Bombs dropped in the ward of: Village
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Village:
- High Explosive Bomb
Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:
Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:
No bombs were registered in this area
Memories in Village
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by John Clark (BBC WW2 People's War)
Born in 1930, I was not really conscious of the events leading up to the Second World War but my memories of the war itself are very vivid. However I do clearly remember my father making a crude air raid shelter in our garden in Wimbledon in 1938. The shelter consisted of a deep trench (I can still see the yellow clay my father had to dig out to get sufficient depth) lined with wooden planks and covered with corrugated iron and a pile of earth on top. He made a small ladder for access. We were all issued with gas masks in cardboard boxes with a string loop on them so that they could be hung round our necks.
My first real war memory was being piled into our 1927 Austin 7 on the evening of September 1st.1939 and driven down to my grandparents at Didlington in Norfolk where my grandfather was the butler at the Hall. The car had no luggage rack so the back seat was removed to make space for the luggage and my brother and I sat on a suitcase together with our dog.
On the day war was declared there was an air raid warning at Didlington and I can remember standing on the front step with my grandfather looking for aircraft and brandishing my toy pistol.
For a few days it was just like being on our usual summer holiday but after a short time an elementary school from the east end of London arrived and was billeted in the villages and farms around Didlington. Some of the children were allocated to local village schools but in addition a two class school was set up in the unused tack room and the grooms' room in the stableyard at Didlington. My brother and I were allowed to attend this Didlington school along with the grandson of the head gamekeeper who had also been privately evacuated. He and I were the eldest boys in the school and we had interesting jobs like fetching a large container of hot water each morning break from the Hall kitchen to be used for making chocolate Horlicks which appeared to be issued by the government. Whatever happened to chocolate Horlicks ?- it was delicious! We also had to fetch bundles of kindling wood and help get the fires going in the two rooms. Apart from missing our father we really had a wonderful time. School seemed easy and I loved the country life. As a reward for collecting barrels full of acorns for feeding the estate's pigs, the owner of the Hall, a Colonel Smith, had a couple of swings and a seesaw made for the school. The winter of 1939/40 was particularly hard and we had several feet of snow which was great for the children. The lake in the Hall grounds froze over and we were allowed in once or twice to slide on the ice -nobody had skates.
I made my first contribution to the war effort that winter. I think it was the Women's Institute in the area which encouraged people to knit mittens for the North Sea trawlermen. My Grandfather and I took this up with help from my Grandmother and Mother and I produced 8 or 9 pairs of mittens and eventually graduated to socks. My Grandfather established some sort of record with his knitting and received an official commendation.
A few weeks after the birth of our youngest brother, my Mother went back to Wimbledon as there had been no air raids and the war was very quiet. My other brother and I were left at Didlington to avoid another change of school especially as I had to take the so-called Scholarship exams that summer.
Despite the fall of France and the very real prospect of a German invasion, we returned to Wimbledon, sometime in late June. I imagine it was a relief for our grandparents as they were 72 and 64 and it can't have been easy for them to look after us for that length of time. A large number of children evacuated in September 1939 had drifted back to London by the summer of 1940 .Many of my school mates from Wimbledon Park had been evacuated to Arundel in Sussex and it was probably as well that they had returned as much of the Battle of Britain was fought over Kent and East Sussex.
Before the new school year started (around the beginning of September), my new secondary School (Rutlish, of later John Major fame) was hit by a German bomb but only a small area was damaged and school started on time. This was the time of the Battle of Britain and we were frequently in the air raid shelters. At school these were brick constructions with thick concrete roofs set in the school yards. At home we had an Anderson shelter named after the Home Secretary of the Chamberlain government. This was like an igloo made of heavy corrugated iron though the floor shape was rectangular. It was intended to be half sunk in the ground. My Father excavated where our rockery had been and replaced the rockery on top to provide extra protection to the roof. Many people covered the roof with sand bags. He also built a sort of porch on ours to stop the rain coming in when the door was opened. Soon night bombing started so he made bunks for us in the shelter and we just went to bed there. My parents were very strict about our being in the shelter during air raids but I remember the day Croydon aerodrome was attacked and my father took me up to the top balcony of the block of flats close to our house to watch the dogfights over Croydon. In fact all I saw were a few black and silver dots milling around as it was all happening 7 or 8 miles away .
