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Seventy-five Years Ago Today....

lmr3103

master brummie
It's Tuesday, August 7th 1945. I'm now nearly nine-and-a-half.

Dad has told me something incredible today. Yesterday, the Yanks dropped a huge bomb on a Japanese town. The bomb was so big that it was about the same as all the bombs which have been dropped on Germany and Japan through the whole war. The town was Hiroshima. They say it has been completely destroyed and most of the people in it killed.

I don't know what to think about this. It sounds a terrible thing. But it is just another of the dreadful things that I can remember from the newspapers ever since I learned how to read them. I can't really feel sorry for the Japs. I have never met one, obviously. But in all my nightmares they are even worse than the Germans. So frightening. So cruel. I know all this from some of the films which I have seen at the Avion in Aldridge. And so I hate them. And don't feel sorry. Dad says it will almost certainly bring an end to the war against Japan. I hope it does. That would be a really good thing. I don't know what Mum feels about all of this. She is a very kind person and is probably thinking about all the children, like me, who lived in Hiroshima.

I'm sure my brother will be pleased if the war finishes. He has moved on from Italy, now, and is in Austria. He is by a big lake where he can swim and go boating. I am not sure what he is actually doing. But I know that he is scared stiff that he and his comrades will be sent out to the Far East to start fighting again. I expect Mum and Dad have been worried about that too. Until today, that is. They must be so relieved.

I'm in South Devon at the moment, lucky me. Dad and Mum have organised a two-week holiday. We have only been here a day or two. It is four years since I was last here, when I met the evacuees from Ladywood. It was a long, long journey, which took all day. I may tell you about it all later, if you're interested. We are in a different place from before but are visiting all the places which Mum and Dad know from the past and which I can just about remember as well.

The war has had quite a big effect here. You can't really get away from it, even though everything is all so quiet and peaceful. And green. Not a bit like Brum.

Chris
I love reading your posts. You should write a book!
Lynn.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
(Don't encourage him, ljr3103 and mw0njm!!)

THE JOURNEY FROM STREETLY TO DEVON

It's Thursday August 9th 1945. The Japs haven't given up yet.

I said I would probably tell you a bit more about this holiday in Devon which we are having even though England is still at war. I'll start with our journey last Saturday.

I have been looking forward to the holiday ever since around VE Day when Dad said he was going to try and arrange something. It's very exciting. I can only remember one other long journey by car. That was two years ago when Dad had a business trip to South Wales and Mum and I went with him for a few days. On that journey we got stopped by a policeman who asked Dad a lot of questions about where he was going and why he was going there and how it was that he had his family in the car with him. I could see Dad getting and crosser and I was hoping and praying that he didn't really lose his temper with this policeman because policemen quite frighten me. Finally we were allowed to continue our journey and Dad spent the next few miles calming down and muttering about how that young man was at home, wasting everyone's time on things like that whilst Graham, my brother, was at the front in Italy risking his life every single day. But there were no problems like that on this journey to Devon because now you are allowed to use petrol without being checked up on.

We came down last Saturday. It is a heck of a journey. We did it in our Ford Prefect. 10 h.p., three gears, with windscreen wipers which slow right down if you are climbing a hill and a boot lid which hinges down to make a sort of shelf so that you can pile suitcases on. Dad covers them with an old Home Guard waterproof cape. We had to get up early so that we could get on the road before there was too much traffic in Birmingham. This is our car. Dad bought it in 1940.

Prefect.jpg

We live the wrong side of the city for this sort of journey and so we have to go right through the middle. I know the journey from Streetly into the city very well because I often go with Mum on the No.113 Midland Red. But Dad goes a different way in the car. He says it's quicker. We go down the Chester Road from our house until we get to the Parson & Clerk pub. (That's an interesting place. It's got a big thatched building behind, but with no walls and so people can stand in it on summer evenings and drink their pints. It used to be Dad's pub but he had a row with the landlady years ago and ever since he's been going to the Hardwick. That's another story).

Anyway, by the Parson & Clerk there's a fork in the road. The bus keeps on the main road, towards Beggar's Bush and New Oscott. But Dad always turns right here and we go up over the hill and then down into Kingstanding and around the big island where all the buses are now dark blue and cream. On past Hawthorn Road and here we get on to one of those wide, modern Birmingham roads which have one road in each direction with a strip of land in the middle which they use in some parts to run trams along. No trams here in Kingstanding Road and for part of the way it's still just a single road and a wide piece of grass. It looks as though it's not quite finished but it's been like that for as long as I can remember. My cousins, Pat and Brian Summers, live in a house along here with their mum and dad, no. 664. At the bottom of the hill we join College Road, near another big pub called the Boar's Head. And that's the way we went, as usual, last Saturday. From now on we were back on the bus route. Past the end of Holford Drive which leads to the big factory where Dad works (and where my sister has recently started) - did he give it a glance as he drove past at the beginning of his fortnight's holiday? And into Perry Barr. We were starting to really get into the city now. It got more and more built up and soon we were going along Summer Lane, then Constitution Hill, Snow Hill, Colmore Row and we threaded our way around the Town Hall, through more streets, and eventually found ourselves in Bristol Street.

