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15 October 2014
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Evacuation with Plymouth High School

by csvdevon

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Contributed by 
csvdevon
People in story: 
Melita Mary Fairall, nee Styles
Location of story: 
Fowey and Newquay
Article ID: 
A7540814
Contributed on: 
05 December 2005

My name was melita Styles, born 13.9.28 in Malta where my father was serving in the Royal Navy, returned to Plymouth ultimately aged 7 - attended Salisbury Rd School, St Judes. I passed the scholarship 1940 and much to my parents delight was accepted for Plymouth High School. One quiet uneventful year at school but of course we were at war. Arrival of the Plymouth Blitz, not so quiet now, father at HMS Raleigh training young sailors including Michael Redgrave and Robert Newton. Mother and I spent most nights in the Anderson Shelter, i personally was most afraid of the large spiders in the shelter rather than the bombs falling.
Evacuation commenced for those children who wished to go, i thought it might be exciting (fool!) and parents agreed. Away my school goes to Fowey, usual tearful scenes at the railway station, arrive at Town Hall and await the location of my future home. By now feeling a bit tearful and frightened. My foster home was with a gardener and his wife. Wilf Radford worked on the Treffry Estate, they were a lovely couple, childless and he was in the 'Home Guard'.
When their door first opened to welcome another girl and myself, sat by Mrs Radford on the mat was the most adorable little terrier called Sally, it was love at first sight, and i had always wanted a dog. Eighteen months we were here, moving to various places in Fowey for our lessons. Food was not a problem, bbest of produce from the Estate and Mrs R a superb cook. Next thing we knew we were being moved to a hotel at Newquay called 'The Cliffdene' I think it was a precaution to move us to the other coast for fear of invasion. I shared a room with two other girls, but the food was pretty grim. We were always hungry especially after we had played hockey on the beach, it was here that i developed my ability to eat fast, method in madness - if you were quick and finished you may get seconds!! I look back and i think how difficult it must have been for the teachers who were with us, in charge and no training for running boarding schools, they were all single with enormous responsibility thrust upon them. One has to say "Didn't they do well" I never heard of one girls getting pregnant and at the time Newquay was full of service men , the hotels on each side of us had army and air force living there. The hotel Bristol was taken over by Princess Anns old school 'Benenden', they wore as i recall, lovely cloaks with scarlett linings and had waiters serving their food, we used to feel rather envious. On Sat afternoons we were allowed to go to the cinema providing a senior girls or teacher had checked it out to make sure it was suitable, it was at this time i developed a crush on John Wayne.
I cannot say i was happy this six months and it was bought to a head one night the siren went off and we had to rush down to the kitchen and muster, only to find cockroahces scurrying around, i found this more ghastly than the spiders in the shelter.
I implored my parents to allow me to return to the emergency high where there was a mixture of Plymouth High, Devonport High and Stoke Damerell High, girls and teachers under our wonderful PHS Head Mistress Miss V Turner, here i finished my education before joining the civil service in Sept 1945. I feel that during this 2 and a half years i toughened up, i have as a result been able to cope with what life has dished up without too much whinge. I made wonderful friends at the school and a lot of these and myself still meet up at our PHS old girls association. I Kept in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Radford until they died, my husband and I used to take them out to lunch twice a year until they died, Mr Radford said i was the daughter he never had.
I must add that i lived in Lipson Hill Terrace during the war opposite a tennis court, which was eventually taken over by a small american gun creww, all very young men. Other than waving to them i was not allowed to mix, due to strict parents and my father being a Lieut. Commander R.N even more so with his daughters, i think service fathers were like this years ago. I can still see clearly some of those american boys faces, i have on good authority, through other people in the street that not one made it through the D Day landings. Shades of 'Saving Private Ryan' a film that reduced me to tears and terrible sadness from start to finish. As the French would say, c'est la vie, c'est la guerre!

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