Fred Feather was a child in WW2 but is now the Chairman of the Essex Society for Family History. A former policeman, he and his wife, Heather, are great ambassadors for local and family history. They have been inspiring advisors to the HMS Leigh project.
Place and date of birth
Lives in Southend-on-Sea today
Connection to Southend
As it is now 75 years since Victory in Europe Day 1945, I sat remembering a few things that happened to me in five of the eight first years of my life. My father was a Lance Sergeant of Royal Engineers and I saw him only occasionally. On V. E. Day I was with my mother, who ran the bar at the local Social Club. There was a silence at 11am and I remember asking if the war was over. A few days later the village all met on our village green. There had been a big bonfire and it had been fed with all the spare corsets from the women’s Air Force camp nearby. Ever after there were little rusty bits from the corsets in our football pitch - they ripped open your knees! Dressed as Britannia the local daughter of the Earl of Verulam, the Honourable Mrs Faulkner, sat on the roof of her Rolls Royce handing out oranges to the children.
About that time all the local children were invited to a party at the United States Airforce camp. We are given tinned half peaches. No-one had seen one before and I, for one, refused to touch them. “I do not like fried eggs.” The Canadians sent us chocolate powder, for which we had to take a tin to school to collect it. I think most of it got eaten on the way home. The campaign to stop us wasting things featured an insect called the “Squanderbug” which had a swastika on its chest. I found one on the internet recently.
I cannot remember the date but a bomb landed in the next door garden to our bungalow, but did not go off. I remember a big bright yellow hole where it went in. In 1945 we used to go into the nearby woods, where a “buzz-bomb” had landed, to collect pieces of metal. Happier memories! Whenever a siren went off to indicate that German bombers were on the way, the whole school went onto the field where there were underground shelters. We had our lessons and our milk there. At school we were taught a patriotic poem; I was about 6 so it was at least 78 years ago.
“Flag of my country, red white and blue.
What can little (boy or girl) do for you?
Red is for bravery, don’t stand and cry.
Blue is for truthfulness, don’t tell a lie.
White is for cleanliness, keep yourself clean, never be cowardly, hateful or mean.”
When I was about 7 I was allowed to go on the milk cart, which had big churns. My job was to hold the horse’s reins whilst the milk lady ladled out the milk. No bottles. Early in 1945 our bungalow filled up with things that came from a newsagent’s shop. I did not realise that my grandmother had been killed by a rocket in Dalston and this was all that was left of the contents of her shop and home. I found a wind-up gramophone that did not work, until one day I put my hand under the arm and pulled out a load of socks. After that it went fine and I played, time and again, the only unbroken recording, Phyllis Robins (1934) singing “Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day.” I cannot be sure that was where my love of music came from, or from the R.A.F. band, “The Squadronaires” (with Jimmy Miller and Doreen Stevens). The tune was “Skyliner” or perhaps “Silver Wings in the Moonlight.”
I think that it was nearly another year before my dad came home. I had better stop before I remember anything else.
Given to us by Fred Feather