- Contributed by
- People in story:
- James C Mann
- Location of story:
- South Holmwood, Dorking ,Surrey
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 November 2003
My Friends and I In The War Years. By Jim Mann
My Family and I lived at No 6 Ashleigh Cottages.
There were 6 Cottages in the row.
At N04 there was Clem Kennard Who Joined the RAF and at No5 Don Harding who also joined the RAF.
We had some very good friends:
At No 1, there was Sonny Barnes who joined the Navy before the end of the war, but I believe he came through it safely but moved away.
At N02 there were quite a big family, the Bailie's, there were eight children of which 4 were my friends, Ernie, Pam, Jean and June.
At N03 there was Hazel Skilton she only managed now and again to come out with us as she was an only child and her mother was very protective.
And Finally down Folly Lane there was the Bacon's another large family with 10 children. I will only mention 2 of them there was Gordon and Les (Who we used to call 'Streaky') we all used to go around together.
My brother Harold who should have been writing this as he always said that he would write down his memories about the village and it's people. Sadly he passed away so I am putting our thoughts down on paper. Harold and I were part of the South Holmwood Gang.
I was six years old when the war started and I can remember at the sound of the first sirens we all ran indoors thinking that the Germans were coming over to kill us all. But after a few weeks passed we gradually got back together.
To start with there was very little activity in our area. It was in the following year when things started to happen. We all decided to dig a shelter in the Hollows, which was a small wooded area by our house. We started digging in the solid clay, after several weeks we had a hole about 6 feet deep, we then decided it was time to start tunnelling under the ground. The roof of the tunnel was about 1 yard from the surface, we felt sure this would be deep enough to keep the bombs out. Before the winter set in we had managed to tunnel about 4 feet under and we thought we were doing very well. When winter finally arrived the 'shelter' filled up with water. With help from my father and elder brother John we were all made to fill in our shelter as we could have slipped in and drowned.
That was the end Holmwood gangs first attempt at helping the War effort.
My Fathers Place of Work.
My father Bert Mann worked in the local butcher's shop, which in those days was Barker’s; he was also the slaughter man at Aberdeen House. As the war progressed my father was made one of Surrey's chief slaughter men.
When farms were hit by stray bombs, it was his job to put the injured animals to sleep. These animals were supposed to have been put in a pit filled with quick lime and destroyed. As my father knew the local farmers, those animals that were not damaged too badly were not destroyed; instead my father prepared the Meat for the oven. That way the farmer’s family and ours never went short of meat during the war years. The farmers were happy and in return used to provide our family with vegetables and corn for our chickens.
These practices continued after the war due to the food rationing. Farmers would still knock on our door and ask dad to kill a pig and prepare it for the table without the Ministry's consent.
Dad used to be issued with one pair of Wellingtons by the Ministry every year, but I'll tell you more about these later.
Mr Bailie's Place of Work.
During the second year of the war when metal was in short supply, all the scrap metal would be collected and taken to an area within the confine of the sewer bed. A lorry would then come and collect the metal and then take it away for recycling.
In amongst this metal were old bike frames and wheels and if you were really lucky they had tyres on them as well.
We always knew when the sewer beds were unattended because Mr
Bailie at No 2. Ashleigh Cottages was the man who looked after it. So when he was home we used to go down the sewer beds looking for old bikes. We used to carry the parts home and turn them into bikes.
So we could ride these old bikes around the village at night we used to use carbide lamps, which were also supplied courtesy of the old scrap heap. We used to get carbide granules from Wiltons Garage (which these days is the Holmwood Garage). To light the carbide lamps you needed to wet the carbide, which in turn gave off an inflammable gas which when lit gave off sufficient light for use to ride our bikes at night. We had great fun on these old bikes.
The Tank Track.
Just across the road from where we lived is Holmwood common and during the war years the army used the common to teach soldiers how to drive tanks.
We would follow these tanks around the common on our bikes, the problem with making the bikes was we could never find any pedals; we used to have bolts sticking through the crank instead. It was on one of these occasions when we were following the tanks it was very muddy, I decided to borrow my dad's brand new Wellingtons as which incidentally were about 4 sizes too big, my original intention was to wash them down and put them back. But the pedalling was very hard; my foot slipped off of the bolt and tore a big whole in these brand new Wellingtons. I was very lucky because my dad had several pairs and didn't miss the new pair until sometime later so it was all smoothed over.
When we heard or saw a plane coming down we would try and beat the local policeman, Sergeant Bishop and the RAF to the scene for souvenirs. We used to pick up bullets and all sorts of other items. One day there was this plane that crashed on Holmwood common and we got there first, the wreckage was strewn over a wide area as it had exploded and it was still on fire. Whilst searching the wreckage one of us found a gauntlet after picking it up they found the Gauntlet still had a hand in it, needless to say it was soon dropped. Shortly after we heard several loud bangs, the bullets had started to explode and we ran for our lives. At these crash sites there was always a terrible smell that you will never forget.
