I will now in my documentary return to the early part of the war, following on from the evacuees time of arrival, when the troops arrived. The Canadian soldiers being the first.
There were no actual billets such as nissen huts etc. for them to live in, so anyone having an empty bedroom soon had Canadian Personnel moving in, but soon afterwards normal troop huts etc. were built.
As, in turn, one regiment left Finedon another arrived. Over a period of time, not necessarily in this order, we had the Inns of Court, Polish, Czechoslovakians and others. The Free French also came, but they were permanently based at Finedon Hall. Most of them there had received war wounds so it was more like a convalescent home. To some, however, it might have been simply a safe haven because a young girl around eleven years of age had been brought over from France and came to our school in Finedon. Poor girl, at that point she couldn’t speak English but we all tried very hard to make her feel welcome and each morning, after we had sung our National Anthem, we also sang the Marseilles. I remember the word almost to this day.
As war proceeded, our American allies came over to help. It wasn’t long before aerodromes were build locally and it wasn’t unusual to see American Servicemen in the evening in Finedon off duty and taking a drink
or so in our pubs. They too were very courageous and brave airmen. We could often hear the engines of their planes revving up, Flying Fortresses and Dakotas heading off to bomb our enemy. The Operations Air-wise were often undertaken in the day time. I well remember when one of their planes crashed on take-off fully loaded of course with bombs. I was on my way to school when the whole of Finedon shook – another sad memory.
I will now digress and take on a lighter recording and that is ‘Wartime Fashion’ Clothes were rationed so it was a case of mend and make do. We were allowed so many clothing coupons and they didn’t seem to go very far. We had to think wisely of what we needed most to wear. Very few stockings (note I write stockings). We didn’t have tights then so if one of them got laddered at least you had one of a pair.
In the evening at home one of my duties was to help my sisters to apply fake tan on their legs. I think we sometimes used watered down coffee. One thing I am certain of though was pencilling the line in the middle of the leg to fake a stocking seam. That was tricky, it had to be level or else!
One of the hair fashions was the ‘sausage roll’ curls, clipped in place with Kirby grips down the side of the face – very fetching indeed. Then we had the snoods i.e. a very very thick type of a crochet hairnet. If you were blond you wore a dark one, if brunette as lighter colour. Turbans were also popular and I mustn’t forget ‘The Victory Roll’. To achieve this you cut the tip off a used stocking, put it onto your head and then rolled up your hair into it, tucking it in all round the stocking top. Very, very smart if you had the technique. With my sisters Phyllis and Avis I had lots of practice, perfect it had to be. By doing these little jobs for them I was never short of pocket money.
In the latter years of the war, we had enemy prisoners in our country, some lived locally. Italians and Germans worked on the farms and some did building repairs. It wasn’t uncommon to stroll down the Holly Walks on a Sunday afternoon and meeting prisoners there also. I don’t think anything untoward happened or took place. They certainly wouldn’t want to risk being repatriated back to their own country, our food supply being more plentiful than theirs.
Nature played its normal part. Romances between our Finedon girls and of the many men who came to live in Finedon due to the war. Marriages were made and Finedon folk accepted this. Some of our girls who became GI Bridge, left our shore and began a new life in America. There were other young couples that decided to start their future together by staying here and, in time, families of mixed nationalities were formed. It didn’t seem long, of course, before they were just one of us ‘Finedonians’.
Should a reader feel that there are inaccuracies in this presentation, I can only apologise but is as my memory serves.
Velma Munns (Freeman)