Local history book raising funds for Norwich church gets second print run

A family gathering for Mary with her dad holding the dog and her mum on the far left in the middle row.

A family gathering for Mary with her dad holding the dog and her mum on the far left in the middle row. She is standing next to her. - Credit: Courtesy of Lavenham Press

The bad news was the book sold out. The good news is it has been re-published in time for Christmas.

This wonderful offering, Memories of a War-Time Childhood, was written by a trio of former school-teachers, Rosalyn Churchman, Mary Edwards and Anne Smart to raise money for their local church, St Peter’s at Cringleford, near Norwich.

With help and support from local authors Carole and Michael Blackwell they turned the clock back to share their often moving memories of growing up in Norfolk during the Second World War.

Memories of a War-time Childhood. Picture: Lavenham Press

The book: Memories of a War-Time Childhood which is raising money for St Peter’s Church, Cringleford. Picture: Lavenham Press - Credit: Lavenham Press

Memorial stones uncovered at Cringleford Church.

The book: Memories of a War-Time Childhood which is raising money for St Peter’s Church, Cringleford. - Credit: Antony Kelly

The book was published by Lavenham Press a year ago and the demand exceeded all expectations. All copies were snapped up.

It is a thoughtful account of a time when what was a peaceful and happy life was shattered by the arrival of war, death and destruction. A rare and emotional read.

All Hallows at Ditchingham

All Hallows at Ditchingham where Anne was sent to bed without her teddy if she had been naughty. - Credit: Courtesy of Lavenham Press

Rosalyn with her father on the far left in his Home Guard uniform.

Rosalyn with her father on the far left in his Home Guard uniform. That’s Hamish on her right who became a close family friend. - Credit: Courtesy of Lavenham Press

And the story of what happened to these three ladies after the war, in various parts of the world, completes the picture.

Now it has been published again and this time it is also available to buy online - once again all profits will be going to help St Peter’s Church.

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So who are the authors?

Rosalyn Churchman (King)

Rosalyn King when she was Rosalyn Churchman. Picture: courtesy of Rosalyn King

Rosalyn Churchman when she was Rosalyn King. Picture: Courtesy of Rosalyn Churchman - Credit: Courtesy of Rosalyn Churchman

Rosalyn King. Picture: courtesy of Rosalyn King

Rosalyn Churchman. Picture: Courtesy of Rosalyn Churchman. - Credit: Courtesy of Rosalyn Churchman

“If ever I say I grew up in Blackford Hall in Norfolk, people are very impressed,” she says.

Truth was, the old mansion was a ruin before it was pulled down to make way for a smaller home that retained the name.

She writes so well about growing up on a farm at Stoke Holy Cross in the tough 1930s. They didn’t go to school, no buses and her mother didn’t drive so a governess, Miss Langley, arrived on her motorbike from Brooke. She was paid 10 shillings.

It was an idyllic life on the farm with her brother Robert, riding the cart horses, keeping rabbits, collecting eggs, while her parents worked day and night for little money.

She paints a glorious picture of a happy and peaceful life in the Norfolk countryside… then the war came, the soldiers arrived and they watched the sky light up as Norwich burned.

Mary Edwards (Fielding)

Mary Edwards and when she was Mary Fielding. Picture: Coutesy of Mary Edwards

Mary Edwards and when she was Mary Fielding. Picture: Coutesy of Mary Edwards - Credit: Coutesy of Mary Edwards

Mary Edwards. Picture: Coutesy of Mary Edwards

Mary Edwards. Picture: Coutesy of Mary Edwards - Credit: Coutesy of Mary Edwards

A former teacher at Gorleston, Mary was the youngest of three children growing up in Great Yarmouth and remembers so well listening to the radio broadcast announcing we were at war with Germany.

The following spring she and friend Pauline were at Caister. They watched as the lifeboat returned from a ship hit by a mine. Unconscious, half-drowned men were being put on stretchers. Only three of the 21 crew survived.

“My mother would wake every morning expecting to see Germans coming across the beach. And there was nothing to stop them if they came except. Literally a ‘Dad’s Army.’ My father aged 50 in 1940 went on courses on how to stop a German advance,” writes Mary.

She quotes from his diary: “If we’d been invaded, America would have stayed on their side of the Atlantic, and heaven knows how long the evil of Nazism would have ruled Europe. Who would have stopped it?”

It was on a hot day in June 1940 when Mary dressed in her school uniform with her gas mask, label and lunch was taken to Yarmouth Beach station… to be evacuated.

Her mother cried all the way home… the schoolchildren who lived on the coast were gone.

Anne Smart (Winter)

Anne Smart and when she was Anne Winter. Photo: Courtesy of Anne Smart

Anne Smart and when she was Anne Winter. Photo: Courtesy of Anne Smart - Credit: Courtesy of Anne Smart

Anne Smar. Photo: Courtesy of Anne Smart

Anne Smar. Photo: Courtesy of Anne Smart - Credit: Courtesy of Anne Smart

She arrived in this country from South Africa in 1933, where her father had been a missionary in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa, to a different world – a cold Victorian vicarage with no electricity at east Rudham.

She writes a fascinating account of coming to terms with life in rural Norfolk and being at St Monica’s School in Burnham Overy where, as a six-year-old, she was sent to bed without her teddy if naughty.

Her father gave the news from the pulpit that war had been declared. They looked after evacuees before she and her sisters were sent to school in Scotland. The next stop was All Hallows at Ditchingham, near Bungay.

She writes of walking along the track at the old City Station in Norwich after it was blitzed.

“Norwich was bombed periodically and we would go down to the shelters in the school drive where the nuns would read to us to keep us from being frightened.

“I remember being hungry at school and eating raw sugar beet purloined from the side of the road during our walks,” writes Anne.

Memories of a War-Time Childhood costs £6.50 and is available from Cringleford Stores on Intwood Road or from the office at St Peter’s Church and via ebay.

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