SEPTEMBER 3, 1939, will be a day I shall always remember. It was a Sunday and I was 16 years of age.

I was spending three weeks with the Caravan Mission for Village Children in the village of Gamlingay, near Sandy, Bedfordshire. We had a caravan, sleeping tents and a “big top” in which we held sessions for children and young people.

It is a small village but it boasted no fewer than 18 public houses. Everyone was on tenterhooks. Evacuees had arrived from London and Hitler had invaded Poland.

The prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, was making a broadcast and so I went into one of the villagers’ cottages to hear him. He said Hitler had not agreed to withdraw his troops and “consequently, this country is at war with Germany”.

Shortly afterwards, the air raid sirens sounded and the household put on their gas masks and squatted under the dining room table The all-clear sounded shortly afterwards and it transpired that it was just a test of the equipment and not a German raid.

Later in the day, a typical Air Raid Warden ‘Hodges’ came to our camp and demanded that we took down our tents and big top because we looked like a military encampment and would be bombed.

That was the end of our mission and I returned home, to Hitchen.


West Cliff Road, Bournemouth