We had a Junkers 88 that came over our house just missing our chimney, this crashed in the Paddock about 50 yards behind Folley Farm House where the Adam's family lived. One of the engines from the Plane was dug up in 1976 and is now in the Brooklands Museum at Weybridge.
At this time my mother was 8 months pregnant with her 5th child and the Plane crashing brought on her labour. She was taken into Hospital where my sister Devina was born. As she was premature she was christened quickly, unfortunately she only lived for 5 days she is buried at St Mary's Church Holmwood with Mum and Dad. As time went on we started having flying bombs (We called them Doodlebugs), These were nerve racking, they would be flying over and then the drone of the engine would cut out, then all you heard was a hissing sound followed by the Explosion.
We used to stand and watch the doodlebugs flying over and as soon as the noise changes from a drone to a hiss we would either dive for cover or try and run in the opposite direction. There was a local chap named Freddy Fairbrother who used to deliver newspapers to Mill Bottom, Freddy was walking down the lane with the papers under his arm and this doodlebug came down in the woods about 50 yards from him. The papers were blow out of his hands and he was left standing there, he simply picked up the papers and continued with his deliveries.
The Yanks Came to Our Village.
The Yanks and Canadians were based at 3 locations around the Village. Holmwood Park: Which is now part of Kuoni Travel down Mill Road. Broom Hall: Which was Oliver Reed's home during the eighties and Anstie Grange Which has now been divided into flats.
Of a nightime the village would be full of Yanks. They used to drive their jeeps down to the Village and park them at the Holly and Laurel, Whilst they were in the Pub we would sneak into the Car Park, let the Hand brakes off and push them over to the other side of the road onto the Common. As the Village was blacked out, they would come out of the Pub and had to walk home. You could call it our contribution to an early Drink Drive Campaign. They would have to walk back to the village the following morning to collect their jeeps.
Holmwood Park was almost destroyed by incendiary bombs in Oct 1940 several Canadians were injured in that attack.
My mother use to take in washing for the Canadians and that was the first time I had ever tasted Spam. One Canadian called John Boyco (he was a Sergeant) used to wrap Coffee, Butter and a tin of Sweet Caporal Cigarettes in his washing. We used to look forward to his visits.
The Royal Observer Corps.
My Dad was in the observer corps; he used to be stationed on the old South Holmwood Football Pitch. The Function of the Observers was to plot the enemy aircrafts direction and numbers, then report this to the Air Ministry this was in turn passed on the RAF. This would allow fighters to be scrambled from Dunsfold and Biggin Hill Aerodromes. My Dad was given extra rations for night work, my mum used to send me down to Stanfords the Grocers shop with the coupons to collect his rations. The rations always contained 3 rashers of bacon (The Bacon was always highly smoked cured) but by the time I got home I had always eaten 1 of the rashers and there was only 2 left. My mum never realised because she always thought the ration was 2 slices.
I'll never forget V.E Night, Dad and Frank Channal were on duty that night. When on duty one of them used to walk down to the Holly for a jug of beer to pass the time they had rather more than 1 jug that night. Stored in the hut at the back observation deck were 4 boxes of flares in case of invasion, Dad and Frank didn't think they would be needed anymore so they laid them out into a big VB and lit the lot you could see them for miles around. It was a night to remember.
George croft was one of the finest bakers I've ever known despite the fact there were chickens wondering in and out of the bakery, they used to fly up onto the table whilst he was kneading the dough. This didn’t appear to make the slightest difference to the quality. His main priorities were Quartern's (This is an Extra Large Tin Loaf), Large Tin and Cottage Loaves. Whenever we needed bread we always seemed able to get a loaf with or without rationing.
There were 3 members of the Croft Family: George, Bertie and Miss Croft who was my teacher at Holmwood village school. She was quite a portly lady so her nickname was Podgy. We used to be issued with a beaker of milk every morning, she used to pour it from a quart bottle but before she poured the milk she used to take the cream out and put it in a separate bottle. We never did find out what happened to the cream but it probably went to George for his cream cakes.
Even though the war years were very frightening at the time, we still enjoyed ourselves in our village. I think you had to grow up a lot quicker than children of today.
Mr Jay was our head master at Holmwood School. We enjoyed the years we had there. Summer and Winter Mr Jay used to wear Brown Tweed plus-fours, on Fridays we used to have a games afternoon, we all used to go up to the field at the back of the school and we would decide what game we wanted to play. We always played Fox Hunting, two foxes would disappear into the bushes then the hunters would then chase after them into the bushes, that was the end of our school week, nothing was ever said on Monday.
At the back of the school we had small gardens for growing Carob's, which resemble a small turnip and salad crops. We were never allowed to take the crops home but they used to go somewhere? The school has recently been converted into flats.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.