George Scales - Farmer

GEORGE SCALES
Researched & compiled by Geoff Gonella

Early days
George Scales was born in 1921. The family moved from London to a farm near Vange, Essex, funded by George's grandfather E.H. Scales, a New Zealander who was unorthodox, independent-minded and successful in the shipping of wool. The land turned out to be poor and susceptible to flooding, so the farm was sold and the family bought Harvey's Farm, Peldon in 1933.

Harvey's Farm and schooldays
George was observant and quickly learnt the practical farming trades and jobs, whilst taking in the management aspects as best as he could. He and his elder brother John went to Colchester Royal Grammar School, but George's schoolwork suffered due to his disruptive behaviour and cheekiness. But he did excel at anything involving strength and stamina, and was hugely competitive. He and John were exceptional at running, with George going on to be a local rugby player. But his school academic work continued to be slow, and due to his disruptive behaviour he endured beatings from Prefects, canings from Masters, and beatings from his father.

At the farm he learnt how to hunt, making money out of rabbits and wild bird's eggs. He also learnt about the balance of nature in the countryside - between man, farming and wild animals, and how animals basically behave. This helped him to understand people and their traits and instincts.

He left school with few academic qualifications, and got a job as a farm labourer at a farm in Messing. By this time George and his parents had a difficult relationship, and George decided to work extremely hard at the Messing farm, doing plenty of hard honest work, efficiently and quickly, despite difficulties with the farmers two sons, who picked on him. He got his own back won the farmer's trust. He watched and learned, because this farmer was a better at farming than his own father. He left with a very positive reference.

He then worked at a farm in Suffolk, learning how not to run a farm. But he continued with the same ethic of doing a hard and efficient day's work every day. He also supplemented his income by some buying and selling, but eventually he got frustrated and left.

Lieutenant George Scales

War service
His brother John joined the RAF as a pilot, but George could only join the RAF as a volunteer because he was in a Reserved Occupation. He had difficulty with basic administration and showed a lack of understanding of anything outside his own life; this resulted in him being allowed to leave after only one day. He then joined the Home Guard in Suffolk, where he quickly learnt how to earn extra money doing night duties. He transferred to the Peldon Home Guard and then got the Call-Up to join the Royal Navy. He took to this very well, with training at HMS Ganges and sea-going experience, followed by officer training and a Commanding Officer course, leading to the rank of sub-lieutenant at the age of 22. He was also given his own command after only 2 years service.

In December 1943 George suffered a great personal loss when his elder brother John was shot down while flying a Halifax bomber.

His command was a tank landing craft, LCT 7011, and within 5 weeks of its launch it took part in the Normandy landings. On D-Day (6 June 1944) George's orders were to deliver 400 tons of ammunition and equipment to Juno Beach, one of the beaches for the D-Day landings in the allied invasion of Normandy. (1)

After several attempts to steer a course to the beach around mines, spikes etc. the craft was shunted by another landing craft and went aground on a sandbank. George and his crew had to wait for the next tide to lift them off, which it did, and they motored to the beach. By this time the unloading vehicles were not there to meet them, so George took the decision for him and his 16 crew to unload the whole 400 tons by hand and manhandle it up the beach. Being used to lifting heavy items at the farm, George led by example. They worked non-stop all night whilst under fire, unloading and moving the whole 400 tons up the beach. Subsequently it was all transferred inland to the allied assault. (1) (4) (5)

After D-Day the LCT 7011 went to Southampton and carried out more journeys to and from Normandy, including taking a detachment of soldiers, bringing back 470 prisoners of war, and delivering 144 tanks at 12 a time - which had to all be driven up the beach. George and LCT 7011 were also in the allied attack on the island of Walcheren, which was heavily fortified by the Germans and effectively cut off the allies' access to and from Antwerp. The invasion force sailed from Ostend, and about 3 miles off the island LCT 7011 hit a mine and sank in 3 minutes with the loss of 15 soldiers. George was picked-up by another landing craft in the bitter-cold water. With George aboard and out of his wet clothes, it was hit by a German shore gun, setting the fuel tanks ablaze. George was in the sea for a second time, but luckily he was rescued by a hospital ship but this too got hit and George was in the water for the third time. He was then rescued by a tank landing craft which was heading back to Ostend. He had to wear the only set of clothes available - a private's battledress. In Ostend he was ordered to command a tank landing craft back to England, which must been strange for the crew, being captained by an Army private. (1) (2)

His last tour of duty was in the Far East from 1945. While out there he did some imaginative buying and selling, making more money for his dream, which was to have a farm of his own after the war. (1)

While in the Far East he received a notification that he was to receive the Croix de Guerre medal for his bravery regarding the ammunition shipment to Juno beach. This was reported locally:

AWARD TO PELDON FARMER'S SON. Lieut. George Scales R.N.V.R. son of Mr and Mrs E.H.A. Scales of Harvey's Farm, Peldon has been awarded the Croix De Guerre by the President of the Provisional Government of France. The award is for gallantry and devotion to duty. Essex County Standard 14 December 1945

Post-war at Harvey's Farm
George returned from the war to Harvey's Farm and concentrated on farming. Despite opportunities to go to university or agricultural college, he decided he was ready to make it his own way. During the war he had earnings, savings, borrowings, and money from various buying and selling activities. By now his parents were finding Harvey's Farm quite a physical strain, and wanted to downsize to a small-holding in Guernsey. George eventually did a deal with the family, with him running the farm and in-time buying-out members of the family. After 2 years he became sole owner of Harvey's Farm.

