30 October 2003

Ullswater WW2 Chilwell

I do not remember too much of our first trip to Chilwell, it must have been in 1943, it could not have been earlier due to the dangerous situation from the bombing. The Chilwell area was full of factories converted to producing arms for the war effort and a prime target for an enemy raid.

By 1944 the tide had turned against the Germans and the Allied firepower was superior and the Germans were finding it difficult against the Russian armies. So the Germans concentrated on firing their V1 and V2 rockets with a range only as far as London and the surrounding areas. The air raids to the Midlands were stopped; the Allies were in control of the skies.

The only thing that stood out in our first visit to Dad was a semi-detached house in a quiet tree-lined street with shops and a cinema just up the road, a magnet for a small country boy like me. There were children around who I would go to the movies with and cowboy films were all the rage with Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger and his sidekick, was it Tonto? Wartime theme movies were popular too, but these were more for adults.

Later Dad changed his lodgings, again to a semi-detached house to be nearer to his work. There were a lot of children here and a nearby common and the river Trent not too far away. The road here was concrete and wide, the first concrete road I had ever seen. I think I liked Chilwell because of the company and the amenities, on Ullswater the nearest shop was 2 miles away and shops plural were another 7 miles away.

At the armaments factory were Dad worked making and assembling tanks there were fully equipped machine tool workshops and the engineers often made toys on the night shifts. Dad bought John and I a sheath knife each and mock Tommy gun made out of wood but to us it looked real painted up in gunmetal colours. These everyday articles were not obtainable during the war so trade was brisk for the engineers.

During WW2 it was difficult to get chocolate and sweets (Lollies) in NZ talk. Sugar was rationed and so sweets were scarce. Dad used to get his tobacco always at the same little shop and after a while became friends with the owners. Learning that he had 2 children they used to let Dad have sweets and occasionally chocolate, their ration, neither ate sweets. He used to take John and I round to see them when we came to Chilwell.

29 October 2003

Ullswater: WW2. Latter Years. 1944-1945.

The latter years of WWII arrived, in 1944 I was 10 years old and I started to take an interest in the war, not just in the proliferation of war movies but also in the actual battles being fought. In June 1944 D-Day was to arrive, the Germans held most of Europe but the war was starting to turn in the favour of the Allies. The Germans were being pushed back in North Africa and the strength of the Allies was building with the help of the USA industrial machine. Saturation bombing was beginning to take place by the Allies of Germany and the occupied Western European countries. The armies of the Allies were rapidly building up in southern England to that secret day which was to be later known as D-Day, the day when the Allies invaded occupied Europe.

I remember most distinctly following the progress of the war, looking at the daily newspaper front page each day on which invariably there was a war map giving the allies progress in retaking France, Belgium, then Holland, Denmark and all the other countries occupied by Germany. Then on another front, the invasion of Italy and the slow, difficult progress up the boot of Italy.

Then later came the crossing of the Rhine into Germany itself. I remember reading of the battles; the bombings of the industrial might of Germany and the crippling of its war machine, the casualties, and the deaths of civilians by the thousand from the bombings and the battles. I followed them all each day in the newspapers.

On one of our school holiday visits to Chilwell where Dad was posted during the war I shall never forget the waves of Allied planes one afternoon. This I learnt later was a major bombing raid of Germany, the biggest. The land around Chilwell, Nottinghamshire was flat and we could see from horizon to horizon in all directions, it was black with planes, bombers, fighters and fighter bombers, the might of the Allies, wave after wave of them all heading for Germany.

The Midlands of England was the collection point for the planes from all the airfields throughout the British Isles for the bombing mission and we were situated in the middle of it. Words can hardly describe the awesome sight as I, turning round and round looked and saw planes close packed in every direction, wave after wave of them.

As children we all seemed to take everything in our stride. I find it hard to put into words how I felt, I think we as small children, standing safely on the side lines saw it more as a game played by adults, our side were the winners and they were the losers.

I find it difficult to write this piece, back then I thought with the feelings of a child and now I think with the feelings of an adult, the two thoughts seem to conflict.

