The other day a friend contacted me. She wanted to know the timing of a television programme on D-Day. “You see”, said she, “I was there!”

So I scurried along to see her, take a cup of tea, and a G & T, and admire her birthday cards. She was just a week over her 99th birthday.

Well, not quite at D-Day, but as near as.

Marjorie Inglis was born in Bognor Regis in May 1925. The family moved to Worthing where she eventually went to high school with her two sisters. When her father was promoted to work in London the family moved to Croydon when Marjorie was about 12 years old. Like children today she was told off for spending too much time on the telephone. This was the candlestick-type telephone, which sat erect on the hall table. All she was able to do was “chat” to the speaking clock, not have long conversations with friends. She went to school at The Old Palace School, a Grade I Listed building once the summer residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Then came the war: when the air raid warning sirens sounded the girls were shepherded into the old part of the Old Palace for shelter. She watched dog fights over Croydon, and saw a parachutist being shot at as he left his plane. With the war came excitement: lots of people, lots of men in uniform and she joined the cadets and so, at 17 years of age, she joined the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army.

After registration at barracks in Guildford she was sent to Wrexham. There she was fitted out with her uniform; one size fits all, except it did not.

They were taught to march and to drive. She passed her diving test on an ambulance and was soon driving 3-ton lorries as well as cars. Moved to the west country, Plymouth and Truro, she became a staff driver, taking officers on inspection of various units. She recalls driving in Truro with the roads narrowed to a single line due to the lorries and tanks on the route.

Her father was concerned for the young girl so far from home and she was transferred to Chatham, a very dangerous place where the vital dockyards were an obvious target for enemy bombers. She recalled the time a landmine blew in the window of the room she shared with other girls who had to rescue her from beneath the debris.

In Chatham she was driver to Major Figgis who was in charge of the Chatham barracks. She drove a Humber Super Snipe which she had to clean, fuel, and maintain, and drive in all weathers. on half lights after dark when full beams could have alerted the enemy. She drove the Major to inspect various sites around the area including Leeds Castle where troops were stationed.

In Chatham she watched hundreds of US troops assemble in preparation for what was to become D-Day although she was back home in Croydon on the actual day. Croydon was also heavily bombed.

Marjorie remembered being on a crowded train, all trains were crowded in those days. It had stopped as the driver had noticed a Doodlebug, a VI Flying Bomb. The horrified passengers watched the VI hit buildings and what Marjorie remembered was the amount of debris that shot into the sky and returned to earth in what seemed to be slow motion.

VIs were aimed at London and the RAF tried to down as many as they could before they reached their target. It was noted that pilots could be caught in the blast resulting from shooting them down and so the approach to the Doodlebug had to be carefully planned. Roland Beamont, who became a test pilot after the war, found he could fly his Tempest close to the unmanned bomb and manoeuvre his wing tip under that of the bomb and flip the thing, sending it off course. They were particularly nasty things as being pilotless it was difficult to plot their intended course. I have written previously about the one I witnessed over Horsell which, luckily, was caught in a thermal and was taken many miles from the village before it exploded.

Marjorie had met a young Peter Inglis who was in the Navy. While he was serving as a Petty Officer at Scapa Flow he managed to get ashore and buy a ring which he sent by registered post, and they were engaged.

They were married from 1945 until his death in 2000 and had five children, all of whom turned up to celebrate her 99th birthday last month.


I have just received a package containing details of the 22nd Horsell Garden Safari for this year. There will be 23 gardens open over the weekend of June 15 and 16: some open on both days and some on just the Saturday or Sunday, which works out at 14 or 15 to check out each day.

I have said I would open my garden on both days. The description of my garden in the schedule reads; “1930s style with sunken gardens, crazy paving, scalloped edged beds and WWII air raid shelter – WWII memorabilia will be on display”. If my grandmother came back to visit she would recognise her garden straightaway.

But the air raid shelter is flooded. It was always damp and even during the war we had duckboards down there. Now the water level is over my wellington boots . My quandary is whether to pump it dry, so people can clearly see where we slept during the war, or leave it as a reservoir of several hundred gallons of clear water – ground water seeped through the concrete, or leave it in case of a drought.

I think I must pump out the entrance so people can look inside without going in with boots or bare feet. I could arrange the pump to send the water down a waterfall from the top of the shelter, down the side, and into the pond. That would look good. But then the pond would overflow.

To add to my worries , I have just come across a copy of The Garden, the magazine of the RHS. It is dated June last year. All the gardens shown in it look wonderful. So that is what a June garden should look like. Oh well, mine was always going to be different. Now No Mow May is over we may mow, but can we? We may now require a scythe.

Perhaps I'll find comfortable seat, a glass of something alcoholic, and tell myself its only gardening, and that I can tell the visitors that my patch is undergoing a “partial re-wilding”. That should turn away some of the criticism!

The schedules cost £8 per person and children under 14 free. At some gardens there will be plants and refreshments for sale, so bring your purse. The proceeds go to local charities and it is interesting to note that if you visit gardens on the National Gardens Scheme list it will cost you £4 per garden, so this Safari is a bargain. I hope to see you walk up my garden path.

For further information call 07910 802122 or 01483 764521.


 A hornet's nest, that is. It will only make trouble, a saying that goes back to the early 1700s, if my researches are correct. You could stir an ants' nest but although it could cause trouble for you an ant's sting is not as bad as that of a hornet. Generally speaking.

Recently I wrote about the apparent lack of maybugs during May, and the fact that we had a handful of hornets visit. And I was worried there could be a hornets' nest and the problems we could have if it was disturbed.

Evidently many people are experiencing visits from Asian hornets, which is a nuisance. It is slightly smaller, and darker, than the European cousin

I have read that in 2023 a total of 72 Asian hornet nests were destroyed in the UK, with the majority of them found in Kent. That is a lot of hornets, for since 2016 only 85 nests had been discovered. This year they have been found in East Sussex, Kent, and one in east London. And that's just down the road, so keep your eyes peeled. The Asian hornet is invasive and can destroy our native bee hives and populations. The British Beekeepers Association reckoned a “conservative estimation of British bee losses would be about 30% but could be much worse”. The bees suffer from FOGO, fear of going out, with the Asian hornets making their presence known outside the bee hives. If the bees don’t go out to forage then the queen and the colony will not thrive as it should and thus could have problems surviving the winter.

So Defra's Animal and Plant Health Agency want to discover if any of last year’s Asian hornets managed to overwinter in this country. There is an app which may be downloaded: Asian Hornet Watch which is available on I-phone and Android. The Asians are not harmful to people. We checked on our visitors and were relieved to learn they were the European version.

We had a charming, and informative, reply to our query. How good to be able to report good customer service:

“Thank you so much for your report.  We receive lots of reports of native species that look like Asian hornets and I am pleased to say that the photograph you have sent is a native species – the European Hornet, Vespa crabro.

European Hornet activity tends to be most noticed in the spring, when queens start becoming active after overwintering and start searching for suitable nesting sites, and then again in late summer when colonies start to disperse searching for food etc. At this time of year they are often seen during the night as well as the day as they are attracted to light in moderate numbers.”

More information on this fantastic native insect is available here: http://hymettus.org.uk/downloads/Info_sheets_2010/08_Vespa_crabro_1col_infosheet.pdf

It is, indeed, a useful information sheet. We noted that the insects are attracted to light and so will go back to our maybug routine of no bedroom lights on with windows open.