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Some School Wartime Memories 3

by CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
People in story: 
Edward Brown
Location of story: 
Willesden County Grammar School and area
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 August 2005

This story has been submitted to the People’s War website by a volunteer from Lincoln CSV Action Desk and added to the site on behalf of members of the Old Uffingtonians Association, which is the ex-pupils of Willesdon County Grammar School, with their permission. In this case the author is Edward Brown. The association fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

At a more light-hearted level we were buoyed-up by more humorous experiences, however. The early establishment of a searchlight battery in Roundwood Park met with my unqualified schoolboy approval. In my innocence I revised my somewhat prejudiced view of the opposite sex on seeing that many of the older local girls also displayed a healthy interest in searchlights, clustering around the emplacement apparently engaging the rude soldiery in earnest enquiry about their work. It was in this same park that later in the war I had the first (and last) opportunity to put on a steel helmet in anger, so to speak. This headgear was my pride and joy having been loaned to me by a wounded and discharged Dunkirk survivor. With my garish air-modelling paints I immediately camouflaged it to a standard worthy of the Fuhrerbunker itself, painted a smudgy school shield on the side and proudly slung it beneath the saddle of my bicycle (I should mention that the facial expression of the kind soldier when I returned this much decorated helmet remains with me still.) Coming home from school one lunch time just by Roundwood Park drinking fountain, a flying bomb roared low overhead. Active service at last! I frantically tore at the helmet but it remained fast. Another frantic pull served to throw me over the bicycle and my great moment had passed with nothing to show but a few grazes. On sad reflection, this amusing personal episode epitomises so many wartime experiences where humour often goes had-in-hand with tragedy. That bomb fell in Harrow, undoubtedly causing disaster to someone.

Very late in the war, my now oldest friend and Old Uff (who shall be nameless) and I, suffering the aforementioned and terminal lust for war trophies, noticed a veritable Alladin's Cave of practice shells and assorted ammunition through an open window of the now abandoned "Hub" or ARP headquarters in Harlesden Road, near the school. Yes, I'll come quietly! We loaded ourselves with this ordinance and half fearful but exhilarated by this coup, we carried it to my home nearby. Mercifully we were immediately caught red-handed with our spoils laid out on the kitchen floor by my normally easygoing mother. Her instructions were nothing if not explicit! We loaded ourselves again with our booty and promptly returned it. How ironic it would have been if we had been caught returning the loot to its rightful owners. The mitigating plea of "Acting under wartime adolescent insanity", common to so many of our generation, would not impress the bench even in these more tolerant times I fear.

A final, strange memory for me was a curious sense of gloom that unaccountably assailed me as I rode past the school on the day of capitulation of enemy forces in Europe ("VE Day"). I noticed with a new and depressing clarity how tired and shabby our familiar old building looked. There was every good reason to rejoice so why this strange and unaccountable sorrow? Perhaps this was only the true beginning of adolescence. But it had been a long wartime childhood; in a curious way, a privilege but it was, nevertheless, a strange and trying time in which we lived some important formative years.

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