William Torbitt School website for former pupils and staff 

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Wartime Memories

Message from Dee Parker
Regarding the German pilot who was shot down and taken away by the home guard, my mum was taken to see him as she spoke German and found him to be a "very nice man" my dad was in the home guard. Our windows were blown out in Applegarth Drive when the V2 fell on the Dick Turpin. France's Perkins the daughter, later married my best friends brother who sadly died last year.

Message from Ann Wilderspin:
My mother in law lived at the corner of Carter Drive and Horns Road during the war. She, and her best friend, were due to met two Americans in the Dick Turpin. They were running late, as ladies do, and were only half away there on the footpath when the V2 landed on the Dick Turpin. If they had been on time they would both have been killed as well. If the bomb had not landed my husband would not have been here! Lots of incendiaries were dropped on the farmland on Fairlop Plain if the aircraft carrying them missed London.

My father used to stand outside his home in Little Heath and 'count the planes out and count them back' from Fairlop airfield. The RAF wrecked Aldborough Hall when they were billeted there which resulted in its demolition after the war. I believe that the bulk of the planes flown from Fairlop were piloted by Poles. There was a American camp sited where Little Heath Tennis Club is now situated. My fathers family befriended one of them and they communicated by letter after the war.

Message from Frederick D Cotter:
Read the write up re William Torbitt, and I do not remember any bomb damage as it says? Ever. And as I was there till 1941 and thought I could certainly name most bombs or doodle bugs around I find that strange - we had masking tape and never even lost a window ?

Davis was Headmaster when Puffa Train went with the school evacuation.
Regards
Fredk. D. Cotter
Message from Frederick D Cotter:
As one person who was never evacuated, there were about 15 children left in the whole of Newbury Park and we eventually had lessons in a teacher's home, opposite Downshall school where the bridge is? Meads Lane. I was transferred from Downshall but do not remember anyone in the only photo, I am sorry to say. The only thing is we had individual photos I am sure then, I would note that is the first school you could go to the toilet without getting wet! And note the boy Jack Shrope terrible accident in the underpass, on his small pedal bike, his face was permanently smashed in. As we went to London nearly daily I also was in the Mile End when it went up in smoke, also when the land mine killed all the airmen outside the pub in the road by the school, and when the 1000 lb bomb landed outside the Green Gate Pub, which made all the traffic by pass our shop in Ley Street so I always got a free lift to school then. This was in 1940, from memory.

I emigrated to Tasmania in 1985, leaving behind 4 kids – 9 grand kids, and now 3 great grand kids, and only wished I had made it 1950 when I wanted to come.

I would be pleased to hear from any one if they have not karked it yet of course

Regards
Fredk. D. Cotter
All my details are my web sites www.tasmania-real-estate.com this leads into our Bali site, enter ninetieth years in July, and still manage a 50-60 hour week, or even just put in frederick d. cotter into google cheers.
Hope some old school friends still around to hear from, love to come to a reunion, but my teacher lady in a wheel chair now.

From Jack Doughty (@WT 1938>42) (for a picture of Jack in 1939 click HERE)

I am surprised to find no mention of Mrs. Swain anywhere on this site (or if there is, I have missed it). She taught the senior class, the 10-year-olds, during the war years. She was the best teacher I ever came across. She really knew how to inspire her pupils and to encourage them in all sorts of interests. I heard of her again several years later in 1953. I was abroad at the time, and my mother told me she had met her. I believe she had retired by then.

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The Haystack

In 1941 (I think it was), the grass in the playing field was allowed to grow all through the summer, and was cut in the autmn to make hay. Whoever cut it must have cursed the children who had made mazes and dens in it! The hay was formed into a haystack in the north corner of the playing field next to Aldborough Road. But alas, this valiant attempt to help the war effort came to nothing. The haystack caught fire by spontaneous combustion. I remember seeing the flames and smoke starting and the school caretaker dashing past me into the school, presumably to phone the Fire Brigade. But it was too late. The haystack was totally destroyed.