We soon learned to judge how close the raids were to us from the sound of the anti- aircraft guns. A particularly noisy one was mounted on a railway truck and used to move along the line which ran about 80 metres from our house.
The intensity of the night bombing increased through September and October. Locally a public air raid shelter received a direct hit causing many casualties. In October the government organised another evacuation. Although my brother and I were now at different schools it was customary for siblings to be evacuated together so one morning we found ourselves on a railway platform (probably at Wimbledon but I'm not sure) with hundreds of other children. On our backs were small khaki-coloured rucksacks which my Mother had made for us and hung round our necks were our gas masks and a name tag. I can't remember whether we had any other luggage but later when travelling from our place of evacuation to my grandparents in Norfolk I certainly remember struggling with a (to me) large suitcase across Peterborough en route from one station to another.
Neither we nor our parents had any idea where we were going but my Mother had given me a stamped, addressed postcard to be sent as soon as we had our new address. Sometime that afternoon we arrived at a small station and were told to leave the train. There were probably 15 to 20 of us but only one other Rutlish cap to be seen. I didn't know the boy ,who was about three years older than I was. He also had a small brother in tow. A party of ladies, some in WVS uniforms, greeted us and gradually, one by one, the children disappeared. We and the other pair seemed to be the last to be selected but eventually someone said they would have us and we were taken off .
Our foster home was with a teacher and his wife in Glapthorn road, Oundle, Northants. The husband taught German and I think, French, at the Oundle public school. The house seemed quite large and we had a bedroom on the ground floor in a sort of extension which also contained a bathroom. The family had a small daughter about 2 years old who was looked after by a nanny. We and the daughter always ate in the kitchen supervised by the nanny and rarely saw the parents. We never ate with them and never went into their sitting room.It was very different from the loving family surroundings we were used to and I'm sure my 6 year old brother was pretty unhappy. We weren't treated badly by them apart from one occasion when the mother beat my brother with the handle of the bathroom brush because he hadn't cleaned the bath properly. Thereafter I had to make sure it was cleaned. It was during this period that the habit of writing home once a week was established and it remained with me until my mother died in1972.
My brother went to a local elementary school and I went to Laxton Grammar school which predated the public school but now shared some of the staff and facilities and had the same official headmaster . Having many of the advantages of the public school was a great plus in my parents' eyes and I think that was why they left me there for three years.
My Father came to visit us before Christmas (1940) and decided that my brother shouldn't stay. I can't remember whether he took him away there and then but he certainly didn't return after Christmas which we spent at Didlington. By this time my Mother and baby brother were living at Didlington again.
Whether it was just before or just after Christmas I can't be certain but the family I was billeted with were expecting another child and decided they couldn't cope with an evacuee as well. I was billeted temporarily with the manager of the local gasworks. This was a very kind and welcoming family and I was sorry the arrangement only lasted about three weeks. The house was lit with gas lamps which was a novelty for me. I remember being taught to play 'Bezique' by the family.
My next billet was in the centre of town with the manager of one of the main banks. The house was alongside and over the top of the bank with three stories so it was quite large. Close by was a large wooden ‘thermometer’ which recorded the town’s savings contributions towards paying for new Spitfires which I believe were reputed to cost £55,000 each.
This family treated me very well and despite a significant 'class' difference I was fairly happy with them. I was regarded as part of the family and received Christmas and birthday presents from them. They had three children, one already in the army, the second(17 in 1941) at the public school 'Blundell's' in Somerset and a daughter (about 13) who was at a boarding school a couple of hours journey from Oundle. I was given the 'boys' bedroom which had bunk beds and shared it with the second boy when he was at home. I got on well with him and looked up to him. I copied his habit of always washing in cold water in the morning and I still do. I can remember his scorn when he found that I wore my vest (woollen in winter) in bed and I immediately stopped ! He went into the RAF to train as a pilot whilst I was there and I can still see him flying over Oundle in a Tiger Moth and waggling the wings at the time he passed the first stage of training.
During the week I had my tea in the kitchen on my own or with the daughter if she was at home as the Laughtons had dinner in the evening but on Sundays we all ate together at midday. I only had two real complaints .One was that I had to use a bathroom on the top floor that was always freezing cold and the second was that I never had my butter ration and had to make do with margarine. For some reason it was decreed that the parents needed the butter - the children lost their ration too.
