40. Sad News Again.

The wireless has lots of comedy programmes on, Tommy Handley and Arthur Askey are very funny. We tease mum by imitating the cleaning lady by saying ‘Can I do you now sir’, but after a while she would box our ears.

The funny programmes were made to cheer us up, but it never did really, there was always some bad news. Like the poor boy we called the Boffin, he has gone back to London, I didn’t think very much of it at the time, kids were always coming and going. Someone has said his dad who is a Merchant Seaman, is missing at sea. He was sailing with the the Atlantic convoy supplying Russia with all sorts of things to fight the Germans.

Because his dad was in and out the ports all over the place, this boy would tell us a lot of things that were not on the news. Like last year; when his dad said the government wanted to keep secret the sinking of HMS Hood. Because so many sailors had been lost, but it soon became known and was even on the wireless.

He said we only heard what the government wanted us to hear because the news was so bad at the time..Another story kept secret by the government, his dad told him, was of a big ship going over to America that had been torpedoed and had sunk with lots of evacuees onboard and hardly any of the people were saved. It makes me feel sick just thinking of it, no wonder it was kept secret.

Now that the blitz has stopped his family have moved back to their home in London. I feel so sorry for him. I can’t believe what is happening.

The original Boffin story is in Chapter thirty.

39, The unforgettable Whatsrname

I am often asked. “How do you remember so much”. The fact is, I remember very little. What I do remember is just a moment or two, then as I write it down it reminds of something that I would never have remembered in the first place. 

I then join it up into a story. Here is an example. Mrs Salmon is describing a film star. The moment I remember from all those years ago, was me trying to imagine what this woman looks like. Mrs Salmon uses very few words to describe her; my story uses rather a lot.

I am eight years old and once again sitting in the kitchen listening to Mrs Salmon and my Mum, they are trying to remember a woman who was in a film.”

“You know Effie, she was in that film about a tram driver who dropped dead at the wheel”.

“Was it a recent film”? 

“Nooww! It was an old film, her name is on the tip of my tongue, I will always remember her because of her eyes. They were very wide apart, and she had one eyebrow that was higher than the other. It made her look as if she was not believing what was being said, even when nothing was being said—if you know what I mean Effie”.

“No not really, Rosy, but I can see why you would remember someone like that but I’m afraid I can’t help you. Did the tram crash by the way?”

“Tram, what tram”?

“The tram in the film, that the woman with the funny eyes and high eyebrows was in”. 

I have a feeling this is going to go on all morning, and I leave them to it but I often wonder who that lady was.

I am now trying to visualise this woman with the wonky eyes and the disbelieving look on her face. You would never forget someone like that, would you?

38. Awareness.

 

I suppose I was around ten years old when I first saw myself in a full-size mirror. We had looking glasses at home as they were called, these were just bits of a larger looking glass that had been broken in into a hundred pieces when we were bombed. Only a little part of your reflection can be seen.

  I’ve heard people say that I’m a bit of a dreamer and in another world. I think all kids are the same, I’m a kid, what do they expect? This day I was brought down to earth in a rather abrupt way though, more of an air crash you might say. I was crossing the road at Bell Corner, and I saw this rather odd figure reflected in the glass door of Miss Stotts ladies’ outfitters. As I moved closer, I realised this gangly individual walking across the road like an old man, was not some old man at all, it was me.

 As if this wasn’t bad enough, the reflection was distorted by the gummed paper stuck on the glass—this was to stop flying glass from an exploding bomb.

 I stood in front of the door, moving from side to side to see my whole body. I was not happy with what I saw. I had no idea that this is what other folk would see. I had a totally different image as I walked around Chertsey

Perhaps they are right, maybe I am living in a world of my own. In my mind’s eye, I am this young Tarzan figure loping through the undergrowth of Pyrcroft Road. Swinging from hanging vine to hanging vine, at one with nature and all the animals. Sometimes trying to give a Tarzan call like the boy who lived in the lodging house—he sounded just like Johnny Weizelmul.

 Instead, I was looking at this lanky, knock-kneed kid in short trousers. The trousers did nothing to help the image. They were a bit grubby and too long for short trousers. While I am taking all this in—with ever increasing dismay— I noticed out of the corner my eye, what looked like a pair of super-sized lady’s bloomers twitching in the main shop (whoever thought of using an enormous pair of lady’s knickers as the curtains for the changing room was a total genius)

I might be mistaken about the knickers, but that is what the curtains looked like to me.