I was sitting in the back with the dog (who I'm going to call Rex although that's not his real name) and I was looking out at the traffic and all the people and the big gaps in so many places, on the main roads and down the little streets which run off them. It's been like this for as long as I can remember. Open spaces, sometimes piled up with rubble but many with greenery and clumps of mauve willowherb growing on them. It makes you wonder where all the seeds come from, right in the middle of a big city. Very often there's a towering wall with great pieces of timber holding it up because the building next to it which used to support it has gone, totally disappeared. On some of these walls are little fireplaces, at different levels right up to the top and perhaps a square of patterned wallpaper still sticking to the wall, where a room used to be. And some of the buildings which are still standing are wrecked and boarded up and unused. I suppose it will all get mended and rebuilt, eventually, now that the war is just about over. But it will take ages and I don't know when. I shall probably be grown up by then.

Over the last few weeks I have started to see as well, down some of these side streets, a house, here and there, all decorated with coloured chalk and streamers and Union Jacks and messages which say something like "WELCOME HOME, JACK". Or Frank or Ron or Sid or Fred. Not too many, yet. Perhaps these are mainly the soldiers who have been prisoners of war, held in Germany and Poland for years and years, and they are now back with their families. Most of the other soldiers still have plenty to do in Germany and Italy and other places before they are allowed to come home. When they do it's called "being demobbed". That's a funny word. Dad says it's short for "demobilised". And of course the soldiers who have no chance of coming home yet are all those who are out East, in India, Burma, Malaya and other places. Many have been there for years and years, fighting in the jungle, wading through rivers - everything looks hot and wet and horrid when you see it on the newsreels. And frightening, with a Jap soldier hiding somewhere in the undergrowth, ready to jump out at you with his bayonet. Not to speak of all the insects and snakes and things. It's all horrible and you can hardly imagine what it's like to be there. No wonder my brother is scared about having to go. Austria is much nicer. All those soldiers are stuck out there, day after day, being killed or injured until it's all over. I wonder when they will ever get home. Mr. Bullock, a neighbour of ours, is there. And the dad of one of my friends - if he is still alive - is a prisoner-of-war of the Japs. And now, even after the bomb, the war is still going on. WHEN will they decide to give up?

Anyway, Mum, Dad, Rex and me, there we were, not in the jungle at that moment. We were in Bristol Street in all the traffic, but at least with the centre of the city behind us. Down some of the sidestreets you could still see wrecked houses and what was left of other bigger buildings. And sometimes, just wide open spaces covered in weeds and piles of rubble. Onward into Bristol Road. Now we could really start getting on with our long journey.

As we went down the Bristol Road I saw the big house which Uncle Ferdo and Auntie Dickie live in. They are Mr. and Mrs. Cole. It's either No. 88 or 188, I think. They are well-off and they own another house near Bromyard, a cottage in the countryside. We have had holidays there with them. There's no electricity and water comes from a pump outside the kitchen door. Mum and I go on buses from home to get to the big house there in the Bristol Road. Then we go off in one of their cars. So far there has been a big Hillman with a hood which no one would put down, even though I asked ever so nicely. I was very disappointed. Another time it was an Austin. But just once it was one of Uncle Ferdo's company vans. It was a ROLLS-ROYCE. Yes, a Rolls-Royce van! I sat in the front with the driver. He had a delivery to make in Bromyard, somewhere. I was supposed to be "the driver's boy" in case we got stopped, Mum and Auntie sat in the back of the van, in little chairs, surrounded by the luggage and keeping an eye on the parrot and the cockatoo in their cages. They had to cling on to the cages when we went round corners, to stop them sliding around. (That's Mum and Auntie, not the parrot and the cockatoo - although the birds probably had to do that as well). They both did a lot of laughing. I don't know why. But we didn't get stopped by a policeman.

(go to next post)
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Anyway, that was year or two ago. There we were last Saturday morning, the city was starting to fade away. Through Selly Oak where Dad and Mum first lived, in digs, when they were married in 1921. Dad was working at Elliotts, then. That was before they moved to Erdington. And we found ourselves back on one of those modern double roads, this time with trams running down gap in the middle. At long last, Dad could start to put his foot down a bit.

Dad said later that it's not a good start, having to go through the middle of Birmingham. But it didn't get much better for the whole journey. We went down the A38 road which takes you right through the middle of Droitwich, Bromsgrove, Worcester, Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Bristol, Bridgwater and Taunton. Right down the main street in all of these towns. It isn't until you get to Exeter that you can drive on something called a bypass. Then after that, it's the middle of Newton Abbott, Totnes and Kingsbridge. You can look into all the shop windows as you crawl past.

