July 19, 2020|

Joan Bramley – Finding happiness during the War

Joan was 13 when war broke out and living with her parents in School Road and her grandmother lived in the same road. She was attending Fareham Girls School, but remembers Miss Warren, headmistress of the Primary School, telling her that the autumn term for the younger children would be delayed until air raid shelters had been built in the playground at Wickham. There were no lights in the shelters and so there were no lessons during air raids: the children thought it was a great adventure.

Once soldiers were billeted around the village, there was plenty of entertainment. There were dances at the Church llall (where Glebe Corner is now), Rookesbury Park School (the school had been evacuated to Devon), the back of the Kings Head (where there was also a Pioneer Corps cookhouse) and the Victory Hall (the base for Toc H). It was even possible to get to dances at Shedfield and walk home afterwards. Apart from British soldiers, Polish airmen and black American soldiers often came to these very popular dances. Only tea and coffee were available at the dances, but in the interval everyone rushed lo the pubs where a half-pint of light ale cost 6d. There were regular singsongs at all the local pubs.

The Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was stationed at Rookesbury Park and many local girls married men from the corps. Joan was one of them; she got married in May 1944 at Wickham Church with Rev. Vessey officiating. As she was under 21, she had to get her parents’ consent. They also needed a special license from the Bishop of Portsmouth as they were unable to have the banns read in the usual way. By saving clothing coupons, shc was able to buy a dress from McIlroy’s in North End, Portsmouth. She borrowed a veil and her sister made her wedding bouquet. Merrett’s Garage loaned a car for the day. The ladies of School Road provided items for the wedding tea, which was put on by the ladies who lived in Railway Cottages (these were opposite the church, by thc railway arch). Her mother made the cake, but it was not iced. The local off-license supplied the beer, which was stockpiled before the day. Music was supplied by Mr & Mrs Tull and Mr & Mrs Brockhurst.

Joan has no photographs of the day as film was in short supply. Her husband could only get a weekend pass, so arrived for the wedding on the Friday and had to leave again on the Sunday. Within days he was taking part in the D-Day landings as a dispatch rider. Joan continued to live with her mother until February 1947 when her husband left the army. They moved into Buddens Road in 1948. The houses had been built by “Knights’” (of Knights Chambers) and she remembers:

• Wickham Common being ploughed up in the Dig for Victory campaign
• The 51st Highland Division being under canvas at Rookery Nook on Southwick Road and marching through the village to Fareham just before D Day
• The smell inside a gas mask, rubbery and suffocating, and the special baby-carriage masks that fitted over the pram
• The Home Guard (LDV) became known as “Look, Duck and Vanish” and was soon changed.

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