Country Cockneys 1

The winter of 1940/41 was one of the coldest ever recorded, the snow had melted and frozen again, making the roads and paths like skate rinks. Apart from feeling cold, we kids had a wonderful time. Pound pond was usually frozen every year except for near the wall next to Abbey Road, which had very thin ice on it. My friend Billy Pretty slid too far and went right under. I saw him as he was running home crying, he must have been so cold, and I have always felt guilty about not helping him but there was nothing I could do. He was very unlucky, the next day the pond was frozen solid

Stanford fields were brilliant for sliding, the water was only ever a couple of inches deep with some grass above to give you a grip, it froze solid every year. The fish pond behind The Golden Grove’ even froze, the first time ever, it was used by proper skaters so we kept out of the way.

Coal was hard to get, so out came the old pram and up to the Gas-works we would go to get some coke, we could fill the pram right up to the top as it was so light. Getting wood from St Annes was hard to do as the road was also frozen, but lovely for sledging.

The children who lived in Lyne who were bussed into school couldn’t get through because the roads were frozen. We thought they were country bumpkins because they had an accent like someone from Wiltshire or some such place. On the other-hand they thought we sounded like Londoners and called us Cockneys. Today most people sound the same but then, even children from ‘the top of the town’ sounded quite different from us. They could have been from another country, so it is not surprising, that a bomb falling in Pyrcroft Road, was at the time, not known about just a couple of miles away.

For instance, in 2019, at the Black Cherry Fair, my Friend Alex told me about the day he was bombed out in Fordwater Road at about the same time as I was. He never knew of my bomb and I had never heard of his. Both our homes had the windows and front doors blown in, but his bungalow had the roof lifted up. On the opposite side of Alex’s road, in Mr Turners field. The bomb had landed in a haystack, which burst into flame, shooting burning straw into the air and setting the tails and manes of his horses alight.

Mr Turner, for some reason that I can’t quite understand, slept in the pig-sty, I suppose he thought it was safer there. So he was able to save his panic-stricken horses, it must have a horrific scene.  Later on in the war, Alex actually saw the ‘Doodle Bug’ coming down that fell on the house in Addlestone Moor, he was on the Fordwater Road bridge, just a few hundred yards away.

I think everyone is getting used to all the noise and the air-raid sirens, they just get on with what they are doing. The bombing of London keeps stopping and starting, I think it depends a lot on the weather. Dover on the other hand is shelled from across the English Channel. The Germans have an enormous gun called ‘Big Bertha’, it can fire a really big shell even further than Dover. The people living in Dover would see a flash and then would be able to take cover as it took a minute or so to come down, it doesn’t seem a lot of time to dodge a one ton shell.

The news is not very good, so many ships are being sunk by U boats. Bernard says we are not told of half the story. If we were told where the damage was being done, the Germans would know and use it for propaganda. He also says the Germans tell lies to their people about how the British are so frightened by all the bombing. But it seems to be the opposite, on the news reels the people who are bombed out are so cheerful, he said its called ‘The Blitz Spirit’. I think  I would be terrified.

We had a young woman come and stay with us for a couple of days, she had a little girl about five years old with her. She was very tearful and said she had been thrown out from where she had been billeted. We soon found out why, she was very strange and the poor little girl was neglected. Mum went down to the council to see what could be done, they asked mum to hold her for a day or two until they could sort something out. But when mum came home they had moved to a house in Lasswade Road. We never saw her again so I suppose she was taken into a care home.

Author: madeinchertsey

Born in 1932, this is a collection of stories of my childhood growing up in Chertsey, and some stories of my later life.

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