The War Years Remembered

Childhood Memories of Ivinghoe & Pitstone 1939-1945
Doris & Leon Hawkins

It was September 3rd 1939.I, Doris, was nearly 7 years old, Leon was aged 10 years. Both of us attended Ivinghoe old school.

The war started, so we had an extra two weeks Summer holiday. That was because the evacuees were arriving from London and to get them settled into village homes. The Vicar, Reverend Hulbert and our Headmaster, Mr Saunders, helped sort out the children who were to live in our homes. I had two girls to share my bedroom, some stayed to the end of the war but others got homesick living without their parents. The Vicar had a few boys to live at the Vicarage, and quite a few lived at the Youth Hostel.
A master called Mr Feeland and a teacher, Miss Holmes came with them from London. Mr Feeland had a class down at the chapel, they would come up to the Lawn for playtime.

Lee said the London boys and village boys got fighting, they made camps down the bridle path. The Vicar said "you want to fight, come to the Town Hall and have a boxing match". So chairs were put around and rope to make a ring, they bad a real match, gloves on etc, but they all ended up friends and all would go to the Vicarage for film shows.
(I don't remember the girls fighting)!

We left school at 14 unless you passed an exam for the Cedars School in Leighton Buzzard. In the summer you could have 20 half days off of school to help the farmers with their harvest. I always went fruit picking. I picked plums.
Farmers were short of men, as all the young ones had to go to War and some of the older men went into the Home Guard (Dad's Army).

My Dad was out one or two nights a week as he had a day job at Vauxhalls in Luton. There they made Churchill tanks and the big army lorries. It was bombed one time but soon repaired and work carried on.
We were all issued with a gas mask and had to take it everywhere with us.

At the 'Lawn side' of our school, an air raid shelter was built, it was a square brick building, no windows. It was open each end and had no door. It was divided into five separate rooms, wooden forms to sit on. If a siren went off we all had to march to our own classroom in the shelter. I cannot remember sitting there for long in the dark.

We were very lucky in the villages, as it was the big towns where the factory's were, that bombs were dropped.
So to be safe, the Kings Royal coach was kept at Lord Rosebery's mansion at Mentmore.

Everything was on ration. You had books of coupons for petrol, clothes, sweets, tin food. Things like sugar, tea, butter, lard, cheese, meat were only allowed a few ounces a week. You had to register at one shop only and could only shop there. Sweet coupons you could use anywhere, but that was like a bar of chocolate or a bag of sweets a week.

I remember my mum taking the cream off the top of the milk for a few days then adding a pinch of salt, putting it into a screw top jar and shake it for quite a time until it formed a little lump. Also any fruit you had you made into jam.
We liked going up into the hills and picking the wild raspberries.

Everyone was expected to grow their own vegetables in their gardens, if your garden was not big enough you had an allotment. There was some allotments on the corner opposite the old school called Dog Kennel Gardens, a few around past the church known as Townsend Gardens, others were all in Ladysmith Road to the top of Wellcroft.

In 1945 nobody wanted to dig anymore, so houses were built - Maud Janes Close was a field, it was known as "Mad Janes". We used to play there, then across the field to a spring to get clean fresh watercress.

At night it was very dark., no street lights. Vehicles had very dim lights, no beam - just had to shine down in front. Houses had to have black out curtains at the windows to pull when the lights were on, you must not show a bit of light - if you did – a policeman or a guard would hit on your door. Lights could attract German planes.

One evening between 8 and 9pm, when a bad raid was on in London, I was with my mum and dad looking over the top of the Youth Hostel towards London, the sky was glowing with falling shrapnel and fires, the sky was filled with smoke and was very red.

I also remember one hot summers afternoon being along Marsworth Road to the bakers (now Masons) looking across the big field towards London, we were told there was a 'dog fight' our fighter planes vs. German fighter planes. They were diving in and out, up and down, but really us village children had no idea what it was really like.
When more London children came, some of their mothers told us how every night they would have to go to an air raid shelter or the underground stations and sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag - our evacuees would know if a German plane went over - they knew the different sound of the engines.

A few stray bombs did drop around in the field and hills. One evening there was a loud whistle, two London girls
were scared, "that's a bomb" they said, then boom a bomb had landed near the canal when the Germans were going home and had not dropped all their bombs in the city, they were emptying out before they crossed over the North Sea back to Germany.

When this happened Lee said the boys would go the next day and pick up bits of metal from the bombs - they were very proud of their trophies!

There was no such thing as being bored when we were children and we were to young to worry about the war unless your dad or brothers were in it. We would be out all day playing when not at school.

It was so safe then, no bad things to happen to you. We would take a picnic down the Bridle Path as far as the Spinney, or on our bikes up to Pitstone Hills (before the Quarry), and play in a little wood and pick the wild strawberries. It was called Statnells.

