After being met at Bedford railway station
by the mayor of Bedford, we were taken by bus
to Felmersham. We arrived outside the school where the local
kids were sitting on the school wall, and our new foster parents
also looking on, no doubt wondering what they might be getting
The photograph shows the boys
arriving at Bedford Station being received by the mayor.
Next to the mayor is the head teacher and the school matron
is on the left with her daughter, extreme left. Derek is
carrying the large white bag.
We had school concerts, and our teacher let us evacuee boys do
the skits in one of them, I was 'arry awkins ( I always got a
great laugh from the crowd the way I used to say arry awkins)
and in another concert we were the black and white minstrels
which went down very well with the audience. Also in the concert
I remember there was a land girl (farm hand during the war, a
very well educated girl) and she sang beautifully, the song from
memory was “O my baby, my curly headed baby”.
Derek entertains at the May
Still talking about school with
the American air force now in the country and stationed at
Sharnbrook and Thurleigh aerodrome, we were made to learn the
American national anthem.
During a walk along the Carlton Road we came across stacks of
bombs under half round shelters under hedgerows dispersal, in
case of German air raids. The American Air Force had taken over
Thurleigh Airdrome from the R A F, we got to see many sights
when the B17 planes returned from a day light bombing mission,
planes shot to pieces, how they ever made it back I do not know.
I used to bike up to the aerodrome in the afternoon to watch the
bombers return from a daylight raid we were able to get close to
the planes around the perimeter, so we got to know the names of
the planes. Crews would name their aircraft - Hells a Popping
and Rosie O'Grady - were two names of the B17 Flying Fortress
aircraft that were stationed there.
On one occasion we asked a crew member for incendiary bullets (live ones);
and he gave us a couple. We extracted the bullet
out of its casing and put the incendiary bullet head into the ground.
put a couple of live match heads on the bullet and ignited the
heads with a match and stood back smartly as we watched the
We used to see some fearsome sights, damage that had been done
to the aircraft, some with engine failure, big pieces shot out
of the tails, and we always knew if they had wounded on board,
someone in the aircraft would fire a Very pistol and the red
light that hung from sky told the ground crew that a ambulance
We knew when the planes were due back, there was a lot of
activity with trucks, ambulances spaced around, and then we
would hear the drone of the returning aircraft. They used to fly
a very tight formation, and then to come into land they would
come in 3 circles in descent and then land one behind the other.
And then of course some that we knew by name, we didn't see at
their dispersal point so it was presumed that they were missing
or shot down.
I only remember an air raid at Easter Time, we had no sirens,
the air raid wardens cried out “red alert, red alert” and blew
their whistles and there was a massive explosion which was a
land mine dropped by parachute in one of the farmers fields
outside the village, and we went the next day to have a look at
the crater, which looked like it could have fitted a double
decker bus in it. No one was hurt that I am aware of.
In Felmersham the gravel pits (which is now a wildlife reserve)
were very busy supplying gravel to Thurleigh aerodrome which was
operated by the RAF, seven miles away. We used to use the pits
as a playground, running up and down the heaps of gravel, until
one day I came across what I thought was an explosive device,
which would have been put there by the military training
infantry or commandos, as the pits became used for this purpose.
The Bailey Bridge
Then we had the British Army on manoeuvres in the village, they
erected a Bailey Bridge across the river. The tanks went across
and had a great time in the water meadows (meadows that flood in
the winter) and the same tanks would crash through the hedges
and the concrete walkways.
Derek Simpson as an evacuee
Our Foster Mother
Mrs Betts who lived in
Victoria Cottage, in The High Road, was our Foster Mother of whom I cannot speak to
Our next door neighbours (Primrose Cottage) were the
Odell family, Mr Odell was chauffer to Sir Richard Wells. He
made up a fishing rod for me which I thought was really great,
also Mr Odell used to give us fruit (windfalls no doubt) but
very tasty and welcome. Next door again (No. 7, now known as
Stone Cottage) lived Mrs Hulatt who ran the Post Office shop and
sold sweets, as each monthly sweet ration was due you can
imagine the pressure we put her under, 12ozs I think was our
I was always fascinated by Mr. Pacy who lived a few doors away
(Beaconsfield Cottage). He was the local carpenter, Wheel Wright
and Undertaker. I enjoyed watching him in his workshop.
The Post Office. c1934
A person who was very special to us was the post lady, a Miss or
Mrs Turner who lived in Radwell, also from Radwell was Mr Hulatt
who delivered our milk by pony and trap. Whatever the weather he
delivered the milk, he gave me a ride once, which was certainly
something new and so different for a town boy.
There was a gentleman, his name was Mr Franklin, and he was in
charge of organising us evacuees. He built a miniature railway
on his property in Radwell. I thought that was just something,
all us town kids going for a train ride in the new village.
and David Miller evacuated from Eastbourne are driving the
locomotives on Mr Franklins light railway at Radwell.
Mrs Desborough, she was the big lady who lived in the cottage
opposite the school, and she had a daughter or granddaughter, a
pretty young woman, I think her name was Sally. The old lady
kept a big parrot, and man could that bird swear with
encouragement from us.
Across from the bridge on a high point there were war time
trenches for guarding the bridge (now 25 and 27 Marriotts
Close). Across from the ford we used to bring down the
Clydesdale horse for a drink of water from Lords farm and
Hensman farm. They used to drive up four of their Clydesdales
for watering. The horses were used for cartage and ploughing. I
would have been about 12 and we rode them bare back, clutching
onto their big manes more so when we went into the water and
they bent their heads down. It was a case of hold on for dear
life or fall off.
The water meadows used to freeze after flooding in the winter
and we used to wear out our shoes skating on it. GREAT FUN.
Derek helps Fred Betts with
the bread delivery
In the village there were 3 pubs, one was called the Sun Inn,
and the innkeeper was a Mr Lawson, who was also a scrap metal
dealer. Landlord at the Plough inn was Jack Bamford, he was
either a plumber or drain layer, and he used to go about his
business on a motorbike and sidecar. It was the only one I knew
of in the village, Jack’s wife was a nurse and a midwife, and
she got around on her motor scooter. The other pub was the Five
Bells (Six Ringers), the landlord was a Mr Hulatt, and he might
have been a road man in his second job?
I enjoyed going up the church tower, a truly marvellous view,
and thanks to Toby Paine, the verger, who was always very happy
to take us up there, great to see all the bells. I wondered how
they got these big heavy bells up into the tower, as there were
no cranes then. I never heard the church bells ring in all the
time I was at Felmersham because they were not allowed to ring
during wartime. Memory tells me that the bells would have only
rung if there was an invasion of Great Britain or for the end of
Traditional Sword Dance.
Derek holds the swords interlinked into
a woven knot at the May Day celebrations.
We had May Day concerts. (1st May- traditionally celebrating the
first day of spring) we had maypole dances, a mayday queen and
attendants as per photo. In the photo we were acting out a skit,
it was the evacuee’s contribution to the mayday celebrations
-the criminal, the lawyer and the young maiden. -I think I was
the lawyer or the Lord of the Manor.
With a group of school boys arriving in the village it was hard
to try and fit us in the school, so we had to do half day
school, I do not remember how long that lasted, but we certainly
walked a lot of country miles, and we did this until a partition
was built with a draw curtain, we could not see the other class
but we could hear one another. During these walks we had to pick
rose hips when available, this was a War Effort, we were told as
the rose hips were processed into baby food.