Some reminiscences from Dorothy Hill (nee Saunders)
of growing up in Glasbury:
The river runs through most of my childhood. From this distance
the days were always warm and sunny. We children played in the warm
water, fishing for minnows, paddling, or learning to swim. Cows
and sheep grazed the meadows along the river banks, but there was
plenty of space for noisy running-about games. We also seemed to
have a great many picnics.
Our house (Brook House) was of a field's width away from the river.
In the winter after snow and rain the river sometimes overflowed.
One morning I woke to see tree branches and hedges floating down
what had been the road . That day the milkman came - but in a boat.
Another time my father came to collect me from school and carried
me home on his shoulders because of deep snow.
School (Coed-y-Boleyn) was almost 2 miles across the river and
then uphill, a long walk for five-year-olds. Our playground was
open common with trees and bracken. We made dens with the bracken
and played a game called "English French" (not English German).
Some of the trees had roots almost above ground, they made rows
of seats for our pretend Theatre. We made up plays based on nursery
rhymes and "performed" to an audience of younger children. The school
had three classrooms: as five-year-olds we were issued with slates
to write our letters and numbers and graduated to pencil and paper
when our attempts were legible. Each room had a fireplace with a
nursery-type guard. In winter we gathered round at lunchtime and
toasted sandwiches brought from home at the glowing coal fire. I
don't remember what we had to drink. There were three teachers and
about 70 pupils (I guess). At 10+ we sat the scholarship and if
successful went on to County School -- a journey of 27 miles by
bus for me -- (longer for some). In winter, piled up in the back
of the bus were shovels and sacks in case of snow. During spring
and summer holidays a group of 6 to 8 boys and girls would meet
at our home and cycle about 6 miles to the foot of a nearby mountain,
leave our bikes at a farm and climb to the summit and over into
a valley with a ruined chapel or monastery in a different county.
We felt like explorers in a foreign country. We carried food but
knocked on farmhouse doors requesting a drink of water and were
War was declared on September 3, 1939. I was in Birmingham doing
a pre-nursing course -- at 16 I was too young to be a probationer
as trainee nurses were called. Among the group with me were four
girls from the UK and five German Jews who had been sent to England
by their parents to escape the Nazis. Meeting and living with these
refugees made a great impression on me. I had been feeling homesick,
but these girls had no idea where their parents were -- at home
or imprisoned. Every day we waited together for the letters -- mine
arrived, but they had nothing. When I had a weekend pass my parents
encouraged me to bring one of these girls with me. Over the years
we kept in touch, even though I left after a year and went back
home and had a job in the local council office. There, I was responsible
for alterations to Ration Books. Meat, cheese, sugar and butter
were rationed. People with diabetes exchanged their sugar ration
for (I think) meat or cheese. And vegetarians gave up their meat
coupon for extra cheese.
Many village people then kept one or two pigs and friends and neighbours
would donate pig swill to them. In return the pig owner gave the
people bacon and pork to augment their rations. The pig owner had
to apply for a licence to have their pig slaughtered and I was in
charge of issuing these and keeping a record of the date, as each
owner was restricted to one pig per year. (At least that's what
I think was the rule).
When the blitz started on London we were in a Safety Zone and one
evening we as a family were gathered in the living room/kitchen
when there was a loud knocking at the front door. I was sent to
answer it among mumbles of "who can that be at this time of night?".
On the step was a strange woman carrying a child, another at her
side. They had driven from Kent having been bombed the night before.
They were ushered into the warm kitchen, while my sister and I were
sent up to make up extra beds. It was the first time I realised
what war really meant. They stayed with us for some weeks and then
found a cottage to rent nearby.
In 1942 my school friend, who worked in a local bank and I joined
the WRAF. We applied to be trained as weather observers. To be accepted
in that branch of the service we had to sit an exam in maths, English,
and geography. We were sent to London (Russell Square) where we
were taught how to observe the clouds, wind directions and speed,
read barometric pressure and to encode this information and send
by teleprinter to the group headquarters every hour day and night.
Then receive the same information for every RAF station and ships
on the western approaches and transfer all these onto a weather