Margaret MilneTucker's Story



Hi Group, and in particular Patrick in Perth, Western Australia.

I, like Betty, also find myself an outsider in the current excitement being experienced

by the East Enders, but enjoy the stories and can appreciate their excitement.

But Patrick, we do have something in common, I too am a *'Sandgroper',

living in Perth, Western Australia.

Born in Portsmouth, Hampshire. Our house copped a direct hit on Saturday

afternoon, 24th Aug 1940. (I was four at the time). Normally, we were home on Sat.

afternoons (on returning home people were digging for us in the rubble!)

Snap decision found us, during this air-raid, in the Anderson shelter at my

grandmother's house! Our family lost almost everything; the only

exceptions being these three things found in the rubble.

1. An old Ferguson Valve Radio that still worked! Old Welsh dresser

having falling across it.

2. My Teddy Bear, his coat was never the same and his squeak was silenced.

3. My tortoise, hiding near our Anderson shelter with a badly chipped

shell and one leg missing. He lived for years afterwards.

We eventually ended up in the then small village of Thatham, near. Newbury,

Berkshire from 1941 to 1946. Here, I attended the evacuee school

housed in a small church hall down a lane near the Broadway. Two classes

with ages ranging from 4 to 15!

Is there anyone out there who attended this school? Maybe a shot in

the dark, we were a comparatively small group of kids, but amazing things do

happen! My name Margaret Milne.

Emigrated in August, 1969 with my then young family and now 'ex' husband.

(Another story! This one you don't want to know about! ; o] )

We arrived with three kids 11, 10 and 2.

At the time Australia offered a better lifestyle for us

(husband in the building trade) and better prospects for our kids growing

up. Although we have seen Australia follow the same sequence of events

making it very similar, in some respects, to the England we left to avoid, it

has not been a bad life.

I now have seven grandchildren. Only twice been back to UK, 1990 five

weeks (Mother sick) and long service leave, nine weeks holiday in 1994.

Have to be honest though, although it was good to see the relatives and seek

out the old haunts, I couldn't wait to get back to the open space living

and 'layback' lifestyle and approach to life here in Perth. I still melt

in the heat though! ; o] But after 29 years I think I may just decide to

stay! ; o]

I see Alan & Joan are also fellow Perth people. How many more can we find

out here I wonder?

* 'Sandgroper' For anyone wondering, this is the name given to us

residents in the State of Western Australia by other Aussie States (we have

wonderful sandy beaches).

Congratulations on the growth rate of our group - amazing!

Margaret - Perth.




It was at Junior School in 1946, that I had my first encounter with a

Banana! It was brought to school for play lunch by one of the 'rich'

kids! It was I grant you, a long time ago, but I recall it as though it were yesterday.

This boy and his banana were like a magnet. He even held it above his head

to make sure saw it! Grouped around him in the playground, we jostled

for position, as we watched enthralled as he peeled this strange yellow

fruit. From the first bite we drooled as he slowly ate it, pausing for

effect as he told us just how nice it tasted. He was obviously enjoying

his 15 minutes in the spotlight!

By the time the last mouthful was swallowed, we were desperate to 'try'

for ourselves.

All that remained was the banana skin, which he had tossed so flippantly

into the garbage can.

No one said a word, but questioning eyes glanced from one to the other and

then back to the smirking banana eater. Still in silence the knowing eyes

took the vote, and total agreement was returned.

We leapt into action. Our common goal and top priority to retrieve that

precious banana peel.....

Here I pause to ask whether any of you have ever licked the inside of a banana

skin....... If not, take my tip, you don't want to!

The excitement and anticipation of our first experience with a banana was

quickly quelled with cries of "Yuk!" Coupled with the realization our

uncontrolled desire for a taste had lead us to actually raid a germ ridden

garbage can to obtain our prize, didn't help our disappointment. We

collectively made another silent agreement. We hated this boy who had been

responsible for introducing us to this disgusting yellow fruit, called a

banana. But, not as much as the fruit itself which we hated with a


Margaret (Perth, Western Australia)





I wonder if one of you can help me. I am trying to remember the reason why

my mother would have got the local council road repairman to grab me by the

ankles when I was about two or three and dangle me over a boiling tar-pot.

It's my earliest memory I think, and I seem to remember seeing or hearing

many years ago that it was quite common for children to go through this

trauma because it had some benefit to the lungs!


Hi Stan

The others are quite right about the tar fumes.

I still have a slight chest problem even now from a particularly bad case of

measles during the war at age seven. No vaccine for measles way back then.

It soon became a ritual at home, as soon as my cough started up it was head

under towel over jug of very hot water with some special 'coal tar' liquid

in it from the chemists. On bad days I remember actually asking for it,

it did open the airways and make breathing much less difficult and

definitely less painful. I understand it is still used by some today to

ease chest problems.

A lot of those old remedies are coming back.

But being held up by your ankles and dangled over a Tar Pot, by a road

repairman (a total stranger) at such a tender age, is hopefully, a thing of the past.

Still, we have to remember life was a lot more difficult then. Then our

parents must have had to take advantage of anything that presented itself,

however traumatic we saw it to be, if they were convinced it would be good for us.


Margaret (Perth-Western Australia)




Hi Gang

Your story of painted wood burning Brian got my 'old' memory triggered.

I was only 4 years old when on 24th August, 1940 my families

terraced house in Portsmouth was totally demolished. A 'present'

sent airmail, almost 1 year into the war, had made a direct hit.

This is my first memory of this smell. Even now as I talk about

it, I can smell it, 59 years later. A common enough smell in

the next year or so, whenever passing a bomb site not long after

another 'delivery.'

