1939-1945 second world war page 4
Many of the girls aged eighteen were 'called-up' for the war effort. Some, Gwen Carter included, worked at Apsley Mills preparing aircraft parts; "They would come back to Felden with horrid glue on their hands, very tired, but still went in to evening class." Daphne, having passed her Solo Seal and major modern and tap exams went to teach at Romford for a while before joining ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) to entertain the troops. Patricia Burrows, today an octogenarian like Daphne Peterson and still running her own school in south London, was at Felden from 1941 for three years before being called-up for factory work. Recently she sent the only photograph we have from Felden which shows Noreen and Victor sitting on the grass outside the apple-store and glass-house in which grew a large vine (see page 3).
Despite the relative safety, in reality Felden was close enough to London to experience the effects of the war. Several airfields were close by, Bovingdon being one. Paul's rather chilling recollection, which is echoed by Mary Pike, is of, "Sitting at our bedroom window watching the city engulfed in flames; hearing the ominous sound of the doodlebug - suddenly silent, then the explosion; the constant thundering of overhead aircraft on missions, and the general noise of bombardment." It was certainly 'Boys Own' stuff for the nervous youngsters whose number had expanded to twenty 'seniors' and six 'juniors', some from Romford and the remainder from the London school. Apart from the air-raid sirens, "Very disruptive but sometimes a blessing," all they would hear throughout the day, day after day, for almost six years was, "And one, and two....pliés, tendus - stretch those toes - and three, shuffle hop step, and up and up, ball change...If you don't smile I'll have it painted on! " (Miss Bush). Hard times indeed!
Paul also recalls, "Women walking around in dark habits." This is confirmed by Daphne Peterson, and her sister Mavis amongst others, as being the nuns from a nearby convent which the senior girls attended for a 'part-time' education. After about one year Paul was dispatched to the nearby preparatory school, Heath Brow, as a day scholar, which had so far avoided evacuation. It was so close that he remembers his daily walk home to Felden Croft through the countryside up Featherbed Lane. He was to remain here until the end of summer 1946, spending the final year as a boarder when the school removed to East Grinstead in 1945. In the evenings, the 'Odd Fellows' public house was a frequent diversion for the weary adults, and some seniors! Paul also recalls Toni Swift's mother regularly accompanying his mother for a favourite gin and orange.
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