Jack Arnold. Parish Sketches

Interviewed by Michael Pavitt

Jack is a good old ‘Gamgy lad’ born and bred in the village. He was born in a house in Peartree Row in Church Street.
His early years were spent in the village before it had electricity, water or a sewage system. He went to school at Gamlingay Mixed School (now the First School) until he was fourteen after which he went on to Cambridge College of Arts &Technology (now Anglia Polytechnic) where he studied building and allied trades.

He became a junior trainee quantity surveyor at an architects office in Cambridge. In 1939 he tried to join the Royal Engineers but his job was considered to be a reserved occupation and he was not allowed to join. However, by 1941 the rules had been changed and Jack entered the Royal Artillery Survey Regiment where he could use his survey skills and was based at Salisbury Plain. (For those who might be wondering why the Royal Artillery would need a surveyor, Jack explained that surveying techniques were used to provide co-ordinates of targets for the artillery and also to pinpoint the source of enemy fire by using information calculated from the sound of the gunfire and the flash of the explosion.)

Early in 1942 Jack was drafted to the Middle East to join the survey regiment which had been decimated at Tobruk. Those who have not been in war can only guess what it must have been like to be shipped in as potentially more ‘cannon fodder’. Jack served at Alamein, through all the Middle East conflict and in Libya, under Field Marshal Montgomery.

At the end of 1943 Jack returned to England to help prepare for the Normandy landing. This took place in June 1944 and he was among the early  landing parties. He was in the advance across France to Germany and was in Germany at the end of the war. Demobilisation came in 1946 and Jack went back into the architectural profession in Cambridge. In 1948 he joined Cambridge County Council in the Department of Architecture where he stayed for 33yrs. He was made redundant in 1981 when he decided to take early retirement.

However, the village had been benefitting from Jack’s voluntary work ever since he came out of the army. For a start he was involved with the design and building of the present Fire Station which replaced the temporary building in Stocks Lane where the Fire Brigade had moved to from a shed in Mill Street. He joined the village football club committee and became treasurer. He also joined the local branch of the British Legion and at various times was secretary, treasurer and organized the local Poppy Day collection for many years.

From membership of the football club committee Jack moved on to the playing fields management committee where he became secretary. As a member of this committee he was involved in the provision of the playing fields in about 1948. This was followed by the design of the facilities in the recreation area generally; the bowls green, the tennis courts and the installation of swings, the roundabout and the see-saw in the butts area. He was also involved in the upgrading of the play area with new equipment which is there now. Originally, the playing field had an ex-RAF prefabricated building which had been erected with voluntary labour and provided with power and water for changing rooms. Jack was involved in fund raising for a permanent building. The village Gala Day was first organized to raise funds for this building.  The committee managed to gain a grant from the Department of Education & Science, part of the proceeds from the sale of the old Conservative clubhouse site in Waresley Road, and a local benefactor made a loan. The new building was erected and is now the Community Centre. Jack is still secretary of the Community Centre committee which looks after the facilities at the Community Centre.

We haven’t finished yet! After the war Jack was working on the fringes of the Parish Council and when councillor John Robinson died Jack was co-opted onto the Council where he has served for about 20yrs. He is the member with the longest period of active membership. He is on the Traffic Group,  Cemetery and Recreation  committees. He was chairman of the planning committee for a number of years and chairman of the Parish Council for 4yrs.

Just on the side (!) Jack has audited the Parish Church accounts for the last 12yrs. and has also audited the Gazette accounts.

Which brings us full circle in the tale of a remarkably active villager who continues to be concerned with all aspects of life in the village and in particular the prospect of over development and the continuing loss of shops, bank and other important facilities.

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