The bank manager was in charge of the local Observer Corps unit. These units were made up of civilians operating part-time who were trained in aircraft recognition. They manned posts all over the country and formed part of the air defence system. I was mad keen on aircraft and sometimes I was taken to the observer post. Eventually I passed the Air Spotter exam but was too young to join the corps.
I stayed with this family for two years except for school holidays when I went to my grandparents at Didlington. The journey there was an adventure for an 11/12 year old. Oundle station is some distance from the town and buses were few and far between so it was a struggle to get there with a largish suitcase. From there the train took me to Peterborough where there was another struggle with the suitcase as I had to change stations (about a mile apart) for the train to Brandon which is 9 miles from Didlington. The last bit was a great relief as I was driven in style by the Smiths' chauffeur.
During the Easter and summer holidays I worked on a farm on Didlington estate and received the special farmworker’s food ration which included extra cheese! Most of the work was pretty boring, singling sugar beet plants in the spring and hoeing out the weeds in the summer. However, harvesting the corn was much better. Mostly, it was stooking the sheaves dropped by the 'binder' but when a field was almost cut, there was the great fun of chasing the rabbits which had gathered in the centre. The farmer had a greyhound which caught most of them but I and the farmer's son usually got one or two. My weapon was one of my Grandfather’s walking sticks. Sometimes we were disappointed when men turned up with guns.
Sometime in 1941/42 the Army took over part of the Hall and estate as headquarters of Eastern Command and part of the 52nd (Lowland) division was stationed there in Nissen huts in the woods. My grandparents had a Major billeted with them. There was a Naafi hut and local people, including me occasionally, served chocolate and drinks in the evenings.
Overall, my time at Laxton school was fairly easy and enjoyable although in retrospect the education I received left much to be desired. For some reason the first form was called the third and I started there but after a couple of weeks I and another evacuee were promoted to the fourth form. This was good for the ego but bad because we were much younger than the rest of the form. The school was small with just four forms( 3rd., 4th., 5B, & 5A) and four or five 6th. formers who took all their lessons in the public school.The school plan was to get pupils to School Certificate (equivalent of "o" levels) in 8 subjects in 4 years and then for further subjects to be taken along with the chosen 'Higher Certificate' subjects in the public school. This was fine for pupils who stayed at Laxton but caused problems for those like me who changed schools .
Two of our teachers we understood to have been invalided out of the army with shell-shock. They were clearly disturbed , had no control of the classes and spent much of the time gazing out the window. I don't think it was coincidence that the two subjects (Physics & Applied Maths) I failed in my School Certificate were taught by one of these masters..
We had school six days a week and 'town ' boys had supervised 'prep' in the evenings except on Saturdays. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were for compulsory games. Although we were associated with the public school we were very much second class citizens. We couldn't use their playing fields or games coaches and played soccer not rugger. We weren't part of the 'house' system and never played with or against them. As a consequence of this and the absence of most able-bodied teachers in the forces we had no coaching unless we were naturally good enough for the school team which the Laxton headmaster struggled manfully to help. The one concession we did have was one hour a week's use of the open air, unheated, swimming pool. Once the water temperature reached 52F we were expected to go swimming.
One exciting event for the small boys of Oundle was the arrival of the American Army setting up an air base near the village of Barnwell (I think). They seemed generous lot and for many years I cherished a baseball thrown to me from a passing truck.
Laxton school ran a small Scout troop which I joined and enjoyed very much. It was run by the English master who was quite young and had been invalided out of the forces but we never knew the reason. Under him a few of us became 'Firewatchers'. Once a month (I think) two of us plus the master spent the night in a room near the top of the highest building in Oundle and had there been an air raid warning we would have stood on the roof to watch out for fires. Of course there never was an air raid but it was fun for us to stay up late, play cards and drink cocoa. At the end of 1942 the bank manager and his wife decided they could no longer keep me (I never heard the reason) and I went back to the teacher and his wife.. There was a live in nanny to look after the two little girls and I resumed my life with them in the kitchen. To be fair I did have a reasonable bedroom to myself.I was well looked after but again saw almost nothing of the parents. I stayed with them until the summer of 1943 and then returned home to Wimbledon after taking the School certificate exams. I had failed Physics and Advanced Maths, the two subjects 'taught' by a shell-shocked teacher, but the remaining six subjects were enough to give me my 'Matriculation' which was essential for eventual entry to University.
