- Contributed by
- Robert Taylor
- People in story:
- Robert Taylor
- Location of story:
- Wyke Regis Weymouth Dorset
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 July 2004
Today is Sunday 9/11/2003. I have been watching the “Remembrance “ day service at the
Cenotaph. After the programme, the BBC were asking people who lived during the second world war ,
to send in their experiences of the war. The following is my humble experience:-
I was born on the 19th April 1936. In a terrace house, In Wyke Regis a district of Weymouth
Dorset. This house is on the main road , just before the two mile causeway to the island of Portland.
Over looking one of the largest man made harbours of the world, also a small but important Royal
Dockyard. It was therefore, a common occurrence for me as I grew up to see a lot of men in uniform.
I was only three when war was declared, but I can remember being taken for a walk on a
Sunday afternoon to see a house where the garage on the side of the house had been completely
destroyed and the house had a badly damaged roof. I found out when I was older, that this was the first
of many hundreds of bombs that was dropped on Weymouth and district
About two hundred yards down the road from the house on the Portland road where I was
born, was a factory, which made the Whitehead torpedo. So with the Weymouth bay and harbour, the
Portland harbour and the Torpedo factory, the area was of great interest to the Germans.
My bed, for the duration of the war, was a steel air raid shelter, this took the place of our
dining table, so that every time there was an air raid, I didn’t have to be disturbed, and I slept through a
lot of them.
When the factory was bombed, because of my innocence I ran out into the back lane, with the
German planes still circling above and my mother was sheltering against the wall, calling me.
Fortunately there was very little damage done and all the staff were in the shelters which were in the
sports field, a short distance away. Some people moved away from the area, because of the danger and
the houses that were empty were taken over and used to billet troops.
In the sports field was a gun emplacement for the defence of the harbour and the torpedo
factory and the soldiers were camped there as well. Also there was the anchorage point for a barrage
balloon. I was lucky , I had a football and the old man (Mr Warne) who was well past retiring age was
employed as groundsman. When my football wanted blowing up, he used to do it for me. On one
occasion, when I went to have the ball blown up. the people who maintained the barrage balloon had
hauled it down to inspect it or service it in some way. I had at this time a piece of cane under my arm
and with other children were watching them attending to the balloon. I cannot remember why now, but
I turned round very quickly for some reason and tore a three cornered hole in the balloon. I was so
terrified of what I had done that I ran home and would never go near the balloon whenever it was
hauled down again. On one occasion, a balloon came down on the beach, damaged beyond repair and a
local family went down to it and cut it up and took it home to make items of clothing .
One day, it must have been shortly before “D” day, the Americans arrived on the cause way
with some huge machines called Bulldozers. The famous Chesil beach joined the road , so far along
towards Portland. The shingle between the Chesil bank and the road was levelled and this was turned
into an enormous convoy park. A huge marquee was put up, which we soon discovered was to be filled
with thousands of life belts. It wasn’t long before the convoys of troops, tanks and just about any sort
of transport came past our house, day and night. Every vehicle that went to Portland had to pass our
house. When the troops got to our area from all over , at least the southern part of this country, they
could see how close they were to the sea, and must have realised that this was the last part of friendly
land that many thousands of them would ever see again, because of this we had a lot of things like
sweets and personal items such as watches etc., thrown out to us, when the vehicles went passed at
about walking pace. I think the convoy park would hold about eight to ten convoys at any one time,
where they were held until they moved off to be loaded onto the ships in the harbour. I think there was
between thirty and fifty vehicles in each convoy. As soon as one convoy left the park, another was
coming down the road to take its place.
The “park” is still there today, but it is only about half the size, the remainder has been
cordoned off and has been allowed to go back to nature. The marquee containing the life belts, stood
about the same place as the visitor centre stands today.
