District Local History Society.  The picture is from our collection and is dated the later 1930s and shows Fred Nobbs outside Crinage’s in Church Street, now the location of the motorcycle shop.  This article was first published in the South Wight Chronicle in 2016.