- Contributed by
- Betty Barrett
- People in story:
- Betty, Iris and Peter Davis
- Location of story:
- Hambledon, Surrey
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 February 2004
An account of life as an evacuee in the Surrey village of Hambledon during the Second World War by Betty Barrett.
When I recently visited Oakhurst cottage where I lived during the Second World War as an evacuee, I was kindly asked to write a short résumé of our stay in Hambledon. As it is some 63 years ago you must forgive any small lapses of memory that may occur.
At that time the Davis family, which consisted of my Mother, Father and five children, lived in Wandsworth which is south west of London, on the borders of Earlsfield and Southfields. As war loomed ever nearer, the “powers that be” decided that it would be beneficial to send as many children as possible to places of safety and this would leave the parents to do important “war work” without the worry of children to look after.
My parents decided to send my elder brother and younger sister and me away from the dangers of enemy bombing, and told us we would be going to the country — perhaps staying on a farm ! We three were quite excited at the prospect of re-visiting the country as we had spent most of our summer holidays at a lovely cottage called “The Sheiling” in Abinger Hammer, Dorking, Surrey. Each summer we looked forward to the lovely walks and visiting the little villages around about. With this in mind, we packed our haversacks and gas masks and set off.
My brother Peter, who was 12 years old went to Swaffield Road Boys School and as my Mother insisted we all stayed together, we joined in with his class of about 28 boys ! A few days before the 3rd September 1939 we found ourselves on Earlsfield Station waiting for our train. It hadn’t really sunk in before then that our Mother wasn’t coming with us and there were many tearful farewells.
When we arrived at Whitley Station, we were met by several cars which took us all to the village Institute by the green. There we were taken to the families who had agreed to take us. Our first stay was at two semi-detached cottages in Vann Lane, almost opposite Vann House. My Brother was on the right side with the Goodchilds and my Sister and I were with Mr and Mrs Denyer on the left. They were an elderly couple and it must have seemed a daunting task to suddenly have two little girls to be responsible for. At first we were terribly homesick and often cried ourselves to sleep in the borrowed camp beds we slept in. We had never been away from home before without our Mother and the only consolation we had was knowing Peter was on the other side of the wall.
After some weeks we began to settle down and enjoyed playing in the apple orchard at the back of the cottages and I am sure Mrs Denyer’s home made cakes and lemonade had something to do with It! Therefore my sister Iris who was only 8 years old and myself aged 10, were somewhat apprehensive when told we were to move to another house about half a mile away towards Hambledon.
It appears Mrs Denyer wasn’t too well and was finding it tiring looking after two children and as we girls didn’t want to be separated, the billeting officer, Mrs Horstman, agreed to take us in until another place was available. We were very upset at leaving Peter behind but he promised to come and see us often — and he did.
Mr and Mrs Horstman lived in a lovely house with a beautiful garden and we were very happy there. They had three daughters, two of whom came home for the holidays. They owned some horses in a field at the side of the house, and sometimes let us help bring them into the stables. We were thrilled to sit on their backs whilst being led by Jane and Honor, the latter can be seen in the “Brownie” photograph on the right at the back. My Sister loved the Brownies as I did the Guides. We also belonged to the G.F.S. (the Girls Friendly Society) where we made lavender bags etc, for the Sale of Work. On one of my Brothers visits to see how we were getting on, he discovered a car in the garage which he thinks was built by Mr Horstman, and he remembers his name being on the front !
About this time it was decided to open the Institute as a makeshift school and we were told to attend in uniform. This meant a walk of three and a half miles each way — summer and winter. Peter would meet us at Mrs Horstmans and we soon found it was shorter to cut through Gunters Wood, which we loved to do as it was so pretty in the Spring covered in primroses and violets etc, and fun in the winter throwing snowballs in our wellie boots.
To be in school with lots of boys was a bit scary to say the least, but when their teacher, Mr Davis, took them all to the Green for cricket, we two girls were read stories or taken for walks by the other teacher, Mr Barlow who we grew quite fond of and he often bought “sweeties” to take on our walks.
There were several other schools evacuated to Hambledon including Walter St Johns from Clapham Junction and another from Battersea, so it was difficult finding suitable places for teaching them all. Eventually we three were found places at the village school and there we learnt my favourite activity of dancing around the Maypole. The girls all loved it but the boys hated it!