I now went back to Rutlish school.I suppose I wasn't really happy with this first year back at Rutlish. I didn't know anyone there, all my class-mates were one to two years older than I and I was a small fish in a much bigger pond than at Laxton. Sport was a problem too because I'd missed the forms where one had general coaching and hadn't the natural talent to get into a school team without. Another problem for me was that my father refused to let me join the school Army Corps in which most of my class mates were active. My father’s expressed reason was that with Scouts and the Church Youth club which I Joined when I was 14, provided plenty to fill my time.
The consequence of all this was that I found my friends, recreation and sport largely through old Wimbledon Park contacts who either went to other schools or were two years behind me at Rutlish.
By the end of 1943 the tide of the war was gradually moving our way, at least in the west. There were very few air raids but on one occasion during that winter the Germans made a short but fierce night incendiary bomb raid on London during which a "stick" of bombs fell near us. Most of them fell harmlessly in the cemetery next door but one hit our wooden garage and set it on fire. We, apart from my father, were in our Anderson shelter in the garden and our main concern was for our dog who was in the garage with a litter of puppies. There was no car in it as petrol was only available for ‘essential purposes’ and my father had sold the Austin 7 for £11! My father was captain of the street 'fire-fighting team' and they held their practices in our garden because it was the largest in the street. This meant they knew where everything was and were able to tackle the blaze quickly and put it out without too much damage. My father had dived in at the beginning and thrown the box of puppies into the garden. I was very frustrated at being kept in the shelter and missing all the excitement. Apart from a hole in the garage roof the main damage was to our bikes. Father's was a write-off as it had a direct hit. My Mother and I lost our celluloid mudguards and saddle-bags and I had a jagged hole in the rim of my rear wheel caused by an anti-personnel bullet which fired out of the fin of that particular type of bomb. That was my trophy of war for several years - it didn't affect the running of the bike.
1944 was, of course, the year of the D-Day landings in Normandy and like many other boys I had a large map of the area on my bedroom wall and moved little flags on it as the battles progressed. However the more immediate event for us was the start of the 'Doodle -Bug' ( V1or Flying- bomb) attacks on London and the south-east of England early in the summer. I can remember the first day absolutely clearly as it was one of the two occasions during the war on which I was really frightened. It must have been a weekend as I was on Wimbledon Common with two friends when the sirens went . We didn't take much notice as there hadn't been a daylight raid for literally years and we thought it must be a false alarm. Then we heard a very odd aircraft engine noise and suddenly all hell was let loose. By this time London had enormous numbers of anti-aircraft gun and rocket batteries all over it, including a naval gun turret on the Common a few hundred yards from where we were. It seemed as though every gun and rocket in London was firing at this 'attacker' but the really frightening thing was the sound of the shrapnel from the spent anti-aircraft shells hissing through the air all round us. We dived into a ditch and lay there with our hands over our heads for what seemed ages. The strange engine noise became louder and then suddenly stopped. We looked up in time to see an odd looking plane dive into the ground a mile or so away with a huge explosion. We heard on the news that night that large numbers of people had been injured by shrapnel - many more than by the bomb. It was soon realised that it was no good trying to shoot the V1s down over London as they'd explode when they crashed anyway, so very rapidly all the moveable guns were taken to the south coast to try to catch them over the sea. The situation in London then seemed eerie when a V1 got through as we just had to listen for the engine to cut out and guess where it would crash and no-one could do anything about it. My second moment of terror was one evening when a friend and I were out on our bikes . We heard a doodle bug and set off towards the nearest public shelter. Just before we got there the engine cut and we were certain it was right overhead. We hurled ourselves through the door of the shelter on to the floor followed by a man with the same conviction. Fortunately for us the V1 fell about half a mile away and we were only shaken. Two V1s fell fairly near our house and both times we had cracked window panes and some roof tiles displaced.
