July 22, 2020|

Joan Dennis – Living in Wickham, working in Portsmouth

My grandfather, Mr Bailey, was headmaster of Wickham School before the first World War – he died in 1921.
However by the time the Second War started, I was in my last year at school, having been at school in Wickham, then Fareham, and Hilsea.  The whole school at Hilsea was evacuated to Leigh Park House and I left in 1940. After Pitman College training I went to work for a solicitor in Portsmouth.  So I travelled every day from home in Wickham (our home was above the family business, Hemings) to Portsmouth by bus – a journey taking sometimes over an hour.  We never knew what we should find when we arrived in Portsmouth – sometimes terrible devastation.

The worst raids were on January 10th and March 10th 1940 – on that day the whole of the (Portsmouth) High Street was on fire.  l had a friend who lived near the worst area, and I went to look for her – I found she had escaped to Cosham, and was safe – she came to stay with us for afew weeks, but didn’t stop shaking with shock for most of the time.

My father was in the LDV at first, then the Home Guard.  Before the rifles arrived, they used to patrol the railway line armed with pickaxes.  We escaped with three incendiary bombs in the middle of Wickham – one came through our roof and set fire to some timbers one night.  The landlord of the White Lion came to help us put the fire out.  There was a communal air raid shelter in the Square, but I hated having to use it.

As D-day approached I remember an enormous crush of army lorries, troops and equipment jamming the roads to Droxford and Fareham.  Later on the Square filled up as well.  But my most vivid memory was arriving back in the Square at about 5.30 one evening, and seeing walking outside the Tea Room, Churchill, Eisenhower, and I think De Gaulle.  There were very few people about, and no obvious guards. They must have just walked up from their special train in the station!

Joan Dennis

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