Featured History World War II

World War II in the Watson family

Audrey Carnson remembered her time during the war:

Blue Agapanthus flower

Blue Agapanthus flower

We had a good life. We were all poor – probably we were less poor than some, as it was only me and not lots of children. Our fare was simple – we always started a main meal in the evening with a good steamed suet pudding, jam roll, plum duff and so on. Then we would probably have a Yorkshire pudding and gravy, so we didn’t need quite so much meat. We certainly had nothing too fancy in the way of food. However, we had rabbit and game in the shooting season.

The rector announces war

And then, in the twinkling of an eye, our lives changed. War was declared – we were told in church – the rector announced it instead of a sermon, and sent us home. Mum was making a Yorkshire pudding, standing in the kitchen, crying her eyes out. She thought that dad would be called up immediately. Arthur JERMEY had already gone, as he had been a regular soldier on reserve list. (This was something I was later to experience, as when Anne was about five we had the Suez crisis and Stuart was still on the reserve list and could have gone.)

That day, dad and Uncle Tom built us an air raid shelter in the dyke in the Mumby’s Drove. It was never used in anger but made a really good playroom!

How difficult it is the younger generation to understand the patriotism of we older people. Winston Churchill speeches can still send shivers up my spine. So many young men left the village to go into the forces, including [my cousin] Ernie, who became a rear gunner in a Lancaster bomber. Night after night news time on the radio were told horrifying tales and these became even worse before Dunkirk when we could so easily have been invaded.

Home Guard

During the early part of the war, Dad went off to Wisbech to enlist. Fortunately, he was too old at 39, and he was in a reserved occupation. He was quite disappointed.

Dad joined the Home Guard and really had the time of his life! He became a very good sergeant. When he was not on duty at night (and all night), even after a day’s work in the drains or harvest, he spent his evenings in the kitchen in the dark dismantling and rebuilding his Lewis gun. His weekends were spent either on duty or in training. This seems very amusing to us now, as portrayed in Dad’s Army but I do remember the drill with broom handles and spades, before they were issued with guns, and I do know they would have used them! One night it was really foggy and we saw a German plane come low over the house. Dad had the Lewis gun up and pointing at the sky in a very short space of time and he sat and waited for it to come back. He would have been in big trouble if he had shot it down!

At one time, they were our only defence.

Family life

We have often remarked that my generation were the deprived generation. Because of war, we were not able to travel anywhere. The last bus home from Wisbech arrived in Three Holes at about 6 pm. As I became older, I cycled to school if I needed to stay late. We cycled to youth club in Upwell – I had to be home at 9:40 pm, and believe me I had to do this!! We cycled to Aunt Lizzie’s every Sunday to Pymore, with Tip the dog running alongside. There was food rationing, but Auntie Lizzie always baked an “Uncle Nelson” cake, plain fruitcake with real sultanas! How did she do it!. We didn’t feel the rfood rationing too much in the country. We then had one cow, which provided milk and butter, and enough left over to barter.

Our world was very small. When I reached 15 or 16, I was allowed to go and stay in Stoke Ferry with my cousins, so I cycled there. It is strange to look back. There were lots of convoys of troops up and down, – we had a few airfields – and soldiers about everywhere and yet we were never afraid any harm would come to us from them.

I remember Mum [Beulah WATSON] and I spent some nights under the kitchen table listening to the German bombers on the way to Coventry; the odd landmine dropped, Lord HawHaw, on the radio, informed us that the Germans hadn’t forgotten the railways at March; and issuing of gas masks, which we had to carry everywhere. They were quite disgusting things that smelled so strongly of rubber you could hardly bear to keep them on any longer than the school drill lasted.

Audrey Carnson

Three Holes 2002

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