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Three Landford Evacuees -Part 5

by IRWinter

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ivan, Paul and Brian Winter
Location of story: 
landford wilts.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 January 2006

Best dressed 1940.


One of the enduring things that Dorothy taught us was the delight of walking. Every Sunday after church she would lead us on one of the well-known walks.
To her this was a continuation of a practise from her childhood and growing up. Families tended to walk together and we would meet the Costellos out in force.
They once met us in Stocks lane and passed the message that a bull had escaped from Stocklane farm. A few moments later we heard the sound of hooves, Paul and I dived through the barbed wire without a scratch whilst Dorothy in getting Brian through in extreme panic managed to tear his and her clothes. As we waited in trepidation a small calf ran round the corner. Much laughter from the Costello’s but not a lot from Doll.
Dorothy had a fine list of walks around Forest View. Around Stocks lane to the beeches, which were a fine stand of Beech trees then and back along the A36 to home there being little traffic to worry about. On the left as you got near Stocklands farm were several fruit trees, apples and a pear. They yearly seemed to have a fine crop but who was the owner?
Broom Park, full of Bluebells in the spring, coming out of the copse took us down to the River Blackwater across a small wooden bridge and into another copse. The banks as you came out of the first copse would be covered in wild daffodils a favourite prey of local gypsies.
The copse after the bridge had a well-established Rookery and would be alive with rooks from February on. Rooks were of course not a favoured bird in those days and just before the young flew would be the ideal time to fire a gun into the nest, times have changed thankfully.
Coming out at Cuckoo farm we walked down to the school and home up the Lyndhurst road.
As we usually walked after church Dorothy knew another walk turning right and passing the buildings of Manor farm, past the back of the manor and Newell’s park and coming out at Elm farm along the level.
As we got older we sometimes managed the walk around Landford woods and Melchetcourt farm passing a grand house on the way. On one occasion taking the black Labrador Nelly with us she had a fit half way round, which was very frightening but Dorothy just, grabbed the dog and held her until it passed.
Brian being the youngest found these walks too much but got a ride when he complained enough, which was often. In the autumn, the walks would be enlivened by Blackberry or rose hip picking when we would meet other people at the same task such as the Osbournes who lived in one of the lovely cottages that guarded the gates to Melchet Court.
Dorothy kept up the walking habit well into her late eighties often on the same walks that we done so many years before.

Local shops.
There were several shops serving the village in those days. Everybody made good use of them and nearly all provided a delivery service.
The village shop, still there, was run by the Henbests. They were I think some relative of Gran through her husband’s side.
A weekly trip with a much shorter list than now would result in sugar etc being handed over in brown paper bags filled by the shopkeeper. This was the recognized way of selling items from the shop stocks. Ration cards had to handed over and the correct coupons cut out.
Sid also had a van; grey I think which was used for door-to-door deliveries.
The baker was Stainers at Broom hill on the Lyndhurst road, I believe he also delivered. The shop is still famous for Lardy and dough cakes, which are delicious but not cholesterol friendly.
Milk was delivered daily by Mr Futcher, a friendly sort of chap. Dorothy always managed to be washing at the sink in her petticoat with full décolleté. His arrival would produce a noisy and undignified exit, but not before he had a reasonable show.
Us lads would be intrigued by this unfortunate timing and later wondered why she could not have delayed her splash in the sink.
Meat was also delivered but my memory fails me as to the butcher was.
There was another small shop in Miss White’s house opposite the old post office, not used by the Winters because of an old altercation?
I still have my Post office savings book stamped 1940 at the old post office. It started me on a good road of never being in debt, apart from the mortgage, which was long since paid off.
The village also boasted a shoe menders run by the King brothers, I can still conjure up the smell of leather and the sound of nails and blakeys being hammered in to much mended shoes as you entered the shop.