I found it all interesting though, looking out at different towns and countryside passing by the window. I had a special job during the journey. I had a notebook and, on the dot, every hour, Dad told me how many miles we had covered. I made a note of it. I liked to do it and he liked to check on progress because he knew he had over 200 miles to go. The first hour wasn't very good because of Birmingham. We probably only did about 20 miles. It got a bit better after that and I think the record for one hour was 35 miles. I would peer at the speedometer from my position in the back of the car from time to time. The needle swishes about a bit in our car but you can work out roughly what speed we are doing. When I could see it up at about 45 I knew that we are really humming along. But that of course was only on the open road between all the towns.

The journey went on and on although I never really got bored. There was always something to look at. And every hour there was the excitement of seeing how far we had got. Dad started to suffer with his neck as the day went on. He likes to dress properly for any journey and so he wears a stiff collar just like when he goes to work. He drives with his head tilted a little bit back so that he is looking out through the bottom half of his glasses. So eventually the back of his neck got very sore where it was rubbing against the starched collar.

We stopped from time to time. We had one longish stop for lunch when we turned off the main road into a little lane. There we had our sandwiches. It was a quiet place and and when we stopped munching you would hear the silence. All I could hear was Mum's faint wheezing. Mum's breathing is always a bit wheezy. It's because of the Players. But at least she doesn't normally smoke in the car which I'm glad about. Dad lights his pipe occasionally but I don't mind the smell of that. On other occasions Dad would get out to stretch his legs, or perhaps put some petrol in the car. And then, "All ready?" and off we would go again.

It's a pity that Dad didn't take any pictures of our journey. He was too busy and anyway, Mum always calls taking a picture a bit of a palaver. And it really is. I've told you about that before (have a look at post no. 16). And film is very difficult to get and it's expensive. So the only pictures I have of our adventure are those I have in my mind. But he's got his camera with him for this holiday.

The final few miles of the journey were a bit difficult. We were going to a slightly different place from before the war which Dad didn't know so well and not all the signposts had yet been put back. (They had been taken down years ago, in case the Germans came). So it was a bit of a struggle and I expect he was tired - or had even forgotten which narrow little lane went where. But then, finally, he worked it out from his pre-war map and followed his nose and we found the village we were looking for. We parked on a little triangle of grass right in the centre, breathed a sigh of relief, switched off and looked around. The shadows were starting to lengthen. Silence. A bit of woodsmoke from the chimney of the one of the cottages near to us. It was a tiny shop and Post Office. Nothing was stirring anywhere although we had probably been noticed. So this was Beeson, almost all of it, and we were having our very first sight of it, on Saturday evening, August 4th 1945.

We found that our cottage was only a few yards down the lane. We went through the front gate with Dad struggling with the suitcases, knocked on the door and received the warmest of welcomes. Our holiday had started. But poor Dad. All he ended up with was a sore neck and a raging thirst in a village which was too tiny to have its own pub. But I think he slept well that night and he has been very cheerful ever since. I think he is enjoying his holiday and he is doing his best to make sure Mum and I are enjoying ourselves as well. As he always does.

Mum has now started to call the tiny Post Office "Mount Pleasant". This is a joke because Mount Pleasant is the main Post Office in London.

I'll show you the cottage where we are.

Beesonw1000.jpg

And I'll tell you more about it all in the next few days, of where we are and what we have been doing.

I bet you can hardly wait.

Chris

PS The Japs still haven't given up, even though the bomb was on Monday and it's now Thursday.
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Saturday 11th August 1945

Well, there has been another one. The day before yesterday. It was a place called Nagasaki. I have never heard of it before. Nor Hiroshima, come to that. The only place in Japan I have ever known about is Tokyo. That's the capital. To me, it's all as far away as the moon.

Dad says that the Japs can't possibly carry on after this. So it looks as though the war is nearly over.

Anyway, that's a long, long way away. I promised to tell you more about where we are and what we are doing. You might ask "What's all that got to do with Birmingham?" I would say, only a bit, really. But we are Brummies, even though we are here in Devon, Dad says that he always bumps into a lot when he's here on holiday - and I have met THREE myself! (Not this time, though. That was four years ago when, somehow or other, dad got us down here to stay in the farm which he and all of us had gone to for years before the war. These three Brummies were brothers. The youngest was about my age. They were evacuees. They came from a part of Birmingham called Ladywood. I had never heard of that before. It sounded a lovely place. I could see in my mind pretty ladies in coloured dresses, sitting around on the grass in a clearing, the sun shining and dense, green woodland all around them. I wonder if they have gone home yet. They can't still be at the farm and I'll tell you why another time).

And, oh yes, I remember now, there has been a gentleman and his wife who Dad and Mum got talking to. I'm not sure where in Birmingham they come from. It's their first visit. The lady said she liked Devon but couldn't stand "all them high hedges". They stopped her seeing the scenery. Mum and Dad had a chuckle about this afterwards. I think what they like as much as anything ARE the hedgerows!

