Gerry Wiseman's Story



It was September 1,1939 (the day the Nazis invaded Poland). War was breaking out in Europe.

I, at the tender age of five, together with my brother Norman, who was thirteen years old, and our entire school (including our teachers) as well as many thousands of other kids from different schools were sent away from our home in London's East End.

After a train ride that seemed to last forever, we arrived at the small Suffolk horse racing town of Newmarket.

Norman & I were billeted with a local bookmaker and his family for several months before I joyfully returned home.

In 1940 when the blitz started, Norman & I were evacuated again, this time to the village of Fordham, near Ely, in Cambridgeshire, just 5 miles from Newmarket. It was a very small village to where our school had moved during our absence. Norman & I didn't live together in the same house, but stayed with two neighboring families.

When he reached his fourteenth birthday later that year and reached the then school leaving age, Norman "graduated" from school and returned home to London.

Shortly thereafter, as I was being poorly looked after by my foster family, my parents took me home to London.

When the bombing of London became just too tough for us to handle, I was sent back to Fordham once again This time; however, fate was smiling on me. I found a wonderful foster mother, Miss Ada Fleet, with whom I spent the next four years. She treated me like her own child, loved me, & even wanted to adopt me, and I grew to love her in return.

But, one day in '44 I contracted scabies, a wretched skin complaint caused by tiny parasitic mites burrowing under the skin. Miss Fleet wasn't able to properly care for me, so my parents brought me home - just in time to experience the terror of the V1, or "Buzz Bomb" raids. Eventually, the "Buzz Bomb raids ended only to be replaced by the even more terrifying V2 rocket raids. We and our neighbors spent every night for weeks huddled in a shelter in basement of The Fruit Exchange, a building in Spitalfields market, until, thank God, the V2 raids ended.

I visited my foster mother "Aunt Ada," as I called her, many times after the war ended. My parents & I used to visit her for a week or so during the school summer holidays

My folks and I stayed in touch with her until the 1960s, when regrettably, she passed away aged 85.

I am now in the process of writing my memoirs about those turbulent years, and hope to finish them one of these days.


.During the summer of 1946, or perhaps it was '47, my parents decided that we should visit dear Aunt Ada for a weekend. We arrived at Fordham station late one Friday afternoon and walked up the very familiar Station road, through the quiet village, and up the hill to her cottage on Mildenhall Road. She was as delighted to see us as we were to see her, and we kissed and hugged each other. It was a joyful time for us all. She chattered away a mile a minute, as was her habit, as she got ready to make us a "nice cup of tea." Her conversation mostly consisted of telling us which neighbor had gone to their everlasting reward since we had last received a letter from her. For reasons inexplicable to me, discussions of death always seemed to be a fascinating topic of interest to the old ladies in the village. After tea and a chat, we all decided to take a short stroll to visit some neighbors, where we were proudly shown off. I believe that very few evacuees stayed in touch with their foster parents after leaving the village, so we were pretty much the exception to the rule. That night, my mother and father shared my old four poster bed, while I spent an uncomfortable night on the horsehair covered sofa in the parlor. The sofa was very old, its padding was thin, and the horsehair was slippery. Once or twice I almost slid off the sofa onto the floor. We got up rather late and Aunt Ada made us a hot breakfast of fried bread, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, and fried sausage. We all ate a lot of fried foods in those days so I suppose it's not really surprising that every member of my family, myself included, developed heart disease in later life. After lunch, while we were strolling through the village, we noticed a number of adults and kids milling around the entrance to the recreation field, or rec. Having nothing better to do, we strolled over to investigate. We soon discovered that the annual village sports day and gymkhana was in full swing. From the crowd of people present, it was apparent that most of the distinguished citizens, and almost all the inhabitants of the village were in attendance at the event, and reveling in the summer sunshine. Since very few events of note took place during the year, this was an occasion not to be missed. Flags were flapping in the stiff breeze, lemonade and ice cream was being hawked by vendors from carts containing ice boxes filled with dry ice. Dogs were chasing one another. Babies were bawling. Ladies were walking around, chatting to friends and acquaintances and showing off their summer dresses and flowery hats. It was a gay and light hearted time. We walked over to the tiny, wooden, red, white, and blue bunting bedecked structure which housed the cricket pavilion where several ladies of the Congregational Chapel were selling cups of tea and other light refreshments. I remembered this small building well, it was where the village cricket team & their opponents changed their clothes when playing cricket matches, & it was where we were given religious instruction, when my school mates and I from the Jews Infants School were attending classes at the nearby Victoria Hall. Dad bought cups of tea and a bun for each of us. The steaming hot tea was dispensed into thick white china cups from a large brass urn by one of Aunt Ada's neighbors. It was then that the schedule of track and field events tacked to a bulletin board on the pavilion's front wall caught my eye. We quickly realized that we had already missed most of the contests, but we discovered that we were still in time to witness the three legged race, the sack race, the wheelbarrow race, the piggy back race, the egg & spoon race, and the one hundred-yard dash. Prizes to the winners were to be handed out at the end of the afternoon by the Vicar's wife, Mrs. Prior. With that, we heard the public address system rattle into life with the announcement that it was time for the hundred-yard dash. "Why don't you have a go," said Dad to me, "good idea," said Mum. So I thought, "why not?" and walked over to the starting line painted on the turf, where a number of the village lads were assembling. "Ok boys, one to get ready," cried the starter, "two to get steady, and "three to be off." The pack surged forward. After taking just a few paces, I slipped on a sheep turd and fell to my knees. I quickly scrambled to my feet, but it was too late, all I could see was the backs of the fleeter footed village boys. Although I really tried my best to make up for my unfortunate stumble, I was the last one to cross the finish line. Disgruntled & humiliated, I walked over to my parents and announced "I came last." Instead of receiving a consoling hug from Mother, or pat on the back for trying from Dad, they both thought it was the funniest thing that they had ever heard, and they laughed themselves silly. We left the rec. and walked up the village street, by this time I'd recovered from my initial feelings of chagrin, and was laughing too. My parents really got the giggles, and kept repeating "I came last, I came last." They laughed over it so long and so hard that my mother wet herself, and began leaving wet footprints on the sidewalk behind her. When, as we approached the Green Man pub we met a woman walking down the street toward us, Mum said to Dad in a loud voice "Harry, why did you push me into that puddle?" The woman must have wondered what Mum was talking about, since it hadn't rained for weeks. As time went by, that event became another of the many family stories and legends to be told, retold, and amplified, around our fireplace on cold winter nights

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This is part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4