Country Matters Hexton

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VE Day celebrations - Evacuee

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There is a lovely story on BBC History, written by someone evacuated to Hexton during WW2

I was 8 years old when WW2 started.

My father said I was not to go out anywhere away from the house because there was going to be a practice air-raid so I had to stay in the back garden with my gas mask over my shoulder in case we had to wear it. The gas masks were to stop us getting gassed. But we were never to put the gas masks to use, thank goodness!

Later on that year I was evacuated, with my brother, to Hexton Manor near Bedfordshire, Herts.

Whereas most of the children who were evacuated lodged with strangers, my brother Peter and I were evacuated to a lovely manor house owned by Sir and Lady Ashley Cooper, directors of the Hudson Bay Fur Company. (No worries about wearing fur coats in those days of 1939)

My Grandmother and Granddad (Mr. & Mrs James Backhurst) worked for the above mentioned. My Grandmother was Head Cook and my Granddad was Head Groomsman.

The manor house was a very big house, or so it seemed in my young days. My brother and I were to sleep in a very large bedroom with my Grandmother. What would be said about those arrangements today?

When I was first evacuated to Hexton I remember sitting at a long table in my Grandmother’s kitchen (she only carried out the cooking because she had her kitchen maids etc. to carry out all the menial jobs) We all sat round this very long table (about 20 in all) with all our rations of 2 oz of this and 2 oz of that, but did we complaint NO!!. But gradually as time went on, all the maids etc., were called up to serve in WW2. Consequently there was only myself, my grandmother, my brother and one maid left. Then, of course, my grandmother had to do other jobs than cooking.

Of course being only 8 years old I often used to cry for my mother (my grandmother’s daughter) when I first moved to Hexton. But looking back, of course, I couldn’t have been more lucky to have my grandmother to look after me and my brother Peter.

Often after we had our main rationed meal, my grandmother would spoil me and my brother and cook something extra for us. But this, of course, was after all the maids, valets etc., had vacated the kitchen. So we never felt starved. I was very lucky to be with my grandparents, but did not appreciate it at the time because I was too young.

I went to school at Hexton Junior Mixed and Infant School. All I can remember is one of the teacher’s names was Mr. Rumble. As my surname was Rumball I used to get my leg pulled that Mr. Rumble the teacher was my father or some relation, which of course he wasn’t because it was spelt differently. So I was often teased about that which I didn’t enjoy at that tender age.

I will always remember my first Christmas - in the grounds of this manor house there was a lake and Father Christmas use to come up the lake in a boat. I thought this very magical. All in all I had a very pleasant stay in Hexton and I stayed there for about 2 years before returning to Hayes, Middlesex my home town.

The only time I saw, or became afraid of WW2 was when the Doodle Bugs started coming over from Germany, and later the rockets (I think these were called V1’s or V2’s) but as everyone knows the WW2 soon ended.

I can remember all our parents arranging a street party. Everyone was dancing in the streets, and a good time was had by all. It was also lovely to take down all the blackened curtains which were put up so that the German pilots, in their planes, couldn’t see where to drop their bombs.

I was 14 when WW2 ended and I wanted to go dancing, and I can remember my father saying not to go with any Yanks, which in those days we use to obey our parents.

Rationing went on for a couple of years following the war before it ended.

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