 I managed to swivel my eyes around to see what was causing these giant bloomers to take on a life of their own—my mum had told me never to look in Miss Stotts window as there were things on display not for my eyes. Actually, Dave Mawford and I had spent many a wet Sunday afternoon—it always rained on Sunday— trying to fathom what on earth all the stuff in Miss Stott’s window could possibly be used for.

  Suddenly the bloomers parted and in what seemed a completely unfriendly facial expression—as if she had just chewed a wasp—as my mum would say. There was a lady waving her hands about and saying something—I think the gist of what she said was for me to vacate her doorway, I couldn’t quite read her lip’s, but I don’t think it was very friendly.

  These few moments were to change my life, no more Tarzan fantasies. Instead, I set my mind on self-improvement. First of all, my round shoulders had to go, this was surprisingly easy, but the knocking knees were more difficult. I practiced my walk at night so I wouldn’t look silly and after a while it became natural. My shoulders square, arms swinging, and my head held high, I felt great—I found the hardest bit was pushing my knees apart to stop them touching. I would now proudly stride down the town with a feeling that I had changed my image.

 I was returning from doing some shopping for mum and was passing Pippernell Izzi’s ice cream shop in Pyrcroft road. Ahead of me I spotted Mrs. Mant, she was at her gate talking to the lady next-door. They were both wearing identical pinafores and turbans, probably bought from Miss Stotts. I vaguely wondered about their bloomers as well but quickly dismissed the thought.  

They were both standing with their arms folded, a fag hanging from their lips, I could see by the jerky movements of the cigarettes that they were busy putting the world to rights.  I thought here was my chance to show off my new walk. I straightened up with arms swinging and attempted to push my knees apart as I strode towards them. The trouble was I had not yet perfected the ‘knee thing’, and this caused me to walk in a slightly odd way. Adults are not always aware that kids have very acute hearing, and as I neared the two ladies, I heard one say.

   “Look, what’s coming up the road, that poor Mrs. Waglin, as if she doesn’t have enough to put up with already”.

  Mrs. Mant replied, 

“Yeah, it’s such a shame, they say there is always one in every family”.

 They kept stock still as I got nearer, their fags now just hanging motionless, their eyes swivelled as I passed them. I swung my arms and tried my best to keep my knees in order.

 There was a burst of laughter as they watched me stride up the road, this didn’t bother me much though. Being told all the time you live in another world you get used to it.

 I had the last laugh though, my new walk has made me keep my shoulders back and the stoop has gone, I now feel so much more at ease as I walk around Chertsey.

There is just one fly in the ointment, I am now quite bandy.

37. The Kings Sister.

I am round Wadies house, the garden is small, and it is full of kids. Not only kids, but chickens, rabbits and even two pigs. Whenever there were too many of us milling around, we would jump over Dummies stream at the bottom of the garden, and into the open ground between Wadies and Frithwald Road. This is where we have a nice camp. It is just a hole in the ground with a bit of corrugated iron as a roof, but we think it’s great. We are away from prying eyes. We had pinched some potatoes from Wadies mum and were cooking them in a tin with some water from the stream. The water in the tin looks a bit muddy, but Wadie says a bit of dirt is good for you. 

Suddenly there was a terrific rumpus from one of the houses in Frithwald Road with lots of shouting and swearing, it was a family row. Family rows were a common sight in our part of Chertsey and would often spill out into the road. Kids would gather and watch the fun as the whole family would be shouting at one and other, but this one was extra special.

Out of the bedroom window, first came a chair and then a mattress, followed by all sorts of things. We quickly jumped back over the stream and climbed up into the hollow tree stump in Wadies for a better view, the stump is more than six feet high. There must have been six or seven of us up there, it’s a wonder someone didn’t fall out. But it was worth the risk as the row went on all afternoon.

I heard my brother Don asking for me, he had come around to the Wade’s to tell me we had some important visitors. With all the noise going on I couldn’t really hear what he was shouting, but it sounded like the King’s sister had come to tea! Before I could ask what was going on, he just got on his bike and left me to walk home in some sort of shock.

 Did he say The King’s sister?

My mum was standing at the scullery door looking a bit mad, she whispered something which I couldn’t understand then gave me a clip round the ear and started washing my face with a cold wet flannel before pushing me into the kitchen.