Beeson, where we are, is a tiny village, about a mile from the sea. This is almost all of it.

BeesonDistant.jpg

We are in the cottage right in the middle of the picture. Our rooms are on the right-hand side. The bedroom, where I sleep with Mum and Dad (on a little camp bed) is the top window. Below, the window of our sitting and dining room.

It's a super place. In the garden there are flowers and vegetables and a lovely row of sweet peas which Mrs. H. cuts for the house. There is also a bush with huge fruit on it which I've never heard of before, it's called a loganberry. Dad says it's half way between a rasberry and a strawberry.

The food is lovely. I have had fresh crab for the first time and love it. We also have chicken, fish and all sorts of other things. And loads of Devonshire cream. Mrs H. has a big bowl on her scullery floor which she makes it in. The crabs are absolutely huge. I think they are called King Crabs and they all come from a village about a mile away.

This is a picture of our village from the other direction, with the back of our cottage near to us, on the right-hand side.

BeesoncReverse.jpg

You can see that there aren't many houses. Opposite us are the gardens of some other cottages and they all seem to me so lush, everything packed closely together, rows of peas and beans and carrots and cauliflowers and other nice things. The cottage we are in is part of a farm which you can't see on the picture. You get to it either down a little lane or through a gate by the back door of our cottage. They have cows and grow a lot of corn. Mr. H. is one of the farmer's sons. He has a brother, John. And sisters. I think they still live at the farm with the mum and dad. Also on the farm is a German prisoner of war. I think he is a nice man but I've never met him. I've seen him working away, in the distance, with his blond hair and looking as brown has a berry. I don't know his name. I wonder if he is happy and when he'll be able to go home.

I think Mr. H. had been in the Army. There's a picture of him on the wall, in a great big greatcoat and looking a bit sad. But he's home now.

If you walk along the lane in the direction we are looking, for about twenty minutes, you go along a flattish bit first of all and then the lane suddenly dives down, ever so steeply, going round one or two very sharp hairpins until you reach sea level. (There is a very sharp bend, just like these, in the middle of Beeson. That one got made a bit less sharp by the Americans when they were here. They couldn't get their big Army lorries around it. But it looks as though they had to put up with these, further on towards Beesands).

After the bends and the road has flattened out, it's just a few yards to the village of Beesands. This is a sleepy little place which is just a long row of fishermen's cottages with the front doors straight onto the road. On the other side of the road the shingle starts and then slopes right down to the water. The men here all fish for crabs. They have open boats for one or two people with an engine in. You can see their round crabpots all over the place. And lines of bait drying and waiting to be used. At first you wonder how they get these heavy boats out of the sea and up the beach. The answer is a lot of chains and, all along the beach, little tiny sheds which aren't much more than big boxes. I've had a look in one of these. Inside was a very old car engine. When they start it up, the engine drives a big drum which one of the chains is attached to and as it goes round and round, it pulls the boat up the beach. It all looks very clever to me. But a bit rusty.

This is a picture of Beesands. It's a pity you can't see much of the beach and the boats and all the other stuff.

Beesands1.jpg

Halfway down the row of cottages is a pub, called The Cricket. It's small and everybody crowds into the bar. I expect it is busier than usual with the visitors, which include my mum and dad quite regularly! I sit outside with a glass of lemonade and a packet of Smith's crisps with its little blue bag of salt. (Children can't go into pubs, of course). I'm quite happy. There's plenty to look at and especially the sea. As you look out in that direction, to the right, around the headland, is another village called Hallsands. And, to the left, at the far end of the long beach and around another headland, the village of Torcross and beyond it Slapton Sands. I'll probably tell you later about what I saw in both these places. But let's stay in Beesands for a moment. It's so quiet and peaceful, especially in the evening, and you think that nothing could ever happen here. But then, almost next door to the pub, you see there is a big gap in the row of cottages. And a wrecked cottage where there's a large car parked. I think it's the local taxi. Bombing didn't just happen in Birmingham. It happened here. One day a plane came and dropped a bomb, just here. At least one cottage was destroyed and a person killed. We sometimes see walking along the lanes, being helped by a member of his family, an elderly gentleman (well, he looks elderly to me) who is blind. I think he lost his sight when the bomb fell. Dad offered him a lift one day but he said, no thank you, he enjoyed walking.

And we do, as well. Dad never takes the car down to Beesands. We always walk. Going is okay. But coming back is hard work. The lane is so steep that I wonder if our car would ever get up it. (Dad sometimes tells me the story about a place called Clovelly where, when he was there years and years ago, the road was so steep that some cars had to reverse up it because they couldn't get up it going forwards. I wonder if any of them belonged to Brummies). Our lane isn't quite as bad as that, but you never know!

