Military => Wartime Memories => Topic started by: CDP on November 06, 2010, 15:57:07

Title: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: CDP on November 06, 2010, 15:57:07

When the  war broke out I had just left the Broadway School and I was due to start at Jefferson Road School (The Central School for Boys) but nobody seemed concerned about our schooling, when we were to start or where to go, we thought this arrangement was  ideal at first until the weeks went by and we started to feel fed up and  guilty ???(pardon!)
In November it was getting too cold to play on the beach, so ten or so of us decided to demand to be taught and we marched up to Jefferson Road and presented ourselves to the Headmaster. I don't think he was very pleased to see us and he took us to his office. He then split us into two groups, and he told us that one group was to attend  lessons in the mornings and the other group in the afternoons but, he said, should the air raid sirens sound we were to go home immediately, even if we were on our way to school . Of course most of the school were late most mornings just in case the sirens sounded and we had to walk all that way home again. The sirens of course sounded quite frequently and almost every day there were either practice Fire Drills or practice Air Raids Drills, or practice Gas Drill or practice something, and sometimes the alarms never went off but by word of mouth (usually from another boy !) we heard that we were to go home. I sometimes wondered whether these were false false alarms.!! But no one ever bothered. A few of us started the rumour one day to see what would happen and we cleared the school even the Teachers went home.
Most of the school was evacuated 1939/early 1940. My father went to Alexandria, Egypt with the Dockyard and in June 1940 off I went to Pontlottyn South Wales to be billeted with another Sheerness boy, Geoffrey Cullum. I was with a Welsh family, Morgan of course. The father was a coal  miner, one son David was the manager of the local food shop and the other son was Abraham the same age as Geoffrey and myself.
There was also a girl Margaret, but she had been sent to an Auntie in Chepstow ,she was away for nine months. We were told she had been naughty. She went to live with a friend later and we seldom saw her. I remember she used to walk up and down the road for exercise, a very happy girl, always smiling at everyone especially the men.
Although David made sure that we were never short of food, when Mrs. Morgan was making a plateful of sandwiches for the threeof  us boys for tea, the plateful was never divisible by three hence the fastest eater had the most sandwiches.
One day a German Bomber was shot down at Aber-cum-Bargoed, we all walked miles over the mountains to collect pieces of it to exchange for cigarette cards, etc.
We went to the local school and all the Sheerness boys were in the same class, we were taught Welsh every Friday afternoon but most weeks the class with the best attendance that particular week was allowed Friday afternoon off school. Naturally us evacuees always won this, much to the annoyance of the local lads and many fights started because of our gloating. We learnt very little Welsh. I think we could all count up  to ten, sing the Welsh National Anthem (sometimes with our own words, "My hen laid an adder", etc. these words almost sound the same), and a few hymns. Very useful especially as Welsh was never spoken by the locals.
I was once arrested as a German Spy (I was only about 12 years old) by the local Police Sergeant Annie as we called him. A few of us were flying our home made kites and he said these were wireless aerials and we were signalling to the enemy using radios. Douglas Price drowned in a feeder lake, all the local people turned out to watch and Annie dived and dived, and searched for two hours before he found the body. Annie was as blue as our friend Douglas with the ice cold water, we liked Annie after this. Douglas was on show for a few days after this in his front room, he looked so peaceful. All the boys paid their respects.
One pastime was to slide down the mountain on pieces of cardboard or dustbin lids, imagining that we were skiing and when we tired of this the other lads, not me!!, would roll large boulders down to the road below.
We would also dig out coal from surface seams to take home to earn a few pennies. Another way to make money was to act as look-outs for the miners as they gambled in groups among the slag heaps and they would get very cross at any false alarm especially when a lad would shout out "Here comes the police" and then start running as if to hide. It was fun to see them all scatter. Sometimes they wouldn`t stop even to collect their money!!!
One day we discovered a ventilation shaft to a disused mine, it was about 6 feet square, very, very deep and strengthened by criss crossed large square wooden beams. We dropped stones down to see how deep it was, and a splash occurred after about  four seconds, we lit a bonfire and threw it down the shaft to see how deep it was. We tried to see who could climb down farthest, the bravest managed to climb down 20 feet (I could only manage about 10 feet). We played here for a few days and then one day we saw that it had been covered up with tin sheeting and bolted down. Still, perhaps that stopped us from killing ourselves. When you are younger, danger is not really an option, is it?
We would combine with the local lads when the boys from Rhymney, the next village, came into our territory to fight, we would meet on the local slag tip and throw the slag at each other. One day the 'enemy' caught one of our side, tied him to a post and used him as a target, throwing stones at him then starting to build a fire at his feet and telling him they were going to roast him alive and eat him. Such fun. He was very pleased when we?charged ? and saved him and cut him free. Then our side caught one of the opposite side and we decided to tattoo him with red hot needles using their bonfire but we let him escape, we weren`t  bad really.
We would always go to Chapel twice on Sunday, or was it three times, or even four, and with our nasty coughs and upset tummy and bad headaches we were still expected to sing loudly and enjoy ourselves.

