- Contributed by
- ben smith
- People in story:
- Herbert Smith, wife Matilda, and four children, Violet, Becky, Ernie and Ben
- Location of story:
- Gosport, Portsmouth and surrounding area
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 June 2004
Two days after being bombed out in Gosport, the whole family (except my Father, still in the Navy and stationed at H.M.S. Daedelus} were taken to a church hall in the village of Browndown, nearby. We took with us a young friend of ours,Kenny Riddout, whose mother had died from her enlarged goitre on the very night we were bombed out.
For two or three months we slept on the floor of the hall, which was packed out with blitzed families gathered round their few possessions. Due to my developing epilepsy, Mum managed to persuade the people in charge to find us a spot on the stage in the hall, which had slightly more space.
For food we were provided with doorstep-sized bread spread with jam, for breakfast; soup and more doorstep bread slices (this time spread with salty margarine), for lunchtime: and an evening meal of stew, which rang the changes from vegetable to mutton throughout the week. The rabbit broth became my favourite, particularly the gnawing of bones part.
The garden at the back of the church hall was a jungle of tall grass, bushes and stinging nettles, but the young evacuees played there anyway. Then one day, while Ernie and I were playing soldiers with some other urchin types, our Father came to collect us in a taxi, which drove the family to a very large house in Hambledon, for proper evacuation.
My memory suggests it was the Earl of Hambledon's estate, but I can't confirm this. I know there was an orchard at the back of the house, which was a mixed heaven and hell of eating green apples in early summer, then suffering stomach ache. There was also a back yard whose pitted surface formed a series of mini lakes during heavy rain.
We were accommodated in the servants' quarters, with a cramped living room. For some strange reason, Ernie and I took to roaming around the labyrinth of halls upstairs, our sense of adventure and excitement being mediated by a good dose of fear. Then we were found out.
I'm not sure whether it was our roaming escapades which triggered our premature departure from the house, or a consequence of the rigid class system of those days. My Father looked up to even the most junior commissioned oficers as semi-gods, with doctors, teachers, priests and office workersholding decreasingly similar status, in his eys. The middle and upper classes felt superior to manual workers and artisans: it was a prevalent condition throughout British Society, Which the onset of War loosened to some degree, but not the early days.
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