Childhood memories of living in Farnborough during the war.


My childhood memories are like the little black and white photographs you may find in an old album, snapshots taken long ago, frozen in time.  Every now and again you may have cause to take a look at them, and remember ……

I have one such photograph of our family taken, standing on the front doorstep of our new house in Starts Hill (the Road was added much later), Mum and Dad, my sister Jean who was 9, and me, I was 5 then.

We had moved to Farnborough in October 1939, from Leyton E10, and this was a huge change for our family.   The row of semi-detached houses in Starts Hill had been built alongside Bassetts, the old Boys’ School, but was then a home for nurses working at nearby Farnborough Hospital.  It became a common sight seeing them in their dark capes, walking to and from the hospital to Bassetts. 

All our houses had names, but I’m afraid I can only remember a few.  Ours was called Wynford, then there was Rose Marie, Fairlight, Caerleon and Mayfield.  Jack Smith, the builder of our houses, lived in Mayfield, the first house adjacent to Bassetts.  When we first moved I can remember a hoarding that said MAYFIELD ESTATE, standing in one of the front gardens. 

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There were empty fields at the back of our houses, apart from two builders huts, and then in another field there were donkeys, that belonged to the gypsy families who lived further down Starts Hill, near Wellbrook Road.   Jean and I used to climb over the fence and go to see them and give them a carrot, and Jean called one of them Queenie.    Close to our house an unmade road called Lovibonds Avenue, led the way to the Recreation ground, which we called the Rec, and we soon found this was a good place to play with swings and roundabouts. Read More

But a new word had joined my growing vocabulary, and that was WAR.  I had only heard the grown-ups talking about it, and I did not know what this meant, or what effect this war, was going to have upon us.   But I would soon find out.  

One of the first things that my Mum had to do was make blackout curtains, as we were not allowed to let any light show through the windows.  I do not know where she got the material from, but luckily she had a sewing machine and could do the sewing.   

My first vivid memory was of a loud noise when playing in the back garden. I looked up and saw aeroplanes, flying very low over the fields and only just clearing the row of fir trees that stood alongside Bassetts.  They were coming closer when I ran indoors to find my Mum.

We eventually got used to Spitfires from Biggin Hill flying low over our houses.  As we also got used to the air-raid warning, wailing out over our houses, and having to take shelter.  I have a good memory of being lifted over the fence between our house and our neighbours.  Mum and Dad and Jean climbed over, but I was lifted by our neighbour, Mr Whitney and taken to their Anderson Shelter at the bottom of their garden.  There we all sat huddled together, until the All Clear sounded.  

These became everyday occurrences, until we had a brick shelter built in our back garden.   Then another memory is of Jean and I sleeping in the bunks at night, and listening to the sound of aeroplanes overhead.   The next day we would look for shrapnel, little golden shards of metal from incendiary bombs.  And these we would line up like trophies on a wall in the back garden.  The Infants and Junior schools was a short walk away from our house, and Jean soon started at the Junior School.  But the infants was closed for a time, and it was much later that I began to go to school properly.   I liked school, and making friends, some of whom I can still remember, like Marie Weatherly and Maureen McLaren, Clifford Haines, Robin Wood, my friend Enid Watson, who lived close by.  I so admired Marie and Maureen for their lovely golden ringlets, and would have loved to have them myself.  But I had black, short, straight hair, so that was out of the question!   I can also remember Pam Dubery, Avis Barham, and the Swithin twins.   But my memory is not so good now at names. 

Of course our lessons were interrupted by the air-raid warning, and we would have to go into the shelters until the All-Clear.  I can remember if an air-raid started when I had gone home for my dinner, then I had to wait till the all-clear.  Sometimes Mum wasn’t sure whether it was safe or not and we stood on the doorstep waiting.  I liked most lessons, but not arithmetic or sewing.  I can remember we all had to learn our times-tables by saying them out loud together, and I can still say them now.  But it didn’t help my dislike of arithmetic!   I liked writing best, and making up stories that sometimes got me a good mark.  I can also remember Mr and Mrs Moat, the head teachers of the schools.

We also were able to go on a nature walk, air-raids permitting.   I loved finding things to put on the nature table, and encouraged my love of all things to do with the natural world.  Jean and I would spend time, when we were able to go out for a walk, finding primroses and violets, and bluebells.  We loved Farnborough for the nearness of the countryside.   And as well as playing in the Rec. we also played on the waste ground that was opposite our house in Bassetts Way.  Again we found wild flowers to pick, and caterpillars to take home and put in a jar.  I can remember that I started a Nature Club with my little friends and we all had note-books and pencils to write down what we found. 

At the bottom of Starts Hill, and beyond the school, was the ‘New Road’, as it was called then.   Once across this, we came to Farnborough Green and the shops.  The first shop, as we always called it, was Maud and Ivy Waller’s sweet shop. Sweets were rationed, and most foodstuffs, during the war, but I am sure I can remember buying sweets out of the jars for a penny or two.  We did like that shop, and Maud and Ivy, who were always so kind to us.  They also sometimes sold a glass of lemonade in the hot weather.  The second shop was the paper shop, and where my Mother had her newspaper delivered from.  Mum loved the Daily Sketch and of course the only other place, apart from the radio, where she got the latest news from.  Matthews, the butchers shop was next, and I think my Mum’s favourite shop and from where our meat was delivered daily by the butchers boy on a bike, as we didn’t have a fridge, only a cold shelf in the larder.     Mum was a good cook, and whatever came, she made the best out of it.  Our bread was delivered by a young man pulling a hand-cart from the New Bakery, and then on the same side was Folletts a grocers shop. I can remember Mr Follett, a jolly man who always wore an apron buttoned onto his waistcoat. 

