My father went off, called up, he was older to be called up, he was in the Home Guard for a bit but then he got called up and drove one of those big tank transporters about. He was driving them in Germany and was mainly there. He wasn’t in the Far East or anything.
This sounds stupid now, but after the war had finished and all the roads had parties I had something come up on my leg and was at the doctors that day and it was called ringworm and it had come off the cattle as it turned out but I missed the party because I had to go to the doctor and have some stuff put on it so I missed the party and it was the first thing we had had in the road for ever.
It was, it’s a different world, lots of empty houses in Petersham and all, they all ran away in the war, they went because they were rich people living down there, where they’ve just done all the wall there, Tommy Steele’s house as we used to call it. But the next couple up from it, we’ve been in there. Because they’ve left the house and we were little hooligans, we were in then. It was something else it was a different world. I have always remembered, I know it’s not the same thing but over in the old Teddington Studios that they’ve now knocked down, I actually was looking out of the air raid shelter down near the back of the house, and we used to spend nights in there and all that.
An Anderson shelter was that? Yes, the metal ones, half in the ground, the old man grew stuff on top of it, he grew everything, he was a great man for growing stuff, and he was growing it there. We used to spend some time in there sometimes at night but in the end my mum got fed up with going down in there because you went down in there and she said no, and I slept under the table and she slept under the big table in the middle of the room with Cath, the younger one. We all slept in different places in the front room and I don’t think we went back in that air raid shelter, but I did see when sirens go and you have to get down and I was looking out of the end of the shelter and I actually saw what we called the doodle bug, the first flying bomb, I see it coming over (I told your wife this one) to me it looked like it was over the top of Lock Road, over here. You know I thought, and then the engine cut out. I thought Christ it’s here and it turned and then went and hit the Teddington Studios. I think one bloke got killed. And we all run over there, the kids, cos you heard the bang and all that and there was film flying all over the place, yeah, I always remember that one. Seeing that and me looking at it.
But there was a massive crater in Lock Road, down by New Road, where all them houses are now that were built after it, you can see where the cottages come up and then there all modern ones, that’s where the bomb was, there was a big crater in the middle of the road. I don’t remember it but saw it the next day because we used to….
Would you have been in the shelter that night? I don’t know where we would have been, I don’t know when it happened, the actual date, all the kids then went running over there to Teddington and the film flying about all over it.
Well it was Leylands in the war though where the built the bren gun carriers, it was Leylands in the war so they probably weren’t really worried about it too much, but I think they used to fly up the river you know they could see that. In the Park they drained a couple of them ponds so they didn’t use it for navigation, they drained the two ponds in there. But that was a different world that. Sounds silly now, and the rationing of course, I still have a couple of ration books I think but they were for after the war. Even in the army you had to have rations and I came back on one embarkation leave and they gave me these ration cards to come back with. (CL)
Do you remember any families losing people killed in the war? There was someone killed down my road though at the bottom in Mead Road. Because I had a thing about that because some kid had took up and registered every bomb, I can’t remember what book that was in.
Yes, something like that you could have a meal in there, especially in the summer holidays you could have a meal in there in the six weeks on the summer holidays, we used to all get in there and then because it was good. I don’t know if you had to pay for them, maybe not, because you used to get school meals anyway when they’d bring it round in those canisters so you had school meals that was one thing that kept you up. Yes, you used to have little canisters and you got a meal in the middle of the day, everybody got that. That was the main meal at school in school time, the classroom is turned into a dining room then. Where you would eat, I’d forgotten that about eating. We would be into that food. You didn’t muck about.
And I also remember the old Yanks in Bushy Park, I remember them being in there but I didn’t know. Have you been in Bushy Park where they were, seen the flagpole? Eisenhower, that was his office. I went back there in the 50s and took a young lad with me and went back there and it was 50 years since they’d been there, it was something like that it was. They were doing a special thing that day so I took a young lad from next door. It was terrific they had the old music, big tents and all the old music coming out. Old jeeps, they amazed me the accelerator pedal on the jeep if you looked down there it was like a round ball bearing, tiny, but we used to ride on them but then they had everything over there. All marching down the road, they used to be, you know if you go into Bushy Park at this end well they had huts on stilts on either side there where the troops were in. There was a lot of the American Air Force blokes flying round in their big flash cars. They were smart uniforms the Yanks had, no good. but a lot of them the old man told me when they was out in Belgium when they were out there, these Americans who’d got all these gabardine suits on, they were dying to get the British Army overcoat to keep warm, cos those things were made for light. Those overcoats were really heavy and did the job perfectly.
Do you remember the Leyland trucks being tested down on Ham Lands? Yes, when they used to come round there testing them, in the pits, they used to come down the road down there testing them. They used to test the bren gun carriers in the Park. The bottom half of a tank with the bren gun on it, which was the main tracks, they hurtled about they couldn’t half move, we used to get them, they did go quick.