War-time Memories

Kathleen Postles has sent us these memories of life in Stonehouse during the Second World War. She is hoping to find some photos to go with it. She would be pleased to receive any comments, or to hear from anyone else who remembers those times in Stonehouse. We would be particularly interested in hearing from anyone who remembers working at Sperry Gyroscope. We are not sure if Harry Anderson (Jack Anderson’s father) worked there during the war, or at Hoffmann’s.

Please email us on info@stonehousehistorygroup.org.uk and we will pass on your messages to Kathleen.

War-time  experiences in Stonehouse

by Kathleen Postles (née Perkins)

My brother John (born June, 1939 and I (born January, 1938) were evacuated from Ilford, Essex to Stonehouse during the Second World War early in 1942.

This is how it came about. My father, who was an engineer and worked in London for the Ministry of Supply, was sent to Sperry Gyroscope to advise the factory on how to ‘tool up’ to make armaments.

He asked the foreman of the factory, Mr Harry Anderson, if he knew of anyone who would welcome John and me into their home as evacuees. Mr Anderson said that he and his wife, Emily, would be happy to do just that. They rented a house in Queen’s Road from Mr Blick, the builder, called “Inglenook”. They had four bedrooms, one already occupied by a lodger, Mr Murray. The house was double fronted, had a mosaic tiled hall floor from front to a backdoor leading to the back garden, a living room on the left and a dining room to the rear (it was called the morning room). To the right of the front door was a sitting room which was only used for special occasions, i.e. Christmas etc. and it had a piano in it.  Off the hall to the right rear of the building was a pantry, kitchen, coal hole and a W.C.  A backdoor led to the triangular shaped garden. Upstairs was the master bedroom and another front bedroom, two rear bedrooms and a bathroom/toilet (with a gas geyser that provided hot water). Off the landing was a wooden balcony looking over the front.

Uncle Harry, as we were allowed to call him, had several relatives around the town. One was the chemist who lived in a house looking over the recreation field and John and I became friendly with his son, Richard Wilcox, playing with him in his home. Particularly, I remember he had a lovely train set which we had on the lounge floor. Richard and his sister, Jocelyn eventually took over the business. Another was Uncle Fred who lived with his wife and sister Maggie. They lived over the railway in Verney Road and some years after the war I revisited their home and Uncle Fred took me up to the bathroom, opened the window and, with tears in his eyes, he described to me the demolition of the Brick Yard chimney.

John and I were well looked after by Uncle Harry and Auntie Emily, played in the garden, played on the field at Doverow, played in the quarry at the Brick Yard, watched the furnaces and men working at them, and watched the Railcars as they went back and forth from Stroud to Gloucester. We became friendly with Jonnie Atlee who lived higher up Queen’s Road and John Fincher, son of a friend of Auntie Emily’s.  Also, we played with the son of the Brick Yard Manager, John Evans. Auntie Emily had a Ford 8 car which we went in to Stratford Park to the open-air swimming pool. In the evenings we had to go and ‘put it to bed’ in a garage in Burdett Road. We attended the Congregational Church. They had a black spaniel dog called Gyp; all of the subsequent dogs were called by the same name, even if they were poodles! There was a telephone at Inglenook – I can still remember the number – Stonehouse 350.

We visited a friend of Auntie Emily’s on the Bath Road, a large house on the corner where there was a lily pond in the garden. We were well known in the community but, particularly at the Post Office on the corner of Queen’s Road and the Haberdashers (Mullins) on the other corner where I bought hair ribbons.

In February 1943, our Mother gave birth to Richard and Auntie Emily said that she could not accommodate a mother and baby so, again, my Father was travelling by train to the West Country and the train stopped at Swindon.  Father let the window down, beckoned a porter over and asked him if he knew of anyone who would take his daughter as an evacuee. His response was that he thought that the signalman and his wife would take me in. That is how I came to leave Stonehouse and stay with the Wakelys in Swindon but, that is another story!   Mother and Richard took up residence with Uncle Harry and Auntie Emily and returned to Ilford late in 1943.  Then I went back to join John in Stonehouse.

Uncle Harry had a son Jack who had a sweet/tobacco shop in Queen’s Road opposite the house and John and I used to be allowed to help out in the shop – i.e. cutting out coupons in the ration books that people brought in to purchase sweets. We also knew Jack’s wife, Betty. There was another shop at the end of the block which was a cobbler and we got friendly with the man who ran the shop and his daughter, also called Betty. All that I remember about her was that she had bright red cheeks and wore a vivid pink lipstick!

John and I attended a private school in Regent Street run by a Miss French and it was the practice there to have a mid-morning drink of milk. This was heated up on a paraffin stove which I didn’t like because it lacked sugar. When I told my Mother she sent a bag of sugar.  Similarly, when she was told that we would have a Christmas party at school, she sent down my party dress! Our Father came down to spend Christmas with us.

In 1944 I contracted Scarlet Fever and the G.P., Dr Kinsella,  told Auntie Emily that I would have to be admitted to hospital unless my Mother could come down to Stonehouse to nurse me. A disinfected sheet was put up outside my bedroom door and my Mother had to wear an overall. I gradually recovered but I was upset when my blue quilted dressing gown, bedding, toys and books had to be destroyed.

In the summer of 1944 we were taken to Weston-Super-Mare by a young couple who were friends of Auntie Emily’s. I do not remember anything about where we stayed or the names of the lady and gentleman!

I remember the air-raid siren went off infrequently, usually when it was being tested. John and I went back to Ilford in 1945 in time for the V1’s and V2’s!

Sadly, Uncle Harry died in the 1950s but, the family continued to spend time at “Inglenook”. The last time I stayed there was when I was 18 years of age. Auntie Emily enjoyed holidays and visits with my parents and younger brothers. She came to my wedding in 1960 and John’s in 1964. We took our children to see her when she lived on Bath Road and when she lived in a flat. We also visited Jack and Betty in their bungalow, “Kelsey”, in Aldergate Street, and Betty in the Nursing Home but, sadly, the last time that I visited the Home she had moved to stay with a niece and they would not give me her address or phone number.

When we visited, many years ago, we attended Stonehouse Methodist Church for morning worship because our Minister at Greasby, Wirral, Rev. Peter Stanley’s father used to be the Minister at that church.

We took our family to visit Stonehouse some years ago when we staying in the Cotswolds.

I believe that I have a greater affinity to Stonehouse than where I was brought up in Ilford.

Kathleen Postles (nee Perkins)