All the family were sitting at the table, there were lots of sandwiches and cakes, it looked like Christmas had come early. They were all looking very clean and smart, and at the top of the table were two people in uniform. The Lady had a hat with gold trimmings, like a crown almost, was this the Kings sister, I wondered?

 They were all looking at me, I didn’t know what to do, so I just gave her a nice bow, like I have seen people do for the King. This made Iris start to giggle. Then Mum said.

“Sit down Alan and say hello to your Auntie Tina and Uncle Alfred, they have come all the way up from Hastings to see us”.  

The penny dropped, it wasn’t the Kings sister, it was my mum’s sister from Hastings—an easy mistake to make as it sounded like that to me when I was up the tree. She and her husband were officers in the Salvation Army, and they had been visiting a Chapel in Addlestone. 

I sat down and said hello, but then everyone was still looking at me, as if they were waiting for me to say something. I’m only nine, so I said in my most posh voice.

“May we start”

And everyone started laughing, even my aunt and uncle.It seems what-ever I do is wrong, I wish I was back in our camp eating the rest of those lovely potatoes, even if they do taste a b

36. Trevor.

A bomb crater has been found in the corner of Lyne fields; nobody knew about it until Mr Stanford was clearing the area of brambles. It has made quite a small crater for a bomb, and all the kids were searching for shrapnel. It’s like a magnet, there have been no bombs falling in Chertsey for ages. Now the kids come from all around the town. I’m not interested in collecting the stuff, I leave it for Donald and Kenny, they have lots of it and they swop it with other boys as if it is stamp collecting. Saturday morning is the day we help mum, so Don has to give shrapnel collecting a miss this time.

 I have finished putting some white Blanco on my plimsoles. It’s a bit pointless as they are completely worn out. I have no idea why I do this every weekend, white tennis plimsoles seem out of place with the rest of my clothes.

Don is in the garden, he is very good at growing things, peas, and beans and even some onions. We all do something to help mum on a Saturday—she works all the rest of the week doing other people’s housework. My job is putting the washing through the mangle and hanging it on the line. My white plimsoles hang by the laces on the post, they will be dry in no time with this hot sun. I go into the kitchen with a bowl of peas from the garden and start to shell them. Helping mum at the weekend is the only time I have her to myself, we talk about all sorts of things.

I say something as I walk into the kitchen that a boy of ten should never be heard to say. It sounds more like something a housewife would say to a neighbour over the fence. But I can’t stop myself from saying it, it makes my mum laugh out loud—which isn’t a bad thing.

“It’s a lovely day for drying, isn’t it”?

She leans forward with her hands deep in the soapy water and just shakes with laughter, I wish I could see her laugh like this more often.

I had noticed she had seemed a bit odd earlier this morning, she kept looking over her shoulder at me while she was doing the washing. Now she is drying her hands and looking at me more seriously, I am wondering, now what have I done.

“Trevor,” she said in a quiet voice.

For some reason, I have never quite understood, my mother sometimes calls me ‘Trevor’. I can understand when she calls me by my brother’s names, Don, or Bernard, it happens all the time, but Trevor— we haven’t got any Trevor’s in the family.

“Trevor”. she says, “I know you like helping me with the washing, but boys of your age should be doing more boyish things, like helping your brother in the garden”.

She looks straight at me, and I wonder what she is going to say next.

“Do you have a girlfriend”?

“Of course, I do, lots of them”.

“No, I mean a special one that you really like”.

“No, not really, I have a special boy-friend though, Dave”.

She keeps looking at me for quite a long time, then very quietly says.

“Have they told you about the birds and bees at school yet”?

Oh, I thought, not that old rubbish, Dave reckoned it can’t be true, you have only to look at the size of a bee, compared to that of a bird, even a little Wren. They will tell you anything old rubbish at school.

 “Miss Weller, one of our new teachers, did start to explain it to us, but Laurie Zubiena kept interrupting her and asking lots of questions. Then she started to cry, I don’t think she is old enough to be a teacher she’s always crying. Mrs. Ayres had to take over the class, anyway Don has told me all about it”.

“Did he now, and what did your brother tell you”?

“He said they were delivered by a stork”.

“Wait till I see him, he’s always telling you stories, babies are not delivered by a stork”.

She gives a long sigh. “Put the kettle on and let’s have nice cup of tea”.