But the coming back, even though the hill is so steep, is nice. That sometimes happens at dusk. We will have gone to The Cricket after supper. As you climb the hill you can still hear the waves breaking on the beach behind you, and, if you listen carefully enough, you might even hear the hiss of the shingle as the water flows back after it. Gradually that all fades. Then there's almost nothing apart from ourfootsteps. Just some clicking in the hedgerow as a grasshopper or cricket gets ready for bed after a busy day amongst the hawthorn and the hazel. The scent of honeysuckle hits you as it gets stronger in the evening air. And the hedgerow starts to show pinpoints of light as the glowworms become visible. There are a couple of cottages, further on, and you can usually get a whiff of wood smoke as you walk past. It's a lovely smell. I think that the people who live there use wood for cooking. They certainly don't need it for heating, on an evening like this.

Then back into the cottage. The door is never locked. There's a light on. (We have electricity here. And a proper bathroom). I'm worn out. The heat, the exercise, the fresh air. So straight up to bed whilst Mum and Dad have the last natter of the day downstairs. I'll be fast asleep before they come up.

I do like holidays.

Chris
 

lmr3103

master brummie
Saturday 11th August 1945

Well, there has been another one. The day before yesterday. It was a place called Nagasaki. I have never heard of it before. Nor Hiroshima, come to that. The only place in Japan I have ever known about is Tokyo. That's the capital. To me, it's all as far away as the moon.

Dad says that the Japs can't possibly carry on after this. So it looks as though the war is nearly over.

Anyway, that's a long, long way away. I promised to tell you more about where we are and what we are doing. You might ask "What's all that got to do with Birmingham?" I would say, only a bit, really. But we are Brummies, even though we are here in Devon, Dad says that he always bumps into a lot when he's here on holiday - and I have met THREE myself! (Not this time, though. That was four years ago when, somehow or other, dad got us down here to stay in the farm which he and all of us had gone to for years before the war. These three Brummies were brothers. The youngest was about my age. They were evacuees. They came from a part of Birmingham called Ladywood. I had never heard of that before. It sounded a lovely place. I could see in my mind pretty ladies in coloured dresses, sitting around on the grass in a clearing, the sun shining and dense, green woodland all around them. I wonder if they have gone home yet. They can't still be at the farm and I'll tell you why another time).

And, oh yes, I remember now, there has been a gentleman and his wife who Dad and Mum got talking to. I'm not sure where in Birmingham they come from. It's their first visit. The lady said she liked Devon but couldn't stand "all them high hedges". They stopped her seeing the scenery. Mum and Dad had a chuckle about this afterwards. I think what they like as much as anything ARE the hedgerows!

Beeson, where we are, is a tiny village, about a mile from the sea. This is almost all of it.

View attachment 147461

We are in the cottage right in the middle of the picture. Our rooms are on the right-hand side. The bedroom, where I sleep with Mum and Dad (on a little camp bed) is the top window. Below, the window of our sitting and dining room.

It's a super place. In the garden there are flowers and vegetables and a lovely row of sweet peas which Mrs. Honeywill cuts for the house. There is also a bush with huge fruit on it which I've never heard of before, it's called a loganberry. Dad says it's half way between a rasberry and a strawberry.

The food is lovely. I have had fresh crab for the first time and love it. We also have chicken, fish and all sorts of other things. And loads of Devonshire cream. Mrs Honeywill has a big bowl on her scullery floor which she makes it in. The crabs are absolutely huge. I think they are called King Crabs and they all come from a village about a mile away.

This is a picture of our village from the other direction, with the back of our cottage near to us, on the right-hand side.

View attachment 147462

You can see that there aren't many houses. Opposite us are the gardens of some other cottages and they all seem to me so lush, everything packed closely together, rows of peas and beans and carrots and cauliflowers and other nice things. The cottage we are in is part of a farm which you can't see on the picture. You get to it either down a little lane or through a gate by the back door of our cottage. They have cows and grow a lot of corn. Mr. Honeywill is one of the farmer's sons. He has a brother, John. And sisters. I think they still live at the farm with the mum and dad. Also on the farm is a German prisoner of war. I think he is a nice man but I've never met him. I've seen him working away, in the distance, with his blond hair and looking as brown has a berry. I don't know his name. I wonder if he is happy and when he'll be able to go home.

I think Mr. Honeywill had been in the Army. There's a picture of him on the wall, in a great big greatcoat and looking a bit sad. But he's home now.

If you walk along the lane in the direction we are looking, for about twenty minutes, you go along a flattish bit first of all and then the lane suddenly dives down, ever so steeply, going round one or two very sharp hairpins until you reach sea level. (There is a very sharp bend, just like these, in the middle of Beeson. That one got made a bit less sharp by the Americans when they were here. They couldn't get their big Army lorries around it. But it looks as though they had to put up with these, further on towards Beesands).

