Two months later in September 1939 the Second World War was declared. Food rationing came into force and I obtained a licence to sell most foods in the shop. A large number of the village folk were registered with me and the paper work had to be returned monthly to the Bath Food Office. Throughout the war years beer was rationed too and sometimes we sold out before the next allotment was due. When this happened we did not always close.
A large number of evacuee children from Limehouse in the east End of London descended on the village and I was appointed under Defence Regulations to act as billeting officer. It was a very different world for those children. Many had never seen a cow before and could not believe that was where milk came from. Milk came in bottles in their world.
A number of young men from the village were now in the armed forces. Older men were expected to join the Home Guard or other war time organisations such as the Air Raid Wardens. Cecil joined the Radstock Home Guard with the rank of Lieutenant and was put in charge of the village platoon. The men were kitted out with dungaree uniforms but had no rifles. They did have though a store of Molotov bombs. It was Cecil’s job to appoint men for guard duty at night at a post between Shoscombe and Wellow. It was all taken very seriously.
I walked to Peasedown on one evening each week to attend a First Aid course. I duly passed the examination receiving my Pin Brooch and certificate.
Petrol of course was strictly rationed but we were able to continue running the car, Cecil earning extra petrol coupons by chauffeuring a collier around the Radstock area a few hours on some mornings. We heard and saw the terrible night bombing raids on Bristol and Bath and a stray bomb exploded at Shoscombe Vale as well as a number at Radstock but no one was hurt.
Jim had moved on to Canning’s College at Bath from the village school in 1935. He was there for a couple of years and then got hit his first job at the Writhlington Wagon Works. There were really no prospects for him, so we were delighted when in 1939 he passed the entrance examination for the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell. By 1940 Jim, not yet eighteen, was trained as a wireless operator and was stationed at Warmwell in Dorset. This was the time of the Battle of Britain. Returning to Cranwell he passed out as Wireless Operator/Mechanic Group 1 and by December 1940 he went to the Air Gunner school in Scotland. By the spring of 1941 he was now a crew member (WOM/AG) on Sunderland and Catalina flying boats. In May 1942 he was posted overseas to Red Bulbs Lake, near Madras. India . He stayed there until the end of the war and was on his way home by boat when VE day (Victory in Europe) was announced.
Richard left the village school in 1941 and started like Jim had, at Canning’s College at bath. He was there during the war and left in 1944 to work in colliery offices first at Braysdown then in Radstock. Office work was not his ‘cup of tea’ and so with our consent he joined the Royal Marines as a boy entrant.
Dora, my young sister, had made her home with us after mother’s death and in 1940 she married Bob Feltham, Cecil’s adopted brother. Bob was a marine and was on the HMS Trinidad when it was heavily bombed near Russia. He was awarded the DSM for gallant action and I was proud to accompany Dora to Buckingham Palace to witness the award ceremony.
Towards the end of the war Cecil sold the cows, giving up the milk round and let the 6 acres of land to my brother Frank.
The war ended in 1945 but food rationing was retained for several years. The Home guard though quickly disbanded – I don’t remember what became of the dungarees. I do remember the wonderful Farewell Dance given by Colonel Spenser at Frome School to which we were invited. All but a few of the war time evacuees went back to their home area in London.