Shortly after the second of these came my third evacuation and my brother Michael and I were once again shipped off to our grandparents who were now living at Abergavenny in Monmouthshire where the Smiths had rented a house following the total requisitioning of Didlington by the army in1943. (It had become the headquarters for the 2nd Army in the lead up to D-Day in Normandy). This gave us a three month summer holiday in idyllic surroundings and I was particularly pleased not to be with my class mates who were sitting in the school air raid shelters taking their School Certificate exams.
During the school summer holiday the Science block and junior form rooms at Rutlish were hit by a V1 and completely demolished and most of the windows in the rest of the school were blown out. There was no glass available to replace them and as a consequence we had to wear overcoats and gloves in the classrooms for much of the winter. We also had to share the science labs of the Technical School a few hundred yards away.
By this time the launching area for the V1s had been over run by our troops and the only danger to Londoners now was from the V2 rockets which arrived without warning and caused great devastation but were too few in number to have a serious effect on the population as a whole
The last wartime excitements were the VE day celebrations, especially the fireworks, though my personal memory of that day was dominated by a severe bicycle accident which nearly prevented my participation in any of the revelries.
My lasting impressions of the war are of exciting events. Even as fifteen year old in 1945, the horror of war didn’t strike home and none of our family or friends were bereaved or suffered serious injury.
Contributed originally by Leicestershire Library Services - Countesthorpe Library (BBC WW2 People's War)
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Anne Tester. She fully understands the site's terms and conditions
Memories of the second world war through the eyes of an 8 -14 year old.
Southfields, London. 1939.
As an eight year old, growing up in London, I was first aware that something was threatening our serene life at home in Southfields, when our local park, Wimbledon Park, was suddenly dug up and an underground air raid shelter, complete with sandbags, was built in the middle of the grass. At the same time a battery of search lights was placed at the entrance to the drive to our school, Riversdale School in Southfields and barrage balloons appeared in the sky overhead. We were all issued with gas masks in brown cardboard boxes and I can remember the tinge of resentment because my sister was young enough to have a Micky Mouse one!
There was then real concern in the family (as carefully hidden from my sister and me as possible) when a letter from school informed my parents that we were to be evacuated to Guildford to live with a family there. With this letter came a list of requirements we had to take including a grey blanket (always a puzzle to me as I had never seen one) My sister was five years old and therefore my mother was allowed to accompany us to Guilford but of course leaving my father on his own in London. As he had served in the first world war he was just too old to be ‘called up’ for this war.
Unknown to me, and never really discovered because my mother never liked talking about those years, arrangements were made for my sister and me to go and stay with my aunt and uncle in Countesthorpe just until the threat of war had subsided (as was the common feeling at that time).
Countesthorpe, Leicestershire July 1939.
We were driven in another uncle’s car up to Countesthorpe, leaving my parents in London and I can well remember feeling very car sick and missing my teddybear which had been left behind in London. It was later sent to me by post after I had written a forlorn letter to my parents to say I wanted to come back to them. (I still have that letter which was saved by my mother and will stay in the family archives). It was also the first time I had seen a level crossing, probably the one in Station Road in Countesthorpe and also fields and cows other than from a train.
Apparently we were quite a curiosity in the village as we spoke with a London accent and because we had arrived before any of the real evacuees, very few people had met any strangers. A little girl, called Iris, came as an evacuee to the house next door some time afterwards and I expect other children were evacuated to the village later but I was not made aware of them.
The start of the war
The war did break out and we had to continue to stay with my aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparents in the house, called St Donats, in Willoughby Road, opposite Clark’s Farm. We had such a lot of freedom compared with our life in London and were able to walk around at will and enjoy such things as viewing the steam train as it left Countesthorpe station with its smoke billowing out. The trick was to wait until the engine disappeared under the bridge then rush to the other side in time to see it emerge. The fun was to be quick enough to be engulfed by all the smoke!
In the spring the embankment was covered with cowslips which we used to pick and on the lawns of some of the houses built along the line those cowslips still appear. Another event that occurred in the spring was the annual mass movement of frogs to and from the old brick quarry next to the railway line. I think they must have moved across to the farm pond in the Cottage Homes farm and in the process many were squashed on the road. It proved how many more frogs there were in those days.
