June Champion

British Civilian

Transcription of Interview with


Cornwall 2017

What did your Parents do for a living?

My mother was in service and did cleaning at the local school and college.  My father before he joined the Airforce was a bus driver in Plymouth.

When did he join the Air Force?

He was killed in 1941 so it must’ve been 1940 I imagine.  I can’t really remember.

Where was he serving?

Plymouth.  He was in Plymouth when he was killed.

What memories do you have of your parents?

My mother a lot, my father not so much. I do remember a man in the village shouting ‘the Germans are coming’ and my dad walking over to Pomeroy(?), that’s over there away and there was a searchlight there.  I remember walking over with him.

Did your father think it was the Germans coming?

No, this man was a bit like Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army.

What was your childhood like?  What did you do for fun?

I had a couple of girl friends buts there’s mostly boys around here. We use to go down the woods and dam up the river. We played there all day. We took sandwiches and didn’t come back till dark.

What was it like growing up in Probus (Cornwall)?

Lovely. Everyone knew one another and helped one another. The doors were never locked.  If you needed a drink of water you just asked.  Everyone knew everyone else.

What were your interests as a child?

I didn’t really have any interests. Remember having to save up all my pocket money to buy a bike.  The highlight of my life was sitting on mum’s doorstep in the summer and waiting for Donald Pearce.  We didn’t need computers or mobile phones we were happy. We talked to one another.

What are your first memories of the War?

I don’t really have any memories of the war, I was too young. I remember listening to the radio with my grandmother. We didn’t really understand it.  When my father was killed my brother who was 3 years old said ‘never mind Daddy’s gone to heaven to get better.’ I believed that and when the war ended he would come back.

Was your Father killed in action?

Yes, but I was too young to understand what had happened.

What are your recollections of what happened in Probus during the War?

I remember when they bombed Falmouth and then Tor hospital.  They came up through Probus to bomb the railway line but missed it.   You can see a big crater on the right hand side of the railway line when the grass is cut.  They dropped one over ?

Did you see the planes coming over?

I heard them.  A man called Mr Hayes from the Home Guard pushed us into the bushes, not that that would have saved us from anything.  We were lucky.  Saw the plane go over low.

Where there any Anti-Aircraft guns going off?

No.  They were over Tregenna(?) way.

Did you know any of the defensive measures put in place by the Home Guard?

Some.  They use to parade with their pitchforks in the church hall.  They were the ‘Probus Bombers’.

You know about the ‘Probus Bombers’ (Probus Auxiliary Patrol).  How did you find out about them?

If anything came down over the bridge or Princetown way they were there to guard that.

Do you remember the Americans arriving?

Yes.  You didn’t know they were coming.  You walked up the road one day and could see a tiny mole hills.  There were tents pitched there.

What did you think when you saw the camp?

Didn’t really think anything.  We use to go to the kitchen and get sweets and things.  My grandmother did washing for some of them. We had them over for meals, they were very kind?

Did the Americans come into the village?

Yes.  One camp of ‘Yanks’ was down by the garage, and can I say black Americans?  They were camped down the bottom of the village.

What did they come into the village for?

Shopping, dancing, and trying to find some girls.  I was too young (laughing).  And when they left they gave us a party down by the old gymnasium.  We drank coffee, danced, and had a party.

Do you remember what you did on D-Day?

We went to a bonfire at Trewithin(?) and waited up there.

Where you ever worried during the War?

Not really.  We never went short of anything.  I had grandparents in Plymouth who sent us there sweet ration every month.  It was like an adventure to us children listening to all these happenings.  People died but we didn’t really understand what dying was.

What about the time when you were pushed into the bushes when the planes came over?  How did you feel then?

A bit shaky. It was an adventure.  We didn’t know about guns and things like that in the village

What was the atmosphere like in the village at the time?

No One complained.  My grandparents use to kills pigs during the war and the neighbours us e to have things given to them, there was none of this ‘that’s mine’.  Everyone shared things, even shoes.  We were never hungry.  I told my grandchildren that we eat what was given to us or we went without.

What was rationing like?  Was it difficult to get use to?

I didn’t understand it.  I did show my grandchildren what rations we got and they didn’t believe it.  Mildew bread you picked off the mildew and eat the rest.  No sell by dates or fridges or phones.  If you needed to phone someone you went into the village.  We were happier than now because we all had the same, even at Christmas you had second hand presents tarted up for us.  Wooden toys painted red and green made by Mr Menir(?).  I remember coming back from Plymouth with my grandparents and my mum and brother came back and I had a wooden dolls house which we use to ‘bomb’ with wool.  We didn’t really know what it was all about.  I di spend 12 months in Plymouth when the war started as dad was there with my grandparents.  You could sit in Marsh Mills and watch the planes coming over strafing the roads and see the bullets.  We also saw the bombing of Falmouth.

So you were in Plymouth for the first part of the War?

The first 12 months then I was sent home as mother couldn’t look after me.  We use to go up on the moors during a bad air-raid but mother couldn’t look after us so we were sent home.

What would have been a typical day for you as a child during the war?

I went to school, did my homework, went out to play but we had to be in by a certain time and woe betide you if you didn’t come in at a certain time.  I’ll tell you what was lovely during the summer evenings, we had permits to go down to the woods and all the women went.  We took 4 prams down and put poles in them and filled them with wood.  We could hear the branches breaking.  It was a treat to do that. No saw or choppers you just took the wood.

Where you ever told at school what to do if there was an air raid?

No.  The windows were all taped up with wire on the front, but we were never told what to do if there was an air raid.  I don’t think we ever thought it would happen down this way.  We didn’t have a shelter in the garden or even know where an air raid shelters was, I don’t think there were any in the village.  In Plymouth we had a big table made of metal and one in the garden.  The table one was good to play in.

What was your favourite food during the War?

Whatever my Gran made, you had to eat it.  You eat it or you went hungry.  I use to like her stew.  My grandad lost an arm in the war and he use to keep pigs in the long field with chickens.  All of the pig was used by all the village.  The Yanks were very good bringing us food like tinned fruit and sweets.  They were very kind the Americans.  As soon as they came they went.  They buried a lot of things when they left in the local quarry.

Can you remember any funny incidents during the war?

Well it was all fun.  I know it’s a silly thing to say but we never worried about anything.  We knew what was going on but the war never really hit us down here apart from that one bomber.

Do you remember the Home Guard having to rush out anywhere?

No.  I don’t think they did much anywhere (laughing).

What was the worst thing that happened during the War?

Being told my father was dead. I can tell you what I did.  A man told me dad was dead.  I knew there was something wrong because of the telegram, I took the football upstairs and threw it over the edge and it slammed into the wall. I remember asking for my dad for a few days but I had a happy childhood.

Can you remember the war ending?

Yes we had parties and things.

How did you feel when the war ended?

Like I said, we never saw much of the war down here unlike Plymouth and other big cities that were bombed.

Did you go back to Plymouth after the war?

I use to have holidays there with my grandparents but my mother made her home down here so my grandparents could look after us and she could go to work.

Do you often think back about the war?

No, only today.  I think more of the Afghan war as my grandson has been there twice.

Tell us about the Probus Chatterbox.  The Newsletter written for the men of the village who served overseas?

I don’t know who started it off but I think it was Mr Mernir (?).  You had to buy them and the money collected bought cigarettes and things for troops abroad.

Do you know if the men received them?

One man didn’t but others did.

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