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by Wymondham Learning Centre

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Wymondham Learning Centre
People in story: 
Peter Meakin
Location of story: 
Pinner and the Midlands
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 July 2005

As time passed it became increasingly obvious to my parents that, with the proximity of major school exams looming on the horizon, because of our situation my state of preparedness for these was pretty nearly nil. So they sent me away to a boarding school in the Midlands.

I had no objection and quite enjoyed myself by and large whilst I was there! However, the problems started when I came home for the school holidays. I returned from a country setting, where you could get a good night’s sleep, back to the racket and bangs of life in Pinner. What a contrast!

On top of that the chief enemy was boredom. In Pinner at that time there was just nothing to do. I tried to play rugby for Pinner Rugby Club but was generally sidelined on the grounds of my youth.

Watching the matches however was quite hilarious. One of the players would walk the touchline carrying a notice, which usually said something like ‘Would anyone volunteer to play a second row forward, or scrum half, or whatever?’ This often produced a willing spectator who usually would have no kit and would play in shirt and trousers. Sports kit was unobtainable so often the appearance of the players on both sides looked a real ragbag. In addition few of them were well versed in the rules and the arguments on the pitch were frequent.

I also took up birdwatching and often paid illicit visits to Oxhey Woods to hear the greater spotted woodpecker or catch a sight of the chiffchaffs and other small birds.
I went to the cinema at the top of the village, on the road to Pinner Green, as often as I could. In the early days of the ‘Blitz’ performances were often interrupted by a notice appearing on the screen which read ‘An air raid warning has just sounded. Please leave your seats and go to the nearest air raid shelter’. Then, underneath in big letters, it would say ‘DO NOT PANIC, REMEMBER YOU ARE BRITISH’. That last little bit became a catch phrase in our family for many years after.

And so, we would obediently leave the cinema but, in later years when servicemen came home on leave, this notice was greeted with boos, yells and other displays of disapproval and the performance continued regardless of the dangerous noises outside.

The cinema performance ended at about 9.30 to 10 o’clock and then there was the problem of getting home. This usually entailed a walk down the hill, under the railway bridge and up the avenue. The odd time I used my bike, I was ticked off by a policeman for having no lights — and this in the middle of an air raid! Often the sirens would have gone and the AA guns would have started making their usual racket and I would scurry home as fast as I could.

At about this time my father joined the Home Guard and spent his spare time at their headquarters at the Green Man on Pinner Green.

In the house we had a Lewis gun mounted in the hall, pointing at the front door (to repel unwanted visitors?) and a Bangalore torpedo occupied a corner of the breakfast room.

Returning to school was often a dismal experience. My contemporaries were sons of wealthy farmers and landowners who spent their holidays doing interesting things such as driving tractors, shooting partridges, ferreting and other country pursuits.

By contrast, my humble lot must have appeared very ordinary and in consequence I seldom talked about it to my fellow pupils. Of course, as I grew older, things gradually improved. With age there were new found freedoms. I went up to Central London quite frequently. My father now had an office over Oxford Circus station and I used it as a base to explore the art galleries, museums and, sometimes, was able to go to the cinema there. By this time the threat of the bombers had all but disappeared, only to be replaced by the dreaded V1 (doodlebugs).

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