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15 October 2014
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War Experiences - Paul Kay

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
threecountiesaction
People in story: 
Paul Kay
Location of story: 
Brighton, London, Wales.
Article ID: 
A7446882
Contributed on: 
01 December 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War Site by Three Counties Action, on behalf of Paul Kay, and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was just six years, three months old when war broke out. We lived in Brighton Sussex at 121 Preston Drive on the corner of Osborne Road. Osborne Road led up to the Downs, were we used to play with our friends. On that fateful we had all been told to be back early. As we approached our house my mother and our friends’ mothers, were all crying and hugging each other. I remember, Mrs Gardiner, Mrs Goad, Mrs Hope, Mrs Otterway and Mrs Tillertson and others all crying. They of course had seen WW1, Mr Gardiner had lost a leg during that conflict.

We had a couple f air raids in Brighton, and usually slept in a Morrison Shelter (a huge steel table in the middle of our dining room). My mother was in the WRVS and used to do fire watching, a friend of many mothers used to look after us when she was on duty. One night Mum ran to an unexploded incendiary bomb and put a big bucket of sand over it. She received a huge reprimand, I think she was upset about it.

We had little schooling, my school Balfour Road was taken over as a hospital. I saw some of the Battle of Britain, including three airplanes shot down, one of them was British. A German pilot whose parachute did not open crashed onto a house a few blocks down the road.

We had several army officers billeted with us, our house was on quite high ground and I believe that we could see the sea from the top, although I do not remember this very well. My father’s business was in London, and when the terrible London Blitz was over we moved up to London.

London

In London we lived in Elgin Avenue, we overlooked the BBC Transcription Unit in Delaware Road and St Hildas Convent in Shirland Road which were BBC offices. I went to school at Essendine School, a very famous school, as a lad from Essendine, called Brooks, had bowled Don Bradman at the Paddington Recreation Ground which was nearby. Essendine was a very well built school, all the ground floor classrooms had huge blast walls built in front of the windows, these rooms were used as air raid shelters. We suffered many air raids and would have to proceed in an orderly fashion to the shelters there were no chairs we sat on the floor. We were then all mixed age groups, so lessons consisted of spelling and arithmetic puzzles. The head teacher was Mr Strong, he was very strict, one day he hung a lad who was misbehaving from a coat hook by his belt loop. He was lucky he did not get caned as well. Mr Strong was a super Head, I think if a TV series were made about him no one would believe it. He would carry on a mind reading act whilst raids were in progress, cuddle any boy or girl who got frightened, play arithmetic and spelling games. E.g.: “Freddy, what are seven nineteen’s?” “Seven nines are”, “Stop you are a silly Freddie! What should he say Doreen?” “He should say seven twenties minus seven sir.” “Well what’s that Terry?” “One hundred and thirty three sir” “Well done Terry.” Then would follow a sweet to each (even Freddy) he handed out sweets galore, where he got them from nobody knew. Sometimes these sessions would last several hours.

Thus we carried on, we suffered many air raids, but nothing like the blitz. When there was a raid people went to the shelters, there was a huge concrete one in the middle of Elgin Avenue. We were given the key, it was very comfortable. In fat everything carried on as normal as possible, this was thanks to our parents, neighbours and teachers.

Many of my class mates’ fathers were in the services, my father was over age, he had served in WW1. Several of my friends’ homes were bombed, one boy had been bombed out, at three different addresses. My Grandmother was bombed, she was living in Harrow with my Aunt. They were asleep and an oil bomb hit the roof, did not explode, and went down through the house between the twin beds they were sleeping in. That was the nearest thing to happen to our immediate family, although a cousin served on both the Russian and Malta convoys.

My mother in the meantime had become a BBC employee working as a clerk/secretary in P&ID. I remember her mentioning Mr Davis, Mr Eastwood, Mr Richardson and a Mrs Brooks who became a good friend. Mr Richardson invited us to his home, he had been wounded badly during the war. (Mum later became secretary to Mr Perry and Nichols at the TVC).

Then came the flying bombs V1s, we all carried on as normal, until one heard the engine stop, then we would lay down where ever we were, cover our heads if possible, and wait for the explosion then get up and carry on. One of my school friends was killed by a flying bomb her name was Josephine Ferry, I will always remember her.

D Day happened. I counted 105 aeroplanes flying directly overhead, there were aircraft in every direction, the noise was horrendous, we were all cheering them on. Then came V2s, these were terrible — just a huge bang! — no warning whatsoever. My parents decided that my brother Brian and I should be evacuated, I think they had little option. Brian was two years younger than me and had only one kidney as the result of an accident at Dunkirk time.

Evacuation

A label was tied to each of us, Mum also made a large label saying “These boys are brothers and must not be separated”. Mum made me promise that I would look after Brian, and not get separated. She need not have worried. After some nine hours we arrived at Carmarthen, then another train to Lampeter. Then a short car journey to a school, then another to our foster parents. It was documented that we were not to be separated. We were billeted with a Mr and Mrs Havard at the village shop Cwmsychpant. Very rural, no mains services at all. There were just thirteen houses in the village which was surrounded by farms. I used to help and play at a farm called Penlan Fawr. It was the height of summer and I went across to help with the hay.

I remember the meal served up to us, fried egg sandwiches. I ate several, what a change from rationing. The farmer was Tom Edwards, his wife, Margaret. Their son, Emyr, was just a year old, I used to mind him when his parents were working the farm. I loved the beautiful countryside, and animals. Tom taught me a great deal about the country, including some poaching, and gave me a great love of countryside which I still retain. I went to Lampeter school, sung in an Eistorffrd, I was never bullied, or victimised, I missed my parents a great deal, but had the farm and friends in Wales. Our foster parents were very kind and understanding. We were expecting a foal from Pony Mellin (yellow pony) which I used to ride. Alas, it was still born. I was crying and patting it hoping it would wake up. The farm servant Tom Bach was digging a grave for it. When a boy from the village came running up to us “Paul Bach, Paul Bach the war is over you are going home Thursday”. And so it was left. I left Cwmsychpant with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I have since visited that very spot where we buried the foal, and learned of the end of the war in Europe.

The war in the Far East was still going on. We used to live a short bus ride from Lords Cricket Ground, one day in August I was watching a game, strangely I think it may have been with the Australian Air Force team, many of whom were fine cricketers, some toured here in 1948 including Keith Miller and Lindsay Hasset. Suddenly there was a loud speaker announcement, saying that the Japanese had surrendered. People were shaking hands and crying, singing etc. I saw history made.

Aftermath

I have spent many holidays down in Wales. Staying with Tom and later with Emyr, where he entertained our whole family. My grandchildren have also spent time with him, obviously we are still great friends. I was best man at his wedding, and a guest at his daughter’s wedding in 2000 and for another daughter’s wedding last year. I love visiting old haunts and friends who still call me Paul Bach. Little Paul. (I am just six feet tall). Tom died in 1996 and coincidentally I met up with his brother in law (Daffyd) and after fifty two years. He is living in Bournemouth and I invited him to a BBC RELCS luncheon. (Daffyd used to help me with my algebra homework).

I joined the BBC in 1954 Technical Operations. I became Senior Camera man in 1965 and retired in 1989.

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