IT was most interesting to read John Sadler’s article on the Home Guard (Issue 126) and his reference to the part Anthony Quayle played in the Auxiliary Unit in Northumberland. In June 1988, when his Compass Theatre Company was performing at the Newcastle Theatre Royal, he stayed at the Hadrian Hotel in Wall.
At the start of the week his car developed a problem and he took it to my husband’s garage in the village to be repaired. This presented him with a problem as he needed to shop for food for his dog Tiger, so I was pressed into service with my car. We had two dogs and, after a little discussion, he happily came home with me to collect some tins of dog food; then I took him to a place where he could walk Tiger before going to the theatre.
He chose Fallowfield Fell, a place he seemed to know, and as we walked he told me of his connection with Northumberland during the early war years and how he had served in the Auxiliary Unit setting up operational posts. He had chosen to stay at the Hadrian Hotel because he could look across the river to Warden Hill where he had set up one of these secret observation posts with an escape tunnel.
I was amazed — and even more so when he told me what was required of the men he recruited. Having seen both Ice Station Zebra and The Guns of Navarone and knowing his acting history, you can imagine the privilege it was for me to share such memories he had of his real-life wartime career in a county of which, he told me, he was very fond.
He was a charming and humorous man who sadly died the following year. I am left with the memory of a June summer morning standing on Fallowfield Fell, looking across the valley to Warden Hill, listening as Sir Anthony Quayle told me of his time in the Wall area. At the present time a book on the history and life of Wall and its environs is being compiled by the community, and this memory will feature in the chapter about Wall’s Second World War history.