I may end up re-writing this piece.

28 October 2003

Ullswater WW2 Note

I will now return to finish the latter years of WW2 and then our time up to 1948 when we left Ullswater to live at Kidside, Milnthorpe.

18 October 2003

Ullswater Secondary School Conclusion

I attended Penrith Secondary Modern for just over 3 years, possibly 3.5 years from the age of 11 until I was 14 then we moved to Kidside, Milnthorpe in the then county of Westmorland now amalgamated into the new county of Cumbria.

In the main I enjoyed my time at Penrith Secondary Modern. Although a very strict school and non-compromising of wrongdoers or laziness, in fact sometimes cruel in its strictness, it was my saviour. If after failing the 11+ examination I had continued at the 2 teacher Barton School the best I could have hoped for was a semi-skilled job without adult futher education.

Now I realize I was lucky that I was transfered to Penrith Secondary Modern. It was many years before I realized this. For much of the early years I used to envy those who attended Grammer School and their higher education. I used to think I was not bright enough having failed to pass the 11+, not bright enough for a Grammar education. As the years passed I slowly realized I was probably more than capable of a Grammer education.

17 October 2003

Ullswater Secondary School Our School

Our school was a one storey L shaped building and relatively new when I started there in the mid-forties. All classrooms had large full wall outside facing windows and was very modern for its time. Down one end of the L arm was a purpose built dining room big enough to hold both senior and junior pupils sitting down to a hot 2 course meal daily. This same dining room also quickly converted to an assembly hall.

The school's situation was on rising ground next door to Penrith Park containing the ruins of Kendal Castle. Down the road was Penrith Grammar School and just up the road was Penrith railway station. A nice edge of town location.

The only problem we had no playing fields or recreation area other than the tarsealed playgrounds front and rear, it was as if they had been forgotten in the design of the school, especially when I view our well endowed New Zealand schools. Attached also to the school was the garden where horticulture was taught.

This then comprised our school. Recently in 2000 almost 60 years later I returned to have a look at "our school". The spick and span new school I remember on my first day looked decidedly sad now after almost 60 years, as I walked in the gates the place was silent , no noisy chattering of boys at play or teachers voices echoing across the playground. I enquired of a nearby workman and he told me the building was a no longer a secondary school but used as over flow classrooms for the various educational facilities when needed.

5 October 2003

Ullswater Secondary School A Biology Story

Biology was a subject I enjoyed and when I think of Penrith Secondary Modern and Biology I always think of the day when the subject was environmental and the decline of insects thus leading to rarity and specialised habitats. The teacher... I forget his name now mentioned a rare water beetle found only in Ullswater now and my ears pricked up. Being a local rarity he used it as his example and drew it out on the blackboard in colour and giving the reasons for its rarity.

That weekend wandering along the shores of Ullswater with the water beetle in the back of my mind, I took along a jam-jar... who knows I might be lucky! I remembered the teacher's description of the beetles’ habitat and decided to try just passed Lowis's farm where the lake had a small pebbly bottom and no weed. I was lucky, there was no wind and the surface was like glass. As I moved along the shore edge I periodically got down on my stomach on the grassy edge and peered into the water. After a few tries my eye caught a movement and I thought it was a Caddis fly lava moving among the sand and pebbles, but it then came to the surface for air and realized it probably was a water beetle.

There are many water beetle species and they all need to come to the surface for a gulp of air. I moved to get a better look for I knew the beetle would surface again so I patiently waited. The water beetle surfaced again and I got a good look at him this time, I think my eyes must have bugged out, for it was just as the teacher had drawn it on the blackboard. I swiftly opened my bag and took out the jam jar with a cord round its neck and immersed the jar in the water near where the beetle disappeared in the pebbles. Again I waited and up came the beetle and as it rose to the surface I positioned the jar vertically and eased the jar beneath the beetle's upward path knowing it would descend more or less again vertically. The beetle after its gulp of air started its downward path and I gently adjusted the jar and, at the precise moment when the beetle was about 2 inches away I whipped the jar up-wards by its string and I had the beetle. I was an expert at this game for this is how we boys often caught the fast minnows and other aquatic life abundant in the lake.

