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Why am I an "Only child"-part 2

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Audrey Hindley
Location of story: 
Littlehampton, West Sussex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War website Katrina McAnaspie from Littlehampton Learning Shop and has been added to the website on behalf of Audrey Hindley with her permission and they fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.

I went to Elm Grove School and had some of the happiest years there. My teacher was a Miss Natkin. I thought she was wonderful. She would keep little gifts in her desk drawer and we all got these treats regularly. She probably never got to have her own sweet rations! It was entirely down to her that I decided at an early age, like 6 years, that I would be a teacher although I guess it waas so that I could write on the blackboard whenever I wanted to....
(And not only did I become a teacher but AT Elm Grove and IN the same classroom in that original building. And indeed my children eventually also attended the school.)
Later, Prisoners of War worked in the fields around here on the farmland behind the houses in Cornwall Road and they would swap items in exchange for vegetables from the fields.
American soldiers were billeted in the Convent which used to be off Norfold Road. On occasions the local children were taken in their lorries to parties at the 'Convent' and given presents. We all thought they were wonderful especially as they gave us chewing gum. I once got it stuck up in my hair and we had a stern telling off, but I'd never seen it before!
Shops were only open from time to time. Once there was a notice in the window of Gamleys announcing that there would be a delivery on a date prior to Christmas. My mother said that I had a chouce of two items and which would I prefer of two? She would queue up, (and she did for many hours) to get me a present for Christmas. She did and into my life came a doll I named Diana. She had a set of blue clothes knitted for her and I thought I was so lucky.(I was.) The longed for scooter came much later!
By this time I was about 7/8 years of age I guess, and one thing worried me constantly. Why didn't I have brothers or sisters? All my friends had one, sometimes two! On asking my Mum she would just say " You are an only child!" So that was my reply to anyone who asked,
"I am an only child."
Eventually I asked her why. Her answer...
"You just tell people it was HITLER's fault."
So I did but I was really none the wiser.
It was abot 1942. No TV etc. so I was not aware of the 'facts of life.'

Games and Hobbies
At about this time I acquired a white rabbit with pink eyes. I was actually allowed to treat him as a house rabbit and he was allowed to go indoors around the kitchen. I spent some time each day walking along the back alley-ways, picking dandelion leaves for his food.
I also had a tortoise and he slept each Winter in a box in the shed. He lived for many years but I do not remember his demise.
We made our own past times. In the Summer, my friend Pam and I would collect the petals from the roses in the back garden and put them in some water to make perfume! We also collected ladybirds and little beetles and made them special gardens in old containers. They were rarely there the next day, so we would start again.
I read continuously. I always sat in the doorway of the kitchen to the long hall, with my feet upon the dresser. Yes ther was the constant call,
"WILL you put your feet down."
I learnt to play Badminton and was embarrassed because I only had one set of clothes to wear apart from my school clothes.Red jumper and 'check' black and white skirt.
My mother knitted jumpers for a company to get extra money and I remember her proudly telling me that Dad would be so pleased because she was managing to pay the mortgage. (Mortgages were, I believe, suspended during the War years.)
She coped so well. She had such a lovely sense of humour. We would sit and giggle over the most silly things. Memories go on and on. The more you think the more you recall of the day to day life.
We had the occasional letter from Dad. I missed him but the memory was growing dim. I was not unhappy. Most of my friends at school had a dad in the Services and overseas.
But I hated the sound of the siren. I hated the shelter in the house.
Our " social' life if you can call it that centered around our Church. It was a very stable part of my early life and later life. Mum belonged to the Women's Fellowship. Sunday revolved around the Church Services. It was a very 'high' church at that time but I felt it was my second home as it were.
(Indeed, at college from the age of 18, I took 'Divinity' as it was then called, as my special subject. I am a devout born again Christian and still studying...It is still the greater part of my life.
I used to write letters to my Dad which were reduced in size (airgraphs?) and I still have some that he managed to bring home, together with other memorabilia. I certainly learnt how to spell E G Y P T and I would sing song those letters.
One day Fred Wilson the postman came to the house with a telegram. Suddenly all the neighbours had gathered on our doorstep. My Mum was in tears....I was puzzled. Someone was cuddling me. Then as she opened the telegram she laughed and so did everyone about us. My Dad had managed to get a message to a field post office and for the first time had sent a telegram to say,
"Happy Christmas, and that he was OK."
This does ilustrate the support of neighbours at that time. Everyone looked out for each other.
I used to write out the weekly grocery list and I took it over to Mr Sparkes at the Grocer's shop in Maxwell Road. (He had a son called Michael.) The list always started the same.... butter, marg., lard, cheese, bacon, sugar, eggs. I remember once I had to write down "raspberries". I missed out the "P" and Mr Sparkes gave me a real ticking off for not thinking! He would have the groceries delivered by a boy with a basket on the front of his bike. People did have deliveries like this even in war time and we also had meat delivered but rarely.
I had to go and get the bread occasionally from Pegrums Bakers on the corner in Gloucester Place.
Ration books ans coupons were the controlling factor in our lives.
We learnt that to supplement our sweet ration, we could buy things like Horlicks tablets and Ovaltine tablets instead!
Children were safe to be out alone then. Always aware of the sirens. We could not get near to the sea front so our wanderings were limited. The local policeman kept a good eye on us children and as the Police Station was in Gloucester Road alongside the Railway Station, as we called it, he was pretty much in evidence.
He would clip the boys around the head if they were naughty...
I would have liked a bike. Ironic when we remember that my father worked in a cycle shop. It also sold prams.....I longed for a baby brother or sister. All Hitler's fault I remember!!!!!
I see from my father's diaries that much of what I recall may have been a little later than I thought. But the great thing is that in a happy childhood the years roll into one, I guess.
I had an Uncle, Leslie Bishop (brother of my father) who was a local watch maker and piano tuner. He had the most enormous grand piano which filled his front room in his house in Maxwel Road. He would take me to the occasional Classsical music concert in Connaught School Hall given by I believe Paul Engel with his wife Mary Engel?
I confess I never really enjoyed Classical music byt it was lovely to go 'out.'
Occassionally I was taken to stay with the aforementioned Aunt at Chichester. She had two daughters. She made Easter Eggs from marzipan. (So I must have gone there at Easter time.) She lived in Cavendish Street, Chichester and her surname was Ainger.
I also went to stay with another Aunt who lived at Broadwater. A third Aunt had me to stay, too. She lived in Pondtail Cottages, Horsham. So I was very fortunate having holidays.
The more one thinks, the more memories there are.
One night I was in bed. I was about ten I think. The door of the bedroom was opened.
In walked my Mother smiling broadly and crying at the same time.
A man walked in wearing a brown suit.
It was my Dad.

