- Contributed by
- Location of story:
- Fleet, Hampshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 November 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC War site by CSV Storygatherers Lucy Thomas and Pam Barnett of Callington U3A on behalf of Donald King. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.
LIVING WITH STRANGERS
A whole block of flats near Chelsea collapsed and we all went down to have a look at the pictures and things still hanging on the wall and chairs which were still in place. You hear these stories about bomb damage with things being left as if nothing had happened when half the room had disappeared. But that was a kind of way of sharing the trouble and the stress of it, I suppose.
I wasn’t formally evacuated, as lots of kids were from London, but around 1944, I was taken down to Fleet in Hampshire to stay with a woman that my dad had lodged with when he’d been working near Aldershot. I was there for about six months and mostly I hated it. At least I wasn’t on a train with a label round my neck and carted off somewhere, not knowing where I was going to go and what was going to happen, but it did feel a bit as if I was being pushed out of things and I resented strongly being sent away from the family. When they did come down to see me I remember I wasn’t actually very nice to them. As a young boy of seven, I felt they’d betrayed me in a way by pushing me out, when I wanted to be back in London with the family. Things died down a bit at that stage and I was only there for six months before I went back, but it did have some good effects. Because I was on my own a lot, I started reading books for the first time. There were bits of countryside round about and a canal with newts and frogs, and there were meadows with blue butterflies. I think this was the first time I’d really been anywhere near the countryside as such and I enjoyed that a lot.
My landlady’s husband was in the Home Guard and always left his rifle at the top of the stairs. One day he caught me playing with it and I got into trouble. For two or three weeks afterwards my job was to go to the shop carrying a heavy accumulator to get it charged up to keep the radio going. I was told not to touch his gun again.
Another thing that I did experience for the first time was how the other half lived. Coming from a working class background, I knew what that was like. The woman I was staying with used to ‘do’ (cleaning) for a woman a couple of streets away in quite a big house with a very large garden with a stream and flower borders which were very nicely kept. I remember going in to a big lounge with fine looking furniture where there were copies of Punch and a bagatelle and other things that I thought were very posh. She was a very nice woman who used to let us play in the garden. That was the first time I really saw how other people might live and that was a bit of an eye-opener too.
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