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Seven Kings Park: I remember the site near the Bedford Road entrance as a barrage balloon site, and I have reason to remember it; I used to zigzag across the allotments from the Wellington Road entrance to Aldborough Road on my way to school. One morning there was a high-pitched singing noise, and I saw a cable snaking and curling down towards me. It landed about thirty feet away. The balloon had broken free of its cable.

And on the Scots Guards: On one occasion they held an exercise on the rough ground on which the Aldborough Court flats were later built and in the school grounds (only in front of the school, I think). All very exciting for us, with blank cartridges being fired and thunderflashes going off.

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Between September 1939 and the reopening of the school in June 1940, those children who had not been evacuated were taught by staff members in small groups in private houses: in my case by Mr. Allan in a house in Westwood Road. There were about six of us in his class, I think.

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From Alan Osborne (Infant Class of 1937, the day the school opened)

Have enjoyed looking at some of the Torbitt site. Well done to those responsible.

A couple of my war memories include my mother hosting school classes in her home during a period or periods when the school was out of action. The teacher and several children had their classes in our dining room whilst I was sent out into the garden whilst they were there.

Has anyone ever mentioned the billetting of the Scots Guards in Spearpoint Gardens and Abury Gardens, now called Aldborough Road North? They took over several empty houses and Abury House opposite to where I lived, was their H.Q. I never tired of watching them Changing the Guard each day. All the children used to ask them for badges and buttons, but I was the lucky one when one Guardsman fired a blank round in one of the houses so I could have the brass cartridge! I seem to remember eventually swapping it for two Beanos and a Dandy (comics). My parents became friendly with two of the Guardsmen and they used to come to our house a few evenings a week and play Darts or Cribbage with my father until they were sent to North Africa.

From Constance Young:
When the war broke out all those children that were not being evacuated with the school were asked what they were going to do . I put up my hand and said I was going away with my family to Hockley. Frank Mooney, also in my class, said the same . His parents had a holiday bungalow in Hockley. From then on we became firm friends. We are still lifelong friends and as he still lives in the U.K. we correspond by E Mail. We are both 80 next year.

I remember so clearly our class was sent down to one of the infants classes where we were all fitted for gas masks. Just talking about it brings back the smell of the gas masks (funny how different smells bring back memories).

It was a thrilling day when one girl was chosen and one boy to go with Miss Honey to meet Queen Mary. I was the girl chosen and a boy named Charles. We went on the bus to the King George hospital where the Queen was to open a new wing. However the Queen was involved in a car accident and was unable to attend. The duchess of Athlone came in her place. I practised for a week doing a curtsey and making a speech. My Mother made me a new blue dress It was a Deanna Durbin style (she was the film star of the day). It was a beautiful memory to look back on. A brass band was playing and every time I hear a brass band I get a tear in my eye.

Thursday lunch hour was spent in the hall at school as several of us were learning the violin. The music teacher was named Miss King.

From: Robert Smith

I remember the last two war years at the school with lessons in the corridor and a rocket blowing out all the windows - a day off!

From: Dennis Shrubshall

My Sister Dorothy Violet was at the Torbitt School when it transferred from Downshall She was born in 1927 and lived in the Railway Cottages next to Newbury Park Station. Her maiden name was Shrubshall. I am 7 years younger but remember being with her on Ilford Station to get on a train and we had labels on our collars of our with names. My two elder brothers also were there and we all finished up at Stowmarket. I went to Newbury Park School as did my eldest Brother but the other one went to Downshall School.. Ironically in 1943 My younger Brother Alan who was at Willliam Torbitt and I were evacuated again and lo and behold went to Nacton School and lived in Levington. Like others have mentioned when we reached Ipswich we transferred to coaches for the final journey. I am trying to identify my sister in any of the photos as she is 80years old on 29th March and it would be a surprise. I will visit the site again to see if I can find anything about my young Brother as he sadly died 8 years ago. Any help you could give would be gratefully appreciated.

