Hugh and Ann Stratton both aged 72.
Interviewer: Liz Bloom
Date: November 11th 2009
We are both 72, born in 1937 just before the war started. We’ve lived in Fleetville all our lives, well almost.
A: I was born in Brampton Road just around the corner from here.
H: I was born in Spencer Street. I moved into Burnham Road with my parents before my father went off to war, into number 17, which is odd because we’ve moved down to number 71 which is the reverse of that, isn’t it? I don’t remember much of the war, only being 3 or 4, but I remember a bit towards the end of the war when I was 7 or 8. I began to take notice of it then because of the Americans arriving and the prisoners of war walking around town with the discs on the back. The Italians, because they went out of the war fairly early; prisoners of war were just allowed to walk around town with a disc on the back. You know how they used to have ‘Juden’ on the back (of German Jews), well they used to put ‘Prisoner of War’ on their backs in different colours. Yes, it was….people didn’t take any notice of them….not as a youngster remembering it.
I can always remember getting on the buses and you couldn’t see out of the windows because they had a fine mesh over the windows and a little tiny viewing…like the size of a matchbox you can see out of; that was quite interesting. We used to try and scratch it off the window.
I don’t remember the bombing; I know there was quite a bit of bombing for a small area like we’ve got. I was never woken at night for it or any time during the day. I was only told by my parents or my mother to look out of the window and see the smoke….which was the one down the road here which David and Margaret live in now.
I can remember being cheeky to the Americans: ”Any gum chum?” We didn’t get any! I always remember walking through St Peter’s Street and hearing the marching of the boots, ‘clomp, clomp, clomp’ coming through. That was quite interesting.
Seeing as we lived between 2 airfields, we used to have what we called the Queen Marys. They were a Bedford lorry with a massive great long trailer which we used to call Queen Marys and they used to come through with bits of aircraft on.
(I remember)When I was at school, which was not far from home…..just round the corner,
this one here…. having to take a cushion with us; to sit in the air-
I can remember the fire station; it was an auxiliary fire station which was where the small Fleetville Library is, down that corner, that one. After the war, that one was given over to housing because of the shortage of houses presumably.
Sweets and that were on ration. The place we used to go was, I think it was the
A: I used to go with mum to get our weekly ration of sweets with our ration books to Dorothy’s which is just along the Hatfield Road between Glenferry and Blandford. It’s now a charity shop. We used to go in there. Sweets were all in their bottles, of course; a quarter of this and a quarter of that for the week’s supply.
H: Mum had to register (because mum was home, with these shops; otherwise you couldn’t jump from shop to shop, so that was Finch’s, just round the corner from where you (interviewer) live, on the corner. I think that went over to Pleasants in the end, didn’t it?
We used to have a police box on the corner of Sandfield Road and Hatfield Road. Across
the road at the corner of Laver’s yard, if my memory plays me right, there was a
brick police box with a flat roof….near the air-
H: The police station was down the other end of Woodstock Road, South as it is now; that was Tess Road, on the same side as the school. There was the police station with its entrance and the garages at the back for the two cars. There were two police houses with their gardens….on the side of the houses. The sergeant who used to be there, what was his name, Clark.
A: He had a daughter, Dawn, who we went to school with.
H: That was a time when someone would walk and say, “How’s your cabbages?” or something like that, over the fence. Where do you see a policeman now who you can even speek to? He’s whipping past so fast, isn’t he? It’s totally gone hasn’t it? I don’t know when they knocked it down (the police station). It just went.
A: I lived in Brampton Road and we used to shop more that way (towards town). We
used to go to the Co-
H: The rough area wasn’t it!
A: Oh I don’t know.
H: You would come down Harlesdon Road.
A: As I’ve told you in the past, you know, to me, I was a sheltered little girl. It was a long way from home.
Was there a social difference from one end to the other?
H: Not really. You’ve got the evacuees, didn’t you?
A: Yes, we had evacuees.