She says this, as if it was no good going on. I know I am a bit backward, but I just knew Don’s story about the stork was total rubbish. The trouble I am having now though, is where do all these blooming babies come from?  There does seem to be a lot of them about in Chertsey.

35.Sweet nothings.

Last week, in our school we had the most disgusting pudding. Who ever heard of a vegetable like a swede being boiled until it is soft and sloshy, then flavoured with banana? This is what we got for pudding today, banana fritters without any banana. The war really is getting serious even sweets are vanishing from the shops, even though they are not rationed yet. 

Wadie gave me some nice sweets yesterday though, they were in a little round tin, they were called ‘Zubes’. He said he bought them from the chemists on the corner of Station Road and Guildford Street—Wadie is the sort of boy who knows a thing or two.

 “They have lots of this sort of thing in the chemists, they’re called cough sweets, so as well as tasting nice they’re good for you. If you know where to look Wegsy, you can get anything, like In Mrs. Froud’s shop, you know, next to the ‘The Bell’. She’s got lots of sweets in the back room, they are a bit old and sticky though. If you want some, you better get a move on”.

 Mrs Froud, who was very old, always sits in the corner of the shop and would have to ask you to break the slab of toffee with a little brass hammer, it was so hard to eat you have to suck it for before daring to bite it. I left it too late of course, the shop had been cleaned out. All that was left on the counter was the hammer and some crumbs of toffee and little square tins of ‘Nippits’. These are tiny bits of liquorice about the size of tea leaves. They are meant for people who smoke, to clean their breath, not meant for kids at all, but they’re better than nothing and they last for quite a long time because they stick to your teeth. 

Whenever there was a mention of a sweet’s delivery, kids from all over the town would fill the shop. It was becoming a serious problem. Even ‘Woolworths’ were selling fake bananas. They were really just large, dried bean skins. There were sticks of wood flavoured with aniseed or liquorice—I think they were roots of something or other. Theses had to be sucked to get any flavour from them, then they became horrible and stringy and stuck between your teeth. 

Today at dinner time, Miss Slaughter, told us what to do while we were eating our dinner.

“It’s never good to rush your dinner, what you must do now, instead of putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. You must keep them in your hand, ready for the next forkful, then we will all be finished more quickly.”

I looked at Goldilocks, he pointed at his empty plate. Like me, he had finished his dinner as soon as he sat down, our knife and fork never left our hands once we started.

34. The Plane Crash.

Our gang are on our way to St Anne’s Hill, and as we are near to the Old Coach Road, we are stopped by some soldiers. They said the Hill was out of bounds and turned us away. We couldn’t understand what was going on and they wouldn’t tell us. We thought it might be some sort of manoeuvres that the Army does up there now and again. We heard later that a British fighter plane had crashed in the woods and the pilot had been killed. 

We were not allowed anywhere near until the area was completely cleared. All that could be seen later, was a big white cross high up on a tree. It was said that the pilot managed to keep the plane from crashing into the houses along Chilsey Green, before ending up just below The Old Coach Road. This could be true, as the tail wheel was found in the top field below Monks Wood, probably torn off by the tall trees along St Anne’s Road.

I often liked to go up the Hill on my own, I used to imagine I was a hunter, and would move very quietly through the dense shrubbery of the woods. This was not to hunt an animal but just to see how close I could get without them knowing I was there. I always failed of course. 

It came as a bit of a shock when I came to an open space, a lot of trees had been cleared and the ground looked as if it had been swept. It was very spooky, and I ran down the hill into the fields in a panic. I later found out that it was where the fighter plane had crashed, no wonder I was spooked.

Once again it has all gone quiet, with the air raid siren only sounding as a false alarm, there are no bombers to be seen or heard, people are saying that it’s too quiet and Gerry is planning something big. But once again nothing happens.

Fred is very ill and has been taken to Milford Hospital, everything is going wrong again. Mum and Iris are the only ones earning any money, Bernard and his friend Tommy Hiscock have told the Army they were older than they were and are now stationed up in Yorkshire. Chrissy has done the same thing and is in The Land Army somewhere. Don has got a little job but only earns a few shillings. We are lucky to have our evacuee Mrs. O’Keefe, to pool our rations for our Sunday dinner.

I remember all these things very clearly, and I thought I knew where all the bombs fell in Chertsey, simply because the news would go round the town like lightning. But I have been told of at least two other bombed houses that I never knew about. One was dropped by the same bomber as the Pyrcroft Road bomb, it fell in the road next to us. It could be that as my mother took us to our gran’s the day after we were bombed, it would have been old news when we came home.

