‘They’ve captured a German! ’

The writer and wartime refugee Pat in front, with his three brothers behind.

The writer and wartime refugee Pat in front, with his three brothers behind.

We ran indoors, shouting excitedly to our mother: “They’ve captured a German! lie parachuted out of his plane and landed in a


After seeing the smoking aircraft plummeting from the sky my three brothers and I had rushed to the field where it had crashed.

The pilot was rescued and taken to hospital with a broken leg.

This a vivid wartime memory remains, although I was only very young. It was just a game to me, like cowboys and Indians, and I didn’t understand the seriousness of it at all.

We lived in a large terraced house in the countryside a mile from the town. Our father was away in the war, and as well as coping with us my mother had an evacuee called Pat from Folkstone. She was my age and we were constant companions.

I remember a policeman standing at the door one day, notebook in hand, complaining about Pat and me flattening a farmer’s cornfield. At her wits’ end my mother cried: “You’ll just have to Idck me up, that’s all. I can’t keep my eye on them every second of the day.”

It must of been a tremendous strain to keep us in order as she didn’t know where we were half the time. In the long summer holidays we would roam the woods and fields at the back of our house all day. My older brother David was a natural in the countryside and he was a dab hand at poaching rabbits and pheasants to bring home for Mum to cook for our dinners, he even used to scramble precariously along long branches at the riverside to get moorhens’ eggs for our breakfast. Bacon was scarce but there were plenty of mushrooms to be had which we picked at dawn to go with our eggs. Once David was summoned to the Juvenile Court for poaching but he got off.

lie later became a gamekeeper after learning all of the tricks of the trade as a boy.
Mum tried to keep us smart and a ‘Tally’ man came round to kit us out on the never-never, but more often than not our clothes for school came from jumble sales. She worked around the village doing housework and baby sitting to try to make ends meet.

Even our coal was bought by paying instalments to the Co-op. Sometimes in the dead of winter, if we’d run out, my elder brothers Jack and Joe would pay a visit to a coal yard by moonlight with an old pram. You don’t have too many scruples when you’re frozen to the marrow!

We thrived on dried egg, dripping sandwiches, bread and milk sops, and mum’s home-made bread puddings, and we had to have the cheaper broken eggs and biscuits, but they tasted just the same.

The meagre bits of cheese and butter and bacon that were on ration never seemed to be enough for us at all. I remember once, when I was sent shopping, a stern-faced grocery manager telling me to send my mother up to see him. Poor Mum had rubbed out the pencil marks in the ration books in order to get us more food.

In pre-television days our radio favourites were Dick Barton, Special Agent, and The Daring Dexters, who were a circus family. Mum liked the singing of Donald Peers.

Today’s children have a different world altogether.

Mick Botting