- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr Donavon Gordon Smith; Lilian Caroline Smith (Mother); Nellie Deacon.
- Location of story:
- Wellington, Somerset; Newton Abbot, South Devon.
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 August 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by CSV Storygatherer Janet on behalf of Mr Donavon Gordon Smith. The story has been added to the site with his permission and Don fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.
My name is Don Smith and I lived in the Conservative Club, Wellington, Somerset through the period 1939 to the final ending with Japan.
My first story is about my mother who was Stewardess of the Club with my Father. My Father (age 35) joined the Royal Air Force on the 16th January 1941 to 14th October 1945, Engine Mechanic on Spitfires, Halifaxes and Lancasters. Also the Secretary of the Club joined the Army.
This was a 'Men only' Conservative Club. In addition to full time as Stewardess, my mother became the Secretary. During that time every yearly audit was clear and the Accountant would open his book of queries with blanks sheets.
When Dunkirk happened we had the Kings Own Scottish Border Regiment in Wellington. The large Billiard Room had 15 Bunk Beds, 3 high, and the large Reading Room became their Headquarters. There was cold water for washing and field toilets alongside the house, with the small enclosed Garden the Cookhouse. We had a very long lawn, which was used by the Army and every Sunday morning about 6.00am, the No.1 Bagpipe Player would play and walk up and down the lawn. When the Regiment moved later, the Regimental Band played in the Main High St to say thank you.
A Private, Alex Deacon, from Portsmouth, asked my mother for a place to stop a couple of nights. They had got married before going to France. Nellie Deacon came for two nights and stayed with us until after the war. She became the Assistant Stewardess. Sadly when Portsmouth was bombed, their house had a direct hit, and they never lived in it.
When the K.O.S.B. left, next was the R.A.S.C. The Billiard Room was Sergeants' Quarters and the Reading room their Mess. They had a record player and every time someone came in the room they would play the record “Donkeys Serenade”, never the other side, 30 or more times a day.
When the White Americans came before D’Day, they were the 996th Treadway Bridges Engineers. One was called Sgt. George Iverson from Colorado. Before going to School in the morning I would climb out the window on the 3rd Floor and walk down the roof outside and take a number of kettles of hot water for shaving. I watched them in quarters playing on Pay Day many kinds of card Games and dice. I think Sgts pay was about 60 to 80 dollars a month. They moved out and gave me a pack of American Army Cards and a U.S. Army Compass. Someone in Wellington kept contact with them after the war.
Also, during a short period the Dark Americans were in corrugated huts on the outskirt of town. I remember the Three Cups Inn, Mantle Street having a white line in the bar. One night someone stepped over the line and there was one big fight. Just before D`Day a Sgt Pullen in Wellington, who was escort to Joe Louis (I was told), visited all the camps with Dark Americans.
Before D`Day I asked a Pilot Officer, flying gliders at Smeatharpe Airfield, in for a cup of tea. He came from a Bolston family. He came back through the lines after landing in France, and was going home on medical grounds.
One story was concerning the linesmen reconnecting lines and a Sniper shooting down everyone climbing the telepole.
I remember on a visit to see relations at Chudleigh, an American lorry travelled around the town giving every young person a BANANA for the very first time, and them not believing you could eat it after peeling.
For two periods at the end of school, before Christmas, I was a schoolboy postman (13-14 years). Starting time was 4.00am, when I sorted the mail for my delivery, then delivered. On completion and returning I would empty the mail boxes. I would have a short break then help on the horsebox delivering parcels, many being meat parcels from Eire. I would get home before teatime.
We started about the 10th December, every day including Christmas Day.
Finally on V.E. night, when my Mother and Nellie were busy in the Bar, I placed our radiogram on boxes at the window the third floor up playing Glenn Miller and other American bands. People were dancing in the High St. Everyone enjoyed dancing, but forgot their shoes. Some needed repair.
With reference to bombing, I watched the 'red skies' of Bristol and Exeter after the all clear.
Twice I travelled by train on the 10.20am train from Wellington to Newton Abbot.
After arriving at Newton Abbot, I was with a school friend in Grafton Road and, after many very loud bangs, three Dornier planes, with bomb doors open, passed over towards Denbury Army Camp and Machine Gunning. My Mother, sister and myself travelled back to Wellington through the scenes of trains, rails, broken glass from the Station roof, and then destruction to the cottages by the road bridge.
Another time, we travelled for a day to Newton Abbot. There was a bomb by the Gas Works at Teignmouth alongside the Mail Railway. All traffic moved down the single line from Exeter City Basin via Chudleigh, Longdown, and Heathfield. The Railway Tunnel at Longdown is still there. Freight and passenger trains shifted from one siding to the next with the proper safety keys. Besides the Coal/Freight trains in the siding, we passed the Cornish and Torbay Express Trains also in the sidings. Due to the long time to Newton Abbot, we had a couple hours with relations and the return train via Teignmouth.
Don Smith (Age 74)
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