Securing our history for the future

Memories of Yvonne Crammer  (nee Ricardo)

Yvonne Crammer

 The Blitz

I attended Bridgwater County School for Girls for the same time as World War Two, ­ September 1939 – July 1945.

The only way it affected me was that the S & D train I used to catch from Bawdrip Halt to Bridgwater would many times be very late due to BOMBING up the LINE. It was also a long walk from the station to the school in Park Road, well out at the other end of the town, so assembly and first lesson were often missed!

Plans changed. A long walk to the Silver Fish in Knowle to catch the Bristol Blue (160} bus to the town river bridge. Not such a long walk!

One day my friend, Edna, and I, walked over the Fair Field, and down into a dip where two land mines had landed the night before. (we knew it was land mines by the pieces of silk that were strewn about from the parachutes on the mines). The ground might have been soft, but it didn’t stop windows being broken through the town.

Crancomb Lane -by the side of the Knowle Inn- leading up and over to Woolavington had a farm at the top of the rise, and a Messerschmitt crashed there. So that was an adventure to see the ruins and collect bits of mica, that had been of part of the plane’s windows.

At one time, my mother and I were staying with my grandmother in Newton Abbot. Mum and I went to the pictures, and when we came out of the cinema there was a weird silent atmosphere in the town. There were Wardens wearing their white tin hats, and it wasn’t until the next day that we discovered that a row of cottages had been demolished (with fatalities), and a large piece of railway line had been blown to the far end of the park opposite the station.

Train travel was quite an ordeal. (Very crowded with troops.) Often very late and no place names at stations (To foil the enemy if they landed) Once an American soldier gave me an orange – I didn’t know what to do with it!

Another complication was BLACKOUT! No lights were to be visible, and you would hope that you didn’t need the toilet if you were in a train with no corridors!

Then came the time my Dad had a stroke and died (1940), and Mum and I were living in the big Bawdrip House (Uplands) with Mrs. Jelf. She lived alone. Her daughter was a nurse in London, and both her sons were in the army. Her husband had died from effects of being gassed on the First World War. (Both of her sons died in the war)

Instead of being an only child, I suddenly had 6 ready-made brothers! The whole village had to find homes for the evacuees that had been deposited in the village hall by the railway halt. So, Mum had never a dull moment with these young lads from London’s East End!

Then we even had their families coming to us! Some felt they preferred to risk the bombing than the primitive quiet country side -with not even gas or electricity in the village!

One evening, one of the mothers was in the toilet when there was a very large bang! And she broke the necklace she was wearing! it had been caused by a bomb landing on hard ground in the levels at Woolavington (Perhaps that is when they could risk resuming life back home).

Eventually, Bawdrip House had to be sold -either to the Forces or the County Council…! think the decision it went to the County Council was that the house would be better cared for.

Until the transition took place, Mum and I were there alone. The memorable thing was at night the empty house windows would rattle with the vibration from the bombing in the distance. (Bristol?) Bawdrip House became a Sick Bay for evacuees. We were still living there when the war ended.

One or more nights a lot of strips of silver foil landed on the lawn – don’t know what that was all about, until now when I have been told that it is called chaff and was dropped to confuse radar.

Forever I was told in later years that I nearly drowned baby pigs by picking them up to put them in the trough that their Mother was eating out of. Well, they couldn’t ·reach!

Once, when I asked Mrs. Lang, (the Mother, who worked in the house,) where they all were, she told me they were haymaking a few fields away. I think she thought I would go home, but I located them because I could hear them singing and laughing and the machine working, and they were very surprised to see me!

It must have been winter, when it got dark early I think for some reason we had been to Broomfield village hall. what I remember is seeing a full moon through the trees and unsuccessfully trying to race ahead of it.

Another memory is that Mum taught me how to knit plain stitches using wooden skewers from the butcher for needles. To start, you needed stitches cast on. I was impatient and worked out how to do it when she was too busy to show me. She was surprised and thought that Dad had shown me what to do.

I remember that inside the farmhouse door there were rugs on the floor made with strips of rags-looked very nice-and two umbrella stands(?) like two big tubes and pretty bits of broken china stuck all over them. (I keep remembering other little things).

I was told that I was sat on a horse in a stable and told to just pat him gently. Apparently, he shot out the door, missing my head by inches- but I don’t remember that.      


Then we moved to a bungalow (called School House) next to the village school in Bawdrip it was decided that I wouldn’t be going to attend there until the next school year. I started at the same time as a boy called Norman Crocker He kicked and screamed and was determined he wasn’t going to, but he had to in the end. Presumably our home was available to rent because the head teacher (there were two) lived on her brother’s Peasey farm. That is where the members of the Monmouth Rebellion had refreshments before going down the lane to the battle of Sedgemoor-the last one fought on British soil. You can read all about that in the History books!

