The first few months of the New Year are always a quiet period for the History Group, and there is really nothing much to report back with at the moment.
The Committee only will be holding a meeting on the 18th April to discuss the coming year, and our next Social evening is on FRIDAY 02 JUNE 2023 @ 7:30pm in the Village Hall when local historian Phil Badcott will be providing a humorous and light-hearted look at anecdotes and folklore from the nineteenth century with his talk entitled ‘Folklore of Bygone Devon’. As always, admission is free to Members with just a nominal cost of £3 for non-members.
Apart from that, all remains quiet, as we like it!
For those of you who haven’t seen my Parish magazine article on our Church bells, you can read it HERE .. and view a slide show of some interesting images that go with it!
We continue with the memoirs of David Best – Part 3.
During the early part of 1939 the Government had foreseen the possibility that war might occur, and plans had been made for the evacuation of children from the major cities.
Devon was pronounced a safe area and even Plymouth was considered suitable to absorb the thousands of schoolchildren who would be sent to the County. The Marldon contingent arrived not long after that sunlit Sunday when war was declared, and we were sent down to the Meadow to look at the young Londoners who had arrived and were being allocated to different households. Some were very young and could have had no idea why they had been sent from one end of the country to the other. All looked scruffy after the day’s journey and, with their labels and instructions tied to them, resembled a delivery of parcels.
The war had in a small way started to affect the village. Some people resented the autocratic system of billeting and enforcement, but all the children were well cared for. Many had not seen cows or even a field before, and were quite lost in this strange world devoid of traffic and chip shops, but they quickly integrated with the village children and learned how to survive in the country.
The influx imposed a great strain on the village school, but as time went by and nothing happened they drifted away in ones and twos and most were back home in time for the large scale London raids which came in the following year.
When the siren sounded, we would leave the school and troop up West Lane in twos. At first this diversion from lessons was great fun and a tremendous waste of time, particularly as most of the alarms were false, but after a while it lost its attraction and we became bored just hanging around looking at the flowers. Furthermore, the lane was all right on a fine day, but it turned into a sea of mud in the rain, so the rambles were discontinued, and then when the siren sounded we hid under our desks instead. Later, when the alarms became more and more frequent, even this was considered a bit sissy, so we were expected to carry on as if nothing had happened.
During the period known as the “phoney war”, the British and French armies had come to a standstill, but the picture was very much different at sea. The Merchant Navy was taking a hammering, and in that year German U-boats sank 215 merchant ships, together with two capital ships of the Royal Navy. Survival therefore depended on producing as much food as we could and salvaging whatever raw materials were available in the country. The village played its part in this reclamation and the Council removed iron railings from many houses, although farms were generally exempt.
The school Headmaster was an outstanding organiser, and he set up squads of schoolchildren equipped with trolleys for the collection of scrap metal. The most fertile places were the farms, and we tramped many miles, from Widdicombe Farm, Occombe, then to Compton, collecting old bedsteads and saucepans and things.
At first the exercise was productive, and part of the playground took on the appearance of a breaker’s yard, but as time went by it became obvious that the best chunks of scrap required heavy lifting equipment and lorries to cart it away, so the collection service petered out. Nevertheless, the children had entered into the spirit of the occasion with gusto, as all children will, and it was felt that they had made a valuable contribution to the War Effort.
At school the curriculum included such things as operating stirrup pumps and how to extinguish incendiary bombs and making hay boxes to keep food hot, although few of us would ever have to fall back on this knowledge.
More to follow….
That’s it for now – so take care.
Derek .. Chairman MLHG
Looking for information regarding my husbands grave plus my Brother and his wife Derek and Beryl Ryan, my Mum Edith Ryan, my husband was Frank Evans wait your reply as I am 89 now living here in Australia but my ashes when I go have to be put in same grave beside my Frank,please answer me thank you Doreen Robinson née Evans