- Contributed by
- CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
- People in story:
- Alan Johnson
- Location of story:
- Willesden Grammar School; Northampton area
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 August 2005
This story has been submitted to the People’s War website by a volunteer from Lincoln CSV Action Desk and added to the site on behalf of members of the Old Uffingtonians Association, which is the ex-pupils of Willesdon County Grammar School, with their permission. In this case the author is Alan Johnson. The association fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
My friend and I were sent next to School House to live, along with about 20 other boys, and from there, on the fateful night of 14th November 1940 the fires from Coventry thirty-five miles away were seen. The horror of that air raid we could not imagine. "Somebody's getting it" now seems lacking in ready sympathy, but was heavy with meaning, for all that. Northampton had its younger men and women called up for war. We were all in it, one way or another.
Bill Pack, a senior at School House (who in later years married my sister), caught pneumonia. Diphtheria came in person. In the Town's Isolation Hospital some young children of about three or four years of age were suffering from diphtheria and whooping cough at the same time. It was very sad. In the morning when their beds were empty, those of us recovering were told that they had gone home; we knew that could not be true.
Both of us, in turn, were evacuated from Northampton to a place of safety, to war torn London, a refuge for a five-stone, thirteen year old weakling.
In Willesden, rehabilitated in the parental home, studying under the watchful eye of Mr. Wallis, two years of almost peace-in-war passed at the County School. A trickle of returnees from Northampton was followed by a flood, bringing reunion and the renewal of old friendships.
D-Day loomed and the School Certificate. During the Algebra examination, attack by flying bombs on London began. Hitler's secret weapon, launched after much experiment and tinkering. Making noise like an express train approaching, one blew up in King Edwards Recreation Ground, close to the school. Blast walls protected us, but the tiered lecture room we had occupied on the previous day, was wrecked.
Stout window frames were blown in, the shards of glass and bomb fragments would have cut us to pieces. Fortunately, Mr. Wallis had moved us to the corridors to work, which was wise of him.
After the bomb fell, examination rules relaxed, cups of tea were distributed and ten minutes were added to cope with quadratics and similar problems, with racing hearts and tremors all the way to nibs of pens.
Of our brothers and friends in school in 1942 and before, many faced greater terrors and more prolonged hazards, their whereabouts unknown to us. The days were more sombre with sadness shared. With examinations over and school commitments at an end, our class year dispersed without gathering together for last salutation and farewell; because of the strain of the time.
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