I then gently popped sand and pebbles in the bottom of the jar and fastened on the top then returned home with my prize. I now just needed a few air holes in the lid.

Next Biology class I took the water beetle with me in my bag. The biggest problem was wedging the jar in an upright position, but I managed to get the jar to school with no spills from the air holes. I gave the specimen to the Biology teacher and to say he was flabbergasted would be an understatement, after his initial excitement and queries of the water beetle's source, he asked if he could keep the beetle, I had no hesitation in saying yes, for that was my intention all along, I knew he was deeply interested in Botany as a hobby and collected specimens which he sometimes brought to school to show us.

As I re-read this piece trying to correct the grammar I idly wonder if the Biology teacher used the specimen I gave him to show future classes and if he told the story how he obtained it. I like to think he did.

4 October 2003

Ullswater Secondary School Subjects

Well I hear you think, a dull piece to read, but there is a tale or two in places.

Miss. Browne took us for English and for the most part enjoyed it. I've mentioned poetry, which I came to like, and the lack of the classics. The syllabus was geared really for good written and spoken English with plenty of use of verb, adjectives, nouns and pronouns with adverbs and correct usage.

Sparse really by today’s standards but then differential calculus and the like was not needed then in most work except for scientific posts. We did not go much beyond fractions and the like. The form teacher taught maths to us in this area.

We were able to take as an extra subject of bookkeeping and shorthand. The bookkeeping was the basics only, 3-column bookkeeping and I applied to take this extra subject. I quite liked it, with its clean tidy layout. Shorthand was included in this part of the syllabus and I had to take this subject also. I didn’t like it very much and I was not very good at it either. I asked to drop this voluntary subject but the master taking these basic business studies was not too happy for me to drop this subject. He stressed the importance of it, if I went into an office environment but I was determined to drop shorthand. He relented but allowed me to continue with bookkeeping. The class was not very large 8 or 10 boys only.

Science, Biology Chemistry etc
These were lumped together and I found them interesting. We touched briefly on Chemistry but we had no labs. The teacher for this wide area majored in Biology I think, or at least it was his passion out of school. Demonstrations or experiments were brought to the classroom, written descriptions and notes were copied from the blackboard into our notebooks, the blackboard that almost covered the entire wall and was in a dull green... a colour thought to be good for the eyes in that era.

A tale or two to follow.

Well I've written of the history master. At this period of my life I found history at best dull, it seemed to be a continual jumble of dates and names and wars. Mainly I did well in history with the feared threat of punishment. I did at times get more than "3 red marks excluding the tick" and lined up in front of the class with the rest. I never really came to grips with history until my later years and an interest in Genealogy and from that my interest in history grew. I don't think the history master was the cause at all; I more inclined to think it was my makeup. I've always tended to be forward looking person, what is round the next corner, and even today I look forward to the new technologies to be discovered or waiting in the wings to be developed.

A different geography was taught in the 1940s than it is today. Geography was the British Colonies and the Commonwealth plus other major countries. We studied our own country of the time, the U.K. its landmass and its industry. I do not remember much of this subject nor how I liked the subject. I am certain I didn’t dislike it.

Woodwork was a core subject too; at most secondary modern schools it was woodwork or metallurgy. Our school it was woodwork, which I quite liked: the working with tools and constructing things. How to make and using dove tailed joints was the order of the day. I made a nice wooden tray but it had one dovetailed corner joint out of line so the tray had a gap at the bottom at one corner. But, I was still proud of my “master piece”! Planing the timber and getting everything straight with a set-square was the order of the day. We did not have to pay for our materials used in those days. In fact all materials for all subjects were free.

A story later.

Art, Physical Education, Horticulture
These were afterthought subjects. There was no gym, just the tar sealed schoolyard for PE. Yes, hotuculture was gardening, I didn't take it, probably i was taking something else.

I may redo this piece later. Doesn't seem to gel somehow