Katharine May Colhoun (nee Copas)

Author: Sandra Copas
Date published: 22/04/2017
© Sandra Copas

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©Sandra Copas

Katherine May Colhoun Nee Copas

Born April 29th., 1923 Newbury, Berkshire.

Youngest of family of 3 children -

Robert James (Bob) born 8th. November, 1918 and
Cynthia Mary, born 23rd. July, 1921.

Father, Francis Victor (Frank) Copas born 1887, Newbury, the second son of Albert Copas and Caroline, nee Hibbert.

Mother, Daisy Annie Hartridge born 1886, Bromley, Kent, the only daughter of Raymond Hartridge and Eliza, nee Fairman. Tragically, her mother died when she was only 2-and-a-half years old.

My parents married at Aston Tirrold, Oxfordshire, 5th. April 1915.

We lived at 78 Gloucester Road, Newbury and at 21 Rectory Close, Newbury.

Father was a Butcher; nevertheless educated well by the standards of the day: good handwriting (my mother also), good arithmetic etc. and produced 3 children all of whom won scholarships: brother and sister to local Grammar schools and myself to Christ’s Hospital, Hertford, a public school founded by the boy King Edward VI in 1553 for the children of needy parents. I boarded at CH (as it is known) between 1933-1939. There, I was taught to play the organ, sang in the choir (we had our own chapel) and gained London matriculation. This would have assured me entrance to university had I been so inclined but, by this time, World War II was imminent and my chosen path of going to France and Germany to gain fluency in the languages was no longer available to me. Instead I went on to Commercial College and then at the age of 17 started work with the Prudential Assurance Company. At that time, it was a highly efficient company with administrative costs of 1% of income and everything had to balance to 1% of 1 penny so, I was taught to be accurate and meticulous right at the beginning of my working life. In the evenings I went back to Commercial College (3 nights), but this time as a teacher of typewriting; joined Newbury Choral Society and helped (2 nights) at the local Y.M.C.A. set up to provide refreshment for British and American servicemen stationed locally.

During this period of my life I managed to escape unharmed when a German bomber off-loaded his cargo of bombs on Newbury and then toured the town at almost roof-top height machine-gunning. I was on my way to post the office letters but dived into the Town Hall for shelter and when I got back to the Pru, found bullets had smashed our plate glass windows! By 1943 it was my turn to enter the Services and this I did at the age of 19. Because of my education, I was not allowed to choose what I wanted to do but was sent back to school for almost a year to become a Wireless Mechanic (normally a 3-year course) in the WAAF. At the completion of this schooling I was posted to RAF Benson in Oxfordshire where I was the first female wireless mechanic and was on my own for 4 months until a second one arrived. Later, the opportunity arose to volunteer to go overseas so, I withdrew the application I had made by this time for a commission and in 1945 sailed to Egypt - firstly for another 4 months training as we were the first WAAF wireless mechanics to go overseas, then posted to Heliopolis where I met Stanley Colhoun who was already in the Wireless Section.

During this time my brother became a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm, making overseas tours to the West Indies, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Malta.

My sister also volunteered for overseas duty and was sent first to Italy (Caserta Palace) and then to Egypt about 5 miles from me. She was a WAAF Sergeant in charge of the Orderly Room and was awarded the Oak Leaves decoration for devotion to duty during her 3-year stint at Ballykelly (Northern Ireland).

Stanley and I were married in August 1946 in St Michael’s and All Angels English Church at Heliopolis, with my sister, Cynthia, there as my bridesmaid.

The end of the war had come in August 1945 and demobbing was proceeding. I was not due out for at least another year but because of our marriage I was released with Stanley in November, 1946.

During the time abroad I was able to see some of the sights such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids and I also had a long leave which took in Jerusalem (and many of the places mentioned in the Bible), the island of Cyprus and Beirut in the Lebanon. I also took over the duties of organist in the English Church at Helwan. (This was the general area where diplomatic staff lived in peace time - hence the English Church). I had an amusing experience there one Sunday - during the feast of Ramadan, which lasts a month, the Moslems are not permitted to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset: we were half-way through an evening service when the cannon was fired to proclaim that sunset had arrived, without much more ado, my native “blower” deserted his post and there we were half-way through a hymn and no more music!

