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15 October 2014
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The Story of Biddy Burgum (B. 14th August 1927)

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Biddy Burgum, William Burgum(Father), John Burgum(Brother), Lilian Burgum (Maiden Aunt who took in her brother William and brought up his children Biddy and John after their mother died).
Location of story: 
Birmingham, Worcester and Coalville, Leicestershire.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Ms Biddy with her permission and she fully understand the site’s terms and conditions

Biddy’s mother died when she was 7. Aunt Lilian(William’s sister) took in the whole family, Father brother and sister.

Biddy was in Birmingham throughout the war apart from 2 years evacuation.

Biddy was first evacuated when she was 12 (1939). The school was evacuated to Worcester and then brought back to Birmingham after a year.

John was evacuated to Monmouth, where he spent the remainder of the war. This meant that Biddy and John didn’t see each other for most of the war.

Biddy was evacuated to an elderly couple (brother and sister) who had never had a family before and no experience with children.

Bombing started in Birmingham and then Biddy went to Coalville. Biddy went to a younger couple.

After 1 year in Coalville the whole school was moved back to Birmingham. While in evacuation the children only had school for half a day. This suited Biddy fine as she was a great sports girl. She eventually went on to become an international hockey player (1950-1962). Over 50 caps.

Biddy also taught PE in Surrey, Nottingham and then Worthing (1959). In 1969 Biddy moved on to lecture prospective PE teachers at Chelsea PE College in Eastbourne, now part of Brighton University. She retired in 1983.

From 1941-1945 while Biddy was in Birmingham. During this period there was some very bad bombing raids in Birmingham, Coventry and the rest of the midlands. There were some terrible incendiary raids which set the city alight.

Biddy would go up on to the attic roof in the evening and count the barrage balloons. There were over a hundred.

The school playing field had a set of barrage balloons put there by a local army unit. Games had to be moved to the local park. Tennis balls and gym shoes could not be obtained which was a nuisance since Biddy was keen on any form of sport.

During the war the air raid warnings rang out every night. The family would go down to the cellar, which was extremely damp and stay there all night. They would sleep on deck chairs. There was no heating other than an open fire.

Biddy used to cycle 4 miles each way to school.

At school the children would go down to the air raid shelter and have their lessons there.

The school staff would fire watch in shifts all night.

Rationing was very severe.

Biddy had a “blue” ration book, which meant that she would be able to have bananas when they were available.

A “green” ration book for younger children would allow them other things.

Sample rations at the time for the population:

8ozs Sugar
4ozs Marge
2ozs butter
2ozs tea
8ozs meat

You could get Bovril and Marmite fairly easily, but Jam and Marmalade was also rationed.

Everyone hated the “dried egg”.
Real eggs were “preserved” in a horrible white paste called “icing glass”.

Coal was also in short supply, so people would have to keep warm using blankets. Biddy would keep warm by doing a lot of running around.

Clothes were rationed.

Everything had to be mended. There was nothing thrown away.

Biddy’s family planted vegetables in the garden. Every part of the garden was used. The lawn included.

Any metal railings were taken away to be used in the war effort. Tram rails were also used.

Biddy’s family had a cat (Gin, short for Ginger) which ate horse meat.

During one evacuation there was a time bomb in the road. The road was barricaded off. Biddy’s family (at number 8) had to stay in a school hall, for 4 nights.

The cat was left behind.

Biddy found a way in to the back of the house through a tennis club and a police cordon to feed the cat.

Everything was blacked out for a lot of the time. There were no phones. Biddy would use the phone box at the end of the road.

There were no holidays.

There was no fridge or any other amenities. No car.

In 1945,after the war, Biddy went to PE college in Bedford. She then taught PE for 35 years.

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