World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                         Doreen Brigden 

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Doreen Mary Brigden (Nee Hall), Mr. & Mrs. Pledge, Evelyn Rose Idedycheney (Nee Hall) Mr. & Mrs. Evelyn & David Jones, Winifred and Ernest Hall.
Location of story: Croydon Bognor, West Hoathly, Sussex.
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Julie Turner of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Doreen Mary Brigden.

Story Title: A lost Childhood.

Names in Story: Doreen Mary Brigden (Nee Hall), Mr. & Mrs. Pledge,
Evelyn Rose Idedlycheney (Nee Hall), Winifred & Ernest Hall,
Mr. & Mrs. Evelyn & David Jones.

Location: Croydon, Bognor, West Hoathly, Sussex.

In the summer of 1939, I was a lively 9 year old and living a very happy life in Croydon with my mother, father and 7 year old sister Evelyn. We had a lovely home and garden with a summerhouse that my father built for us, where we would spend many happy hours playing. We would have outings to the park and Mother would read us bedtime stories.

We were used to seeing my father in army uniform, as he was in the territorials. One day, I remember he kissed us goodbye and said that a war had started, and he had to go away for a while. A few days later we were evacuated with our school. After the excitement of the train journey we ended up on a village green and I remember how frightened my sister and I felt, as names would be called out and people would come forward to take us home with them. Luckily we were kept together and went to live with Mr. & Mrs. Pledge in Bognor, a very nice couple who were very kind to us. I remember on one occasion, my father and mother came to visit us; we were given the day off school and enjoyed a lovely time and a picnic on the beach. We had a lovely family photo taken, which is now a very treasured picture, as although we did not know it at the time, it was to be the last time we would ever see my father, as he later went to Dunkirk and sadly never returned. He was presumed killed. For years I never gave up that he might be found and return to us one day. My sister became very home sick so my mother came to fetch us home from Bognor.

We lived very close to Croydon Airport and one day, were playing out near the airfield, when the first daylight raid took place. Without warning, the airport was bombed. Thankfully we were taken in to safety by anyone around, but to this day I can still remember being surrounded by black smoke and the sickly smell of scent as a scent factory was hit close by.

A lot of people lost their lives, including our neighbour who left his four children. We had grown up with this family and enjoyed happy times before the War. So again we were evacuated, this time to an elderly aunt at West Hoathly, Sussex. She had a small cottage and she could not have us for long. I went to live with Mr. & Mrs. Jones for the rest of the war. They were very kind to me and I was very happy there. Unfortunately my sister was some miles away in Forest Row, and we only got to meet on the occasional holidays. My bedroom at Mrs. Jones’ was high up in the attic and I could see for miles across the country. I remember feeling so scared when I heard the drone of the German planes passing overhead going towards London, and on their return, I could see the London skyline ablaze with red and wondered if my mother and relatives had survived the bombing. I could not wait for my next letter to know they were still alive. My mother had to work in the war at a factory, assembling gas masks for babies. On leaving the village school at 11 years, I then had to go to Chequers Mead in East Grinstead.

I remember being upset when Mrs. Jones refused to let me go to the pictures with my school friend one evening after school, but it was to save my life for a second time as the cinema had a direct hit during an air raid and my friend was killed.

When I returned home after the war, I was 14 years old and had left school and started work. My sister had her friends and gone their own way. My mother had moved from the home I had known with the lovely garden. My dear father had been killed in the war; life would never be the same again, my childhood days were over and I was now considered an adult. I still had my teddy bear and some books and very happy memories of the days before the war.

P.S. I love the film “Goodnight Mr. Tom”, a very true story of the war years for so many and I would like to say, “Goodnight and thank you Mrs. Jones for your kindness in looking after me.”