After the bends and the road has flattened out, it's just a few yards to the village of Beesands. This is a sleepy little place which is just a long row of fishermen's cottages with the front doors straight onto the road. On the other side of the road the shingle starts and then slopes right down to the water. The men here all fish for crabs. They have open boats for one or two people with an engine in. You can see their round crabpots all over the place. And lines of bait drying and waiting to be used. At first you wonder how they get these heavy boats out of the sea and up the beach. The answer is a lot of chains and, all along the beach, little tiny sheds which aren't much more than big boxes. I've had a look in one of these. Inside was a very old car engine. When they start it up, the engine drives a big drum which one of the chains is attached to and as it goes round and round, it pulls the boat up the beach. It all looks very clever to me. But a bit rusty.

This is a picture of Beesands. It's a pity you can't see much of the beach and the boats and all the other stuff.

View attachment 147463

Halfway down the row of cottages is a pub, called The Cricket. It's small and everybody crowds into the bar. I expect it is busier than usual with the visitors, which include my mum and dad quite regularly! I sit outside with a glass of lemonade and a packet of Smith's crisps with its little blue bag of salt. (Children can't go into pubs, of course). I'm quite happy. There's plenty to look at and especially the sea. As you look out in that direction, to the right, around the headland, is another village called Hallsands. And, to the left, at the far end of the long beach and around another headland, the village of Torcross and beyond it Slapton Sands. I'll probably tell you later about what I saw in both these places. But let's stay in Beesands for a moment. It's so quiet and peaceful, especially in the evening, and you think that nothing could ever happen here. But then, almost next door to the pub, you see there is a big gap in the row of cottages. And a wrecked cottage where there's a large car parked. I think it's the local taxi. Bombing didn't just happen in Birmingham. It happened here. One day a plane came and dropped a bomb, just here. At least one cottage was destroyed and a person killed. We sometimes see walking along the lanes, being helped by a member of his family, an elderly gentleman (well, he looks elderly to me) who is blind. I think he lost his sight when the bomb fell. Dad offered him a lift one day but he said, no thank you, he enjoyed walking.

And we do, as well. Dad never takes the car down to Beesands. We always walk. Going is okay. But coming back is hard work. The lane is so steep that I wonder if our car would ever get up it. (Dad sometimes tells me the story about a place called Clovelly where, when he was there years and years ago, the road was so steep that some cars had to reverse up it because they couldn't get up it going forwards. I wonder if any of them belonged to Brummies). Our lane isn't quite as bad as that, but you never know!

But the coming back, even though the hill is so steep, is nice. That sometimes happens at dusk. We will have gone to The Cricket after supper. As you climb the hill you can still hear the waves breaking on the beach behind you, and, if you listen carefully enough, you might even hear the hiss of the shingle as the water flows back after it. Gradually that all fades. Then there's almost nothing apart from ourfootsteps. Just some clicking in the hedgerow as a grasshopper or cricket gets ready for bed after a busy day amongst the hawthorn and the hazel. The scent of honeysuckle hits you as it gets stronger in the evening air. And the hedgerow starts to show pinpoints of light as the glowworms become visible. There are a couple of cottages, further on, and you can usually get a whiff of wood smoke as you walk past. It's a lovely smell. I think that the people who live there use wood for cooking. They certainly don't need it for heating, on an evening like this.

Then back into the cottage. The door is never locked. There's a light on. (We have electricity here. And a proper bathroom). I'm worn out. The heat, the exercise, the fresh air. So straight up to bed whilst Mum and Dad have the last natter of the day downstairs. I'll be fast asleep before they come up.

I do like holidays.

Chris
More when you get chance please!! Lynn.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Both pictures show a lovely day. Oh for a pint in the Cricket Inn. (Wonder if Midpubs has cycled past?)
 

Richarddye

master brummie
Saturday 11th August 1945

Well, there has been another one. The day before yesterday. It was a place called Nagasaki. I have never heard of it before. Nor Hiroshima, come to that. The only place in Japan I have ever known about is Tokyo. That's the capital. To me, it's all as far away as the moon.

Dad says that the Japs can't possibly carry on after this. So it looks as though the war is nearly over.

Anyway, that's a long, long way away. I promised to tell you more about where we are and what we are doing. You might ask "What's all that got to do with Birmingham?" I would say, only a bit, really. But we are Brummies, even though we are here in Devon, Dad says that he always bumps into a lot when he's here on holiday - and I have met THREE myself! (Not this time, though. That was four years ago when, somehow or other, dad got us down here to stay in the farm which he and all of us had gone to for years before the war. These three Brummies were brothers. The youngest was about my age. They were evacuees. They came from a part of Birmingham called Ladywood. I had never heard of that before. It sounded a lovely place. I could see in my mind pretty ladies in coloured dresses, sitting around on the grass in a clearing, the sun shining and dense, green woodland all around them. I wonder if they have gone home yet. They can't still be at the farm and I'll tell you why another time).