The other teacher, Miss Pike, used miss MM to cycle out from Bridgwater although she had a club foot and an iron on one leg. She taught the infants and standard one in one roommate, and Miss. Heal taught standards two, three and four in the other room. Don’t know if this is getting boring -but it is a bit of fun remembering things. Would read stories to the rest of the class on a Friday afternoon, and a little play we did once, was me sitting weeping on a chair, and different little animals hopping in and saying, “What’ s the matter little fairy? I would reply, “I’ve lost my silver star.” Then a mischievous one came in and tickled me, and I jumped up -me jumped up-and I had been sitting on my star! Great stuff! Well, you have to start somewhere! Two minor mishaps when I was in the Infants when we heard Miss Heal ring the hand bell we would rush from the playground to the lobby to line up to go into the class room. The day I managed to be first, I spread my hands out and my left-hand thumb got squashed in the hinge side of the door. The nail eventually turned black and I remember an old lady cutting off the last of the old nail. So, I grew up (as you can see) with a different shaped thumb.

Having been put to bed with a piece of chocolate in my mouth (in Bromley an old penny size Nestle’s in a red tubular packet, and in Bawdrip a square from a Cadbury’s Dairy milk half pound bar)- it wasn’t surprising that I was plagued with decayed teeth and tooth ache! Anyway, one day I went to sit at my desk and the detached seat was up, not down and I banged my chin on the desk. which made the sharp point on a decayed tooth go through my tongue! Mum was alarmed by this, when it was still bleeding when I got home, so she took me on the train (at Bawdrip Halt) to Bridgwater to Boots chemist, where she was assured that it would be alright the next day.

So, by the time I took the Scholarship I would have been at that school for six years.

At this time, young children were given a third of a pint free milk each morning. It arrived in glass bottles with a cardboard top resting on the ledge in the neck of the bottle, and the top had a small circle in the middle that you could push down to insert the straw. (real straw originally) In the winter they were put around the circular stove, shaped like those French Godin stoves, but they burned coke, not wood. These stoves got very hot and had a guard around it. The milk soon warmed up- Anyway, the cream on the. top of the milk would touch the cardboard top -and I HATED the taste!.it still don’t drink fresh milk, unless it is heated with cocoa etc. I don’t mind it on cornflakes etc. The cornflakes were called Force, with a picture of Sunny Jim and the words ‘High o’er the fence leaped Sunny Jim on the box. You could send for a Sunny Jim doll. {I had one). Sadly, Force no longer exists.

In the junior class room our desks went back in rows of two – for standards two, three md four. (standard one was with the infants). My Mum saved one of my books of sums. You can see how we were taught to do plus and minus sums). I think we all used to stand and recite our multiplication tables -which I still use in my head -no calculators in those days! The same with other things. e.g.16 oz-1lb, 14oz-1stone etc. up to 20cwts-1 ton and 12 ins-one foot, 3ft-1yd, and 4 farthings-1 penny,12 pennies-one shillings, two shillings-1 florin, 2 sh. and 6 pence-1 half-crown and 20 shillings-1 pound.

Henry is amused to hear both Grannies say they want to spend a penny, and what they mean is that if they were in a public toilet they would have to put a penny in a slot before he door would unlock! Of course, money, measurements and weights are easier to calculate now most things are decimalised.

If things were illustrated by means of a blackboard and easel. We also (like my Mum) had grammar lessons. Miss Heal would draw columns to put different words of a sentence in nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. also, subject, predicate and object (! must look up what that means!) and object, for each standard to do- history, geography nature study etc. In the Spring we would have a wild flower chart on the wall where the name of the first person to find certain flowers was put. I took a great delight in finding ones that were difficult ones to find ink the flower books, usually tiny ones! It was a bit naughty really. The Vicar, Rev. Cass, would come in occasionally and ask us questions about Bible stories. We were able to all stand and say the first book of Corinthians chapter thirteen. We also used to do some arms. stretch, knees bend exercises and made table mats with raffia We did some needle work, but I don’t remember what the boys did!

Mum also kept some pencil drawings that were in a flower show competition, and a riddle-me-ree that I made up in bed one Sunday morning, and was in an Enid Blyton Sunny Stories booklet.  I started a Bumper Annual for little ones. But I only put in one story!! -was it the end of a long Summer holiday?

I’ve just been looking at the Sunny Stories. The front cover has a picture of a boy’s face in the front of a train engine, and in the story his name was Thomas!

P.S. I wonder what happened to the honours board

(Note: it has survived and still in the village in 2019)