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Arthur Griggs
Entertainment in Rushden
during the Second World War

& Allan Bathurst's dance band

Arthur Griggs & his drums
Arthur Griggs & his drums
My name is Arthur Griggs and I was born into a musical family in 1926. My father and uncle both played with the Temperance brass band. My father Arthur played the bass and my uncle Clary played the cornet. In the early thirties the temperance band won an All England contest at the Crystal Palace in London. My uncle also played the accordion and post horn.

When I was 7 years old I learnt to play the violin but had to give it up when I was 13½ after clashing with my father because one night I wanted to go to the pictures with my friends instead of having my violin lesson. He was very strict and took my violin away, because I wouldn't have my lesson that night. At 14, I saved up and bought myself a set of drums and started to play percussion. I joined Allan Bathurst's dance band trio in 1940 with Allan on the piano, George Bayes on the trumpet and myself on the drums. Later we formed a quartet with Arch Tompkins on Saxophone.

We played on Wednesday and Saturday nights at the St Peter's church hall in Highfeld Road, Rushden, for dancing from 8.00pm to 11.00pm, to a packed hall, which was run by Len Smith, the caretaker of the hall. There were dances at the British Legion Hall on Tuesday, Thursday, and some Fridays with different bands. We played there on occasions. Terry Wilson, who used to sing with us, used to help us move the equipment about on my Mother's wheelchair when we were in the town and Allan, who had a calliper on his leg, walked with the aid of a stick. When we played out of town we hired Lord's Taxi from Cromwell Road. One night we were coming back from Irthlingborough and came home Ditchford way but the gate keeper at the station refused to come and open the gate so we all got out of the taxi and played Bugle Call Rag under his bedroom window. He opened the window and shouted "And I'm still not going to open the gates because it's too late", so we had to turn round and go back through Higham Ferrers.

During this time the Americans came to the various camps in the area, and whenever they could get away from duties they would be present at these dances, as would our own troops, which led to some interesting situations sometimes.

We also played at the American Air Bases at Chelveston and Thurleigh. The Americans would run a large lorry with seats in the back, like a bus, from High Street South, to pick up the girls who wanted to go to the dances at the Bases, and any other entertainment that they put on. They would be picked up at 7.30pm and brought back into town at about midnight.

While all this was going on there was entertainment in the local clubs at the weekends. Jean Harbour, a Rushden lady, played the piano and sang at these clubs. The Victoria Hotel also had light entertainment. There were 3 picture houses - The Ritz, The Palace and The Theatre - which were all very popular.

We played on the same night as Glen Miller at Thurleigh, playing in between their stints to give them a rest, but he did not speak to any of us. He hardly spoke to his own bandsmen. By this time we had lost George who had been called up into the army, and Vic Riches replaced him.

We saw quite a lot of fights between the British Troops and the American Troops; it was so bad at the British Legion Hall in Fitzwilliam Street one time that the police had to be called. The American white helmeted police (Snowdrops) came and threw the Americans into lorries and took them back to the bases.

We played twice for our own troops at the Addington Prisoner of War Camp. The Italian prisoners gave us meat sandwiches. They were delicious. We found out later that they were roast hedgehog.

Allan Bathurst card
Allan Bathurst card
I was at the Theatre picture house one night when a message was flashed on the screen "Archie Griggs wanted in reception." It was the white helmets - they told me that I was wanted with the rest of the band to play at the Windmill Hall. When I got outside, Allan Bathurst was sitting in an American jeep and they took me home to get my drum kit. The Americans wanted us to play for a farewell dance for some of their troops who were moving on. They cleared the room and we played for dancing until the small hours. They gave us buckets of ice-cream (which we didn't have in those days) to take home, but as none of us had freezers the whole family was woken up to eat it. We tried to keep it cold by putting it in cold water but next day we gave the rest to neighbours. They really enjoyed it although it was nearly melted by then.

For the local dances we were paid about 12s.6d. but the Americans would pay us about £5.00. At that time I was earning about 12s.6d. a week at Walter Sargent's in Glassbrook Road. So when we played for the Americans we really thought we were in the money.

My Uncle Clary went into the Army and was in the Leicestershire Regimental Staff Band. He played solo cornet, trumpet and post horn, and they came to Rushden on Monday 24th November 1941 to play for the Serving Men's Parcels Fund at the Ritz, much to the delight of the whole family. These concerts at the Ritz had raised £3,000 for the fund since the war began.

"Music while you work" was played over the factory loud speaker for 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon.

Because Allan Bathurst was an invalid he could not be called up so he became a radio ham and decoded Morse messages, which it was said helped to find the Bismark.

I went into the Army in 1944 on my 18th birthday and was posted to India and Egypt so this was the end of my musical career in Rushden. When I was in India I was always interested and involved in entertaining the troops and sang with E.N.S.A.

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