The War, later years.
It is strange to say that we seemed to not notice that the war was on. It was only when the Americans arrived and the local woods and roads became crowded with them and their vehicles and the sky full of their planes that we noticed.
From 1943 on the mass ranks of flying fortresses would thunder overhead in serried ranks to deliver their bombs on occupied Europe accompanied by their fighters such as the Lockheed Lightning, very distinctive with its twin boom tail plane.
We did not see or hear the night offensive against the German citizens as this was taking place from the east coast.
The only direct scenes we witnessed were as follows. The dropping of the bomb in 1940 happened at night but the next morning along with many others we went to the crater, just a hole in the ground but the first so pretty exciting. The more knowledgeable speculated as to why it was dropped in the middle of a field, jettisoned was I believe the most popular theory.
We also later saw the cottage where a bomb killed a villager, again in the middle of the woods, was that Maury’s cottage?
It must be remembered that German aircraft were over Britain nearly every day of the war and a lot of flying was done at low level, as this was safer. We witnessed one Hit and Run aircraft at Forest View while we played on the front lawn. What I now know as a Fw 190 roared over the roof at tree top height making for home in France.
Later in the war a glider came down between the A36 and Stocks lane near The four winds. Again everyone trooped out to see it, an Airspeed Horsa probably from Stoney cross where they were training on them.
Mr Taylor had a small American spotter plane come down in one of his fields; Brian was unlucky, as he could not visit this site due to some childhood illness.
The war became more interesting as the Yanks moved into the area, flying about in their Jeeps and distributing gum and sweets. We were warned by gran to avoid talking to the coloured troops although we did put on a show at school to entertain the American troops, one day whites the next black. This was their own segregation which unknown to us was pretty savage.
The A36 became very busy with tanks, American and British, Bren gun carriers and countless lorries passing usually going south. The convoys were always led by a red flag and followed up by a green one. We would stand on the built up bank and hope that the sweets thrown could be found in the hedgerow.
The most amazing memory I have is of the 6th June 1944, the sky filled with aircraft in all directions, the noise of the engines was overwhelming and then they were all gone just as quickly.
Stoney Cross became an airfield in mid war and we were able to see aircraft coming and going as they landed and took off in the distance.
As the invasion approached the Americans moved on to the airfield first with their Lightnings and in mid 1944 Martin Marauder medium bombers. We of course had little idea of the deaths of these young men on their missions and sadly at the airfield.
We did see the marauders return in the distance, if damaged the crews would bale out and the pilot take the aircraft and point it out to sea before bailing out himself.
One lovely summer day Dorothy decided that we would walk up to Fritham and watch the planes. Collecting Aunty May Winter and Peter on the way we set out. I guess it must be about seven miles with the youngest being 6 it was some walk.
All very worthwhile as we came into view of the airfield. Taking up position by the South Bentley inclosure we had a plane on it’s hard standing right in front of us with the main runway running from right to left across our view.
We probably had our noses against the wire fence because the airmen servicing the plane asked us if we wanted to see over it. Four lads were hoisted over the fence and we entered the cockpit of a Marauder, an unforgettable memory as they showed us over the front end of their plane.
Our plane was a bit special as it was still in camouflage whereas all the others were shiny bare metal.
The reason being that ours was the oldest on the field and had served the longest.
We were warned that as the engines started it would be noisy and windy; it certainly was, as the aircraft nosed out of their hard standings and lined up for the runway.
The Marauder was quite an advanced aircraft with nose wheel, high wing and a high wing loading, which made for a long take off.
We watched as each raced down the runway and took off the whole group then heading south to bomb targets in France.
We then enjoyed ourselves whilst we waited for the return of the Marauders.
Eventually they were to be seen approaching. Landing and dispersing around the hard standings.
It was soon obvious that our plane had not made it back and to this day I wonder what happened to it and it’s crew of very young men.
We continued to see convoys passing Forest View with friendly soldiers; the poor old Bridge over the River Blackwater took a few knocks from too fast Jeeps and their were Italian prisoners of war about almost affection ally called Itys.
With the European war over we awaited a big change in our lives although we were very much kept in the dark over our future.
The Return.
I know I have said it before but as young children we very much accepted life as it was and did not think about our parents after the initial heartache.
As a teenager I questioned the sequence of events that ended up with us spending over six years away from home when most evacuees returned after the Blitz of 1941/2 ended, I guessed that my father must have been abroad in the army but after my mothers death I inherited his service papers which revealed that he did not leave the country for Egypt until mid 1943. Our home in Gillingham was still available as a family home. My father did spend much time away from Gillingham on various drafts but also time at the RE centres in Gillingham.