I sat for and passed the exam for the 'Tech' with six other Sheerness boys and we attended The Bargoed  Mining and Technical Institute for three months. I then decided to return home after 18 months away. I did not want to become a Welsh miner!!
One thing I did learn there was how to play Rugby properly. Our sports teacher would run up behind us and with his hand behind our neck throw us at our opponents feet and the very hard football boots came in contact with our face. It didn't 'alf hurt mum.
The Government then decided that those born in 1928 and I think 1929? were to be exempt from the National Service and the Home Guard because our lives had been so badly disrupted, and we had such a hard life and our education had been so badly affected as you can see from the above !!!!

Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: kyn on November 06, 2010, 18:04:08
Thank you again for adding these posts, the information is priceless and very interesting  :)
Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: davidb on November 06, 2010, 18:36:59
Hear, hear. It is absolutely vital to get information like this on record.
Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: GeorgieWilliams on November 08, 2010, 23:21:12
Dear CDP   Found your memories of  Wales interesting. I Too was evacuated to Pontlottyn from the girls school with several of the teachers.  I was billeted with a miner and his wife and 3yr old daughter in Church St. The local Police station was at the top of the St. We attended chapel 3 times on a sunday near to the School.

I have a book of Pontlottyn written by a local man who lived in Green street very interesting with photos.

We used to go to Bargoed for swimming. and also to New Tredegar. Had many walks over the mountain to Fochriw collecting winberries on the way. I returned to Sheerness in Nov 1941 just before starting work at  Lanes in the Broadway the first female assistant as all the men were in the forces.
Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: CDP on November 09, 2010, 09:35:53
Hello Georgie,  Thanks re your reply. My wife remembers you and said that you were very efficient in the shop. I also used to walk to the places that you mentioned, very pretty some of them. Do you learn any Welsh I wonder ? I was with the Morgan family. When you came out of the front door, turn left and you were almost at the bottom of the very tall slag tip on the route to Rhymney.
Regards CDP
Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: GeorgieWilliams on November 09, 2010, 10:30:55
Yes I  remember one Welsh song learnt with the school and can still sing it now.
I also remember Mrs Drage who had a sweet shop on the corner of the square. On Sundays when she went to Chapel we were all given a sweet to keep us quiet.

The Library was attached to the Working Mens Club and Mr Tippett who I lived with used to play snooker there. One of his cousins was Miss Mabel Moor and taught at the school.

We used to meet at the wreck near the slag heap to play and walk to Rhymney through the old mine working.  The football and Hockey pitches were on the top of the mountain looking down into the square.

My  sister, Busyglen was born whilst I was in Wales and was given a Welsh name and has also kept in touch with the daughter Barbara Tippett and her family. We had several holidays back in Pontlottyn and saw several changes made.

Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: CDP on November 12, 2010, 20:22:19
Nice letter. I remember one day we went to fight with the Rymney gang and we finished up  all in the river that passed by the Cinema, I have forgotten its name! When suddenly we were surrounded by loads of police all equipped with guns and they marched us to the Police Station and gave us a severe dressing down.  We were all aged about 12/13  and thought it was very  funny. We thought that the polce were very aware of German Spies and security  but schoolboys ???

The cinema flooring was made old timber boards with gaps between the boards  and if anything was dropped it fell  through onto the field below amid the sheep. We often found things here !
Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: sheer on January 20, 2013, 12:10:27
A very interesting story.

Did you by any chance have any knowledge of the Hide family who lived in Sheerness?
Title: Re: A Sheerness wartime evacuee in Wales
Post by: John38 on November 24, 2013, 19:38:14
I had to reply to this excellent post of CDP, because I was about the only Welsh boy (that I have heard of) that was evacuated from my home town, Llanelly (now Llanelli) to the Isle-of-Sheppey in 1942(ish). I was about 4.  I know nothing of Wales, and grew up mainly in Bluetown & Sheerness, and confess to being proud of being a boy from Bluetown and a Man-of-Kent!