From Ruth Bartlett, nee Davey - 1937-38.
Further to the item on Seven Kings Park - there was an ack-ack unit there near the Bedford Road entrance during 1941-1943.
Also, I seem to remember a deep dug air raid shelter. When we stayed in it our whole family caught scabies and had to have sulphur baths to get rid of it.
From Shirley Bowl (later Shirley Headley):
We had gas mask practice every Friday morning. The boys used to breath heavily to make a "raspberry" noise. We kept a barleysugar sweet inside the gas mask. This was supposed to keep us going if we had to actually wear them in a raid but most of them got eaten since sweets were in such short supply!

From Mavis Nelson:
I read on a previous message that it was Roy Perkins who was killed when the V2 fell on the Dick Turpin - in actual fact it was Phil Perkins, Roy's brother, and when it was rebuilt Roy Perkins took over as governor of the Dick Turpin for many years.

The war unnerved all the children. I stayed home in Ilford until 1944 when I went up th Doncaster for a while, when the Doodle bugs started, but came home the day the first V2 fell.

.............Seven Kings Park was made over to allottments and I remember watching a V1 from behind a compost heap as its engine cut out and we waited to see if it would drop straight down or glide on, it took the latter course and went on toward Barkingside before exploding. The two houses next to the park were taken out by a V2, I think there were fatalities. At school we had to sit in the corridors, with our gasmasks, when the siren went.
Click the crest to visit the Fairlop Airfield Website. >>>>
(This will open a new browser window - click back on this window to return to this page).
........ a German airman who was shot down, parachuted on to the fields behind Aldborough Farm and was captured by some of our neighbours in Applegarth Drive, given a cup of tea, and led away by the Home Guard. Somehow or other, my Mum got hold of his parachute, cut it up and used it as sheets.......
CLICK HERE to see postcards from evacuees

From Barbara Nicholls (now Buckman):
After the scholarship came the holidays and then the war. We were evacuated (my young sister and I) to Ipswich on the first of September 1939. I can’t really remember the preparations but I do remember being on the train at Ilford Station and arriving in Ipswich. We were taken to a church hall I think and then were allowed to have some of the goodies out of the bag we had all been given (I remember there were custard cream biscuits and a tin of corned beef and I think some chocolate but what else I’ve forgotten although I do remember the brown paper carrier bag it was in!)

There were lots of people about and a lot of noise then this elderly lady said yes she would take me and my sister. We went to Felixstowe Road in a car (we weren’t used to cars and were a bit afraid). The lady’s name was Mrs Chipperfield and she had a husband, a daughter and a son. The daughter (Violet known as Auntie Vi to us) was staying with her at the time on holiday from Wirral in Cheshire where she lived with her husband. The son (Uncle Fred to us) lived a few doors away from Mr & Mrs Chipperfield with his wife Evelyn. Fred was a grocer and a part time Special Constable. He was quite chubby, has a big moustache and was great fun. Auntie Vi was beautiful and took great care of us whilst she was there. Aunty and Uncle Chips (as we called Mr & Mrs Chipperfield ) looked after us very well; quite differently from how we were used to. Strict but in a different way from how our parents were strict. The first night we slept well in a huge double bed with a feather mattress – we had a lovely bedroom too. Next morning we got up and had breakfast and then we stood at the gate watching the trolleybuses go by and feeling very miserable and grizzling a bit. We found it peculiar at first as we had constant attention, which we weren’t used to coming from a big family, but soon settled down. No tantrums allowed there but no clips round the ear either. Food was regulated to times and amounts but very varied and nutritious even if rationing was on. Aunty Chips made cakes every week and we were allowed to choose one sort each ( she baked several – all large cakes to be sliced in portions ). We ate in the garden whenever possible. Uncle Chips used to take us on long walks by the River Orwell and told us about the birds and animals around and the flowers. We used to love it. Laura – my sister – was sent to school fairly quickly I believe but us older ones never went to a school until much later and I don’t remember anything about it except that it was called Nacton Road School. We went to people’s houses and were taught in front rooms for a while but it was a bit of a farce. If I remember rightly the schools for older children were overflowing. We were invited to the Junior school sometimes for events and we went there in the school breaks to help look after animals and things and we saw hen eggs hatch out and were astounded at such a feat I remember. Life went on, Mum and Dad visited a couple of times. It was a cold winter and our parents were instructed to send us warm clothing and wellies and we had knitted pixie hoods, never been so well dressed and no hand me downs! Christmas came and Auntie Vi came back and her husband (Uncle Jim) came for the actual holiday days. He brought us a large box of Terry’s All Gold chocolates – what a treat – and we were allowed two each day and were allowed to give the others one each and no more. Auntie said normally we were to share things but as sweets were rare and we had never had such a treat before we were to be allowed to keep them for ourselves. We savoured those chocolates and, of course, they lasted a long time. We had lots of presents, not in the league of today’s children at Christmas but many more than we were used to, so we had some on Christmas Day and some on Boxing Day.

