Posted by: thomlift | April 2, 2009

War Time 1939

In September 1939 war was declared and immediately my one and only brother John who was in the Territorial Army part of the Queens Royal Regiment was called up for active service.   He was also called Edward John after our father, but in the army he was always known as Ted for obvious reasons. As soon as war was declared he was called up, into active service, he was soon to be seen filling sandbags and placing them around the Government buildings in Westminster, but before long he was sent to France to fight the Germans.  The action was not very successful and they found themselves retreating and then being evacuated at the renown place of Dunkirk.  He however was taken prisoner before reaching Dunkirk and spent the whole of the war as a POW in Stalag 33.

Young GeorgeSoon after war started I was evacuated with the school to Newton Abbot in Devon very close to Torquay.  We went to Devon by train from Paddington and on arrival at the station we formed up in a column of two’s and walked from the station into the town.  Our next stop was a Church Hall.  There we all sat around waiting for the local people to come and select children.  They would take them back to their house and look after them for an indefinite period.  There was no school for us to use so we had our schooling in a large house with each class in a room.  Our lessons were primarily of a practical nature, like mending socks, knitting and outdoor games like rounders.

I was chosen by a Mr & Mrs Stoyal.  Mr Stoyal was a compositor in a small printing works and Mrs Stoyal had a very successful second hand clothes business.  There was also a daughter, Joyce, who was older than us who worked in the local fish & chip shop.

Every Friday I would go to her shop for our take away meal.  She would serve us up large portions and charge very little.  I say us because there were two other boys who were also evacuees staying in the house.  One was Ted Sullivan and the other was Reg Blower.  Both of these left to go back to London after a couple years.

With all of the Stoyal family out at work I very soon took over the cooking for the family, with the help of Mrs Stoyal.  On Sundays I would make large Cornish Pasties and Joyce, who was married, would come and collect one to take home.

As I was getting near to my 14th birthday and was able to go to work, I was returned home to London.  Not to my old house but to a new address because we had been, as they say, “bombed out”.  My Mum, Dad and Sister Emm were now living at 28 Deverall Street not far from Acworth Street. It was the house where George Jarman’s Mum used to live and was scheduled to be demolished as they were about 100 years old with an outside Loo and no electricity only Gas lighting.

The house that we lived in had an entrance to a small factory alongside our front door and there was a door in the hall that led out to the driveway of the factory behind the front gates.

The Factory was called Bilbie Hobson who at one time in its life made Gas Engines. However in my time it was almost dormant and was only used as a base for outworkers. I believe Mum use to get some payment for being a key-holder and generally keeping an eye on the place.

We had an Anderson air raid shelter in the grounds of the factory to which all 4 of us would sleep during the air raids, we slept on very single 30″bunk beds with web strapping and a basic mattress. One night the Germans dropped incendiary bombs on the factory so Dad & I climbed up on the roof with stirrup pumps to put out the flames.

On my return home from DevonI continued my education back at the English Martyrs School, which had expanded into another school next-door known as Flint Street School.  It was here that had my first lesson in Draughtsmanship.  The teacher set me and another boy, whose name I can’t remember, a task of measuring the School Hall and setting this out to scale.  We did this incorporating all the windows, doors and radiators.  I am proud to say this was framed and hung in the Hall.


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