I lived in Vicarage Lane. We would play skipping, top & whip, lots of ball games, like throwing it up the wall (which was the Vicarage garden wall), hopscotch in the road. There was no traffic then. We would be out until our parents called us in for bed. No TV only a radio.

If the weather was bad, we stayed in and played dominoes, cards, board games, our parents would play with us.
During playtime in school, the Headmaster, Mr Saunders, would play either football or cricket with the big boys and Miss Tapping played the same with the smaller boys. Mr Saunders was Captain of one team, so if they let his side win they got a longer playtime, he did not like to lose - if he did it was back in school - playtime over.
Lee says he has climbed up everything and been up every big tree around the Lawn.

Boys made trolleys using old wheels, with a board across, and some rope. All the boys set off from the Kings Head and raced down the hill in Station Road. They would also have an old bike wheel with a stick and race around the village hitting it. Us girls thought the boys were all mad!

At school the cane was used on the boys and anything could be thrown at them if they deserved it. It was never used on girls. Lee had the cane a few times, once when he cut a girls hair - he had a pair of grass clippers, as the boys were going out into the school garden, but Joan sitting in front of him needed a hair cut (so Lee thought) so clip, clip clip!!! Her hair was cut!
Our Milkman was Mr Harwell from Cheddington, with his horse and cart, he had no bottles, but two or three large churns. He would come to the door with a can with a lid on, you would give him your jug and tell him how much you wanted (1 pint - 2 pints etc). It was rich and creamy. Also the baker with a horse and cart would come round. A small lorry would come with fizzy drinks, Tizer and Corona.

I lived near the Rose and Crown and would see beer barrels being delivered on a long cart and pulled by a very large cart horse. Lee used to be a delivery boy (Granville) from Elliott's shop after school and on Saturdays. He had a bike with a big basket on the front, all loaded up he would bump along the Bridle Path to Ivinghoe Aston. His first delivery was to Bernard Miles at Crabtree, he and his wife were actors in London. They would cycle to Tring Station everyday and not come home until the last midnight train. I remember him doing a show in the Town Hall (or connections with The Mermaid Theatre)

We had no rubbish collection them. We had to take it up to the Ragpit which was just at the bottom of Beacon Road on the left. I had a truck for our rubbish and took it up there then return and take another truck load for an elderly lady next door. Lee made lots of journeys on Saturday mornings to get enough money to go the Tring Regal Cinema, ,he'd earn as much as half a crown, (12.5p) you were rich! - this got you bus fare, cinema and even a bun in the local cafe!
But we did not have much rubbish as lots of it was ashes. Everyone had a fire and cooked on it as well, so it was only the odd jam jar or tin. Nothing was in packets, everything was weighed and put in paper bags.

In those days there were no swimming pools so some children went down the canal. I remember Lee and friends jumping of the bridge (showing off) then when a barge came along they would hold on to the toe rope. The bargee people would empty a bucket, the boys soon let go as they thought it was wee. It was dirty water then and it is now –I would never get in it.
We had a search light on the comer of Albury Road. One of many scanning the sky at night. At the bottom of Beacon road there was a Pill box that had three guns in it, one pointing up the Beacon Road, one towards Ivinghoe and the other up the Tring Road, these belonged to the Home Guard.

We had the Irish guards whose camp was at the Youth Hostel and the cookhouse was at the Old Mill House Yard (opposite Brookmead). They used to practice on the Lawn, they would pull their field guns across the Lawn and fire blanks out across the fields. They had a rifle range up the hills and would practice with all sorts of ammunition, also they had Brengun carriers up at the Beacon.

An aerodrome was built at Marsworth. The long runway went from Marsworth to Cheddington,ending not far from the canal and railway line. Our Air force boys were there with the 'Lancaster Bombers' and 'Wellington Bombers'.
After that the USA Air force were there with their aircraft the 'Liberator' and the 'Flying Fortress'. They all came very low over here, you would think they would hit the railway line. One did crash one morning about 5am near the canal in my Grandad's field (Ford End Farm). They used to take off every night to bomb in Germany, so this one was just returning home.

When the boys were 14 years old, they joined the Army Cadets. Lee was one. They had a proper uniform and a Canadian Ross rifle, they took everything home with them and were very proud of their equipment and enjoyed being with the Army, also having their meals in the cookhouse. When food was rationed they done very well on big 'fry-ups' - for them great enjoyment was going up into the hills with the soldiers with the Brengrun carriers and going for a week or fortnight camping near High Wycombe, where there was a very large camp. One night, when Lee was on night guard there, a Doodle bug came over, he found this very frightening.

In 1945 the war was eventually declared over, flags were put up and there were parties and free beer in the Town Hall. You had to take your own glass though and some even took jam jars!!

By the Summer of 1946 all the beaches were cleared so everyone could now take a holiday at the seaside. Unfortunately it took up to five years until sweets were taken off rationing.
We married in 1953.

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