My father was 7653807 Cpl. E.H.Bishop,
he was also in the 51st Highland Division and he set off for the Middle East on Saturday 31st May 1941: arriving at Liverpool docks Sunday June 1st 1941 going on board at 8.30a.m. The ship was the RMS "Samaria."
He writes that 1)all his equipment, rifle, pith helmet, and ammo. were put in QM Stores before he prepared for his berth. There were about 3,000 troops on board with a crew of 500.
2) They boarded the "Isle de France" (47,000 tons. Speed about 45 knots...France's second largest liner) at 11am on wednesday July 9th 1941 at Durban, having had a few periods of shore leave.
3) 26th July 1941. They disembarked at Tufik? Suez Canal. It took 7 hours by road through desert off Suez Canal to reach destination 85 miles away. The last reference to his location address was 152 Infantry Bde. W/shop,O.F.P. Section, R.A.O.C.,51st Highland Division.

MARCH 28th 1941
Telegram from Mary (my Mother) re.Evacuation. Got to go to Section Office at 10.p.m. No luck.

MARCH 29th 1941
Reported at 10.a.m. re leave. Turned down.Tried again at 12 o clock . Turned down
Again 2p.m. Got 4 days granted at 2pm.
Caught 2.56 from Junction, arrived 8.38 at Euston. Left Victoria 10.48 arrived Brighton 1a.m.
Slept in Waiting Room.
Caught the 6.50 a.m.
Arrived home 8 a.m. Littlehampton.

MARCH 30th 1941 Sunday
Mary (my Mother) had given up hope of seeing me. She and Audrey (myself) were ever so pleased to see me. Have arranged to go to Long Eaton tomorrow 10.05 a.m. to see place of Evacuation.

MARCH 31st 1941 Monday
Packed and sent two cases by advance luggage. trike and trunk. I caught 10.05 train and arived Victoria 12 o clock.
Crossed London on Underground and caught 1.30 from St Pancras Station. Arrived Trent.
Walked into Long Eaton.
Audrey and Mary ahead of me. (My Mother had arranged to go with me on Evacuation Train to my new home.)
Stayed and talked things over in the evening. Audrey and Margaret (the daughter f the couple, Mr and Mrs Newton, who took me in) are very happy together. Mr Newton works on the Railway.

APRIL 1st 1941
Agreed to pay 22/- a week for Audrey's keep.
Trunk and trike arrived.

APRIL 2nd 1941
Mary back home.
Caught 12.48 from Trent to Derby 1.20
From there to Manchester
5.10p.m. Manchester to Preston. Free meal in Canteen.
7.18 to Burscough. Arrived 7.30p.m. Unpacked, made bed. Supper in NAAFI.
Seems rotten to be back here again.

MAY 2nd 1941
Up 6.30 am
Told to report to Section Office. Told am on draft for Overseas. Changed all my gear for new. Stopped in and packed all my bags. Telegraphed Mary to go to Long Eaton.

MAY 3rd 1941
Caught 10.57 to Manchester. Arrived Trent 4.30 Mary there, hadn't guessed it was Embarkation Leave and was upset.
Air Raid Warning. Gun fire and bombs. Some machine gun fire.

MAY 4th 1941
Went to see Aunt and took Audrey and Mary. Stopped to tea. Went for a walk in Park. Gave Audrey a ride on swings and seesaw. Back to Mrs Newtons.

MAY 5TH 1941
Mary had her hair set. Back to Mris Newton's. Had a good talk with Aunt before bed.

MAY 6th.
Pulled a girl out of the Canal (I remember this.)

MAY 7th 1941
Took Audrey for a walk. We had our photos taken.

MAY 8TH 1941
Collected photos. Very good.
Caught 4.45 from Trent. Arrived Burschough 9.15
Sorry leave is finished. Seemed hard leaving Mary and Audrey.

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