Kingston Cambridgeshire – 1944
Extract from a book (chapter 1) written by Terry Osborne.
Some of my first memories were in the summer of 1944. I remember living in Kingston. Evacuees were sent from London and large cities all over England into the countryside to get away from the bombs from German aircraft.
For those people who do not know what an evacuee is, they were children under the age of 15 yrs old who lived in large cities where heavy bombing was likely to happen and were sent to the countryside for safety. Once they reached the village or town they were allocated to families. Sometimes brothers and sisters would be split up causing great upset to these children. I read a very good book called “The Children’s War” by Juliet Gardiner, which goes into more detail on evacuees.
I was not an official evacuee when I went to Kingston. It turned out that in the block of flats where we lived one of the neighbours had a son named Ron Burrage who was an evacuee in the village of Toft and we would visit along with Ron’s family to the village at weekends. I stayed with a couple who later would be my Uncle Oliver and Aunt Lil and their son Raymond, a year older than myself.
Kingston in 1944 was a very small village, but it did have a post office, which sold odds and ends, and two pubs, The White Horse and The Rose and Crown. There were at least four farms, and a blacksmith’s shop, which I cannot remember seeing.
Most men working on the farms were exempt from call-up to the army, as this work was important to keep feeding the people. One of the farms was Payne’s Farm where I would later spend a lot of my working life.
A small village school I cannot remember going to but my Aunt Lil tells me I went there with Raymond and the teacher was the Mrs Marshall who later went on to write a book on education. I can remember going to fetch milk from the farm called Moat Farm (formerly Library Farm). I think it belonged to a family called Rayner.
There was no piped water or electricity in the villages in this part of Cambridgeshire in the wartime. It came later in the 1950s.
A large walnut tree stood in the garden and is still there to this day in 2004. In those days there was a well in the garden where water for washing was drawn by bucket. It was so clear you could drink it. I do not remember drinking but I should think you could have done. Before the days of fresh water, supplied by the council, wells, pumps and springs were the only means of water to drink. Another way to get water was rainwater caught in a water butt from the roof of the house, or from the brook.
One of the things I remember was, summer evenings, the farmer Mr Roberts in the farm next door would call for us and sometimes in our pyjamas we would go to the crossroads, where he would fill his large water tanks full from the pump. He had no water on his farm so he had to collect water every day from the village pump for own use and his farm animals. He did this in a horse and cart with a tank on it. I was told his farm caught on fire and was destroyed. It was said because he had no water they could not put it out.
Also I am told American airmen stationed close by used a field to play baseball. Outside the village of Kingston on the way to Toft was a field with a searchlight in it and an AA gun. Later I found out it was for the defence of Bourn Airfield. Germans wanted to destroy as many airfields as they could before the invasion of Britain. Searchlights were placed in villages around airfields for the purpose of spotting enemy planes so they could shoot them down.
Years later I was to meet a man named Alf Gotts who was a gunner in the Artillery stationed in the village of Hardwick close by, who told me more about the war and his part in it. This is another story...