I shall be 82 toward the end of this month (October 2015) and spent most of the war at school.
My father was William Royal, my oldest brother went into a Highland Regiment and wore a kilt. I had another brother who went into the Navy. A cousin, ‘Gunny’ Royal, was a lot older than me and ended up in Singapore.
During the war, this place where we are sat was a little cottage, where the Winters family lived, Bert Winters was one of them.
We used to have to take the milk from de Lotbinere’s to the Brandon school. Every day we would have to take the four-wheeled little cart with the milk bottles in crates stacked on it. My brothers would push it and I would pull it because it would have a little handle at the front that you could use to steer. If it was raining then they used to go like hell and I would struggle to hold it. One day when I was walking along the side of the road, Dr Beaumont drove over my foot in his car. He had one of these real old cars. I think Dr Cotton ended up with it when Beaumont died. Luckily I was wearing a thick boot at the time and my brothers pulled me away from the car, but that was a near-miss.
I remember ‘Pop’ Norton, my half-brother, he lived down Coronation Place. He used to come and fit a gas mask on me. I hated them! I was terrified of the things! We all had gas masks though.
They papered all over the school windows so the glass didn’t shatter from a bomb blast.
My father, would be laid up every now and again, and he would say to me go to Calders and get my pay. So I would get on my cycle and head off cycling to Calders over the railway. When I got there I would say I had come for my father’s money. Ena Parrott, her sister Eileen, and Reggie Dixon’s daughter worked in there. They would say here you are, and hand over a packet. In it was £4 10s … for a week’s work. Not much was it? He would have to go out at about 5 in the morning to feed the horse before he could even set off for work. As long as he had a pipe of tobacco and a pint he was happy.
I joined the Army Cadets. I weren’t in there long, just a week or two. We went off to Weeting to fire .22, which I suppose was getting us ready for war.
ARMY COOK HOUSE
Just across the road, where Glynis the hairdresser lives now, there was a cook house which was a big Nissan hut. Me and my brother would go down to the wire that surrounded the cook house and crawl through. We would take a spoon and find a tin of jam they had chucked out. We would scoop out any jam at the bottom of the tin and get enough to make a jam tart.
Old Joe Halls would stand out by the gate near the cook house every dinner time. He would watch when the men marched from the woods down The Drove and into the hut. Joe would stand there with his Billy can, knife, fork and spoon, and join in the queue and go in with them! All through the war he did that and got free food. I bet he thought he was still in the Army.
After the war that hut would become the village hall and football changing room.
PLANES FLYING OVER
One plane flew over really low and dropped a bomb on Brandon Fields. My mother used to go to the army whist drives on the camp. She would take my brother. When that bomb was dropped on Brandon Fields they shut them all in and wouldn’t let them out until it was safe. Me and my brother went to the bomb crater the next day to dig out shrapnel.
We used to play across the road and dug holes along the front where those bungalows are (the Drove) and we used to play in them. We would get pit props and make out they were machine guns. When the Germans shot up the school, they came this way and I peeped round the corner of my house and could see the German fighter. He went straight over the top and went straight up toward Brandon Fields. My father was pulling trees out on Brandon Fields with a horse drug. My brother went with him that day. They had to get the horses, and run and hide in the woods otherwise they might have been shot with the machine guns. I think the plane was still firing. It was a bit frightening really. I guess the plane was so low it could see our pit props, which might have looked just like guns. I thought they were going to bomb us.
I am sure I heard a British plane come over here one night, coming back from a raid. We went out to see it and it was on fire. Clara Royal who lived near us said she could hear the men screaming inside. Well some bailed out and were picked up. It ended up crashing up in the woods and we went up there the next day to find Perspex.
I remember playing and planes would regularly fly over. Usually two types of plane; one was a Lysander (British aircraft). Army sergeants would fly them. They used to come down really quick over the hedgerows and we would say “dive bombers”.
My mother would tell me, “When you are going to school. If you are anywhere near “six posts” (six metal posts placed at the cemetery end of the Avenue) when the siren goes, then you run to school. If you are this side, then you come home.”
People would grow their own food and would sometimes swap food for stuff they didn’t have. Such as Mrs Lambert, who ran the fish and chip shop. She would give you a load of lard in return for a couple of cabbages. Quite a few people had lard off Mrs Lambert in that way. My mother would say to me, take that shopping bag up to Mrs Lambert.
We weren’t too bad off actually, there were always lots of rabbits. If you were good with a catapult then you could always get some meat. De Lotbinere’s pheasants took a hammering! Well that was good grub when you struggled to get anything because you never had the money to buy much meat.
Sonny English and his father, Arthur, went up to the field where Lilac Close is now. They took a blanket full of Army boots and buried them because the police were on to them. I often wonder if any of those boots have since come to light.
SOLDIERS IN TOWN
The Army were stationed at de Lotbiniere’s – some, I suppose the officers, were in the house; others were dotted in the woods in vehicles.
I am sure the Tank Regiment were stationed in Brandon because there were some big tanks that would come down Manor Road. When they got to Tip corner they would swing right and go down into Green lane. No end of times they took out poor Sonny and Harry Dent’s wall. Mr Froud, the bricklayer, was always there building that wall. The tanks and big army vehicles would park up along the top of ‘Crocker’s Hill’. Sometimes the soldiers might give us a couple of bob and say to us, “Can you get us something to eat?” The poor buggers were starving. So we would come down to the shop or go to Mother’s pantry and get a bit cheese and a bit of bread, even though we didn’t have much really.
We had Indians stationed nearby and they would come down to the White Horse to drink. The Yanks would take the kids to Elveden at Christmas for a party.
Barnie Pettit was a barber down here (Tip) and if he couldn’t cut your hair then he would pull it out! I used to go there for about a thruppence a haircut. He had the contract to go to Wangford Hall and cut all the Barnardo Boys hair. They would all have the same style. He did well though because he didn’t have any electric shears, it was all hand cut.
I remember one Barnardo Boy, Billy ‘Darkie’ Morrison. Those boys were buggers and they would get fighting. I remember one day the Barnardo Boys set about my brother and got on top of him, so I dived in and helped him. I got him out because he wore glasses.