After being demobbed Stanley and I lived in Newbury whilst waiting for his place at Teacher Training College. Eventually, this came about and we went to Norfolk - Stanley to Wymondham (pronounced Windum) College and I to Norwich where I first entered Local Government with Norfolk Education Committee. When he qualified as a Teacher, his first appointment was at Ramsgate (Kent) Grammar School and I went to work as a medical stenographer at Ramsgate Hospital. We lived in a small flat in the Regency Hotel - in a crescent of 21 houses - and one day had the privilege of being present when Princess Margaret made a visit. [The rent for this flat took 50% of our income]. In 1950 we returned to Newbury and I re-entered Local Government as a secretary in the Clerk’s Department and a year later I was made a Committee Clerk and from then on I attended all meetings and recorded all minutes. As time went on, I was given responsibility for carrying out much of the administrative work arising from the meetings of the Water & Sewerage Committee; Public Health; Finance and General Purposes Committees; and 100% of the Housing administrative work - from buying land, instructing the architect, getting Planning permission, letting Contracts and finally, installing the tenants. At the same time, “we” also looked after Births, Marriages and Deaths and later I became a Superintendant Registrar (and so did Cynthia), so that both of us actually “married“ many couples, or, to be more accurate where civil marriages are concerned, witnessed the exchange of marriage vows of many couples. In the 1950s and 60s, I was a member of Kingsclere Choral Society and an accompanist for Lansing and Bagnell’s Glee Club.

In 1974, I retired and we moved to Cornwall and in 1977 I became Organist and Choirmistress at St Mawgan-in-Pydar Church. I also sang with Newquay Choral Society; Cornwall Orpheus Choir and Cantate Domino Choir. In 1979, I started doing voluntary work in the office at the vets in Newquay and this sometimes stretched to assisting at emergency operations or, sitting with our patients overnight!!

I do not feel my life has been particularly notable - mostly just a lot of hard work, but this is no doubt influenced by the fact that Christ’s Hospital has produced some famous people in whose footsteps I could never hope to follow - some who come to mind are Charles Lamb 1775-1834: writer; Sir Barnes Wallis 1887-1979: inventor of the Bouncing Bomb (World War II); Olive Stephen (nee Voysey-Martin), one of the 4 members of the “Ask Me Another” quiz team in the 1950s and she was my “school mother” i.e. she was responsible for looking after me as a new girl at C.H.


Some places of residence
1951-62 1B Swan Street, Kingsclere (Council staff house)
1962-63 Foxes Lane, Kingsclere (where Stanley “created” Kingsclere Poultry Company and I helped to design the house built there)
1963-65 Hartley Witney and Mattingley (Stanley creating another chicken farm)
1965-73 “High Noon”, Newtown Road, Newbury (Stanley back in teaching and later Deputy Head)
1973-78 “Rosanneth”, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
1979-88 16 Church Street, St Columb Minor, Cornwall
1988-2010 6 Carloggas Farm Cottages, St Mawgan, Cornwall
2010-2011 1 The Maltings, Kennet Road, Newbury

Some of our pets
1951-63 Bruno, a labrador-cross, from the age of 3-weeks
1963-64 no animal “owned” but, adopted by neighbour’s cat and wild birds
1964-77 Jasper, Jasmin and Julie - my 3 black labradors
1974 Chloe “adopted” us and became a 24-hour resident in 1985
1977-87 Tess, “rescued” at 2-years-old: half labrador, half German Shepherd
1979 Lucy, black labrador, started “boarding” with us and became permanent in January, 1987
1987 Pippa, tri-colour beagle, at age of 5 and-a-half months, because her first owners could not cope!

Other countries visited on holiday
France, Germany, Lichtenstein, Belgium, Holland, Tunisia, Morocco, Gibraltar and Spain


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