During my early days I had to have a gland operation on my neck in Weymouth and District Hospital, probably caused by milk from a TB (turberculosis) infected cow. The milk was purchased from the farm in Old Castle Rd, the milking parlour was close to where I lived and only about 50 yards from Woodbine Cottage. Although my mother could ill afford it, she paid an extra penny a pint for the creamier milk as she thought it be better for her first born.
I seem to have had a number of stays in hospitals for various reasons.
My first trip on the water was on a family outing to Cherbourg on cross channel boat. My memory of this was that I had to pee in a sink in a French café, and Grandad got left behind! Another trip on the water was a motorboat trip in one of pop Winzar’s boats in Portland Harbour.
My dad served an apprenticeship at Bell’s garage in Franchise St and had hoped to have his own garage, but planning permission got turned down and he went to work at Whitehead’s torpedo factory and then moved to Bincleaves and became Chargehand. My Dad’s family (his parents and one sister) moved from their home in Maycroft Rd to New Close Gardens which was closer to where we lived.
Another memory was hearing Neville Chamberlain on the radio saying that we were at war with Germany. Dad dug an air raid shelter in the back garden, making big piles of brown mud and I remember Dad covered in sweat.
My sister Rosemary was born on the 15th of March 1940 at Weymouth and District Hospital and whilst mum was there, I stayed my friend Norman Rashley whose family owned a post office and grocers shop at the top of our road.
One day while my sister Rosemary was being bathed in her baby bath, there was a German snap daylight raid that we had no warning of. A bomb exploded on the railway embankment at the top of our garden. It blew out our living room windows causing glass to scatter. A few bits went into her bath, but with good luck she only suffered a small cut but the blood in the bath water looked horrid.
Dad was in the Home Guard so if he was on duty at night or at work during the day when there was an air raid, it was my job to warn my mother as she was deaf and wouldn’t have heard the siren . We then had to go out to the shelter, sometimes it was wet and cold, and that dark hole smelt odd. It was often hours until the “all clear” sounded.
Later we had a Morrison Shelter which we had in our front room. We slept in it, always with our gas masks. As Rosemary was only a baby she was put in an ‘all over’ one, then as she got older she had a Mickey Mouse one with a funny little nose. However, she always made a fuss about using it, but fortunately it never had to be used for real.
My first school was Holy Trinity school, situated at the top of Chapelhay steps. I walked there each day carrying my gas mask. We had to carry our masks everywhere plus a bar of chocolate, which we were not allowed to eat. One day on my way to school I picked up a frayed piece of rope that looked a bit like a horse’s tail. As I passed the horse drawn milk float, I flicked the rope at the horse and it bolted down Franchise St, spilling milk bottles as it went. The gutter was white with milk and the broken glass seemed to last for days. Mr Windust, the headmaster of the boy’s school was told and I was sent to see him in the bottom of the Bell Tower. He gave me one stroke of the cane, which was unusual for an infant pupil to get. Holy Trinity school was badly damaged by a land mine, dropped by parachute. This also killed my teacher Miss Bullen, who live near the school.
Because of the stress of the air raids Dad decided that mum, myself and my sister should go to stay with mum’s sister who had a gown shop in Redditch. We went by train with Dad, who was accompanying us to auntie’s, and I saw from the window some German prisoners of war loading kit bags onto the train. They travelled in the guard’s van. It was a nightmare journey in a crowded blacked out train to Birmingham, and then on to Redditch. Two days after getting there, the Germans started bombing Birmingham, so we had another horrid trip back to Weymouth together with lots of soldiers, their kit bags plus guns.
In the early days of the war, we had two London evacuees (three or four years older than me) billeted with us. How difficult this was for mother, what with being deaf, coping with the new baby, rationing and the uncertainty. The lads were not exactly refined, and one of the boy’s surname was Bugs. His mate called him “bugger” which Dad thought suited him, but Mother got upset, as of course I copied him. They both had fleas and one of them wet the bed and as they slept together it all added to the problem. They didn’t stay very long.
Later we had commandos billeted with us, they came two at a time and stayed for about 3 weeks. They used to make things for me and help me with my Primus engineering, which was a bit like Meccano. We always had their kit around, including rifles, ammunition and life-saving belts. I was able to watch some of their training, which included hanging from the railway bridge, then dropping onto the rough track between Clearmount Rd and Old Castle Rd. This ended when one of the chaps injured his legs. I used to carry their guns back home for them. Of the six who stayed with us five were killed on raids in France.