H: Evacuees, didn’t you, and the homeless people that came in because there were quite a few of them. As I say, mum had a homeless family that was bombed out. The school had Miss Wallace, she was the teacher that was bombed out. We were introduced to her as……we didn’t really know much about the war as bombing out….but we were introduced to her that she had been bombed out and she used to play the piano at assembly in the hall. We used to think she was something unique, I suppose, yeh.
What was it like in school during the war? Was it any different?
H: I’ve got nothing to compare it with; I’d never been to school before (the war). I know I pulled the peg out of……yah, we had slates.
A: Yes, when we first started school.
H: In Miss Davies’ class we had slates.
A: That was 37, well….
H: And Miss Randall’s class. That was a wooden hut; (it’s) where the new building is now.
A: The nursery……….. The extension of what I call the assembly hall. I don’t know what they call it now….. That brick wall that is still existing was the back of the toilets….we had to go across the….
H: Yeh, they were something. No roof.
Did you have boys’ and girls’ entrances?
A: Separate. If you look on Royal Road, you’ve got ‘Boys’ entrance.
H: Playtimes, there used to be a railing down between the two.
A: Ah but, thinking about it, it used to be Infants and Juniors, wasn’t it? Was it girls and boys separated or was Infants and Juniors?
H: No, we were separated at playtime. Boys went out one door, girls went out the other. In class you weren’t separated.
Did you go to school together?
H: We went to school together but we never…
A: We went to the same school but we never sort of….
H: Colluded, you know…..
A: It took us a long time to get together didn’t it really? It was our parents really who knew each other, wasn’t it, when we were young.
A: They called my dad up when he was 39. They got him some way or other and they decided that he was too old. Oh they sent him to Ireland, I think it was…..they decided he was too old, so they sent him down the coal mines. So mum and I were on our own. I remember we lived downstairs; the back room as a bedroom. We just lived down there and if there was a siren in the night, we used to get up and either go in the back room or go in with our neighbours or the neighbours came in with us.
Did you hide anywhere special…under the stairs?
A: Oh no, nothing like that. We just used to be up, ready, I suppose.
H: I can’t ever remember going to an air-
A: The only thing I remember was going in school.
They were only rehearsals weren’t they?
A: Oh no, actual thing. We used to go in these shelters that were built in the road, but as Hugh said, they weren’t underground or anything……They were cold, damp, smelly, horrible.
H: I remember it smelly. Probably there weren’t any toilets there…….
A: Possibly so.
H: I don’t know how long we spent in there but they used to read stories to us.
A: How many of them were there?
H: I think there were 5.
A: They went all the way along the road, didn’t they?
H: I think we each had one to go to so they didn’t sort of cram in….. each class had one to go to, or something like that.
H: There were no school dinners there. We had school dinners but that was brought in from outside in insulated boxes…..and they weren’t too bad.
A: I used to go home.
H: You used to go home. It was minced meat and stuff like that. I mean, I never complained anyway. I don’t think any of the children we were with complained; not like today…” I don’t like that. I don’t have that at home….”
A: Did you used to have egg powder, not egg?
H: Oh yes, powdered egg. That was lovely, depending if you got the right one!
A: I used to love tins of Spam as well.
H: Spam, that was nice. We didn’t know any different, you see.
I guess, quite a bit of fresh fruit from round this area. There were lots of apples, weren’t there in this area?
A: I don’t remember that, but we had apple trees in our garden at home, so that supplied us. Even living here we had 2 apple trees down this garden.
H: There were 2 apple trees here.
A: I think it was all orchards here years ago.
H: We were quite lucky because my grandfather used to have, at one time, a smallholding at Sandridge. That’s where we spent a lot of time, because mum was out at war work or whatever she was doing and take us over there and I don’t know how long we stayed over there for but we used to all cram into bed with gran, like, you know.
H: There was a dummy air field not far from there and I’ve only just recently found this out because I used to see aircraft coming in and going out across the fields at the back of Carpenter’s. I could never get anybody to say what it was, but recently, now this new forest has come up….they said there used to be a dummy airfield up there, so I was absolutely right that there were aircraft coming in and out.
