Sunday, November 06, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (7)

With the general feeling that the end of the War was now in sight, it was suggested that we would go to Chester early in August, to see my Grandfather Squibb. There was worry about the extra burden our staying in the house would put upon Ella, his housekeeper, so my parents decided to stay in an hotel and bring me along to the house after breakfst, where we would stay until bedtime. My grandfather was going to book the rooms when the exact date was known, and it was stressed that they must have two rooms, with connecting doors.

July 4th 1944, and my mother still not well. Back in London during the week, life at the Oxford and Cambridge Club sounds uncomfortable. My father writes:
"There is plenty of room downstairs for those who sleep here. I had two armchairs on Monday and Tuesday nights, but on Wednesday there were beds for the eight of the most senior members, and I was one of the eight! I wonder whether I shall come in the first eight tonight. However I slept quite well in the chairs with a pillow and an eiderdown.

My impression of these flying bomb raids are much less serious than ordinary bomb-raids. All the power of these things seems to be in the blast, and they hardly penetrate at all. It would be interesting to know what proportion are being brought down. I imagine that it must be high, for while the "alerts" last a long time, one does not hear many bombs."

Indeed, these flying bombs only went at the speed of an ordinary aircraft, so were relatively easy to shoot down. The anti-aircraft guns were moved to the coast, the fighters operated inland, and by August 80% of those coming over were being destroyed. However, they still had to experience the rockets, or V2's, which were more frightening and potentially more dangerous.

Our visit to Chester had been proposed for 2nd August, after which we were going on to Grange-over-Sands to see my Whittaker grandparents; but there had been complications over our hotel rooms in Chester. Also, the Whittakers had been warned that they might have evacuees from the South billeted on them. It was thought that if the house was full of family, this might stop them getting the evacuees - so it was decided we would go to Grange first, and then on to Chester on September 4th instead.

Apparently I was very excited at the thought of going to see my Grandfather Squibb. My father wrote:
"When she is going anywhere fresh we always tell her about it, so that she can get used to the idea. I hope she will behave nicely. She is usually fairly good and behaves well when she goes out.

We took her to Weymouth on Saturday and she was very good indeed. She was disappointed at not being able to play on the sands, but she took it quite calmly and looked at the shops instead. She started playing with bricks which form a picture when put together, so when Bessie gave her a simple jig-saw she soon got the hang of it."

I remember the bricks, and still had some of them many years later.

It was hoped that the holiday in Grange and Chester would help my mother recuperate too, for she was still far from well. The use of penicillen was still in its infancy; although in use during the War, it does not appear to have been readily available, as her doctor was making some tests to see whether he could find an antidote to the poison still in her bloodstream from the septic gums. He said that a change and a rest were all that would do her any good.

We eventually made the train journey to Grange on 24th July, so as to avoid the posibility of having evacuees billeted on us in Cerne. Some evacuees had already been sent to Cerne the previous week.

We left home at 8.30 am, arriving in Grange at 9.45 pm. The next day my father wrote:
"In order to avoid taking Elizabeth through London, we came by way of Bristol. At Bristol we caught a through train to Crewe. It was most uncomfortably crowded, but we were lucky enough to get seats at Hereford. Elizabeth behaved beautifully, and did not seem nearly so tired at the end of day as Bessie and I were. She took a great interest in everything and only slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Elizabeth has quickly made herself at home here. Her grandparents and aunt
[my mother's sister May] are delighted with her. There is a nice garden for her to play in and she started to explore it as soon as she had had her breakfast, so I think she is going to be very happy."

Adelaide, May & George Whittaker c.1944
at Fairbourne, Charney Rd, Grange-over-Sands

I remember the garden at "Fairbourne", Charney Road, Grange-over-Sands very clearly. The house was built on the side of a hill, and it was a very steep walk up the hill from the town. The garden was terraced, the middle terrace being a lawn on which my grandfather Whittaker played bowls. Below that was an orchard. At the top of the garden, near to the back door, was a rockery and the garden shed.

The house faced south, and there was a nice view over the sea. My father said the roads were quite as steep as those in Matlock, and the first thing he had to do on our arrival was to walk down the hill into the town to collect our emergency ration cards. I was soon taken into the town too, and went paddling in the sea. Unlike Weymouth, the beach was not sandy - despite the name - but rather rocky and muddy, so we soon nicknamed it Grange-over-Mud.

Because we had arrived earlier than originally intended, my father had to return to London during the first couple of weeks as it was still Term time. A flying bomb falling on a building on the Embankment had blown out four of the windows in Chambers, now in 3 Paper Buildings.

Back in Grange for the first Sunday in July, he was with us when I was taken to Church for the first time. I joined in "The Lord's Prayer", but they brought me out before the Sermon. Later on we went over to Cartmel Priory for a visit, and I was said to have been impressed by the Church, the largest I had ever seen. My parents were looking forward to showing me Chester Cathedral later in the holiday.

Before we left Grange and moved on to Chester, there was a visit from my mother's cousin Fred Byrne, his wife Martha, and their son Paul, who was six years my senior. Fred was my grandmother Whittaker's nephew; he had fought in the trenches during the First World War and had been badly wounded in his leg. The wound had never healed properly, and he had been left with an open ulcer, for which he had to have treatment for the rest of his long life. He did not die until 1998, shortly after his 100th birthday.

Martha was ten years younger, and died three years before Fred. Until he and Martha had to move into a residential home near their flat in Lytham, they were cared for by Paul who became a schoolmaster, but like Auntie May, never married. It might have been during that visit, or perhaps a later one, that I remember trying to persuade Paul to climb an apple tree with me (as perhaps three and three quarters was a bit young, even for me, to have been climbing trees).

Fred and Martha were very fond of my mother, but after she died they lost touch with us. It was not until after May died in 1976 that I rediscovered their address, and was able to re-establish contact with them all again.

<< Previous post · First post · Next post >>


Post a Comment

<< Home