30 March 2003

Ullswater Our Family and WW2 Pt.3

My Mother continued

OldEric says :-) One night after dark at the height of WW2 there was a knock at the door. This was strange indeed for someone to visit after dark unless the visit was urgent. Mum answered the door to find a Mr. Platt on the doorstep who, in a pompous manner told Mum we had a light showing, would we please take care of it. The light we found was in the kitchenette; the curtain was caught up at one corner when drawn to. So the offending light was taken care of. Mum was so embarrassed.

What was so important about that you might well ask? During WW2 a complete blackout was in force after dark, it was an offence to show any light. Wardens in both town and country areas were appointed to patrol after dark to strictly monitor the regulations. In the towns and cities it was obvious light could guide enemy planes to their destination and attract bombs. In the countryside especially in our remote area it was not so obvious but single lights had been known to attract stray enemy planes with unused bombs, which they were liable to eject on their way home to lighten their load and save fuel if they had lost their bearings.

Towards the end of the war when the allies’ forces were winning the war in Europe the industrial towns and cities of Britain were free from air raids and it was safe to visit dad in Chilwell. Mum, John and I used to go down to Chilwell to stay with Dad in his lodgings during the school holidays and luckily for us there was a spare bedroom for my brother John and I to sleep.

We went down to Chilwell by train, and although train travel on the main lines was not permissible due to the war effort travel on the network of branch lines it was. The branch lines were used for local freight and local travel and they were slow. There was a slow passenger train that wended its way on the branch lines through the countryside stopping at all the small towns and cities, which eventually ended up in Nottingham, close to Chilwell. The nearest pick up point by train for us was Appleby so we caught local public transport to there where we had to wait for some considerable time for the arrival of the train. Appleby railway station was on the edge of town on rising ground and so we decided to go down the hill to have a meal, we were hungry. As we were finishing the meal we heard the toot of a train and Mum in conversation whilst paying the bill asked the café people which train that one was, they named the train and it was the one we wanted.

We hurried out of the cafe, up the hill and by this time the train was in the station. We were no more than halfway up the hill and with a toot on the whistle in horror we watched the train slowly pull out of the station.

We arrived in the station breathless and my brother John only seven or so with his shorter legs dropping off hardly able to keep up. Mum explaining our problem to the station personnel and she was referred to the Stationmaster who after a deal of pondering suggested we could possibly achieve our destination with a train due soon and two further changes before arriving in Nottingham. The only problem he said was the trains were even slower with stops at each little country station on the way. It was just like missing the Express bus and having to catch the local bus with bus changes.

How we got from Nottingham to Chilwell and found Dad’s address I don’t know. We didn’t turn up on the expected train and Dad would not have had any idea what had happened to us and enquires would not have helped. There were no or at best few taxis and I guess we hauled our suitcases and ourselves by bus asking our way on the way. Cell phones were not invented then, private phones were uncommon. Street signs had been taken down to confuse enemy agents and street lighting was turned out, the blackout was still in force. We made this intrepid journey of what should have been only a few hours eventually arrived on the doorstep of Dad’s lodgings at past 10pm. We had left home early that morning.

Why we missed the train, mistaking the time I don’t know. Did we mis-hear, were we mis-told or was it mis-something else? I’ve no idea. All I know Mum got us there without any fuss, anger or shouting. But then that was how our Mother was; always she seemed to find a way if there was a way to solve a problem. As a boy I trusted my mother implicitly.

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