Fighting for freedom - Cringleford ladies pen new book telling their amazing war story

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

The three ladies who have contributed to Memories of a War-time Childhood. Picture: Lavenham Press - Credit: Lavenham Press

At the end of a year when we are fighting a pandemic this book tells of a time when we were fighting for our freedom.
And it illustrates so well what life was like for the children of the Second World War at such a traumatic time in their young lives.
There was death and destruction all around. Men went away and all too often didn’t return.
Mothers were  working hard, struggling to run a home on ration book, while bombs were dropping. Communities ripped apart.
Hundreds of soldiers and airmen moved into East Anglia.
But what of the children?
Life was turn on its head for them and it had an impact on the rest of their lives. All too often they have been ignored as historians write of wartime.
No-one story was the same and as time moves on it is more important than ever that they are passed on to the next generation.
Memories of a War-Time Childhood is a wonderful book by Mary Edwards, Rosalyn Churchman and Anne Smart who have come together to tell of their experiences…and help a church.
Three former school teachers who are now neighbours in Cringleford, near Norwich, and were growing up in various parts of Norfolk when war was declared in 1939.

 St Peter's Church Cringleford

St Peter's Church Cringleford - Credit: Archant

After living their lives across the world they returned to the county they loved and the book sprang from the fact that the Rev Graham Wilkins, Rector of St Peter’s, Cringleford, asked for people to think of ways of helping to raise money for the church.
Then, in August, the country marked VJ day and the end of the Second World War. It was Mary who put the two events together.
She, Roselyn and Anne had all written down their memories of the war years. They approached local authors, Carole and Michael Blackwell, about the possibility of producing a book.
When they read it they were bowled over.
Both have experience in writing local history books – and they knew this was brilliant.
The writing so evocative – picture a little walking along  the railway lines to the bombed out City Station in Norwich, the girl who found a German parachute in a field and the one who watched the dead and injured being brought ashore by the Caister lifeboat.
The authors take the readers to a time of family upheavals, of evacuation and how people coped with food shortages and restrictions. And there were the good times
Carole and Michael got in touch with Lavenham Press and the book has been published to  much acclaim.

ANNE SMART
Born Anne Winter during 1929 in South Africa where her father was a missionary they returned to England in 1933 where he had been allocated three Norfolk parishes to care for: East Rudham, West Rudham and Houghton.
From Africa they had arrived in a cold Victorian vicarage with no electricity and a water supply which had to be pumped up to fill a tank in the roof.
She writes about growing in Norfolk so well – especially when, as a naughty school girl at  Burnham Overy, she was accused by a teacher of being a “Limb of Satan.”
It was her father who gave told his congregation that we were at war…the service came to a rapid end.
“East Rudham was surrounded by aerodromes which were bombed quite regularly and my sisters and I would watch with fascination at the fires burning on the horizon and lighting up the night sky.
“We watched unafraid, not realising the devastation and destruction and the deaths caused by the bombing.”
Anne writes  of life in the Norfolk countryside, evacuation to Scotland, arriving in bombed Norwich along the railway line into what was left of City Station and attending All Hallows at Ditchingham.
After the war she married John and lived and worked in across Africa and in Fiji for many years before arriving in Cringleford.
Sadly John died in 2004. Anne continues to play a leading role in village life.

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

As they were - the ladies as young girls. Picture: Lavenham Press - Credit: Lavenham Press

MARY EDWARDS
The youngest of three children, Mary Fielding grew up in grew up Great Yarmouth. Her mother taught at the High School. She had seven brothers and two sisters. Her father was in business.
“We were at Scratby, our family-holiday bungalow on the cliff. It was a Sunday morning, and obviously something world-shattering was about to happen because we didn’t go to church.”
She and her mother moved closer to the radio as Mr Chamberlain spoke. To this day she remembers every word. Afterwards there was silence. Her brothers were aged 15 and 18 and it was only 21 years since the Great War which had claimed so many lives.
It was the following spring when Mary was spending the day with her friend Pauline Woolston in Caster. They heard the maroon being launched and the lifeboat went to a ship hit by a mine. “We stood and watched while unconscious and half-drowned men were taken  by on stretcher.” This was the HMT Charles Boyes. Only three of the 21 crew survived.
Mary was evacuated at Retford in Nottinghamshire and later returned to live in Norwich. She was a pupil at Norwich High School, later trained as a teacher, working in Birmingham. She married Les in 1955 and they lived at Bradwell near Yarmouth and they both taught at Gorleston before coming to Cringleford in 1968. Les died in 1998.
She, is among other things, the church librarian. Asked what she does, she says: “So very much to be thankful for, so much to think about, so many people to remember and to love – that is what I do.”

ROSALYN CHURCHMAN
Growing up on the farm at Blackford Hall, Stoke Holy Cross, in Norfolk during the 1930s, Rosalyn King  and her brother Robert rode the cart horses, kept rabbits, collected eggs, had picnics in the fields, floating on the pond on a table.
They would cycle to see granny at Swardeston and Auntie Emmeline, a lady farmer at Great Plumstead
They didn’t go to school, no buses and mother didn’t drive so had a governess, Miss Langley who came on her motorbike from Brooke.
She writes so well of her time on the farm…and then war came.
She remembers the news coming through on the new wireless while she and Robert were alone in the house as her mother and father had gone to Thorpe Station to meet evacuees.
Times were changing, shelters were being built, soldiers were arriving. Camps in the woods for the RAF and the WAAFS while they constructed radar pylons,
Then they watched…as Norwich burned. Attacked again and again by the Luftwaffe. Then two people in their community were killed
Rosalyn did eventually go to Norwich High School. “It was like heaven”
She trained to be a teacher following the end of the war and worked in Malta for three years before working in Cambridge as a teacher and marrying Ted, finally arriving in Cringleford when they retired.
Ted died about 20 years ago, She loves village life. Blackford Hall is still in the family and every year she takes a ride on the combine harvester.
Their memories, their writing, make this book, which is selling fast, very special – and a riveting read. And special thanks to editors Carole and Michael Blackwell.


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Memories of a War-time Childhood is printed by Lavenham Press. It costs £6.50 and is on sale at Cringleford Stores, 65 Intwood Road, Cringleford or by emailing blackwell4a@gmail.com

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