May 29, 2020|

John Pearce – Memories of an Evacuee

At the outbreak of World War II, Portsmouth children were evacuated to the Isle of Wight.  My mother refused to let me go, as she reasoned that if the Germans invaded our country, they would use the Isle of Wight as a bridgehead.  However, when the bombing of Portsmouth became very bad early in 1940, I was evacuated to Wickham and was billeted with Mr and Mrs Warwick at Wentworth House in The Square.  From my bedroom (top floor front) we could see the big fire blitz on Portsmouth in January 1941 – it looked as if Portsdown Hill was ablaze, the fires were so fierce.

I did some gardening for Sir Humphrey Prideaux-Brune at the house now called ‘The Old House Hotel’ in The Square, and I earned 2s-6d for Saturday mornings –  which l had to save.  Unfortunately, Mrs Warwick became very ill, and could not cope with evacuees.  I was then transferred to ‘CutIers’, the home of Mr and Mrs Carpenter-Garnier and their daughter Miss Eleanor, where I was accommodated in the staff quarters in the care of Mr and Mrs Nurcombe, the butler and housekeeper, and Nellie the housemaid.  Mr Gregory was the gardener.  There was a very large friendly dog called Hugo, and a very bad tempered goat!

Mrs Carpenter-Garnier encouraged me to become a choirboy at St. Nicholas Church.  I was summoned to the drawing room by Mrs Carpenter-Garnier after tea on Sundays for `Religious Instruction’, and then on to church for Evensong.  One Sunday during Morning Service there was a power cut, and we choirboys had to take it in turn to hand pump the organ!

By the entrance drive to ‘Cutlers’ was a house where a girl evacuee lived – she was a bit of a tomboy (I cannot remember her name) and we often played in the grounds of ‘Cutlers’, which went right down to the railway line.

One day, we heard an aircraft coming from Droxford direction, flying very low over the railway line – we could actually see the German pilot’s face, and the Nazi swastika on the tail!

I left school (Fareham Senior Boys’) and, as our house in Portsmouth was badly damaged during the air-raids, my mother found a flat in Bournemouth during the summer of 1941.

To my knowledge, and regret, I do not think I have ever returned to `Cutlers`.

John Pearce

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