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15 October 2014
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Southborough Wartime Childhood - Part 2

by r_havard

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Richard Havard
Location of story: 
Southborough, Kent
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
28 November 2005

Other things I can remember include a complete V1 being exhibited in the shell of a new library in Tunbridge Wells. They began this building before the war, but I don’t think they had time to finish it before war was declared. There were no floors in it, just the outside walls, and they used it to display
large war exhibits. I also remember frequent army convoys of lorries, tanks and bren-gun carriers. I remember the tank tracks leaving marks on the road. Very long RAF transporters would go through the twon laden with plane parts. Before and during the war our local fire engine lived in the Fire Station, a small building next to the Council Offices. I remember seeing it dash down the street, its bell ringing and all the firemen wearing their brass helmets! During the war, the brass helmets were replaced by tin hats, and the red fire engines were assisted by large grey vans with ladders on top pulling water pumps behind them. These belonged to the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) and a garage for one of these vehicles was situated very near my home. The fire services would probably need a greater supply of water during the war than they would in peace-tine, so we had several Static Water Tanks in Southborough. Most of them were round and held many gallons of water, but one was an old swimming pool. Many ambulances were required in the south east of England, and the London Transport authorities allowed their ‘Green Line’ coaches to be converted for transporting casualties. We recognised them when they travelled through our town by the protective white netting on their windows. Speaking of casualties, David Salamon’s Home in Speldhurst Road, Southborough was a hospital for wounded servicemen during the war. We used to see these wounded men in their special uniforms around the town. They wore mid-blue suits, white shirts and red ties.

Mum used to do marvels with the rations. The Food Office was opposite the end of Yew Tree Road. We used to go up some steps into this building to collect gold coloured tins of dried egg, large silver tins of dried milk and concentrated orange juice in bottles which looked as it they should contain medicine! They were all displayed on trestle tables from the front of which hung posters urging one to ‘Dig for Victory’. That dried egg made marvellous scrambled egg, and the dried milk was used to make Mum’s special hard mint humbugs which seemed to last for ever! However, her attempt to make hot cross buns from the ingredients available was a disaster, I am sorry to say.

War ended, and on VE day there was a parade through the streets of Soutborough and a huge bonfire on Southborough Common. On VJ Day my mother, aunt, cousin and I travelled to Northampton to stay with my grand parents. We got there by train but found the buses weren’t running from Northampton to the village we wished to visit, so we had to take a taxi — much to we children’s delight! The day’s celebrations were brought to a conclusion with a village dance. We were allowed to sit and watch the dance band at close quarters, and did not go to bed until three o’clock in the morning!

To conclude, I must say that I never really felt frightened at any time during the war, and this was all down to my parents. They knew the dangers and must have dreaded what may happen in the future but this fear was never passed on to me, God bless them!

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