Down in the village was the South Suburban Co-op where mum did most of her shopping. And I have remembered Mr Toms, the shoe mender, who had a little hut tucked in beside the house on the end of Orchard Road.  There was also Sawyers where you could buy tomatoes, and lettuce, and I can remember queuing at Goodchilds when the soft fruit, like strawberries and blackcurrants came in.  Mum saved her sugar ration to make jam, and she also bottled plums from Plumridges farm.   My Mum and our neighbour Mrs Whitney, and me, used to go scrumping at Plumridges for any fruit that we could find lying on the ground.   Greengrocery was delivered by a man driving a horse and cart, and I can remember wanting to feed the horse, perhaps with an apple.

My Dad worked in London, and left the house early every morning to catch the 47 bus to Bromley South Station.   I am sure he never had a day off, and went to work all through the war years.  When the war first started he joined the local Home Guard, and in the evening would go out with a colleague on home guard duties.  I can remember his rifle was kept in Mums ironing board cupboard in the hall.  See Panel to the right.

My sister Jean was evacuated to Wales for about 18 months during the war, and when I was 10 I too was evacuated to Malvern in Worcestershire.  An Aunt and Uncle were working there, but it wasn’t possible for me to live with them, as they were already in lodgings.  So I stayed with a family who were quite poor, in a little cottage, with no running water, just a pump in the kitchen.  I think it was May 1944 when I went and I came home in October that year, and this was an experience I shall never forget, although was looked after well, and my Auntie used to come to see me often at weekends.  When I eventually arrived home, the flying bombs or doodle-bugs, were still around  and to this day I can remember  that particular sound of them flying over the air-raid shelter at night.

And so on 8th May 1945 the war in Europe came to an end, and I was in Swanage where my grandfather lived, and where there were bonfires on the beaches.

Looking back now, I know it must have been a worrying time for my Mum and Dad, and all parents, with food rationing, and shortages of all kinds.  I can remember Mum worrying when the coalman didn’t come to deliver coal and coke for the fires and boiler in the kitchen.   I can remember her doing all the washing by hand, and then putting it through the wringer, always on a Monday.  No modern conveniences in those days.  But we came through the six years of war unscathed and were very fortunate.

In September 1945 I started to attend the Secondary School in Charterhouse Road, and so began a new chapter in my life.

Mary Scullard (née Dowding)



Farnborough Home Guard

This panel contains recollections sent in after the website was first launched, referencing this photograph of Farnborough (52nd Kent Battalion) Home Guard on parade at Locksbottom.

   Home Guard Plaque - Locksbottom

I thought you might like to see this photo of the 52nd Battalion Home Guard that was based in Farnborough.   Their headquarters were in Farnborough Park in one of the houses as you entered the park from Crofton Road.
The only person I can identify is my Father Cecil Dowding who is the first person from the left.  My Father was very proud to be in the Home Guard as he was too old to be called up and this was something he could do.   

I was only a very little girl at the time so I can only remember fragments.   I do know his rifle used to live in the cupboard under the stairs alongside Mums ironing board!   The photograph was taken in Locksbottom outside what used to be Grenards the newspaper shop at that time.    

Mary Scullard (née Dowding)

Thank you for your work with the Farnborough Village History.  It’s proving very interesting for my family and myself having been born in Locksbottom and lived there for a number of years.  In fact my brother still lives there.  

My father was a member of the Home Guard, which I believe was the 52nd Kent Battalion Home Guard.  In the picture you have on your website I believe he, Lawrence George Abbott (known as Non or Nonnie), is the fourth from the left and was often used as a Despatch Rider.

Cherie Batty 

I was looking at your interesting website on Farnborough as I was researching my late father’s time in the Home Guard.  I was therefore very pleased to see a contribution by Mary Scullard about the Farnborough Home Guard with a photograph featuring her father in the line up.

My own father is in the centre, 5th from the right in the line up, and his name was Jimmy Cole. He completed his service in the Home Guard as Sergeant before qualifying as a doctor seeing active service with the 8th army in Italy. At the time of the photograph he was a medical student from Guys Hospital, which had  been evacuated after the bombing, and whilst completing his studies, volunteered for the local Home Guard. Many of them had motorbikes and used to carry out mobile patrols of Biggin Hill aerodrome and local area. He recalled keeping a box of Mills bombs, minus detonators, under his landlady’s stairs in Farnborough. Her name was Mrs Cunningham.

I would be interested if you had managed to identify any others in that line up.   Although we are not living in the area, now my wife is from Beckenham and we still have family living close by in Downe, and visit from time to time. I did not know which unit my father was serving in until reading your website so I am very grateful for that.  

Kevin Cole  

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