November 1943. Aged eleven, I became very keen on football. The rec —recreation ground— was where I could be found after school most days. The football we played there was great, there were no teams, only one goal and at least twenty boys. Who ever won the ball, tried to score a goal, all the others tried to stop him. There were at least two boys in goal, so it was almost impossible to score. It was very competitive. During one of these games—or should I say scrambles—I caught the heavy, wet, leather football, full into my groin. That night I was peeing blood and in quite a lot of pain. The next day, my mother took me to the doctors; from there I was taken to St Peter’s Hospital. This was, at that time, a war hospital, with wounded men, in their blue uniforms, white shirts and red ties. Most were able to go into Chertsey, while the more severely injured were bed bound. I stayed in St Peter’s for two months, and as I was the only child in the ward, the soldiers were very kind to me, when I was well enough; they took me to the pictures in the hospital cinema, I was also taught how to play cards and draughts. Christmas day was so funny, the presents everyone had were not at all suitable, a bald man was given a hair comb, the man with no teeth had a tooth brush, I was given shin pads. For Christmas dinner, I had my first taste of roast turkey, I thought it was horrible, I was told it was the leg, but it was just the foot, all skin and bone, another joke of course. In February, I was taken to St Dominic’s Open Air School, in Hambledon, Surrey, It was a Catholic home for boys, to recover from various illnesses. I soon realized that the catholic boys were treated differently from the rest of us— mostly Church of England— and were in there own dormitories. Apart from that, we were treated very well; we had a very healthy diet, no tea, coffee or butter. The meals were a bit on the small side after the hospital menu, instead of porridge we had oatmeal —complete with a good sprinkling of weevils, I had no idea what the little black bits were, and when someone told me, I went off breakfast, only for a few days though. We had no normal lessons, because of the treatments the boys were given, such as sunray treatment, this was like a searchlight with two carbon rods almost touching and causing an arc. If anyone took their goggles off and looked at the lamp, they would suffer from ‘arc eyes’, the eyes would be very painful for a couple of hours. You only did it once. Although we had no proper lessons, we did a lot of singing, with Sister Celestine, my favourite sister, playing the piano, these were not always hymns, some were like the ‘Bluebirds of Dover’, we all liked singing, it was the part of the day I really loved. It was while were singing from these song sheets, which were printed on the backs of scraps of paper, that I saw the answer to something that had puzzled me since the day I had arrived. The boys kept asking me if I was related, without saying whom they thought I was related to. On the back of the song sheets, there was a picture of the founder of the home, Mrs. Ada Weguelin. Up to that moment, I had never heard of anyone called Weguelin, apart from my own family and my grandfather. Mrs. Weguelin was a devout catholic, and very, very wealthy. She had previously been married to Mr. Claude Watney, who owned the brewery with the same name, after he died; she married a Mr. Weguelin, also very wealthy. In the early twenties, a violent storm destroyed a small catholic care home for boys, somewhere on the south coast. One of the nuns was killed trying to save the boys. On hearing of the tragedy, she brought the nuns and the children, to stay with her at Mount Olivet— her home in Hambledon. She moved into the lodge of the house, a sizable building itself, complete with an observatory! She also had a London home, which became her main residence. She then gave the whole Hambledon estate to the Catholic Church. It was then called St Dominic’s Open Air School. She died in 1937; her jewel collection was the largest offered at auction, since that of the Russian Royal family. A few years ago, I became interested in family history and found that I was related to her, or at least to her husband. During the spring of 1944, from our classroom, which had large glass windows and high on Mount Olivet, we watched a doodle bug being chased by an RAF Tempest fighter, it was shot down and exploded on a hill a few miles away, we were all cheering, when Sister Celestine shouted for everyone to lay down on the floor, a few moments later the shock wave shook the windows violently, but luckily none were broken. In June 1944, we watched the D Day aircraft, and the gliders setting off to Normandy, from nearby Dunsfold aerodrome, the sky was black with planes of all types, we were in a trench that served as an air raid shelter, everyone cheering, including the nun’s.

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