We used to be taken to town sometimes. We walked with Uncle, and Auntie went on the trolleybus. Sometimes we came back on the trolleybus but sometimes we had to walk. It was quite a long way but we loved it. The grocery shop Uncle Fred worked in was a really olde worlde shop in the Buttermarket. They used to pat the butter into packs and everything was weighed up from large containers. We were fascinated by it all. And a couple of times we were taken to the pictures, queue up for an hour then front row ninepenny seats. We had to crane our necks upwards to see but it was lovely - Gracie Fields in Singing Sally and Sing As We Go. We never went to the pictures at home!

I realize now that they were not very well off but managed what money they had very well and we were included in treats.

In May we were told we were to be moved and had to write a postcard to tell parents, to be posted by the school just telling them we were moving but not where to. Aunty Chips telephoned our parents (from the call box across the road – few had their own telephone) and they said they would come and fetch us. It was a Friday and they picked us up on Saturday morning (we had to be ready because Dad had to get a taxi from the station and we went straight back). I remember the journey home – we didn’t know whether we wanted to go back or not. Anyway the rest of those who weren’t collected by parents were sent to Wales on the Saturday afternoon. On that Saturday night Ipswich had its first air raid so someone knew a thing or two. (We did have a warning siren go off on the day war was declared – third of September – and we had to don gas masks and sit under the table but it was a false alarm).

Really the evacuation as far as we were concerned was just a long holiday interspersed with lessons which weren’t difficult to handle, and new friends and a completely different environment from that which we had been in before.

We kept in touch with Aunty and Uncle Chips and they came to our weddings although poor Uncle Chips went blind. They are all gone now but we shall never forget them.

I moved to Norfolk when I retired, in a country village, and I realize that the walks with Uncle Chips weren’t wasted. Perhaps they were part of the reasons for me moving to the country from London!

From Frank Mooney:

I transferred to the Torbitt School from Downshall in 1937 till 1939, did not evacuate so there was no school to go to for some time. During that time, I did a morning paper round for the shop next to the Aldborough Stores, some times the air raids were still on, but I was quite safe with my tin hat on, and being out early in the morning I was able to collect all the shrapnel and tail fins from burnt out incendiary bombs etc.

I managed to get a pass to get into Fairlop Air Field to sell news papers and cigarettes (I was paid nine shillings a week [45p] for doing the paper round, and half a crown [12p] for washing and polishing the shop owners car, a Morris 8). I used to spend most of the day over there, it was quite exciting. I was over there during the Battle of Britain, I used to help to strap the pilots in their Spitfires, but they stopped me doing that after two of them never came back. I used to sit on the tail of a spitfire and hang on for dear life whilst the engine was being run up for a full power test. I got chucked out one day, three captured German planes landed and a lot of bigwigs had come from London to inspect them and, as I was inspecting them, they noticed me and ask me what I was doing there so I showed them my pass, and as I had sold all my papers, I got my marching orders, but there was another day.