As we were so near to the farm we were also given the freedom to wander round and look at the animals. We learnt to take the cows round to the fields in the lane, feed the calves and hens, milk the cows and join in the haymaking. Herbert Clark, the farmer, had an old white horse which was used for all the farm work including the haymaking when he pulled a mechanical rake to gather the hay. The rake was curved and operated with a long handled lever. We were allowed to ride on this piece of machinery and pull up the handle when instructed. Of special interest to us as children was the history of the horse, called Bob, because he had survived the first world war and still had shrapnel showing below his skin! He had previously worked at Western Park in Leicester, so we were told. Being close to animals with fields to roam in, muck heaps to slide down and dens to build I am sure helped to take away the pain of separation from our parents.
But I was very homesick and constantly worrying, as I picked up bits of news from the conversation around us but I did not know enough to be able to ask questions. Children accepted that adults had a world of their own and were not told too much for fear of upsetting them.
As well as the strain of being away from our parents there were some bewildering things happening around us which must have caused some anxiety too. We saw Spitfires fly low overhead and were told that the brother of our neighbour was the pilot of one of them which was a thrill but for a couple of children who had probably never seen a plane so close before also very strange.
Those same neighbours turned their tennis court into a chicken run (such was the need to produce food) and we were always having to apologise to them when our fox terrier, Buster, chased and sometimes caught one of their hens. We were on a constant state of alert to make sure he did not get out, not only for the sake of the hens but because he and the collie in the farm opposite were on deadly fighting terms. Such were the lengths to which they would go to establish their superiority that an arrangement was made for the farm dog to be out in the morning and for our dog to be out in the afternoon. How peaceful our dogs are these days, taken for walks and quite content to stay in their gardens. Maybe the owners are more responsible these days or was it part of the upheaval of the war?
Other strange activities included the strengthening the garage with extra wooden beams, the windows covered with strips of tape to prevent the shattering of glass and the curtains lined with blackout material. We had to be very strict about letting lights shine from the windows at night.
With the increasing threat of bombing my uncle set about building an air raid shelter inside the house and the dining room floor was dug up. The shelter was built with bricks and concrete with a reinforced roof and steps down into the inside. I think it was called a Morrison shelter. It was a great place to play both inside and on top as it was about 4ft. high and 2ft. deep but I don’t remember ever having to use it as an air raid shelter.
We had a game based around our doll’s house which had been made by my father from wooden boxes, decorated and furnished by my mother and carried by them both on the train up from London on the first Christmas of the war. It had lights powered by batteries (double ones with a 2 inch piece of connecting metal on the side) and curtains that could be drawn across the windows. With it we played out all the wartime activities that were part of our ordinary lives and the games always featured an irate warden(always played by my cousin), who would shout at us to ‘put those lights out!’
We also played with armies of tin soldiers and guns that fired match sticks, a game instigated by my cousin who was slightly older than us. He had a ready audience in the two of us and these games and the knowledge he had of the countryside (I learned the names of many birds, trees and flowers) added a lot of interest to our disrupted lives. I could point out to this day the spot along Banbury Lane where we used to set out the battle scenes in the ditch. These would be left there overnight and then we would return next day to continue our game.
I learned to climb trees and on achieving a certain height was allowed to carve my initials on the tree. A particular willow on the bend in the lane leading to Cheney’s farm proved too difficult for me to climb because it had no lower branches and was the sole province of my cousin and some of his friends.
All these exploits were, I think, only in the early days of the war because as the war progressed, there was greater threat of attack and we had to keep nearer to home. We were also restricted as to where we could walk and we were not allowed to go beyond the crossroads of the two lanes in Willoughby Road without a pass. At the junction of the lanes in the field to the left of Willoughby Road there was a searchlight station which may have been why Willoughby was ‘out of bounds’. The city of Leicester did receive some daytime bombing but I only remember hearing an air raid warning during the day on one occasion when we had to go into the garage. I still hate to hear that noise.
Going to school
Our school was a County school, on the corner of Foston Road, Countesthorpe. It had a large room for the 5-7 year olds and two other rooms divided by a wood and glass partition for the older children up to the age of 11 years. There was a tarmac playground in the front of the building and another at the back and brick lavatories outside near the neighbouring house. I have a recollection of them being cold and dark and wet!
