The Summer of 1940
As a nine year old boy, I have strong recollections of the Summer of 1940. My father and I traveled down to Dorset in mid May. We stayed with my aunt and uncle in the village of Preston just outside Weymouth .I had a wonderful time helping my relations feeding the turkeys and hens and enjoying exploring up in the hills behind the house. Very soon I had to attend the village school. I guess it would seem a bit odd to parents and children today The School house was definatly something from Dickens A headmaster who would be teaching us the Catechism with his feet up on his desk and one boy polishing his shoes whilst another stood behind him tapping him on the back of his head with a ruler , which he claimed had a soothing effect !
A glass fronted cabinet complete with an array of canes , plus genuine dunces hats.
Soon, things started to heat up. As the school did not have air raid shelters. The siren would sound , the teachers donned tin helmets and we were told to hide under the desks. The teachers would stand outside viewing all the action whilst we were supposed to stay under the desks. I remember climbing on my desk to witness German Stuka dive bombers carrying out an air raid on Portland Harbour, bombing the docks and oil installations .All this clearly visible from the schools elevated position, as the Stuka’s hit oil tanks , and shipping moored in the harbour. I was amazed to witness one dive bomber
miscalculate when after dropping his bombs and unable to pull out from his dive fly straight into the island cliff face.
This lack of shelters for the children prompted the authorities to send in a local elderly bricklayer to construct a surface shelter behind the school yard. On 26th May operation Dynamo ,the evacuation of Dunkirk was put into action . During the next few days my father and I stood on the quayside in Weymouth harbour as hundreds of weary troops disembarked from all manner of vessels. Our village school was closed ,as it filled with Belgium troops. I can see them now sitting on the path leading into the school, dressed in greatcoats and wearing what seemed to us odd shaped tin helmets, opening tins of sardines and drinking every drop of the olive oil.
1940 was a long hot Summer , with days of sunshine and blue skies criss crossed with vapour trails. I remember one day in mid August when the sirens sounded warnings and all clears from dawn to dusk ,I lost count after twenty .
The day before school was to resume I was walking with my mother ,(who arrived from Gorleston in mid June .) As we passed the school, a notice pasted on the wall stated no school until further notice .We had to wait for the air raid shelter to be completed. So our school holiday was extended until late September. By now we were living in Coombe Valley . Each afternoon I would fetch in the cows for Bertie Barrett the cow herd and his wife. One afternoon a Dog fight developed right above our heads Me 109’s , Hurricane’s and Spitfires. This lasted several minutes when suddenly they peeled off and headed towards West Bay One of our Hurricanes had its canopy shot off , The pilot baled out ,whilst his aircraft headed towards the English Channel. We stood in the doorway of the cowshed to witness the pilot plus his chute slowing heading towards the ground whilst being circled by two spitfires to ward off any possible strafing by German fighters .Suddenly it became very quite except for to canopy of the Hurricane which was catching the air as it clattered towards Terra Firma,to land in the field from which I rounded up the cows . The nearest Fight base was R.A.F.Warmwell A Polish contingent of fighter pilots flew from here . In 1996 My Cousin Eddie Balem and his wife Joan drove Carol and I to Warmwell. We headed for a small cemetery and looked for the headstones of two well known Polish pilots known as Zig and ZOG.
We managed to find one .
After this we made out way to Cloud Cottage , the home of T.E. Lawrence. Known as Lawrence of Arabia.
I have attached a photo of Carol at his final resting place . As a footnote I have added the weekly ration for one person during the war years .
2 oz. Tea. 3 oz Sweets 2 oz Margarine 3/4 lb. Of Meat
8 oz. Sugar. 2 oz Lard 4 oz Cheese 1 Egg when Available
4 oz Jam 2 oz Butter 4 oz Bacon