He got married and they concentrated on milk, followed by cream production. Meanwhile he had a multitude of other ventures that each gave a quick profit - some were legal and some could be said to verge on the devious. George even had his own way of hiring labour for the farm; for example he applied to a Prisoner of War camp near Braintree, asking if they had prisoners with farming experience who were awaiting repatriation. George took one on, who turned out to be a fine worker.

With regard to the law, George was involved in various court cases; he lost the first but learnt a lot from it. He always conducted his own defence, and seemed to have an instinct for the way magistrates or judges weigh-up the details of the case.

He was not a 'soft touch', and it was rare for somebody to get the better of him, but his ruthless determined streak was only brought out when the other party attempted to steal a march on him. As long as the terms of the agreement (whether in daily life or business) were adhered to, his dealing was fair, friendly and often generous. The following is an example in later years of his determination not to suffer fools or be fleeced. It was apparently printed on his farm's leaflet for thatching straw:

THE STRAW REMAINS THE PROPERTY OF SCALES FARMS LTD UNTIL IT HAS BEEN FULLY PAID FOR. FAILURE TO PAY OR HONOUR A CHEQUE WILL INVOLVE THE STRAW BEING REMOVED, FROM THE ROOF IF NECESSARY, AND NO FURTHER SUPPLIES WILL BE AVAILABLE. (6)

George was making a success of the cream business; labour costs were as low as it was possible to get them, with George and Pat working hard on the practical work. The government also helped by providing a rental scheme for farmers to hire machinery without having to bear the capital expenditure. With careful control of waste, intelligent application of modern and mechanical techniques, hard labour, good relations with his workforce and his clever sales techniques, George increased the size of Harvey's Farm to 100 acres with a very profitable cream business that was clear of debt.

The following is an example of his eye for a deal and determination to achieve it: In 1952/3 he read of a forthcoming Coronation Ball in London, with strawberries and cream being on the menu. George went to the caterers (Fortnum & Mason), asked who was arranging the Coronation Ball, and said that he could provide the cream for it at a price they would find very acceptable. Despite having no appointment, no references, and not even wearing a suit, George won the contract. It took all of his resources to amass the volume of cream they ordered (he even had to import some from the Channel Islands), but he achieved it, and made a lot of money out of the deal.

Rationing ended in 1953 and the government stopped subsidising cattle feed, leading to increased cost to farmers and consequential higher selling prices. George decided that for him cream production was over, and with a wife and 4 children it was time to move on. He immediately closed the business, sold relevant equipment and returned to milk production. (1)

Cobbler's Pieces
In 1955 George sold Harvey's Farm to local farmer Bill Bruton, and bought Parker's Farm at Abbess Roding, near Chelmsford. He firmly believed that if farmers are old-fashioned in attitude and traditional in their ways they tend to go bust. So he started with a change of name to 'Cobbler's Pieces', which was taken from the old name of a piece of land at Harvey's Farm (3).

Cobbler's Pieces was 247 acres of mostly potato farm, but George had taken good advice about the soil before buying, and had his own ideas about using it. With judicious use of labour, himself working as two men and his family all working there too, plus a sizeable loan, he built it up and managed to buy up areas of surrounding land. He always had an eye for a deal and would follow through, as this example illustrates:

1956 was the time of the Hungarian revolution and there was an ample supply of refugees with farming experience for George to draw on. He was also able to employ some inmates from UK prisons as part of a work experience scheme. George was also one of the early investors in the new hydraulic machinery which was coming onto the market to replace brute strength and horse power. By using these measures and by turning unprofitable areas of land into working land, he increased the farm's usable land from 247 acres to over 500 acres, eventually specialising in a type of straw for thatching.

In 1966 George crashed his Jaguar into a tree at over 90 mph, suffering multiple injuries both internally and externally. He survived, and from the hospitalisation onwards he took a different perspective, where the farm's success was still important but not the dominating factor in his life. His other interests grew, and he became a more relaxed and more able to engage with other people. By 2007 he had 41 letters published in The Times and even more in the farming press, and dozens read out on Radio 4. He also lectured in agricultural colleges, schools and NFU groups. His farm had been consistently the top of agricultural 'league tables' compiled by Cambridge University, and his farming success has been featured in several radio and TV programmes. (1)

In December 2007 he was presented with the actual Croix de Guerre medal, after over 60 years.(4) (5)

George Scales with his Croix de Guerre

L-R Ian Baird, George Scales, Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean Nicolas Gauthier

VETERAN FINALLY AWARDED WWII MEDAL An Essex veteran has finally been given a World War Two medal by the French Government - more than 60 years on.