The Scots Guards where stationed in Abury House and some new houses that were not occupied in Aldborough Road, they used to parade and march up and down Aldborough Road, and have dances and socials in St. Peter's church hall. There were a few local bomb incidents and the V2 rocket that came down in front of the Dick Turpin pub that killed Mr.Perkins and I believe some army officers who were out side at the time talking to him to arrange a party for that evening.

After a while some evacuees had started to return, and schools were still closed, so they started morning and afternoon classes in private houses, but I got expelled from that for poking my pencil through the table cloth. Then after a while a school was opened at Gants Hill, I liked it there, there was thick snow on the ground then and the school was lovely and warm, isn't it daft how you remember things like that and not much else. When schools did reopen I went to St Peter and St Pauls in Ilford.

and from Terence Wright:
I really started to pay attention when the Dick Turpin was mentioned. A few of us would hang around outside the place on Saturdays. The charabancs would start to leave and the accordion player would play 'Pennies From Heaven' whereupon the ever-so-slightly intoxicated passengers would throw pennies out the windows. We would scramble feverishly to get every last one of them. Usually, afterwards, we would each get a large bottle of Tizer and drink the lot!

I believe it was a Saturday morning that the pub took a near hit from the V2. I was in the bath at the time, and the strange swishing sound caused me to submerge--quickly! I sensed something unusual was happening. Even as far away as Aldborough Road, where we lived, across from the park, the explosion gave our house, already damaged, a good shaking. Later, when we got word of the damage to the pub, my mother and aunt were reduced to tears. You see, Mr. Perkins kept the pub open, along with the piano player, even if there was no beer. Also, he let the RAF personnel run up a tab. Sometimes they never got back to pay.

...and here's a memory from someone who actually saw the Dick Turpin blown up by a V2 rocket in November 1944.

My mother was with my sister and brother outside Thompsons talking to a lady who was with her sons, one in a pram. One of the boys, looking idly up Aldborough Road towards St Peters, suddenly shouted out "what's that", or something to that effect. What he had seen, and what I saw for the first time in my life, was a vapour trail, and it was coming across the sky in an arc from right to left, from the direction of Hainault towards Newbury Park, quite fast, and then suddenly curving sharply downwards.

My mother grabbed me and my brother and our heads were thrust into the pram for 'protection' ... whoooooooffffff .... a tremendous shock blast came right down Aldborough Road and rocked us and we looked up to see an enormous dust plume climbing into the sky from beyond the Church. It was a V2 (flying supersonically and silently in the upper/lower atmosphere) and it landed in front of the Dick Turpin blowing the entire front and roof off. They subsequently changed the shape of the roof and front when it was re-built. At that time I seem to remember that it had multiple tall brick chimneys, although I haven't ever seen a picture of the pub as it used to be.

Roy Perkins the publican was killed, as was an airman cycling past the Dick Turpin on his way back to the Airfield. My sister, to this day, remembers seeing the airman cycle past Thompsons while we were standing there talking. [The Roy Perkins who was killed was the father of the Roy Perkins who was later to became 'mine host' at the Dick Turpin]

The tunnels between Newbury Park and Gants Hill (now for the Underground) were not opened until several years after the Second World War - they were used as a munitions factory and/or by Plessey's. A couple of "Torbitt Mums" worked down there.
.....used to stand at the top of the footpath next to St Peter's church and watch the fighters landing and taking off in the distance. Fairlop finished up as a Balloon Base, manned by WAAFs, and some 19 V1 bombs were brought down by their battery of balloons.


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