The buses, that came at about 17.30 each day to take the workers home from the torpedo
works, used to line up on both sides of the main road, depending in which direction they were going to
go. This made the road very narrow, so just before “D day” the routine was changed and the buses
were ordered to line up in the lane at the rear of our houses. This lane was not tarmaced and so narrow
that the buses could not pass each other, so they departed in the same order as they had arrived. Our
washing lines also went across this lane and they had to be raised above the height of a double Decker
bus or taken down. On a couple of occasions that I have returned , I cannot imagine how the buses got
There was until 1965 a single track railway line into Portland from Weymouth, which was
used a lot for war purposes. The ships coming back from across the channel, would bring back
prisoners of war. Always great excitement for us children, when we saw a train with ten or eleven
coaches and two engines going into Portland, because it would not be long before we would see it
leaving the island and we would get to the railway as quickly as possible, to watch it go past, with
armed guards in the corridors. The transit camp was in the playing field, on the left after passing
through the square at the entrance to Portland on the renamed Victory Road. (originally Cadets road)
Ships were bombed and sunk in the harbour. One tank landing craft, which had been blown in
half, was beached near us and we used to play on it. One of my friends slipped and cut his leg open on
the jagged metal, although I lost touch with him , I think he walked with a limp, probably for the rest of
Until the end of the war, I thought that an ice-cream was two dry biscuits sandwiched together
with margarine and was surprised when someone said that the local shop was going to get a delivery of
ice-cream. Each family would only be rationed to one family block. I did not know what a banana was
until I was nine, and treated them with suspicion, I am still not fond of them today. We did get oranges
occasionally. Food was rationed during the war, and up to about nineteen fifty. It annoys me, when I
see the amount of food that is wasted today. I do not like waste of any description. A meal was made
from whatever was available and I think that because of this, we were generally healthier than we are
today. My mother used to buy our sweet ration and put them in a tin, we were then restricted to a
couple of sweets as a special treat.
Clothes were also rationed, and I remember, when my father came out of the navy, at the end
of the war, he was allocated some clothing coupons, we were taken into Weymouth and were treated to
a new pair of shoes each.
In nineteen forty seven approx., my parents bought the semi detached house that my
grandfather rented and we moved in with him, as his second wife had died and my mother was his
only child. This house had a very large garden and we kept chickens, as food was still rationed. If you
had more than twenty five hens then you had to have people registered to you for the purchase of the
eggs, so we kept just the twenty five. This meant that some times we had surplus eggs which we used
to preserve in their shells, in an almost clear liquid, this did not always work and all eggs had to broken
in to a cup incase they were bad, before they could be used.
In the late nineteen forties and early fifties, my age group was the first pupils at a new school
being built on the main road into Weymouth from Dorchester, this being the first secondary modern
school in Weymouth. Because the school was being built around us, we went to a bombed out school
overlooking the harbour for our woodwork lessons. Timber being in short supply, we broke up the
damaged desks and made items from them. I still have a cabinet in our bathroom that was made from
one of them, also a cutlery box that we still use every day. There is a table lamp on the bedside cabinet
in our spare bedroom that was also made by me at the same time.
My friends and I, had bicycles which we went everywhere on, but because all our dads were
away in the forces, we had to learn to maintain them at a very early age. If your bicycle was broken
down, then you were left behind and had no one to play with. As you can imagine, the standard of road
worthiness was not very high and a piece of string was often used.
My father joined the Royal Navy as a boy in nineteen twelve and served in both world wars,
we had a glass cabinet with a row of medals in it, I asked him on various occasions, what were they for,
but he never did tell me. I did not know him until he left the navy in nineteen forty five, When he was
one of the older men still in service. I had an exact replica of my dads uniform that I wore as my
As youngsters when we were not in school, we used to almost live on the beach and cliffs. I
have been down on the beach and heard the buglers on board , playing at the time of sunset and seen
about fifty ships all switch their upper deck lighting on at precisely the same time. I never thought that
about ten years later, I would be on a Royal Navy ship as the duty electrician, switching on the lights
at sunset in various ports of the world. whilst I was doing my National Service.
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