And, oh yes, I remember now, there has been a gentleman and his wife who Dad and Mum got talking to. I'm not sure where in Birmingham they come from. It's their first visit. The lady said she liked Devon but couldn't stand "all them high hedges". They stopped her seeing the scenery. Mum and Dad had a chuckle about this afterwards. I think what they like as much as anything ARE the hedgerows!

Beeson, where we are, is a tiny village, about a mile from the sea. This is almost all of it.

View attachment 147461

We are in the cottage right in the middle of the picture. Our rooms are on the right-hand side. The bedroom, where I sleep with Mum and Dad (on a little camp bed) is the top window. Below, the window of our sitting and dining room.

It's a super place. In the garden there are flowers and vegetables and a lovely row of sweet peas which Mrs. Honeywill cuts for the house. There is also a bush with huge fruit on it which I've never heard of before, it's called a loganberry. Dad says it's half way between a rasberry and a strawberry.

The food is lovely. I have had fresh crab for the first time and love it. We also have chicken, fish and all sorts of other things. And loads of Devonshire cream. Mrs Honeywill has a big bowl on her scullery floor which she makes it in. The crabs are absolutely huge. I think they are called King Crabs and they all come from a village about a mile away.

This is a picture of our village from the other direction, with the back of our cottage near to us, on the right-hand side.

View attachment 147462

You can see that there aren't many houses. Opposite us are the gardens of some other cottages and they all seem to me so lush, everything packed closely together, rows of peas and beans and carrots and cauliflowers and other nice things. The cottage we are in is part of a farm which you can't see on the picture. You get to it either down a little lane or through a gate by the back door of our cottage. They have cows and grow a lot of corn. Mr. Honeywill is one of the farmer's sons. He has a brother, John. And sisters. I think they still live at the farm with the mum and dad. Also on the farm is a German prisoner of war. I think he is a nice man but I've never met him. I've seen him working away, in the distance, with his blond hair and looking as brown has a berry. I don't know his name. I wonder if he is happy and when he'll be able to go home.

I think Mr. Honeywill had been in the Army. There's a picture of him on the wall, in a great big greatcoat and looking a bit sad. But he's home now.

If you walk along the lane in the direction we are looking, for about twenty minutes, you go along a flattish bit first of all and then the lane suddenly dives down, ever so steeply, going round one or two very sharp hairpins until you reach sea level. (There is a very sharp bend, just like these, in the middle of Beeson. That one got made a bit less sharp by the Americans when they were here. They couldn't get their big Army lorries around it. But it looks as though they had to put up with these, further on towards Beesands).

After the bends and the road has flattened out, it's just a few yards to the village of Beesands. This is a sleepy little place which is just a long row of fishermen's cottages with the front doors straight onto the road. On the other side of the road the shingle starts and then slopes right down to the water. The men here all fish for crabs. They have open boats for one or two people with an engine in. You can see their round crabpots all over the place. And lines of bait drying and waiting to be used. At first you wonder how they get these heavy boats out of the sea and up the beach. The answer is a lot of chains and, all along the beach, little tiny sheds which aren't much more than big boxes. I've had a look in one of these. Inside was a very old car engine. When they start it up, the engine drives a big drum which one of the chains is attached to and as it goes round and round, it pulls the boat up the beach. It all looks very clever to me. But a bit rusty.

This is a picture of Beesands. It's a pity you can't see much of the beach and the boats and all the other stuff.

View attachment 147463

Halfway down the row of cottages is a pub, called The Cricket. It's small and everybody crowds into the bar. I expect it is busier than usual with the visitors, which include my mum and dad quite regularly! I sit outside with a glass of lemonade and a packet of Smith's crisps with its little blue bag of salt. (Children can't go into pubs, of course). I'm quite happy. There's plenty to look at and especially the sea. As you look out in that direction, to the right, around the headland, is another village called Hallsands. And, to the left, at the far end of the long beach and around another headland, the village of Torcross and beyond it Slapton Sands. I'll probably tell you later about what I saw in both these places. But let's stay in Beesands for a moment. It's so quiet and peaceful, especially in the evening, and you think that nothing could ever happen here. But then, almost next door to the pub, you see there is a big gap in the row of cottages. And a wrecked cottage where there's a large car parked. I think it's the local taxi. Bombing didn't just happen in Birmingham. It happened here. One day a plane came and dropped a bomb, just here. At least one cottage was destroyed and a person killed. We sometimes see walking along the lanes, being helped by a member of his family, an elderly gentleman (well, he looks elderly to me) who is blind. I think he lost his sight when the bomb fell. Dad offered him a lift one day but he said, no thank you, he enjoyed walking.

And we do, as well. Dad never takes the car down to Beesands. We always walk. Going is okay. But coming back is hard work. The lane is so steep that I wonder if our car would ever get up it. (Dad sometimes tells me the story about a place called Clovelly where, when he was there years and years ago, the road was so steep that some cars had to reverse up it because they couldn't get up it going forwards. I wonder if any of them belonged to Brummies). Our lane isn't quite as bad as that, but you never know!

