Transcript of interview with Francis Stone by Jill Pearce
Well my experience would be different to the majority because, as I said a few minutes ago, we fortunately knew people in the district that we went to, so I think that the people that I was actually evacuated to officially drew a billeting allowance. I don’t know how much it was, do your records show how much it was? Any rate I was there on paper and moved to these relations on an ad hoc basis so we could…. and my parents were able to re-establish their connection with their family and because I didn’t go to the school that the Ministry or the Government decreed, I didn’t see many of my school friends or school acquaintances. I was never a very social sort of person, so I wasn’t over upset about having to find new friends. But it was quite an experience actually being evacuated. We went to school that morning, sent to our various classes and were issued with a label. To get your label you had to have your toothbrush and toiletries with you in a parcel and your gas-mask. That was essential. Gas mask in one hand and ration book in the other hand and in exchange for that you got a label which was yours – your name and the address you were going to go to. And in a crocodile, you walked through the town and to the railway station and regimented onto various…. you were in such and such a compartment on the train and the same/similar process in reverse when you got to the other end to Aylesbury and then railway station into a bus and then into the middle of the village and then to the various houses that people were billeted to…. amongst the tears! It must have been tremendous for people that were in a family you know that was going to be split up. I was a one and only and it just became matter of fact to me because I was a one and only but people that were in a family and they were all split up – it must have been tremendous. We were billeted to the various schools and you adjusted to the life which was so so different. I can remember noticeably how, I overheard a conversation about how ill-mannered the evacuation children were. Thinking back about it, you know, kids were displaced from their social standing going into a different environment and the people that they had to speak to would have had a different standard of language almost. Please and thank you was, you know, a secondary though. Let’s get out of trouble was the prime move.
Where I went to my standard of living improved no end. Fortunately, the people that I was evacuated with and lived with for that period kept chickens and we had egg for breakfast. That was only a rarity. They just weren’t on ration during the war. The rationing situation was so strict. But people’s health didn’t seem to suffer from lack of food. We are all at the moment overweight. We eat too much and we throw too much away.
The area that we were living in were owner occupiers. I can’t remember the expression – Pride and Property, Pram Pride and Property or something. All these people who bought houses just before the war broke out and they were frightened to death that they were going to get blown up and all their savings would be gone. They were more concerned about their physical properties than they were about their lives. They had spent, they had invested all their money and money was cheap enough in those days that you were able to buy a house and afford to pay a mortgage. It doesn’t compare with today’s prices but going back to the air raid shelters. These people, they were owner occupiers and they wanted to protect what they could of their way of life, so they built these concrete monstrosities, that were never big enough to live in, the husband and wife, they had got to live in a six foot square concrete block, close enough that they could get into it before they got blown up. They were so primitively built, no ventilation, just a concrete block with a hole in the middle of it for the average family.
Had quite a lot of bomb damage locally. My house, the house that I was living in, my parent’s house was damaged, not severely but damaged. We have got pictures of it somewhere where the tiles were blown off and so I remember distinctly seeing this doodle bug come across. Heard it – horrible noise. The sound was so different to what we were used to hearing at that time. And when it cut out the silence was so exact so that you could cut it with a knife. You watched it go out of sight and then the noise stopped. We waited for 4 or 5 seconds and then there was an almighty bang. We knew the direction it had gone into and it wasn’t very long and I got a bicycle and I cycled to go and see what had happened. As we got closer to where it was, we realised exactly where. Northwood Hills was where it had landed. There was, the doodle bug was just a random touch. They just pointed them towards London and hoped for the best. You could just have hard luck – there was the V1 and the V2 wasn’t there?
I was very fortunate to get a job. I wasn’t particularly bright at schoolwork and as a result I wanted a job where I didn’t have to do any paperwork and I managed to get a job on a farm which was …and I was very very lucky to get a job on a farm and still be able live at home. I cycled 5 miles night and morning to work. I was getting horses ready for their milk rounds. This particular farm had got twelve milk rounds and I used to have to get there early enough in the morning to get twelve horses out of the field, harnessed up and harnessed into their carts for the milkman to arrive and go off and do his milk round and when he come back I used to have to make sure that the horse was tidy and ready to go out the following morning. As far as I was concerned it was just a job but prior to that, between when I was 14 just between the start of the war and so it had got so that it did affect us, I was what they called a Runner to the Air Raid Wardens. Fortunately, we didn’t have anything to actually do because we didn’t get bombed while I was actually on duty. I enjoyed the privilege of being able to call myself a Runner so if they needed messages taking cos if anything happens to the telecoms, of course there was no other means of communication. I personally and the majority of the people that I was mixed with didn’t think of danger. It wasn’t a question of doing anything that was unsafe. You just kept your head down.
I had a history lesson when I came home from school, well not necessarily because he was away from home but when he came home at the weekends we had a map on the wall of the Continent and he would stick various pins in where various things had happened and I knew more about the geography of France than I knew about the geography of England – all of which has gone – I wouldn’t remember any of it now. That was the only interest we had and the effect that the rationing had on our livelihood. I was literally on my own. My mother had her private life and so did my father as he was away from home so I came home from school and scrounged what food I could and off to play. During the Blitz, I suppose in the 40s, the early 40s as soon as I got home from school, I’d jump on my bike and cycle up to London which was only 10 miles away, to see where the bombs had dropped. I had got a bucket full of shrapnel that I was very proud of you know. Now I suppose it would be worth quite a bit as souvenirs. I remember being very disappointed, very annoyed in fact when mother just tipped it in the dustbin.