Wednesday, 6 February 2008

page 10

page 10

seen right up Miss Pugh's legs but, with her long scholastic gown, I doubt anyone saw much above her ankles. Whatever, there was a constant clatter of pens being dropped in Miss Pugh's class and the corridors between the desks were permanently defined blue-black. Miss Pugh herself must have had a reasonably bountiful source of nylons or else she was a glutton for washing them because they were invariably ink splattered. I never saw her give the least indication that she knew but she was for ever giving out replacement nibs!!

As soon as I could I joined the school army cadet force. You had to be fourteen I think, before you could join the ATC. Just before I left the school they had formed a combined cadet force but I was not part of that. The uniforms for the army cadet force at the time of my joining were leftovers from World War one ‑ quite literally. The country could not spare up-to-date military uniforms for kids when the demand for the fighting services was so great. For all that the kit available to us looked quite ridiculous we nevertheless queued daily during the lunch recession outside the store in the hope of getting an issue. I well remember the thrill of getting mine after numerous frustrated queuing sessions. it fitted where it touched, was shabby, very old and took ages to put on ‑ especially the putties. I felt GRAND in it and nobody ever laughed. At some stage we DID get an issue of the conventional updated soldier's uniform which, of course, was an even greater thrill (although I'm not so sure it was). We drilled with very ancient carbine rifles which was one up on most cadet forces who then only had bits of wood.

When I was old enough I joined the Air Training Corps where drills gave way to things like practising the morse code and learning the rudiments of navigation. I had my first ever flight in an aeroplane during this involvement ‑ in the back of a Canadian Dakota out of Odiham aerodrome. I subsequently had about four other flights and a week's camp at Middle Wallop (then RAF operated) which served to strengthen my wish to be a flyer myself.

It was whilst at Peter Symonds school that I saw bombs actually drop from a German aeroplane. The school buildings are on elevated ground above Winchester City with a wide sweep of grass playing field extending down bill from them. The air raid shelters were at the farthest extremity of this field which, although never used in my time, would have entailed no small exposure to hazard if it had been necessary to get to them in anger. Anyway, on the morning of Tuesday, 9th February, 1943 I had cycled to school as usual and arrived early. I was standing with a group of other boys just outside a line of classrooms at the highest point when the air raid siren was sounded. Almost at the same time an aeroplane appeared roughly on a level with us and seemingly following the railway line in the dip from the direction of Southampton. When almost directly abeam our position it dropped its bombs (17 of them according to my note written at the time). It then turned ninety degrees left to head straight for our school, at the same time climbing to get over the rising ground. Foolishly none of us took cover. The aeroplane passed almost directly over the top of us at something less than a hundred feet whereby we could see the bomb‑aimer/gunner with total clarity in the transparent, domed nose. We waved to him and 1 can see him in my mind's eye to this day waving back at us!!! Of such foolhardiness are children made.

We did not hear the bombs explode, 1 believe they were small ones anyway. It transpired that one of the bombs went through the roof of what was then the Royal Cinema in Jewry Street. It came out through a window, bounced on the

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