The other bomb I knew nothing about was in Fordwater Road, it could again have been while I was away. It was very dramatic; it certainly would have been a talking point anywhere in the town. I was told this story by my friend Alex; the bomb fell on a haystack in the field directly opposite his home. The man who owned the field would sleep with his animals, probably to prevent anyone stealing them. 

Alex saw his father helping the owner chase terrified horses around the field trying to put out their burning tails and manes. They had been set alight by the burning hay that had been blown all over the field. It must have been a terrible sight. I don’t know how many animals were saved. My friend’s bungalow had the roof lifted by the blast, apparently the roof, although only lifted an inch or two, never quite returned to normal.

33. The Yanks are coming.

Although we had been bombed a couple of years earlier, I was quite unaware of the effect the war was having on anyone beyond our little clump of council houses. At school, prayers would regularly be said for some child who had lost an older brother or even a parent. It had become a normal part of morning assembly. Since our bomb—as we knew it— I still had a keen sense of my immediate surroundings, not afraid exactly, but always expecting something to happen.

The USA had joined the war, and there were troop trains passing through Chertsey full of American soldiers. They threw packets of sweets out of the train as we cheered them from the railway banks in Lyne fields. A young boy climbed the bank to gather the sweets, he went too near the lines and touched the live rail. A man tried to rescue him by pulling him off the rail with his walking stick, but the poor lad died. Now I have become very aware just how fragile life can be.

American soldiers were stationed nearby. They had money to spend, they made the town buzz. The Golden Grove, an old pub near to us was like a magnet to them, Jeeps were parked everywhere, as were lady’s bikes from miles around. They even had their own radio station called AFN. Iris used to listen to it all the time, this was the first time I had ever heard Dixieland music, I loved Benny Goodman playing the Jersey Bounce.

People were living for the moment, and it had an effect on us kids too. At school, girlfriends were becoming a problem. Not for me of course, I never had one, but they began hanging about with my mates. Some of the girls were from London and although we were all a similar age, they were so much more grown up. They were fluent in Anglo Saxon and were able to string together wonderfully long sentences that made your hair stand on end.

In our house, swearing was unheard of, so I never mastered the rhythm that these girls achieved so effortlessly. On the other hand, my friend Danny’s family had no problems with getting a point over with a few well-chosen swear-words. After all, his mum was a railway porter at Chertsey station.

Although these London girls were a bit frightening, I had begun to realise that some of them were very nice to look at. One that caught my eye was a girl called June, but she was in the top class and so I had nothing to do with her. Like a lot of the children from London she had a nickname: Jersey Bounce Hutchinson.

She was a very popular girl, but she had a very odd way of walking, it was as if she had springs on her shoes., and this made her fluffy jumper move about as if she had a little animal up there.

Our dinner table—all boys of course—would go completely silent whenever she bounced past, which she did continually during the dinner break.

I soon realised her nickname; Jersey Bounce Hutchinson, had nothing to do with her love of Dixieland music.

32.Pearl Harbour.

Although they have helped us in so many ways, America have always tried to be a neutral country but now they have no choice. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbour. The newsreel is once again full of burning ships. Everyone is saying it was so unexpected, then Germany declared war on America. They must be mad, how could a country like Germany fight America.

The news is getting worse every day, I tried not to listen to the nine o’clock news, there was so much going on. but there was no getting away from it. I heard mum saying how bad it was. A little Island like Malta had been bombed almost as much as London. A lot of Spitfires that had just been delivered were blown up before were able to fly. The island was later given a medal by the King for their bravery. A Czech village somewhere had been bombed so much that there was nothing left of it, why would the Germans do something like that—perhaps it’s that ‘spreading fear and havoc’ they seem so fond of.

At home in England, it is quieter, and the news is bit better than it has been for a long time. I am always surprised when I see a lady driving past in a big lorry, they look so small behind the wheel. They do any sort of job now, ambulance driving, and heavy factory jobs that men would usually do. 

The Land Army Girls played a huge part in the war. My sister Chrissy who was land-girl, told us the German pilots were instructed to strafe anyone working on the land—more to intimidate than to kill. She heard stories of these women working in the fields, shaking their fists at the enemy planes rather than running to the shelter. Another story was of tractors in a field, being driven in opposite direction, so one Land Army girl could see an enemy plane coming from behind the other tractor—the noise of the tractors would hide the sound of an aeroplane engine. 

