- Contributed by
- Bridport Museum
- People in story:
- Michael Norman
- Location of story:
- Bridport, Dorset
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 November 2004
I was 12 years old when the war broke out and a pupil at Bridport Grammar School. The School was quickly swollen with extra pupils — private evacuees sent to Bridport to stay relatives to escape the dangers in the large towns and cities. Although it was a difficult time for everybody most of my memories were happy ones thanks mainly to my teachers at this time. Many of them had been drafted to replace those that were serving in the war. They were incapacitated in some way, one having been injured fighting in the First World War. Inspite of this they were good teachers and gave unstintingly of their time to out-of-school-activities. In particular to the school run ATC to which I belonged, and the GTC. We met several times a week in the evenings. Our uniforms were provided free and apart from PE and drill we were taught, among other things, map reading, navigation, and how to load and take care of a rifle. The Headmaster, Mr Fred Jordan, was our commanding officer. One of our first tasks had been to dig trenches at the school into which the school would be evacuated in case of air raids. This was a daunting task but Mr Jordan saved the day. Troops stationed in Bridport, occupying the skittle alley near the railway station asked to be allowed to use the school sports field. Mr Jordan gave his consent on condition the troops helped dig the trenches. Needless to say they were dug in double quick time.
My father Lesley Norman was in the Royal Navy and served as an engineer aboard HMS Mendip. His ship came under attack from the air and was set on fire. The engine room was flooded and of the 16 engineers only my father escaped but he was badly injured and invalided out of the Navy in 1941. The doctors said his life expectancy was only a few years but he lived to be 90. His disability pension was so poor at this time that my mother returned to teaching to help support the family. Previous to this, like many others, she had done voluntary work helping out at the NAAFI set up in the Congregational Church Hall, and run by the WVS. Although like everyone else in Britain we were subjected to food rationing, we seemed to manage quite well. Many of the fields in the surrounding areas were converted to allotments and there were always plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits in season, and chickens and rabbits were regularly on the menu.
I remember two occasions when bombs were dropped on Bridport. In 1940 a plane returning from a raid on Yeovil emptied its bombs over Bridport and several people were killed. Then in 1942 just before Christmas there was a raid in which bombs fell in East Street. My grandmother living at no. 96 was killed, also her next-door neighbour.
There was a great spirit in Bridport at this time everyone supporting each other. Life was very different then. Everything delivered to the town came by rail and was then loaded onto horse drawn drays for delivery to the various shops and businesses. The twine factories were turned over to making camouflage material. Everyone was doing their bit. So all together I have happy memories of this time.
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