Joyce Allen

British Civilian

My Memories of WW2 Joyce Allen

My parents were Ernest and Olive (nee Doughty) Redmile who were both born in 1908. I was born in 1932 and my brother Derek in 1936 we lived at Mere Booth Farm, Anton’s Gowt near Boston with Dads mother and father. The house had no electricity, gas, running water, and it had an outside Privy. Mum cooked with a paraffin stove and we had a coal fire, we had to collect the water from a cistern (like a well) in the yard. In winter the house was very cold, frost on the inside of the windows and even my flannel was frozen. Granddad did have a telephone Langrick 225. Dad was a farm worker for his father so the family never had a great deal of money.

I cycled or walked with my friends the two and a half miles to school at Gipsey Bridge, there were three teachers Miss Scott, Mrs Thacker and the headmaster Mr Dawson. I liked school and as I was very keen to play the piano, after school Mrs Thacker taught me to play the piano for nothing and said that when I could play “In a Monastery Garden”  the lessons would stop as that was the most difficult piece she could play.  After a few lessons she suggested that I should have a piano at home so that October mum and I picked potatoes all summer into early autumn for a few years until I was 13 and mum bought me the piano from the money we earned. I am pleased to say the lessons stopped before I left the junior school. When I married I told Bernard that every time we moved house the piano went with us, in 2017 we moved from the farm house into a bungalow so the piano did not come with us, but I did buy an electric piano. Most days of my life I have played the piano and still do, l play the church organ twice a month and the piano once a month in the village hall for the WI.

Due to money being scarce scarce mum and I made our own clothes. Like most children I did not get many presents at Christmas:- a home made cot for my doll, always an apple and when I was older a Rupert Annual, a toy sewing machine when I was older a sewing machine besides making clothes I also made dolls to sell.

The family often listened to the radio and enjoyed Winston Churchill’s speeches. I can remember workmen putting a new roof on the house and they came inside to listen to the radio when Neville Chamberlain announced that we were at war with Germany, everybody was in a very sombre mood. Gas masks had already been issued to everyone and you had to carry them all the time. Also you were issued with identity bracelets but at Christmas I was given a much better quality one by my parents.

When I was eleven the family moved to Langrick Bridge and I started at Boston Girls High School which meant I had to cycle in all weathers 5 miles to school and five miles back home at night.  Granny Redmile moved to a house in Boston so I left my bike there when I went to school. Opposite the house was a disused Windmill so a siren was mounted on top of it, so if I was there when the siren off it deafened you. This was a major change in my life as the school had 350 pupils, a very big change from a very small village school. A major problem when cycling was that all lights had to have a shade over them so it was a job to see where you were going. My favourite subjects at school were Maths and Science.

A Wellington bomber came down in a field about two miles from our house at Frith Bank and all the villagers went to look at it, my uncle Reg Heslam took some of the plastic windows from the plane and made rings and brooches out of them. Living in the Fens we were not really aware of the war however one night a German bomber dropped a bomb about a mile away and all the pots rattled in the kitchen.

Food was rationed however Dad grew vegetables and fruit, we bottled gooseberries, plums, and blackberries and stored the apples. We had hens so when a hen stopped laying or looked sick we had hen for lunch. Hens in those days only laid in summer so when eggs were plentiful they were put in a bucket of “Isinglass” and they would keep for 6 months, ideal for cooking. Most houses had a pig and these were killed in rotation and you gave some of your pork to neighbours and they gave some to you. Occasionally we had beef and due to the fact that the Fens were mainly arable there were no pheasants and very few rabbits so we often went without meat. Often all the family went to Granny Doughty’s for lunch generally hen or a thin cockerel or pork and on big occasions a goose.

Concerts were held in the village hall to raise money for the Red Cross, there was singing, Dad wrote poetry which one of the members of the family read out and sometimes the brother of the famous singer “Hutch” came and sang to us, he was stationed at Coningsby airfield, he always sang “Old Man River” without any accompaniment and everyone said he sang it better than “Hutch”.

On the farm to help out we had a land army girl Olive Towle and a German and Italian POW, the German drove the lorry which transported the POW’s to various farms in the area and he parked it in our yard. There were no air raid shelter in the village so if you could hear the sirens in Boston I slept under the stairs. I remember the night when a lot of German bombers came over our house on the way to bomb Coventry. Later in the war a lot of Spitfires came over on D Day mum said “Something big’s going on”.

As a family we did not celebrate VE Day as my uncle Sgt Stanley Doughty of “C” Company 4th Battalion, Royal Lincolnshire Regiment “The Polar Bears” 4803548 b.22nd April 1920 was killed on the 13th April 1945 at Arnhem.

Shortly afterwards granddad Doughty had a stroke due to the worry of his son being killed. Another uncle Robert Redmile was in the Tank Corps in Egypt and served as batman and chauffeur for Montgomery in Egypt. Uncle Robert was a very talented artist as well as a cartoonist. He painted in oils and after retirement painted a picture of a tank which was presented and hung in the “Tank Museum” in Dorset.

Joyce Allen 22nd March 2018

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