06 February 2008

page 6

page 6

ourselves as much as a shilling if we had sufficient was a clear incentive.

In the cul-de-sac outside our house, which was always known as the Square, were several bins in which unwanted food had to be scraped. The bins were marked to receive different offerings but it mostly went as swill to feed pig production whilst bones were extracted for glycerine.

Cultivation of every available piece of land was encouraged. Even the golf links on the downs nearby us was ploughed for food production except for the tees and fairways themselves, although golfers were a rare sight and the links were mainly used as a playground by children. Two of the few bombs dropped in the vicinity of Winchester fell on the golf course. I remember standing in the craters.

One of the great delights for we boys during the war years was watching troop convoys. The Romsey Road (A3090 as it now is) was only a matter of 150metres or so from where we lived and carried a large amount of the military vehicles bound for shipment out of Southampton. Winchester City itself was bypassed along a route which offered plenty of tree cover. We would hear a rumble and excitedly yell 'TANKS' ‑whereupon we would all dash up the remainder of the hill to the main road. There would be lots of other children all waving at the soldiers and receiving varied return gestures. These convoys would sometimes go on for hours on end. Guns, tanks, lorries all bound for overseas locations. After the Americans entered the war we started to see convoys of their vehicles too and, much to our added delight, would throw out packets of gum and other goodies. Sometimes the American convoys would stop overnight on a wide link road, Chilbolton Avenue, where they were well screened beneath high kerb-side trees. This would be a real bonus for us when we would join the small horde of children bent on greeting our allies with the dreadfully repetitive words 'got any gum chum?' The Americans were most tolerant not to say accommodating. We always returned home (later than we were supposed to) loaded with all sorts of hand-outs but dominantly gum. They seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of goodwill offerings and I recall no occasion when I received a rebuff from soldiers who, when I now think about it, must have got a bit tired of so many kids pestering them. Conversation was itself fairly shallow.

Winchester was full of uniforms of every conceivable sort and many nationalities ‑ identified by shoulder patches on which the name of a country was often woven. I had, and may still have, an autograph book which is filled with totally unknown names of soldiers whom I asked to sign. Mostly people from other lands ‑ which always held an interest for me ‑ primarily, I believe, because I grew up during a time when travel was drastically restricted and foreign places inaccessible. I thirsted for them. I remember walking on the broad grass strip bordering the Romsey Road. We called it the common and it was a favourite adventure area. I was with my two brothers when we came upon a soldier sitting against the trunk of a beech tree. Conversation was initiated by either he or us from which it became clear he was seeking something to eat. We ran home and returned twenty minutes later with sandwiches and cake which he gratefully accepted. In retrospect I am convinced we aided and abetted a deserter but at the time we felt really good about helping someone. On a later foray across a field of long grass near some woods we found a rifle which must have been discarded by someone. We toyed with taking it home but did not for fear of evoking displeasure and we never told anybody about it.


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