My name is: Roger Hugh Stanley and I was born 9th September 1934 in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Mother’s name: Catherine Rosina Stanley.(nee McGairy) Father on my birth certificate is: Harold Stanley. Not married to each other.
I never met my father that I know of as the next record I have is my Mother and I living in London in 1937. This was at: 3 Hatherley Court, Bayswater. W.2. The man living there with us was: Arthur Vernon Yates. This man was married to my Mother in 1922 in Manchester. He was the caretaker of the block of flats, and mother was a cook.
In 1938 electoral roll, also living here is: George Francis Yates aged 18 years. Son of Catherine and Arthur Yates. I don’t remember him and never met him. He died in 1995.The next record is from the 1939 Census that did not become available until about the year 2009 I think. It confirmed that Catherine and Arthur and George were living there with ONE OTHER PERSON not named, must be me. I looked at this Census recently 2015, and there is a hand-written addition with the name: DINSDALE on it. My Mother had a child Albert John Dinsdale in 1940 in Paddington. W.2. He lives in Ireland now.
I was evacuated September 1st 1939 to Knowl Hill, Berkshire with a school: Holy Trinity School, Harrow Road, Paddington. W.2. Until we moved to Australia in 1969, I still had my original LABEL which was used to evacuate me with a group of others from Paddington and Bayswater. The label had: Roger Hugh Yates, 3, Hatherley Court, Bayswater. London. W.2. On the back was: Holy Trinity School, Harrow Road, Paddington. London. W.2. After the war, this label, and some of my original clothing and a yellow Star of David badge was given to me by the wonderful lady who took me in as an evacuee. These items were lost in transit (with RAF Medals) when coming to Australia. I have no photos of me or family during the war, not even school photos, if there were any.
My first placement was with an elderly, childless couple in a terraced house in Knowl Hill, which is only 30 miles west of London and the Bath Road, A4.
The evacuees were schooled in the Warner Memorial Village Hall opposite the St. Peters Junior School. There were two lady teachers from Holy Trinity School, London, who looked after the children aged under 11, the older ones went to Wargrave or Maidenhead schools. I have recently obtained the official recorded list of all 90 evacuees who first settled in Knowl Hill. It is recorded that most of these went back to London within a few months as it was thought that there would not be any bombing and the war was over. The Phoney War it was called.
The small group who were left, about 15 of us, continued going to the hall for lessons. It was customary to ask what we had been given to eat. I was told that I just replied for every meal, “Spuds and oxo.” This was confirmed. The couple had no idea what to feed a child with a Jewish badge on his clothes. The evacuated Edwards family who knew me in London, arranged for me to join them. There were 3 of them staying with Mrs. Emily Andrews, widow, aged 66 years, who took me in. What a wonderful stroke of luck!!!! The Edwards left with the others soon afterwards and I was the only evacuee staying there.
I remember many of the other evacuees, by name and sight. Our time at the hall was a lot of fun and when the teachers asked what we had to eat, everyone was happy. I was invited to call Mrs Andrews GRAN as I did. She suggested that when they asked me what I had to eat, I should say, “Mind your own bloody business!” Which I did. TRUE! That stopped. I also recall saying in class, “My Gran says you’ve got to give me a new pair of boots.” Which they did. I’m sure that started me in life of speaking up and not being afraid to ask questions.
About 2 miles along the A4 was a British army barracks. We would watch the soldiers, marching by most days as they headed to Maidenhead train station. We waved and shouted. Lorries loaded with guns and searchlights were cheered by us and the other local school. I never visited the camp in Kiln Green.
Some time later – weeks/years? The camp was occupied by soldiers from The United States of America. Their boots didn’t click like the British soldiers. We got used to saying, “Got any gum, chum?” The “Yanks” were always friendly and generous with gifts and us children visited the barracks often. There was never any concerns for safety, nothing untoward ever happened,. We learned from the locals, that if a “Yank” asked if you had a big sister, to always say YES! This ensured gifts of chocolates, candies and cigarettes were in abundance. When the soldiers left to go to fight, they gave away their bicycles to the locals.
