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Long Meadow End war-time childhood memories

by Genevieve

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Neville Percy Stephens
Location of story: 
Long Meadow End, Craven Arms, South Shropshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

My name is Neville Stephens and I was born in October, 1933, so was six when war broke out. I can remember us as a family were on holiday in Blackpool when the news was announced of it and I can remember the gloom as we ended what was an enjoyable holiday in Blackpool.

My memories of the war are varied. I particularly remember lying in bed at night as a youngster and hearing the aircraft droning over and although we did not suffer from any air-raids I was very much aware raids were taking place and had this fear that one day we might be bombed in the quiet village of Long Meadow End, Craven Arms, South Shropshire. I always listened to the aircraft and I can remember always called out to my mother and said “Mum, are they ours?” and she would always reply “Yes they’re ours, go to sleep”.

Another vivid memory is that of rationing although I did have relations who were farmers and that did help in some respect in that we would have plenty of fresh eggs and bacon. But we also kept our own pigs, and I say pigs, because the custom was to have two pigs, fatten them up, sell one on and carry on fattening the one to be killed later on and I can remember Alf Corbett, I think the gentleman’s name was, would kill the pig. I can remember being fearful of this. I hated the screaming of, the squealing of the pig and I remember the salting of the flitches - the ham and the cutting up of the pig and the shaving of the pig and so on.

I can remember the generosity of neighbours. My father went into the air-force rather later on in the war. But I can remember the kindness of the neighbours, for instance our next door neighbour was separated by quite a high hedge and a little stream and he insisted on putting a bridge across and making a gap in the hedge so we could immediately go and call him if we needed help.

The black-out sticks out in my mind and the gas-masks drill at school and my sister, a baby at the time. The warden Mr Bevan - a local farmer was the warden, coming along with the huge gas mask which the baby was put into and I can remember my parents saying “Well I hope we never reach the stage where Margaret has to be put in the gas-mask”. The gas-mask drill at school and so on.

The Home Guard. I can remember at one stage we kids who were around would be talking to the Home Guard and I think they always suspected when they were having mock battles we were actually spoiling the battles because we would pass information from one side to the other.

The evacuees came from Liverpool and joined our school. I went to the school in Hopesay and I can remember the evacuees coming in and also at one stage, my memories are fairly brief on this one, but trucks came with the evacuees and at one stage we had this young teacher who stayed with us. I remember it must have been traumatic for her to have to live in a house where there was no proper sanitation. The cold water had to be heated up for washing, the toilet was outside — the old bucket. She had surely been used to more modern conveniences. And I recall her cosmetics. I can almost smell the perfume that she wore because my mother would have been very modest when it came to using any kind of perfume.

Rationing. I recall that we had rationing and how limited the food was. I can recall having cod liver oil for instance in school and orange-juice and also the fact that the sweet supply was very short. We had vegetables because we were able to grow our own. We had lots of hens and we were well provided with eggs and the food stuffs that could be made from locally grown food. The hens in their turn provided the meat.

But one thing that sticks out in my memory very clearly was that I dreamt of the day when there would be no rationing and I used to think of that time. What would it be like when we got the freedom to buy what we like? One probably appreciates the feel that one has, this freedom, to purchase just whar we want, when we want to purchase it.

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