It was here that I met my life long friend by the name of Kitty May Chesson (known always as May) she lived at the top of Vann Lane. Mrs. Chesson always made us three welcome there, although she had Land Girls and two other evacuees to look after as well as her own family. May and I became good friends and when I eventually left Hambledon we kept in touch by letter and visited each other regularly.
Years later she became Mrs. Colin Denyer (no relation to our Mrs.Denyer) and I married Jack Barrett. In 2001 we both celebrated our golden weddings. She now lives in Chiddingfold and when we go to see her we often roam through Hambledon, which thank goodness, still looks the same as it did all those years ago.
When we girls moved away, Peter would go with May’s brother Charlie rabbiting, picking strawberries on the farm or playing with their goat, which had it’s own little cart. When Mr. Goodchild (George) was called up for the R.A.F. Peter had to take over many of his household tasks. Their baby was about 6 months old and Peter would baby-sit and play with him. There was a well in the garden and every night he would take turns with Mr. Denyer to pump water up to a tank in the roof. About 20 pumps each was sufficient for both families for a day. He also chopped wood for the stove and looked after the garden. There was no electricity, only oil lamps and candles to take to bed. Mr. Goodchild (Junior) had been a lumberjack and when he left, Peter went with his father on a four-horse wagon to pick up timber from Dunsfold Forest and take it to the Saw Mills at Godalming. Peter would collect all the chippings to take home for the fire. He also did a paper round on his newly acquired bicycle. My father had cycled 38 miles one Sunday to see us, and when he saw the walking Peter had to do, going to and from school, and visiting us at weekends he decided to leave his bike behind to make life a bit easier for him. It’s a blessing there were no policemen in the vicinity to see Peter riding the bike with me on the crossbar and my sister on the saddlebag at the back! At least we were not late for school those mornings.
Meantime, Mrs. Horseman had acquired another ‘home’ for Iris and me. This turned out to be Oakhurst Cottage where we remained until we returned home some two years later. The occupants then were Mr and Mrs John Frogley who had no children of their own. Living there was quite an experience for us, as our flat in London had warm Parquet flooring, a gas fire in the wall of each bedroom, plus a bathroom and a toilet. You can imagine the impact of stone floors, no running water or electric light and worst of all another outside ‘toilet’. Of all the “loos” we had experienced since leaving London, the Oakhurst one was the most fearful.
My sister has always suffered from arachnophobia, and using outside “loos” was high on her ‘hate’ list! She would refuse to enter one unless I inspected it first and removed any “intruders”. Although it was cleaned every day, being close to the copse it was a haven for creepy crawlies. Not being a lover of big spiders myself, I had to hide my own fear, which was considerable, I can assure you.
Inside the cottage was a living room with a large kitchen range in the fireplace and Mrs. Frogley did all the cooking on this. A rectangular wooden table was in the centre and she would roll out her pastry and make cakes on it, and then scrub it clean for us all to eat our meals. At the back by the stairs was a sideboard where the china and cutlery was kept. Under the front window a small table with a radio on it, and this was only used to listen to the News. A small couch was under the back window, and by the fireplace, on a large nail hung an Ostrich Egg, which fascinated us no end! This nails is still on the wall — but alas no Egg!
The only light in the cottage was a large oil lamp and candles were used to see our way up the stairs to bed. Our bedroom was on the right at the top (the staircase was filled in to the ceiling then, but the right hand side has been removed halfway up now so visitors can see better. Our bedroom had a small double bed on the back wall, and a chest of draws left of the window, where we kept all our clothes. Behind the door was a table with a large bowl and jug, and Mrs. Frogley would bring us up hot water to wash in every morning. You can imagine how cold this room was in the winter, and we were very grateful for the stone water bottle wrapped in a piece of blanket that was placed in our bed at night. On Saturday nights the large tin bath (similar to the one hanging on the back of the cottage) was brought in and filled with buckets of cold water and kettles of hot. We took it in turn to bathe in front of the range, which stood in the fireplace and was the only heat in the cottage. My fear was that someone would enter the front door while this was in progress, and I never stayed in the bath longer than necessary.