But the coming back, even though the hill is so steep, is nice. That sometimes happens at dusk. We will have gone to The Cricket after supper. As you climb the hill you can still hear the waves breaking on the beach behind you, and, if you listen carefully enough, you might even hear the hiss of the shingle as the water flows back after it. Gradually that all fades. Then there's almost nothing apart from ourfootsteps. Just some clicking in the hedgerow as a grasshopper or cricket gets ready for bed after a busy day amongst the hawthorn and the hazel. The scent of honeysuckle hits you as it gets stronger in the evening air. And the hedgerow starts to show pinpoints of light as the glowworms become visible. There are a couple of cottages, further on, and you can usually get a whiff of wood smoke as you walk past. It's a lovely smell. I think that the people who live there use wood for cooking. They certainly don't need it for heating, on an evening like this.

Then back into the cottage. The door is never locked. There's a light on. (We have electricity here. And a proper bathroom). I'm worn out. The heat, the exercise, the fresh air. So straight up to bed whilst Mum and Dad have the last natter of the day downstairs. I'll be fast asleep before they come up.

I do like holidays.

Chris
Chris, fascinating piece of history!
Thank you.....
 

oldbrit

OldBrit in Exile
but that was a accident. not dropped on people:mad:
When my son Paul was stationed in Japan. We paid a visit to Hiroshima, they have a museum with lots of photos of the horror of war and its effects on the people. Of course as Americans, not made very welcome. But then, the Germans and the Japanese committed much the same themselves, as we all well know. SAD!!!!
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for kind words and, Pedrocut, for the nice "then and now".

From almost the same spot and at different times of the day - the middle in the case of the "then" image and time for a lunchtime pint in the crowded little bar whose clientele at any other time of the year is the local fishermen. Perhaps it has just happened? And "the now" - later in the afternoon and ready for a nice meal in the spacious modern dining room built where the bombed cottage used to stand.

The couple in the foreground are in fact Brummies: Mary and Bert Ward. They lived in Middleton Hall Road, King's Norton and were long-standing friends of my parents, often sharing holidays in the 1930s. He and Dad were both Great War survivors (and casualties), Bert having been gassed in 1915 and for ever after suffering with a weak chest. He always used to run very old cars in those days. If the two families travelled in separate cars, they would drive in convoy and Bert would say, if he was about to take the lead, "If I can see you in my rear-view mirror, Harry, I'll know I've run out of oil".

Nice people, always very decent to me. Disappeared now for half a century or more but still remembered with affection.

Chris

PS Now I come to look at it again, it's my mother, between the two of them and a bit further back. Why DID ladies need such huge handbags at that time?
 
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Richarddye

master brummie
When my son Paul was stationed in Japan. We paid a visit to Hiroshima, they have a museum with lots of photos of the horror of war and its effects on the people. Of course as Americans, not made very welcome. But then, the Germans and the Japanese committed much the same themselves, as we all well know. SAD!!!!
Well said oldbrit. Back in the 80's and 90's I went to Hiroshima many times doing work for Mazda whose HQ are there. The memorial is very sad, one year went went there one day after their remembrance of the bomb being dropped. What was not clear to us at first was why the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Over time as we developed friendly relationships with some Japaneses co workers they advised that after the first bomb was dropped the Japanese government did not broadcast the event and kept on fighting.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Both pictures show a lovely day. Oh for a pint in the Cricket Inn. (Wonder if Midpubs has cycled past?)
In December 1945 the Western Morning News reports on the violent Atlantic Gale "the worst for 38 years.” Mrs E Courtney
of the Cricket Inn, Beesands said the seas were high, but as yet no damage done.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
The village, as I remember it from 1945, always looked very vulnerable. Just nothing between the top of the beach and the homes. At some stage in the following years a concrete defensive wall was built. It changed the look of the place totally, which was a shame; but it must have done a lot for the confidence of residents during a winter's gale!

The whole coastal stretch was much the same. There had already been a disaster at Hallsands, although that was partly man-made. In the other direction, Torcross featured on the front pages – can't remember when, perhaps in the 1970s - when a storm half destroyed it. The result was a massive sea wall, modern replacement buildings and effectively (IMHO) the disappearance of a beautiful ancient village. I can remember staying in a thatched cottage, just feet from the beach (1952?). Don't think there are many of those left there now! Progress? Climate change?

(More on these places in 1945 in the next instalment!)

Chris
 

Johnfromstaffs

Johnfromstaffs
Thanks for this. Brings back memories of a trip from Staffs to Marazion about 1953, six up in my Dad’s Citroën Traction Avant. Fortunately my brother and I were only 5 so there was just about room, but it was a hot day coming back and the old Citroën (BEA 192 West Brom Jan 1940) boiled most of the way home.
 
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