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Exeter folk and friends in their own words - << Previous storyNext story >>

James Bell – things I remember, 1940s


We children loved to imitate grown ups in all sorts of ways. We used to sing the songs that we heard the grown ups singing. We would parade round the playground singing at the top of our voices. I can only remember some of the words but others may recall them.

During The King Edward VIII crises it went partly like this. (About Mrs Wallis Simpson)

She's been married twice before and now she is knocking at Edwards door.
If I had a piece of fat I would throw it at his hat
And he would not be my King any more.

And as the Second War started.

We are going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried line.
Have you any dirty washing Mother dear.

You are in the army Mr Brown.
You and your baby went to town
You had your breakfast in bed before,
You won't get it here any more.

Kiss me good night sergeant major.
Tuck me in my little wooden bed.
Sergeant major be a mother to me.

Run rabbit run don't let the farmer get you with his gun.

Goring has only one ball,
Hitler's are so very small,
Himmler's so very similar.
And Goebbels has no balls at all!

And when the Yanks came over.

The prairie moon shines bright in June,
Deep in the Heart of Texas.
You remind me of the one I love,
Deep in the Heart of Texas.

Beautiful, beautiful blue eyes.
I'll never love brown eyes again.

Bang, bang went the trolley,
Bang, bang went my heart beat.

There will be blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover.
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

We were still allowed to have bonfires on November the 5th. But instead of burning Guy Fawkes, we burnt effigies of Hitler, Goring, and that motley crew, with Mussolini, and Tojo. Our bonfire was at the top of Richmond Road on Bystock Green. We boasted that it was the biggest in Exeter and the Express and Echo came and took our photo on it. The fire station expressed concern, (before) we were raided by a number of men in a lorry who told us they were from the council. They took half the bonfire up to the top of Hoopern Street on land joining Hoopern fields. For the next three years, the Hoopern Street bonfire spontaneously caught fire, after midnight in the early hours of November the 5th. Of course I knew nothing about It !

VE Night

Victory in Europe was a night to remember. The parties went on all night.

Roll out the barrel we will have a barrel of fun,
Roll out the barrel we have got the hun on the run......
Better than Mafeking Night, father said.

It's a wise man who knows his father especially if you can traced your conception back to those times.

It was followed a few months later by VJ night, Victory over Japan, when the whole thing was repeated with huge bonfires; street parties every where, (which) a few of us would gate crash. The parties were often advertised, were not held on the same day, and were spread over many months. Every firm and parish had an excuse for a party, particularly when the boys came home. There were large military parades. Flags everywhere, of all the Allies and services. Time to get out your I spy book of flags. But the utopia of peace did not arrive, Shortages increased, black markets continued, spivs, wide boys, and goods of all sorts available over the back of a lorry. Not sure of something, don't ask, the answer will most likely be No, or confirmed it's illegal. Army surplice available ever where; add to that, we had to feed the devastated rest of Europe, and the tens of thousands of prisoners. Finding a place to live was imposable every one was living cheek by jowl.

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© 2011 James Bell

These memories were written by James Bell in 2011 as a follow up to his memories of his time at school and the blitz years.

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