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15 October 2014
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MY STORY…MY WAR

by jamesforeman

Contributed by 
jamesforeman
People in story: 
James Foreman
Location of story: 
London, England
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A2421442
Contributed on: 
13 March 2004

My name is Jim Foreman and I was born on the 17th of Jan 1931 the 13th child of Charles and Lucy Maria Foreman. I was just 7 years old when my mother died of cancer in 1938. I was approaching my 8th birthday when we went to war. Because of the Second World War against Germany from 1939 until 1945, I was one of the many thousands of children to be evacuated out of London to be billeted in the homes of strangers in a safer environment away from the possible threat of German bombers. During 1939/41 I was sent to live in four different ‘family’ homes before ending up in a village bakery in the village of Meadvale, near Reigate, Surrey. The first billet was to a large house situated on the edge of Reigate Common. It was for only a matter of months because, I believe, it was not possible for me to carry out the duties of missing servants (as they were now in the armed forces). My second move was to a wet and dry fish shop in the High Street. The next move a year or so later, was to Red hill where I was taken to live with an elderly couple who looked after me very well for over a year. It was there when I first experienced the real war when the German and British fighter planes were frequently overhead trying to shoot each other down. My next move was a short one to the town of Horley. I think the possible reason for these moves was due to the fact that I did not have any of my family in contact with me. I do not know why this was so.
Following that short stay in Horley my final traumatic move as an evacuee came. It was to the village of Meadvale where Cecil Goldsmith was the Master Baker. He became my uncle and his wife my aunty. I began to do many odd jobs in the bakery as both their sons were away in the services. In 1944 when I was only 13 years of age I had been kept away from school on many occasions. Due to the fact that uncle was often bed-ridden, suffering from dropsy as well as still needing treatment for shrapnel wounds sustained in one leg from action during World War One.
By late 1944 I had learnt enough about baking to make it possible for me to cope with the daily production of bread and cakes, which was quite a feat for a lad of 13 years. A typical day at that time would read as follows:
At 8pm I carried from the store two sacks of flour (each one weighed 140 lbs). I would tip them both into the wooden trough and add 14 gallons of water, two and a half pounds of salt and 12 ounces of yeast. It would take about one hour for me to mix them together by hand. I then covered the dough by sacks and left it to prove until 5am. Before going to bed at about 9.30pm I would collect six buckets of coal from the stables ready to light the side-flue furnace at 5am. My last task was to spray the bake-house with DDT powder to kill the army of cock-roaches that covered the floor during every night! I would sleep until 5am, light the furnace, sweep up all the dead and dying roaches and shovel them into the fire. Then I would cut huge lumps of dough out of the trough and cut the 200 plus pieces to the required weights and give them the first moulding into ball shapes. I would then rest the pieces and lay all the greased bread tins out on a trestle table. Once that was done I had to mould all the dough pieces into their final shapes and placed them into the tins. All that would take about two hours as everything was done by hand weighing and moulding. An hour and a half later the dough would be fully proven ready for putting into the hot oven where they would bake for about 45 minutes.
Whilst the bread was baking I would make a mixing of scones or rock-cakes so that I could bake them after drawing the batch of bread. Mr Goody, our rounds-man, would load the bread into the van to deliver to areas outside the village. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I would load the hand-cart and deliver round the village itself during the afternoons. All the other products were sold in our shop at the front of the bakery. Also every day I had to keep the bakery clean as well as clean and grease all the bread tins and trays. I believe my experience during that period entitles me to claim to have been the YOUNGEST SINGLE-HANDED BAKER THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE OF THE BRITISH ISLES!

FOOTNOTE:
The two sons returned from their war in 1945 shortly before Uncle died and I continued doing the baking after leaving school at the age of 14 years earning 10 shillings a week. And my keep! Shortly before Xmas 1945 on advice from friends I obtained a job as a table-hand baker at a bakery in Reigate. I gave a weeks notice to the eldest son Ken after I had made the dough on Friday evening. He promptly sacked me and wrapped up my spare clothing into an overcoat and small suit-case. Ken then pushed me out into the street. About 9pm I walked across Earlswood Common in the dark to a friend’s house. The following week John Puplett the manager at my new place of work found lodgings for me in Reigate. So, approaching fifteen years of age I became a night baker on the full rate of pay. In addition to that I had very good lodgings.

THAT WAS WHEN MY WAR WAS OVER.

The net result stemming from those early years culminated (over 50 years) in my becoming a Bakery Manager, a Master Baker, a Bakery Director, a Service Technologist, and an International Consultant. I worked in North America, Canada, Europe, India and Africa, altogether some fifteen countries and over 500 bakeries. I believe I learnt to be both a good baker and a good manager in spite of my total lack of trade schooling, solely because I worked for several different companies both large and small. Every change became part of my learning curve which enabled me to enjoy a good life.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - MY STORY…MY WAR

Posted on: 18 April 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Jim

A fine uplifting story, but I was saddened to read of the outrageous way the returning brothers had treated you. Ignorance certainly was bliss in those days, thinking of the highly toxic DDT powder being sprinkled around in a bakery!

Regards,

Peter

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Working Through War Category
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