So that was behind Carpenter’s Nurseries?
H: Well, I used to see them coming in from there because you could walk up on the high….you know there’s a bank? We used to walk along there just for something to do because we were walking into Sandridge and you could see them. Very interesting. If you were walking down by Carpenter’s , sometimes you could see over the bank. Up the top; we used to like walking up there.
Can you remember anything from the war like Dunkirk….D Day landings…?
H: Oddly enough, we used to try and read papers but….,”You don’t want to read this. You don’t want to read that.” It wasn’t actually put there so we could read it. I mean, children nowadays don’t pick up papers until….
A: The only thing I can really remember is the fact that my aunt came down to visit us with a 6 month old baby and her husband had just been killed. It was July 14th 1944 actually that he was killed but I can remember that happening, you know, losing my uncle.
H: I can remember my mother getting together with Mrs Watson; she used to live up the road. Her husband was in the army, same as my dad and he was a donar(?), which was a despatch rider and they used to come in and talk about things but we weren’t told directly about it, we just found out. I know my dad was at Dunkirk and he lost his mates in….he was in the artillery. Apparently he lost his mates in a direct hit on his gun emplacement. He was wounded and he was evacuated on HMS Greyhound which was (later) lost in the Far East. Dad, we he came home, he was taken to….Leavesden Hospital, that’s it. I can remember going out there…..I don’t remember how we got there or how we got back.
Can you remember any street parties or anything like that at the end of the war…for the children?
H: We never had a street party in Burnham Road but Cavendish Road did have a street party of sorts but they had a massive great bonfire in the grounds of the scrap yard which was at the end of Cavendish Road.
A: I think they had a street party in Harlesden Road….I can remember standing on one of our corners watching this party thinking I’d love to go, you know.
H: Cavendish Road used to have a scrap yard at the bottom where the school is now. You know the school; Cecil Road? That used to be the entrance and the scrap yard was there. Probably we’d never seen a massive great bonfire. I don’t know how old I was; I must have been about 7 or 8, and it upset me because mum disappeared!
A: …and Orihash’s down here. He was an oriental man of some sort.
H: I would have thought that being oriental (we always thought he was Japanese) that he wouldn’t be allowed to have a shop or something on that corner because….How long was he there?
A: Oh I can always remember him during the war.
H: He may have been there during the war, yeh.
A: Well, put it this way, we were only 2 when it started, weren’t we? By the time I was old enough, when I was 7, we’d go down to the shops to buy these ice lollies. You know, they were just fruit juice and water but we thought they were wonderful things.
H: We used to make them in a glass and stick a piece of wood in.
So which shop would that have been?
A: Well, it’s now the glass shop on the corner of Harlesden Road. But thinking about it, didn’t his son or somebody go and live up Colney Heath Lane? He was oriental, yes definitely because he had really oriental features. I can’t think what else he sold; it must have been sweets I would think. Was he a grocer’s shop?
H: Semi grocery shop because I know he used to have a…..this was probably after the war….dad bought a load of rusty soup tins from him. You wouldn’t get away with it now!
A: That was another thing I remember; it was always very dark in there.
H: We used to have a shop at the top of the road there!
A: Oh yeh!
H: Bransons. That was grocery.
At the end of this road? (Burnham)
H: On the left hand side on the corner.
What’s there now?
A: They’ve converted it into flats. But that was…..ooh until recently….well when I say recently….since we’ve been married, wasn’t it?
H: I used to like that because dad, when he came out of the army and he had some spare time, he used to drive for them and deliver for them. That was quite nice. I used to go around with him.
A: Where Queens Court is now, we used to play over there because I had a friend who lived across the road, and I just remember the blackberries. Well everything was just growing over the (building site).
H: There was a walnut tree there as well; a nice big walnut tree.
A: We use to go and play in there.
That would have been right next to the fire station, I guess.
H: Yes, more or less.
Where the garage is now, what was there?
H: That was Currells transport… lorries.