Memories From My Father Tom Ebert Who Was Evacuated To Dersingham From Poplar During Ww2 - a Memory of Dersingham.
My first recollection of Dersingham was as a seven year old boy in 1941.
My mother, sister and I were evacuated from the East End of London during the blitz and arrived, after a long train journey, at the Station Hotel one late afternoon which was owned then by a Mr and Mrs Parminter. After some tea and sandwiches we were billeted on a retired couple, a Mr and Mrs Bush who lived in White Horse Drive, long before the council houses were built opposite.
The official procedure then was that anybody who had room to spare in their houses had to take in evacuees. No ifs or buts - if you had a spare room or two you ended up with evacuees. No doubt those and such as those who could drop a word in the right place never had to open their doors, but that's another story. This draconian ruling, as you can imagine, caused resentment amongst those people who had to take in these unwanted lodgers. I know how I'd feel being forced to take in asylum seekers, people alien to my culture as we were to theirs. Being so young I didn't know how my mum was treated but it was bad enough for her to consider us returning to Poplar to take our chances with the blitz. Fortunately, for us the then incumbent, Reverend Oliver, found room for us and two other families in the upstairs rooms of what is now the old vicarage. It was as if we had died and gone to heaven, from the slums of the East End of London to a spacious house in its own grounds, itself in a beautiful village. I suppose that our family were some of the very few people that owe a lot to the Second World War. Were it not for that war we would have spent our lives in London.
Every Saturday morning the Vicar's wife made a dinner for an old boy in his nineties who lived just past Twait's garage. He was a boarder with the Balls family. Us kids had to deliver it to him (minus any bits of crust that accidentally fell off the meat pie on the way). He had served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (The Mounties) up to his retirement and was present when Sitting Bull led the Sioux Indians over the border into Canada and then surrendered to the Mounties after he had massacred Custer's forces at Little Big Horn.
The reason for the good attendance at Sunday School was because of the two wicker bath chairs that used to (and might still do so) stand at the back of the church for incapacitated parishioners to borrow. Those boys in the know used to arrive at the church just after 2 o'clock and then began the bath chair races up and down the aisles. Other lads hid in the pews and hurled hassocks into the path of the chairs as they thundered down the aisles until at around 2.45 everything was tidied up and about fifteen attentive youngsters sat in the front pews waiting for the vicar to arrive and take the Sunday School. If anyone ever wondered how that brass christening ewer by the font got that dent in it - now you know! It holds a vast amount of water too. One can't condone that sort of behaviour but I suppose boys will be boys whatever the generation.
To my eternal shame my initials (TE) are also scratched into the varnish on the pine panelling in the vestry at the back of the organ and also appear on the lead flashing on the church tower roof. During the frequent power cuts during the war the church organ was pumped by hand. The choirboy appointed to the job considered this a sinecure. All he had to do was to sit on the stool and watch the gauge slowly descend. When it was low he pumped like heck and brought the air pressure up again. Published at that time were very small comic books, about three inches by two inches in diameter called `Mighty Midgets'. These, hidden in hymn books, got many a choirboy through many a boring service. In the vestry, on his own the pumper-upper was in his element. Sitting on his stool reading his comic book, invariably he forgot the gauge until it was brought to his attention by strangled wheezes from the dying organ and furious whispers from Teddy Rye, the choirmaster and organist. The boy would then leap up and pump away like a demented galley slave until the music started again.
My other church memory was that of a rare conducted treat to the top of the tower after Sunday School. Every boy dropped his cap over the parapet to watch them all float down. One unfortunate lad's cap caught on the minute hand of the clock. It being 4 o'clock he had to wait until twenty-five past until his cap fell off the hand! The rest of us had long gone.
When the Reverend Oliver retured, the new incumbent Mr Care-Jones needed all the space in the vicarage for his own family and my mother, sister and I moved to Church Cottages. There, the water supply was communal, supplied by a tap next door to No 6. Before that the supply came from a well near to No 4, which was capped off when my family lived there. There were no flush toilets, just earth closets at the end of each garden.
The primary school's headmaster was a Mr Mason-Jones, a retired marine biologist who was called back in service as a teacher when the younger men were 'called up'. His nickname was 'Old Foss' from the lectures on fossils he imposed upon the class. Every day the top class was given a lesson on 'modern history'. This consisted of Mr Mason-Jones reading aloud from the 'Daily Mail' whilst his class scribbed furiously the news items down into their exercise books.
A memory shared byon Jul 10th, 2009.
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