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15 October 2014
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Margaret Bennett

by Chepstow Drill Hall

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Chepstow Drill Hall
People in story: 
Margaret Bennett. Chepstow Memories
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Contributed on: 
14 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from The Chepstow Society, on behalf of Margaret Bennett,and has been added to this site with her permission.Margaret Bennett fully understands the site's terms and conditions
Wartime Reminiscences

Margaret Bennett

“Would you like to tell us about your fathers work in the war”
My father, the late Sam Judd. was in the Home Guard during the Second World War. He was in the platoon belonging to the Shipyard. He was a Corporal and there was another platoon belonging to the Red and White Bus Company. They used to be sent out on manoeuvres against each other. I remember my father telling me one story where they went out on manoeuvres one evening. My father and another man in his platoon were given the machine gun, no ammunition of course, and they had to try and find the Red and White platoon. They had a fair idea where they might be. I’m not sure if it was a fine day but they found themselves a nice ditch. They climbed in and waited and sure enough after a time- troop, troop, troop, along came the men of the Red and White platoon headed by an officer. They waited until the Red and White platoon was opposite and then they stood up and said “Rat-a tat-a-tat you’re wiped out”. The Officer in charge was most put out. “I wouldn’t say you wiped us out my man, I’d say you surprised us”. That was one of the stories he told.

He used to amuse me because when “Dad’s Army” was on in the 1970’s he would watch this and he found it quite funny that we know about things like that and he would tell me these stories.

They used to go across the fields at Mounton practising night time crawling being unobserved. He used to come along at the back and walk where no-one could see him and said “I’m not going to crawl through any cow pats”. He came home one evening very gleeful saying one of the sergeants had sat in an ants nest.

Another story he told, was it Bill Hyatt or Bert Hyatt, I’m not sure but he was with somebody. The two of them had been sent out to do something. They were on the railway line and were walking back towards the station when the tubular bridge was still there. The one who was ahead of the other got his rifle and poked the other one in the back for a bit of fun and the one in the front held his arms up. While they were walking back to the station like this a train passed. When they got to the station there was great excitement because the train driver had stopped and reported he had seen a member of the Home Guard escorting a German Prisoner of War with his hands up. “Had they seen anything?” “No, they said, they hadn’t seen anything, it must have been a mistake”.

Those really are the main stories I wanted to tell you.

My father used to come back from platoon meetings sometimes very annoyed. He had gone from the shipyard to the meeting only to have to listen to the officer complaining to the ones present about those who were absent. He was annoyed because he had made the effort to attend.

“Can you tell us about Mr Judd’s daytime work in the Shipyard?”
He was a plater in the Shipyard. I don’t really know what they were making there quite truthfully. There used to be barges and I remember ships going from there as well and landing craft.

“Did he have to work more than one shift? Do you remember him having to work extra long hours?”
I can’t remember I’m afraid.

“What about your life at school?”
I remember the evacuees coming. Another teacher came with them as well and I rather think we shared the school. “That was at Monmouth?” No, that was at Chepstow. I went to Monmouth School for Girls right at the end of the war and that was when my mother died. I can remember the evacuees being in the classroom in the Church School.

“How did you notice rationing and blackout”
Blackout I remember particularly. I was asleep in bed when I was a small child and the Air Raid Warden came around and hammered on our front door. He woke me up and I started to cry. My father was very annoyed and went to the door saying “What’s the matter”. “You have a light showing”. So father said “Where?” The Air Raid Warden took him outside and bent down and pointed up under the window at a crack. My father said “Are they coming around in submarines?” He got fined.

I can remember in school Mrs Riggs the teacher sticking paper across all the windows of the school. I also remember the gas masks. We had to carry our gas masks and ration cards. We were very, very short of sweets and only one little piece of chocolate.

“Did you notice how people were disappearing off to do war work or, as people were in the Shipyard did you find that most of them were still at home?”
Most of them were still at home.

I can remember the German Prisoners of War being here repairing the path in the wood, they did a lot of work on that. They used to make wooden toys. I remember having one of the wooden chickens pecking around a ball, lots of us had those at Christmas. The prisoners used to be able to walk around the town quite freely. I remember seeing them at a fair once.

I remember, but this is nothing to do with Chepstow, staying with an Aunt in Cardiff and going into the shelter at the bottom of the garden and being really frightened in case it was bombed.

“Were you aware when the bombs dropped on Chepstow?”
I was looking out of the window one day and a plane flew across the other side of the Wye across the Beachley peninsula and I said “Ooh Is it a German, will they drop a bomb?” My father said “It’s one of ours”. As he spoke it dropped a bomb. I do remember that! “Do you think that’s the one that killed the apprentice at Beachley? I don’t know, it seemed to be not as far up the river as Beachley.

“Did you notice planes going over towards Bristol?”
Oh yes I remember planes coming back from raids and seeing the gaps and seeing Bristol burning from Chepstow.

“Were you aware of the different sorts of troops stationed in Chepstow temporarily?”
I remember the railway station platform at the end of Caird street, the one used for the Racecourse and seeing the soldiers marching away from there and going into town or wherever they were going. I remember the Americans briefly being here. Got any gum chum!

“Did you ever get taken out from your infants school to pick blackberries or that sort of thing?”
I remember the exultations to go out to pick things like rose hips to make rose hip syrup and “Digging for victory”.

“Did you have allotments?”
Yes we did.

I remember queuing for oranges and bananas, long, long queues.

“Did you have friends who let you have eggs and things or were you tied to the ration book?”
Father had friends who sort of put things on the door step, mushrooms and that sort of thing.

“Your mother was too ill to do things?”
No, it was very sudden when she died. She used to sell National Savings stamps, that’s right she was in charge of that.

“What about other members of the family?”
I had an uncle who was a Captain in the Yorks and Lancs Regiment serving out in India and the husband of a cousin who was at Arnhem.

“Can you remember any particular events which happened in Chepstow during the war period which stand out as memorable?”
I think we used to go under the stairs if the Air Raid Siren sounded.

“I believe you were nearly evacuated?”
My father had a sister who was married and lived in New York. She and her husband wanted me to go across and stay with them for the duration of the war. My father and mother thought very hard about it but they decided against it. It was fortunate for me as I would have sailed on the City of Benares which was sunk and lots of children were lost.

“What about Civil Defence precautions?”
Oh we had to have our gas masks with us and I was absolutely terrified of being gassed. I seem to remember they were going to have a practice session where we would have to put our gas masks on. I really remember that. It really frightened me, they smelt so horrible. I can’t remember if we really put them on that day. We practised it at school, or somewhere. We had these brown cardboard boxes strung around our necks and we were supposed to take them with us everywhere.

“How did you feel once the war was all over?”
Once the war was over we kept waiting for things to get better. We kept saying, “Why isn’t it getting better. Why can’t we have things like sweets and fruit and there are no materials for clothes and aren’t things going to be nicer. It took such a long, long, time, everything was so dreary, I remember that. I went to University in 1952 and we still had some food rationing then. That really struck me as a long grinding dreary period after the end of the war.

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