Zak, the 13 year old Chihuahua, announced my arrival at Fred’s house with great enthusiasm! I had met him before as it happened and you may well have seen him too. He travels with his master, Fred Mansell, perching at the front of his mobility scooter. They make quite a spectacle. A couple of elderly gents out taking some fresh air and Zak on the look-out for anyone or anything to bark greetings at!
Fred is 93. He has lived in the area for most of his life. His grandparents lived in Rose Cottage in Littleton. You will know it., or where it was…..it is where the reservoir now is, so his family was relocated to the cottages built by the side of the road to accommodate those who had lost their homes. Fred’s parents lived in Watersplash Road in Shepperton and Fred vividly remembers playing in the orchards behind the houses. In 1969 he and his wife Gladys moved with their son and daughter to Sunbury.
He is full of stories about Sunbury days. His pre-war days were spent working at General Aircraft in Feltham, before being called up. He saw service in Italy, North Africa and Burma and, nearer to home, in Scotland and the north of England. As well as his role as a signaller, he quickly found himself recruited to join the dance band. Fred didn’t just play something small and portable like a trumpet – he played double bass! So imagine when he asked his mum to send his instrument to join him where he happened to be stationed in Scotland! He says it is testimony to the care of various porters on the railways at the time that his precious instrument never got damaged in transit. Even before being called up in the early days of the war he had already played at the Remembrance Hall on Saturday nights, the site which is now home to M&S at Sunbury Cross. This was a popular Saturday night venue where couples came to dance the night away to the Lambeth Walk and the like. Later on in life Fred played on Thames pleasure boats and at a multitude of other events. Today he still plays the piano accordion, much to little Zak’s entertainment!
After the war Fred started working at Thermostat in Windmill Road where he stayed until he retired 32 years later.
Fred spent many hours walking with Eric Hampton in Sunbury Park with their little furry friends. It was there that he got chatting to Marianne Cribb who, 18 years later, visits him frequently and takes him out for regular cream teas at the Walled Garden. His particular passion is, however, reading – There can’t be many books he has not devoured.