I remember little of our lessons except using slate boards to write on and the horrible noise they made as you scraped away. We did have handwriting classes and my memory has been jogged by childhood feelings of embarrassment. The teacher would write on the blackboard a letter of the alphabet and to illustrate how your writing should ‘flow’, she would say ‘your writing should go on and on and on’. As my name at that time was Anne Donne, this always made the class giggle.
The desks were made for two children to sit at with the seat attached to the desk and it had ink wells which were not used and lift-up lids. I always liked to tidy out my desk, a task I seem to remember was left until Friday afternoon. I have vague memories, too of P.T. in the playground which consisted of very formal exercises involving the arms and legs all moving in a uniform fashion and I remember my difficulty in trying to keep up with all the others.
I remember, too, taking a contribution each Monday morning for my National Savings Certificates, of games in the playground such as Oranges and Lemons and hating to get caught and of funerals passing by on the way to the cemetery when we all had to stand still and the boys took off their caps.
Typical of childhood memories, always focussed on food, I remember having to walk home to Willoughby Road for lunch and then walk back again for afternoon school. When winter arrived and it was not suitable to walk all that way (we were probably further away than most children) we brought an egg and bread and our kind teacher cooked us scramble egg on the top of the tortoise stove in our classroom.(the only form of heat) Later a kitchen was built onto the school and I was very impressed with the chocolate pudding that was included in the introductory menu we had to take home! I never did have a meal from that kitchen as I was then old enough to go to the secondary school but my sister did.
Re-united with our parents
When my parents left London they came to live with us until they found a house to rent. Houses to rent were in short supply especially as my parents were looking for something in the area of Countesthorpe with a garden and it was only by luck that they spotted a house in Winchester Road as they went by on the bus. The house had been rented out before and was in good condition by the standards of those days. It had a bathroom and indoor toilet and three bedrooms and a lovely long garden backing onto open fields which stretched across to the village. There were open fields to the front too and still are.
I loved the garden and so did my father who set about growing all the vegetables he could to give us some variety in our diets. Everything that could not be eaten was composted and he saved his own seed. He only bought the odd plant from such places as Woolsworths as there were no garden centres and nurseries were expensive as well as being inaccessible unless within cycling distance. The government booklet ’Dig for Victory’ urged everyone to grow their own vegetables and flower borders were sacrificed to provide food. We did not, for some reason have hens, unlike many other people, and I can only think that neither parent would have been able to face killing them when the time came.
My father was so good at economising, using up any pieces of wood to make little cupboards, stools and toys or repairs to the house. He repaired our shoes and cut our hair, collected stones from the garden to make a terrace and path down the garden so that my mother could hang out the washing and saved all the spare pieces of grass to make a lawn.
My mother also liked gardening but the burden of coping with household tasks took up most of her time. Washing the clothes consisted of boiling them in a galvanised boiler in the corner of the kitchen which was heated by gas. They were then lifted into the sink for rinsing and put through a mangle which had to be anchored to the edge of the sink. It was exhausting and time consuming, filled the non-centrally heated house with steam and because there was a need to use everything to its utmost, was followed by extensive cleaning to use up the valuable hot, soapy water. Condensation in the house was always a problem and the airing of clothes and beds a constant priority with glazed pottery hot water bottles very much in use.
Coal fires created dust and had to be cleaned out, wooden and tiled floors had to be mopped or scrubbed and rugs shaken in the garden as there was no such thing in our household as a vacuum cleaner. I remember having to step onto newspaper when the floor had been scrubbed in order to keep it clean as long as possible and certainly until it was dry as so much energy had gone into the cleaning of it. Incidentally, coal fires created dirt everywhere and after visiting the town, our feet would be quite black with the dirt we had picked up.
Economising was a way of life for everyone and of course was entirely accepted by us, as children. There were not the goods in the shops to tempt us and we rarely visited Leicester although there was a regular bus service.
We made our own decorations for Christmas out of pieces of coloured paper, used up any fabric which we could find for rugs for the floor, unpicked knitted garments and re- knitted them. Except for school uniform, our clothes were all home made using a treadle sewing machine, very often from used material and nothing was wasted. This has had an everlasting influence on me and I still see possibilities for a use in all sorts of objects and materials. All this was widely accepted during the war and continued long afterwards as well when supplies of materials were almost nonexistent.
Images in Village
See historic images relating to this area:
Sorry, no images available.