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Constance Sweeting’s Home from Home

by Isle of Wight Libraries

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Isle of Wight Libraries
People in story: 
Patricia Moore (nee Sweeting), Constance Sweeting, John Sweeting, Bruce Gibbs, Stan Nelson, George Boehmer, Marie Gorse (nee Holt), Leslie Conlan
Location of story: 
Nuthall, Nottinghamshire
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7469463
Contributed on: 
02 December 2005

My father and mother, with me and my brother, John, at the ever-open door

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Simon Falla and has been added to the website on behalf of Patricia Moore with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was a small child living in Nottinghamshire during the War. Our family, the Sweetings, lived at 83 Nottingham Road, Nuthall.

Nearby there were many air bases with Australian and Canadian bomber crews. These airmen used to frequent a club call the “Overseas League" in Nottingham and many of them answered an invitation to stay at our house when on occasional leave, where they could enjoy some of the home comforts that military life did not offer. My mother, Constance, was a very generous hearted woman. The key to the house was left under an empty flower pot for folk to help themselves and sometimes we had to beg bed space at neighbours’ homes to cope with the overspill of visitors.

I remember two Australians, Bruce Gibbs and Stan Nelson, building model aeroplanes for my brother, John, and a dolls’ house bungalow for me — a replica of one “back home”. When practising or flying back to base, the pilots used to hedge-hop across our back garden. Once, my father recognised the face in the cockpit of a low-flying plane as he looked out of the bathroom window.

We would supplement our meagre food rations by growing fruit and vegetables, and by keeping chickens and rabbits. Within the family, to ensure fair shares of a scarce item such as jam, we would each have a named jar of our own! But everything was generously shared with the visitors who were able to respond by having food parcels sent to us from their families overseas. The arrival of a parcel would be the cue for a party.

One Canadian, George Boehmer, recuperated with us after returning from POW camp. I still have a book of nursery rhymes which he gave to me. Many of these men, these mothers and families, remained in contact with my mother long after the end of the War. Some visited us over the years and even continued after the death of my mother in 1974. I am still in contact with one member of the ATS, Marie Gorse (nee Holt). My brother still has a cricket bat sent over by the mother of one Australian who died, Leslie Conlan. It is signed by him and by all the members of the Australian test team.

The photograph shows our family at the “ever open” front door. I have kept many photos of those who entered there, along with some of their letters. Any of these folk may like to know that my mother remained hospitable in peacetime and indeed right to the end of her life.

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