- Contributed by
- CSV Solent
- People in story:
- Mrs Janet Smith (neé Reddick), Harold Norman Reddick
- Location of story:
- Worthing, Sussex; and Newark, Nottinghamshire
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 August 2005
This story has been added to the People's war website by Marie on behalf of Janet with her permission. Janet fully understands the sites terms and conditions.
I was thirteen when the war broke out and living at Worthing on the South Coast. I witnessed first hand a lot of the Battle of Britain. Early in 1941 because of the threat of invasion it was decided to evacuate the school children. I found myself on the platform at Worthing Station complete with a label round my neck and my gas mask. (I have the remains of the gas mask to this day still in its box)
It was a very long train journey I remember and the Worthing High School for Girls was separated from the Worthing High School for Boys by the masters and mistresses sitting in the middle of the train. This would seem very quaint today. We arrived at Newark in Nottinghamshire when, after a night in the air raid shelters, we were sent to our billets.
My friend Margaret and I were sent to vicarage at East Stoke near Newark. We were not made welcome. We only had a jug of icy cold water to wash in a basin and very poor meals. I was cold, hungry, dirty, and very miserable and homesick. Eventually after much complaining to the school and my parents I was billeted on a lovely family at Bilton near Newark. The contrast was enormous. I was made to feel one of the family and was well looked after. I grew up a lot. We shared the school at Newark, so it was half day schooling again, as it was at the beginning of the war when a school from London was billeted on us.
When Hitler invaded Russia and not England, and the threat of an invasion was seen to subside, we were brought home. I saw my Mother once during the four months or so we were away, and my Father not at all.
One very dark, cold morning in November 1941, a letter arrived from the Admiralty. My Father stood in the hall unable to show it to my Mother and I. It was to inform us with sympathy and regret that my only brother Leading Seaman Harold Norman Reddick was missing presumed killed. His ship HMS Barham had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean off Alexandria and only about 300 had been saved out of 2000. He was just 21. We were all overcome with grief and I did not go to school that day. I remember shutting myself in my bedroom to cry. The Admiralty asked us to keep the news secret as they didn’t want it to get out immediately.
Somehow we carried on through air raids on Southampton, Portsmouth and London — the sky being lit up and the sound of bombers passing overhead. Our sleep was continually interrupted. We school children helped with harvesting by picking peas and hoeing beetroot and also lifting potatoes. The relief of VE Day is indescribable.
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