I used to take tea to drink in a sterilised milk bottle with a clip top and go out in the woods for the day. We used to dig up potatoes when the farmer wasn't about and light a fire and cook them.
We had a wonderful childhood because we had so much freedom and we were safe. If the police found you doing anything wrong they would send you home and the boys got a clip round the ear.***
We didn't have a shelter. We were living in Reading and we all slept downstairs. When we lived in Norfolk we were schooled at home. I went to secondary school in Reading and later I went to boarding school. We used to hear the planes going over on the way to Coventry night after night.
There were hardly any mixed schools above infant level.
I was at Beaumont Boys School when it opened. We used to share the building with Haverstock Hill Boys who had been bombed out in London. They did the afternoons and we did the mornings. We liked it if the sirens went in the mornings because we could all go down the shelters and play cards. The most excitement we had at school was when we saw a barrage balloon which had broken loose from its moorings and it got caught on the fence. We all wanted to go our and prod it but we weren't allowed.
Barrage balloons were meant to keep aeroplanes higher and then they couldn't get their bombing accuracy. An aeroplane did get shot down over Sandridge and we all cheered but a couple of days later we heard it was one of ours so that was a bitter pill.
I got the cane at school because I put salt in the jug of drinking water on the table.
I used to help in the kitchen at school and I got a bit more dinner for that from Mrs. Waite the cook. One day I was shouting up the dumb waiter to the girls and Miss Ellis suddenly looked down and said "What is your name, boy?" and I said "Beech ma'am.' My mate was called Bob Beech so with friends like me you don't need enemies.
We had a Tuck Shop at school that sold Horlicks tablets.
I remember that the staff was always complaining about the noise in the dining room at school. One day we organised it that on a given signal by the head boy everyone was to stop talking and be silent and all the masters' voices rang out in the silence because they were all shouting at each other to be heard above the noise of the boys. The master in charge came along and said to the head boy "What's the matter Campion?" "Well sir, the boys have just stopped making a noise nothing wrong with that is there, sir?"
I was only 3 when I went to school because my father was sick and so was my grandma so I think it was to help out that they took me into school at a young age but I liked it and was quite happy to go. I learned to write in a tray of wet sand and you used your finger to write. The trays were about the size of a seed tray and when you had learned your letters you got a slate and chalk and later a pencil and paper and when you could do joined up writing properly you got pen and ink. We had 3 classrooms 5-7 for infants, juniors in the middle room and the end room was for the seniors. You went to the same school for all your education from 5-14.
I remember carrying my gas mask to school very annoyed that I couldn't have a Mickey Mouse one. In my gas mask bag I had my identity card and a little purse with half a crown and my aunt's address, my brother had the same and if we came home and found our house bombed we were to go to my Auntie Evelyn's house in Sawbridgeworth quite a way from Hatfield. I wasn't at senior school at that time, but St. Audrey's School was bombed. But it was at 6 o'clock in the morning so there were no children there. My brother was out on a paper round at that time and he saw it - people were killed from the blast. I have a book about Hatfield during the war and I was surprised at how many bombs did fall but it was because of the aircraft factory.
I was about 5 or 6 when the war started and I lived in the LNER station house in London Road and I can't remember much about school but I remember the air raid siren. We were going over the road to the shelter, it was dark and we took the dog and the cat but granddad wouldn't get out of his bed. My father worked in an office at Kings Cross. We were a large family and always had granddad or an aunt living with us. We had a couple of evacuees as well.
I was born in Yorkshire and moved to St. Albans when I was 6 and the war started when I was 10. When I was at Beaumont the siren went when I was with my friend and we were on our way to school so we went into the community shelter in Fleetville and there was another school down there and we were all singing. When we got to school the teacher asked why we were late so we said we had been in the shelter but nobody else had bothered. So that was when I nearly got into trouble at school.
We used to have about 2 hours for dinner at school. When the yanks were digging trenches near school we used to go and watch them.
We used to take a meal with us if we weren't having a school meal and at first we used to have a special table set aside for us but later we got moved into a spare room so we used to eat quickly and then go into the town but that was stopped after a term and we had to go back into the dining room.
I went to Alma Road Infant and Junior School and we used to go up to Trinity Church for lunch. My mum used to say, "Eat as much as you can". Then I went to St. Albans Girls Grammar School, which was in Fleetville.
We had to take 6d for a savings stamp on a Monday morning along with your savings book. When you had saved 15 shillings you got a savings certificate. Then there was the Spitfire Fund.
When I passed to go to Grammar School my mother was ever so proud of me because I was the baby of the family and I was the first one to pass and I came home from school I was still in my uniform and my mother had run out of bread. My dad got paid on a Friday and it was a Friday but dad wouldn't be home until 6. Mum managed to find 3d but the rest she had to make up in farthings and she said if he makes a fuss about farthings you tell him it's legal tender. So all the way up to the shop I was saying to myself "legal tender, legal tender" to remind me. So I gave him the 3d and the rest in farthings, and he said "I'm not taking all those farthings". I said "They're legal tender". There were other people in the shop and he said "Look at this - 5 minutes in the bleeding grammar school and she knows it all". I turned round and left everything and ran home crying, my mum put her hat and coat on and marched me up to the shop and said "I want an apology, swearing at my daughter". He said "Surely Valerie knows I was only joking," but he was looking daggers at me and I never went back there.