The evacuees moved into the local school and continued lessons with the London teachers and the locals. I really enjoyed school and the activities. Gran was wonderful and I reckon I was spoiled. She did have 2 of her own grandchildren in the village and I was treated as an equal.
I have no memory of missing my mother or the father I didn’t know. I was never sad and never felt lonely, BUT if there was a problem in the village, it was always one of ‘Those Evacuees’ who set fire to the bushes, broke windows, threw stones at cars. I seemed to get the blame for a lot of things including breaking up birds’ nests, which I would never do; I loved all the wild-life.
I recall that my Mother visited twice during the 6 years of the war. Once with a tall man I’d never met before. He played a tin whistle for me. Later I found out his name was William Albert Dinsdale, father of John. Never saw him again.
My brother, George Frances Yates, joined the RAF and served in Malaya during WW2 and also spent service in India, before returning to England in 1947. He married, Jean and they had 5 children and lived in Leicestershire. He remembered me but could not find me or our mother. I met his family a year after he died. Very sad about that.
I found my Father’s family in 1999 and they said our Dad (died 1972) worked in a local government office during the war and some years later, went to gaol for 2 years as he’d got a scam of dealing in petrol when he fiddled the pumps, or something!
The village school performed plays and singing concerts written by the local vicar: The Rev. B. F. L. Clarke MA (Cantab). I was always involved, loved it all, can even remember some of the songs and lines. I knew nothing about any Jewish family and enjoyed the church services and beliefs. I sang in the choir too and took turns at ringing the church bells.
Gran and one of her daughters and husband with their son, Malcolm, and I, would leave church and walk to one of the pubs, for a drink. Quite a few locals did this and the children sat around outside and had lemonade and sometimes Smiths Crisps shared out. I recall that in summer there were visits to 4 or 5 pubs in the village and up Ashley Hill and Warren Row. Lots of laughter and chats. Then home for a late Sunday lunch.
Because there was double summer time, the evening service was also followed by a walk around the pubs. Pub landlords must’ve had a good time during the war!
Children helped with the war effort: collecting acorns for pig food, conkers, horse chestnuts for horse feed, rose hips for medicine vitamin A? Old pots and pans to build planes and we all knitted scarves for soldiers. Although I was aware of all this I did not understand what a war was. We all went to the top of the Clumps, a hill from which the village got its name to see the sky glowing red which was London 30 miles away. It meant nothing to me, never thought about my family at all.
The village had three incidents of bombing: a large bomb that did not explode, two separate lots of screaming incendiary bombs, all landed in open fields. The nearby airfield had many crashes of RAF planes, returning from raids or loaded for take-off. Most of the children visited the crash sites to get Perspex for making things.
Most households kept chickens, ducks and a few had a pig. Rabbit catching by snares was a weekend activity by all, including the Gentry who shot rabbits as well. Harvest time was another group activity collecting the ears of corn left by the harvesters; this became feed for the chickens. I don’t remember being hungry, but recall horse meat and whale meat, both very dark, being part of the diet. Big excitement when we had a once only food parcel from Canada, I remember the red maple leaf badge and sweet chocolate powder.
I recall some lorries and cars and a few buses towing trailers with a large tank/bellows which was gas to drive them due to petrol rationing,
I have no idea about the war ending or even my return to London. I went to a house and a strange lady greeted me, this was my mother. There was also a 6 year old boy, my brother. The house was big and very noisy. I was sent to Essendine Rd, Paddington school. Within 2 months I stole 10/- from a tin on a shelf, caught the train to Maidenhead and then walked the 5 miles back to Gran. I have no memory of what procedure was followed, but I was officially fostered. About 20 years later I was able to read the reports of my fostering, all good.
Gran brought me up in a wonderful family life through until I was 17 and started work to train as a draftsman, Unfortunately I had a loss of identity when Gran got my birth certificate and I was not a YATES as I’d lived as until then, but a STANLEY. Too traumatic for me. I found my mother and her new husband in London, but she dismissed it as nothing to worry about. I rode my bike to Weymouth, got on the ferry to Jersey, got a job there and so began another phase of my life.
My evacuation and next part of my life was fantastic. I visited Gran many times later.