With thanks to Janet Cann for contributing her memories of being evacuated to Highbridge during the war>
“My family was lodging in Isleport House, Isleport Lane, Highbridge, Somerset, during WW2. We had been ‘bombed out ‘during the Bath Blitz in April 1942.
Previously we had lodged at Kidner’s farm in East Huntpill with our furniture stored in a cowshed. The day we arrived in Highbridge, with our furniture, there was a terrific thunderstorm, the first I ever remember. It was daytime but the sky gradually got darker and all objects were clear and colours were vivid, particularly the green trees and grass. That was 67 years ago but I can still remember the quietness and then the frightening thunder and lightening and torrential rain that followed.
After the storm we ventured out to meet the neighbours, Mary and David Parsons. My sister remembers that we were not very friendly towards each other. Their mother Mrs Parsons took us to the cinema in Highbridge to see Deanna Durbin, our first film and things got better after that. It was at the Parsons’ house that I learnt my first song.
Mares eat oats
Does eat oats
Little lambs eat ivy
Kids’l eat ivy too
This may not be quite right but we sang it, running all the words in together so it sounded quite different.
In early summer, the field nearby was covered with cowslips. I don’t remember picking them but we used to sit amongst them and enjoy the scent. Behind Isleport House was an orchard where many unexploded incendiary bombs fell, one night in March 1944. Mrs Watts and her daughter, Joan, who owned the house, had an apple room at the back where they stored the apples from the orchard, in large baskets. Two apples, I recall, which are not around today were the Tom Putt and the Morgan Sweet, my favourite.
One winter day, my father was asked to let the chickens out into the orchard. There had been a fall of snow overnight, so as the chickens emerged, they flew up into the trees. We were not country people and had no idea what to do. My father threw snowballs at them but they were frozen stiff and just swung round on the branches. That same winter ice had formed on a huge puddle in a field so we had our first taste of ice skating. We wore ‘pixie hoods’ to keep our ears warm and thick brown stockings attached to suspenders on the bottom of ‘liberty bodices’ which were worn on top of vests and my sister had to wear ‘boys’ brown boots because she had flat feet. She hated wearing them. We had our tonsils out, at home, on the kitchen table which had been moved into the bathroom. I believe it was Dr. Burns who performed the operation and his wife was the anaethetist, whilst sitting on the toilet seat! I remember there seemed to be a lot of blood.
There was no electricity or gas. My mother cooked on an oil stove and we had oil lamps in the living room. My mother used to listen to the radio programme, ‘The Man in Black’ with Valentine Dyall. The lamps would be flickering, the wind moaning and tree branches tapping on the windowpane. We went to bed by candlelight. The candlestick was placed on the chest of drawers, in the same place, each night, so always threw the same shadow on our attic bedroom ceiling. The shadow was in the shape of a large boot. I thought this was God’s boot. I had been told he was up there somewhere so it was a comfort to think he was always there. I never questioned why there was only one boot but its size did bother me, a bit.
The friendly American sevicemen at the Fuel Dump Camp, at the end of Isleport Lane, chatted to us as we walked past on our way to school and introduced us to chewing gum. Sometimes, our father worked in London and would bring home loads of cigarette cards for our collection. I still have some of them. Nearly everbody smoked then and didn’t seem to need their sweet coupons so extra ones came to us. Also from London, came ‘Bundles to Britain’, parcels of clothes and food, I think, really for those who had been ‘bombed out‘; and had lost everything.
The worst thing that happened to us while we were living in Highbridge was the incendiary bomb coming through the roof of our attic bedroom, just as we were on our way down to shelter under the stairs. The good thing that happened on that same night was that our younger sister was born.
We were ‘townies’ when we came to Highbridge, having lived in Birmingham, Newport, Worcester and Bath, but by the time we left in 1945, at the end of the war, we had learnt a lot about country life and had many memorable experiences.”
You can hear the song mentioned by Janet above here:
From Arthur Lismore:
I also well remember being bombed out in London some 70 years ago. On reaching Burnham-on-sea after night after night bombing by the German Luftwaffe the tranquility of the area made us feel in a different world. Our sleep was never disturbed, our meal sessions never disrupted and no longer having to sleep (or try) in an Anderson Shelter. Indeed, it was hard to visualise that we were at War. After serving in the Armed Forces for four years it was a real blessing to return to Burnham-on-Sea to enjoy all those wonderful times once again. I remained in Burnham-on-Sea from that time to the present day with thankful memories of the bliss and sanctity received from the area and it`s inhabitants. Arthur Lismore.
If you would like to contribute your memories of being in Highbridge during the war then do get in touch.