George Scales, 86, of Abbess Roding, near Chelmsford, was presented with the Croix de Guerre at his home this week for his part in liberating France on D-Day. The medal was handed to him by the French Attache Naval, Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean Nicolas Gauthier, of the Ministere de la Defense, and concluded a long campaign for him to receive the honour.

His cause had been championed by Ian Baird, former head of English at Framlingham College, who, while writing a book about the former seaman, discovered that Mr Scales had been told he would be receiving the honour in 1945 but a ceremony had never taken place.

He got in touch with former East Anglian Daily Times columnist Michael Cole, who wrote about Mr Scales in the paper last year and sent a copy to the French embassy.

Speaking after the ceremony at his home, Mr Scales thanked Mr Baird and Mr Cole for their efforts. He said: "He (Mr Baird) was responsible for me actually getting the thing. I had given up years and years ago. He was able to find out where the medal was and that it had been lost."

Mr Scales was a 22-year-old Royal Navy sub-lieutenant in command of a landing craft on D-Day and his job was to land ammunition on Juno Beach, one of the five invasion sites for the allied assault. He and his crew made repeated runs to the shore to deliver their cargo and at one point became beached on a sand bank, leaving them with no option but to unload the vessel by hand themselves, quickly removing 400 tons of vital supplies.

Mr Baird said he was going through Mr Scales' records and papers about two years ago when he found an official document informing him that he had been awarded the medal. He said: "They don't hand this thing out for nothing and, for what he did during the war, I'm sure he deserves it. "He's 86 years old and he's got it, better late than never. It has made him very happy."

Mr Cole, a former BBC royal correspondent, said it was "wonderful news" that Mr Scales had finally been decorated. He said: "To have the attaché visit his home is a singular honour and shows good style and grace by the Republic of France. I'm really gratified and terribly pleased for Mr Scales."

Mr Cole said it gave him a "great deal of pleasure" to have played a small part in seeing Mr Scales rightfully presented with the medal. He added: "It shows a good deal of sensitivity and understanding and is likely to go down very well in this country." East Anglian Daily Times 8 December 2007, updated 26 February 2010

With his strict principles and firm beliefs he become a millionaire almost entirely through his own efforts and his ability to make successful and profitable decisions. His life story was the subject of the book: 'Full Ahead Together' by Ian Baird. (1)

George Scales, naval officer, farmer and entrepreneur, died in 2013 aged 92. (1)

Sources of information:
(1) 'Full Ahead Together' by Ian Baird, privately published 2005, 2nd edition 2007.
(2) 'The Attack on Walcheren' by Edwin J. Sparrow, E-book, 2nd edition 2016. issuu.com/tollesbury/docs/infatuate_master_copy
(3) 'The Place Names of Peldon' by James Kemble, (field number 150 in table refers). www1.essex.ac.uk/history/esah/essexplacenames/Books/Peldon.doc
(4) 'D-Day veteran finally receives French medal', Daily Telegraph 10 December 2007. Also in www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1572089/D-Day-veteran-finally-receives-French-medal.html
(5) 'Veteran finally awarded WWII medal', East Anglian Daily Times 8 December 2007. Also in www.eadt.co.uk/news/veteran-finally-awarded-wwii-medal-1-87883
(6) 'The Farming Forum', topic 'RIP George Scales', item Oct 16, 2013. thefarmingforum.co.uk/index.php?threads/rip-mr-george-scales.11206/
Note. Some discussion points in this forum topic are not correct.

Acknowledgements
a) Our thanks to Ian Baird for giving copyright permission to use extracts and modified extracts from the book 'Full Ahead Together'. Also for providing photographic and video material.
b) Our thanks to Essex County Standard for copyright permission to use article 'AWARD TO PELDON FARMER'S SON' (as part of a bulk request and permission granted).
c) Article 'VETERAN FINALLY AWARDED WWII MEDAL' is produced by permission of EADT.

Author: Geoff Gonella

Related Images

 George Scales, centre, having received Croix de Guerre from French Attache Naval, Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean Nicolas Gauthier, of the Ministere de la Defense. George was given the award for his tenacity on D-Day when, as a Sub-Lieutenant in charge of a landing craft, he had to land a cargo of ammunition on Juno Beach. On the left is Ian Baird, former Head of English at Framlingham College, who wrote a book about George Scales and was responsible for George eventually getting his medal.
</p><p>George farmed Harvey's Farm, Peldon, in the years after WW2
</p>  PH01_GSC_001PH01_GSC_001
George Scales, centre, having received Croix de Guerre from French Attache Naval, Capitaine de Vaisseau Jean Nicolas Gauthier, of the Ministere de la Defense. George was given the award for his tenacity on D-Day when, as a Sub-Lieutenant in charge of a landing craft, he had to land a cargo of ammunition on Juno Beach. On the left is Ian Baird, former Head of English at Framlingham College, who wrote a book about George Scales and was responsible for George eventually getting his medal.

George farmed Harvey's Farm, Peldon, in the years after WW2


December 2007
ID: PH01_GSC


This item is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection. The information is accurate as far as is known, but the Museum does not accept responsibility for errors.