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Trevor Brown - Wartime memories as a child


Although there was quite stringent rationing during the war, it did not finally finish until 1954 at home, and thanks to family and friends we managed quite well. As Dad was in a reserved occupation and had to take food to work, he was entitled to an extra ration of cheese. My Gran and Aunt Phil worked for Tom & Flo Searle at the King's Arms Hotel in Cowick Street, they used to get some rationed items from customers and hotel guests. From 1943, American forces were in the area preparing for the invasion of Europe, as when they spent their leave or weekend breaks staying at the King's Arms, they were really generous with their rations which they got from the PX. Quite often Gran would bring us 7Ib tins of Corned Beef, large tins of canned fruit and of course, sweets and chewing gum.

Some weeks Dad would drive a freight train down to Oxford where Ambrosia Creamed Rice was made. This was unobtainable for civilians as all the output went to the services; as they would only accept perfect cans, all damaged tins were refused. You would be amazed how many tins got dented – Dad always managed to bring some home.

We had friends who lived in the country at Kenton – they kept pigs (by law they were allowed to raise one pig at a time, but they had another which they kept in a battered barn), so we did quite well for pork products, they also had a dozen chickens so we never went short of eggs.

Dad had three allotments near the railway at Lions Holt Station and kept us well supplied with soft fruit and vegetables. Our milkman Ernie (not the fastest milkman in the West) came every day from Stoke Canon and he brought our milk and butter and once a week, a rabbit which he had caught. All in all, we never really went short of anything in the food line during the war.

When the monthly sweet ration had been used up, we children used to buy Oxo cubes (at ld each) to suck. There were shortages of soft drinks but we could buy a Monster drink at a penny a bottle, this was a brightly coloured fruit flavoured drink which the shopkeeper would make up for you.

Friends & Neighbours

The neighbours at Brook Green Terrace in after the Blitz, were as follows-
Brook Green Tavern Mr & Mrs Bennett
4 – Mr & Mrs Cearley
5 –Mr & Mrs Frankum
6 – Miss Gorley
7 – Mr & Mrs Davey
8 – Mr & Mrs Ford & Miss Serpentelli
9 – Mr & Mrs Brown, Bernard & Peggy
10 – Miss Long & Mr Long
11 – Mr & Mrs Mctean & Bobby
12 – Mr & Mrs Antrobus, John & Roger, ,later in 1942 my grandmother, Aunt Sadie, Graham & Yvonne moved in. * John Antrobus became a writing partner of Spike Milligan. They wrote "The Bed Sitting Room"
13 – Mr & Mrs Edmunds & Rita

My friends at St Sidwells School were: John Sparey, Clarence Sweet, Ken Scobie, Maurice Edwards, Morris Hooper Bert Fasey and Graham Adams – his mother was manageress of Freemany Hardy & Willis's shoe shop in Sidwell Street and they lived in a flat above the shop.

Ken and I are still friends sixty five years on but Bert died about ten years ago. Our nearest playground was Belmont but thanks to Adolf Hitler we had plenty of bomb sites we could play on, exciting places for young boys, you never knew what we would discover in the wreckage, one day we found a load of money in the, wreck of a house at the bottom of York Road, half crowns, florins etc., some of it had been fused together in the heat of the incendiary bombs that had destroyed the house. The tiles in my mum's kitchen we had found in Sidwell Street on the site of the bombed Damerels hardware shop.The whole of Sidwell Street from York Road to Church Lane had been totally destroyed on the night of the Blitz.

© 2011 Trevor A Brown

This memory of wartime Exeter first appeared on the BBC's website, People at War. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

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