The garden behind was bigger at that time and Mr. Frogley grew many vegetables there. The front was a mass of cottage garden flowers and on the left stood a large greengage tree and a few blackcurrant and raspberry bushes. On summer evenings Mr. Frogley would take his chair and sit outside by the front door. We, on the other hand, spent all our free time playing under the large Oak Tree by Rose Cottage. We would sit with our dolls etc, and were in our own little world of make believe. The best day of the week was Sunday, when everyone walked in their Sunday best up the hill to Hambledon Church. We would see lots of our school friends with their “adopted” parents, including the three Ruff sisters who lived alongside the Church.
Also there was Hazel Bricknall and Cathy Wells who resided with the other Frogley family on Beech Hill.
Most Saturday afternoons there was a Cricket match held on the Green, and the whole place came alive! We would sit on the old roller in front of the Jeffries Cottage and enjoyed every minute. The Village Store and Post Office was just across the Green and we loved to spend our pocket money in there. The painting on the previous page is of the Stores and was painted by Iris Bartley. Mr and Mrs Edwards and their daughter Phyllis lived there, and I believe they moved from London for the duration of the war — but I can’t be sure.
While at Oakhurst, we made a short visit to a house by the Green where Mr and Mrs. Jeffries and their daughter Ann lived. Mrs. Frogley’s sister had died in Wales and she wanted to go back there for the funeral. Another time, (for some reason I cannot recall) we stayed at Miss Droop’s Cottage, along the path at the side of the Green. I fell in love with this cottage, and vowed to buy one just like it when I grew up. Our short stay soon ended and we went back to “our cottage”.
During this time the Battle of Britain was raging and every night we would snuggle up together in bed and try to sleep, while the awful drone of the bombers went on over-head. To this day I still remember that sound. The little cottage would tremble — and so would we.
On the 23rd October 1940 a German Bomber decided to get rid of his load and dropped five high explosive bombs, one of which was a direct hit on Mann’s Cottage, which was at the back of the Post Office Stores. The noise was tremendous and Mrs. Frogley brought us downstairs to comfort us. In the morning we heard that five people had been killed in the cottage, which included Mrs. Phillips and her two children and Mr and Mrs. Foyle who were lodging with them. Their little baby boy was asleep in his cot, which was blown into the air, and landed among the rubble. Amazingly, he was unharmed. We were told that a door had fallen across his cot, which protected him from falling debris — but can’t vouch for this story. Thank goodness his grandparents came and took him back with them. Mr. Phillips who was on his way home when the bomb fell, was devastated at what he found. This episode left the whole village in sadness, and I recall trying to sing in Church the following Sunday with tears running down my cheeks. We felt so sorry for Mr. Phillips who owned and ran the Garage in the Petworth Road, and was known and liked by everyone, I think both families were laid to rest in Hambledon Churchyard.
Also around this time Peter told us a Spitfire had landed on the top of Vann Hill as it had run out of Petrol and had to be recovered. Another time a Heinkel 111 crashed in the woods left of the Institute, and he took us to see what was left of it. My sister and I remember standing on the Cricket Green and watching a “dog fight” between a German plane and a Spitfire, before we were called indoors for safety.
On our way to school one morning we were surprised to find the woods crowded with Canadian soldiers. They were on their way to Witley Common where there were hundreds more preparing for D-Day.
After some months things quietened down and Peter, who had reached 14 decided he would go home. We didn’t like him going without us, but had to wait another one and a half years before our Mother decided it was safe to return. So we left “our cottage” and all our friends and took the train back to London — just in time for the VI and VII’s — but that’s another story!……
I would like to thank Peter and Iris and my friend May for helping me to put these words together. Also the kind gentleman who was interested enough to ask me to do this!
May our little cottage have many more visitors — before it is gone forever.
Mrs. Betty Barrett — nee Davis
Betty Barrett married her husband Jack in 1951 and had two sons, Steven and Richard. Betty now lives in Wokingham, Berkshire where she and Jack enjoy their retirement. They live close to her Sister Iris who married her husband Alan, also in 1951 and had two children, Alison and Robert. Their older brother, Peter, married Doris and had three children, Tony, Cathy and John. They now live in Ash Vale.
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