Many women joined the armed services and did all sorts of work. In the battle of Britain, we saw them on the newsreel, they were vital in plotting where the Germans were coming from, and how many planes there were. They even flew the big bombers and fighter planes from the factories where they were made, to the RAF aerodromes all over the country. 

Just as she Iris was taking more of a housekeeping role in Weybridge, and with a higher wage. The war changed everything for her, she had to leave the job she loved and started working for Vickers Supermarine. An aircraft factory in London Street, Chertsey. It must have been a bit of a shock for her, working alongside men and women in the dust and noise of a factory—but she loved it, and told us all about it. 

“There was so much shouting and joking going on, it’s a wonder to me how any of the work was done, but we always beat the targets set out for us, and once had a special bonus for exceeding the targets by so much”.

 She told me the fuel tanks were made of a sort of coated paper, these tanks were very light and strong. They gave the Spitfires extra time and range, allowing them to stay aloft for longer. This gave them the advantage over the German planes, they had come all the way over from France. If the paper tanks were jettisoned over enemy lines, a paper fuel tank would be of no use to them. But if they were made of aluminium, which was in short supply, it could be collected and reused by them. 

The women, with just a few men for heavy lifting, worked very long hours in this small ex-Bedford lorry garage. It was said without their hard work ‘The Battle of Britain’ may have lasted very much longer and could even have been lost.

 Iris was always coming home with jokes, she really enjoyed working with ordinary people, although the lady in Weybridge was very nice to her. Her two workmates, Florry Pendry, who lived up the end of Church Path and Betty Smith, from Frithwald Road, would come round to our house before going up to The Golden Grove. They had a great time with the soldiers who were stationed miles away. They would arrive in an army lorry and would be sitting outside on the grassy bank having a lovely time with the local girls. We kids would hang around hoping for a packet of crisps or even just a story of where they have been, they were all heroes to us.I

Chapter Thirty-one, Eye Witness.

An evacuee in our school, went back to London when nothing seems to be happening, He came back to Chertsey during the blitz. He told our class at school what he had seen with his own eyes. He said hundreds of bombers came over during day. The sky was full of German planes as far into the distance as can be seen. One night, the sky was brighter than ever, several warehouses along the Thames near where he lived were burning completely out of control, one contained sacks of sugar which burns very easily and turns into a sticky liquid, so much so, that the firemen had trouble moving their fire pumps and even themselves through what was a sort of treacle toffee. Not only that, but the burning liquid sugar could float on the river setting other places alight, it was like the Thames was in flames. In another warehouse there were barrels of rum which exploded, and this also spread the fire to where sacks of pepper were stored and the firemen had to have urgent treatment for their eyes. 

He said his family hid in the cellar but luckily, they were not bombed out. The nearest thing to them was a German bomber crashing in a nearby park. After a couple weeks of this there was a lull in the bombing when only a few bombers would come over during the day and then the Germans started night bombing. That’s when his family managed to get back to Chertsey.  

He told us that the Luftwaffe had lost so many bombers with our fighter planes being ready to meet them over the south of England in the daytime. That they switched to night bombing when our fighters were grounded.

Don and I saw on the newsreel what this boy had seen a few weeks earlier. There was always a long queue right round to the brick-built air raid shelter in the car park waiting to get in. Sometimes Iris had to pay for the seats at the back ot the cinema which cost two and ninepence each! This is where most people smoked, you could hardly see what was going on sometimes and it made your eyes sting.

The newsreels were the most exciting bits of the pictures,. One newsreel showed brave firemen with their big hoses trying to put out the burning buildings. A high wall started to sway and then came crashing down on top of them, how anyone could have survived I don’t know. Then we saw them running out just in time, a very loud cheer and stamping of feet went up in the Picture Palace, drowning the commentary, but I wonder how many brave firemen were not so lucky. Like one of our own Chertsey Firemen who was killed by the heavy brass nozzle of a firehose that started snaking about in the air out of control, I think the poor man’s family lived in Barker Road.

 Firemen were some of the very bravest of people, they would go into a burning house that was about to fall, to see if anyone could be saved. We would look out of the window whenever we heard the fire engine whizz past, with men and even sometimes a woman just clinging on to the side not knowing what awaits them, the bell ringing furiously.