At the age of nearly 70 it is still important to understand why we did not see our parents for six years and I now have all of the reasons I think.
As explained our Mum did not fit in at Landford and she knew her Ron was an incorrigible womaniser, she did catch him out early in the war. In 1940 she was pregnant again and her Mum told her to get herself off to Ron in the north. She spent periods with him at different places such as Chester and Newark. Whilst away the house in Trafalgar st was let providing an income to pay off the debt to Ron’s family [His dad had lent him the money to buy 117a Trafalgar st]. When he went off to Egypt in 1943 our Mum lived at her Mum’s 104 Milton road Gillingham with our new sister Diana and got a job at Kent Alloys working on aircraft parts for Short Sunderlands.
At this time the family income was easily paying off the debt and supporting us at Landford and the work suited my Mum who considered herself an engineer for the rest of her life.
The status quo was in her interest financially and socially.
Our Dad was at last demobbed in Dec 1945 and wanted the restoration of the life that he had left in 1939. Possibly my Mum had a different agenda. Ron decided that the only way ahead was to come and collect us return to Gillingham and present Pauline with a fait accompli.
Gran and Dorothy did suggest we stayed at Landford with them but he would not have that, to which I agree.
On the 5th December 1945 he turned up for us, we did not know him and he did not know us. On being shown all of our toys packed up in tea chests he said they would all be left behind, quite a blow to us but an indication of the mood he was in. We left the next day with the minimum and travelled by bus to Southampton and then on to London by train. Dorothy and Gran had come with us to the station at Southampton and then they returned to an empty house and a few tears. After six years of looking after us it was not easy for them. On the platform at Waterloo was our Mum, another stranger, and we travelled on to Gillingham by train, thank god there were three of us lads to comfort each other.
On arrival at Gillingham in the dark we had to walk up to Milton road about a mile through streets lit with dim electric street lamps where a reception committee waited for us, again all unknown and the biggest shock was the introduction to our new sister. We were unaware of her existence and she poor soul unaware of us hid under the table.
The rest of the committee was our Mum’s mum, Nan, her daughter Billie and brother George. He on being presented with three lads assumed that we were into boxing and could only think of saying “put your dukes up” totally meaningless to us who had been brought up by two women. He was retired from the dockyard where he had been a boiler maker and spent his final years sat by the fire into which he frequently spat and just as often said put your dukes up. Neither trait endeared him to me.
By now totally exhausted and bewildered we walked down to the family home and to bed.
The thing that always stuck in my memory was the shadows on the ceiling made by the streetlights. We were lucky that the street had lime trees either side that reminded us of our old home.
117a Trafalgar st was shared with a Mr and Mrs Cowley who rented all but one room of the first floor. This was the front bedroom, which was shared by us boys.

It is sad that we never regained a family bond with our parents and I always had the feeling that Landford was my home.

They were never able to demonstrate the affection due, but maybe that was their style.
My Mum said when I was adult that they really had too many children for their resources and this affected their lives. My Mum life being full of cooking and cleaning, which she hated and my Dad worked all the hours’ possible, weekdays 0700 —2000 and Saturday mornings. His spare time being spent on mending shoes with old bike tyres etc.
The change to our lives was immense. After a hard war with much bombing Gillingham looked a drab place, bomb sites all around, one in Gillingham road just 50 yards away had damaged our house and another had demolished our first home, pea soup fogs in the winter which cut visibility down to yards. No fields, trees and friendly faces.
We were enrolled into Barnsole road school, an ancient sex segregated school with tarmac playgrounds. I spent two years there before passing the eleven-plus. Discipline was fierce with the cane being the final arbiter. Again the fact that there were three of us helped greatly but we were homesick for our country life.
As mentioned earlier every year for about five years we would spend the six weeks summer holidays in Landford, six weeks of bliss.
Were we affected by all of this trauma, I think so?
Both the wives of Paul and I said that it was noticeable that we trusted nobody and it took their love to break this wall down. Brian had been a much spoiled little boy at Landford and then at a stroke he became very much second best with Diana being the much spoiled sibling he has spent the rest of his life attempting to get attention. Probably only noticeable to his brothers.
We are all blessed in that we have a deep and lifetime love and affection for each other, always in touch and spending at least one week a year together on holiday with individual visits in between.

Gran = Alice Kate Winter.
Aunty Doll or Dorothy = Dorothy Alice May Winter.

Read by Brian Winter and Paul Winter Sept 2005.

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