Was informed later, it was the combined smell of brick rubble,

smoldering wood and explosives from the bomb.

Another smell lingering in my memory is of stagnant water when

passing one of those big water tanks (rather like a crude version

of the above ground swimming pools of today). These water tanks

were found dotted around cities, on waste ground, the water to be

used for putting out fires after an air raid. Remember stirrup pumps?

I guess we all remember that rubber smell too, when being taught

as a young child on the correct way to put on your gas mask!

The worst reaction I have to a wartime memory trigger is not a

smell but a sound!

My family left the bombing target area of the Royal Naval

Dockyard city of Portsmouth in Hampshire for the considerably

more quiet country area of Thatcham in Berkshire in 1941, when I

was only five. But up until then, the day and night was

frequently disrupted by the wailing of the Air Raid Warning

Siren! All these years later, on hearing this sound in an old

movie or similar, the hair on the back of my neck stands to

attention and I shiver. I have tried not to let it happen but

failed miserably.

Just a little bit of trivia on the subject of living in other

countries that may amuse some. Brian signed off his email with

a 'Cheerio for now'! OK being Brits we know that is 'Bye see

you later'! Not here in Australia, they call a greeting a

'Cheerio'! They also send 'Cheerios' to people (messages).

Maybe something to do with being upside down do you think! Lol

; O]



Didn't migrate until August 1969 with my three kids, 11, 10 and 2.1/2, my first husband was 36,

and I was 33 so our circumstances were different.   But no less a big step into the almost

unknown.    I guess we were a lot luckier than some.   Within a week the two older kids were 

in school and my then husband was working as a bricklayer.    Seven weeks later we moved

into our brand new home.     We quickly found we were included in BBQ invites by my husband's

workmates and I met a lot of the local ladies through my children's school friends.    We didn't

take long to feel welcome.    Until Christmas!   We had been used to celebrating with our large 

families in UK and now there was only the five of us....   Plus it didn't feel right being so hot and

spending Christmas day at the beach......    Never really got used to that.  lol

All in all we made a good transition and the kids all did well.    Our marriage of 19 years ended

in divorce in 1975, but that was not Australia's fault....    I would never have left Perth in

2000 to come to the USA had it not been for that wonderful man I met on the internet and was

happily married to for a memorable 20 months, before his fatal heart attack in 2002.   I think I will

eventually return to OZ, once I have all the ends tied up here.    I do have a lot of friends

here in this Retirement Park, but my family are in Australia, Canada and UK, I have no family here in

the USA.   The reason I'm here is hard to understand.    Life in OZ was very different than it is here

in the US, in many ways.      In my own personal circumstances, OZ wins hands down. 

But maybe that's not part of the wider plan the man upstairs has set out for me, I still think he

pulls the strings.  


I had a friend who was 8 in 1952 when this family (Dad Mum & one brother) migrated by ship from UK.  

On the last leg of the trip his mother got sick and was put in quarantine.  On arrival she was placed 

in a quarantine camp south of Fremantle in Western Australia where she was kept for six months.   

From his description this place was rather like old army barrack huts with rounded tin roofs (not unlike

giant air raid shelters).  His father was left to try and set up a home and get the boys into school and

find himself work, while only being able to visit his wife at weekends and even then they were kept

well apart for obvious reasons.    They must have constantly thought they should not have decided

to migrate.  But they did settle down after all these problems and spent the rest of their lives in Perth. 


The home we bought on arrival was on a new estate and our neighbours were Yugoslavians.   They

were only allowed to live in their new home at weekends...  Only the father spoke a little English,

enough to get work and it was policy then (1969) that they all had to speak enough of the language

to understand and be understood by others before being 'released' into the community.   

The three girls, 10, 12, 13 were all schooled extensively in English and the Mother had to attend daily

lessons at the barrack like buildings that made up the 'camp' of migrants.   These were brick built 

but they shared laundry and bathroom facilities with one or two other families.    Apparently they had

agreed with the OZ Immigration requirement they all learn basic English if they were accepted for

migration to Australia and understood this could be a twelve month plus period.      In their case it

was 12 months.         This was in 1969 it will be interesting to know when that rule was relaxed....  


Margaret  (aka Chatterbox)   


Hi Gerry & Gang

I didn't having any siblings during the war but did have uncles and

cousins who were in the Royal Navy and RAF and in a couple of cases

paid with their young lives. My cousin a pilot at the tender age of

18 was one of many who were shot down over Holland and he was buried

in the war graves cemetary there. The Uncle who was lost not long

after getting married was serving on HMS Barham when it was sunk.

Several others, like many who served their country, were scarred for

life with the events they had experienced.

My father dreamed of being in the Navy, like his Dad and Uncles, when

growing up, but poor eyesight ruled him out during peace time. When

WWII started he tried again as recruits with glasses were being

accepted. But much to my mother's secret relief he was knocked back

again as he was skilled in the manufacture of torpedoes and at the

time working in Portsmouth's Naval Dockyard and he was considered far

more useful in the war effort staying in that position.

The continual air raids over Portsmouth with the aim of trying to

knock out the then biggest Royal Naval Dockyard in the world brought

about the evacuation in 1941 of as many of the war related depots

within the targeted Dockyard as possible, complete with employees to

safer country areas. This included the Torpedo Depot where Dad was

employed to be moved to Thatchem in Berkshire. This came about a

year after our home, close to the Dockyard in Portsmouth, had been

bombed and reduced to rubble during a prolonged air raid on the

afternoon of Saturday 24th August 1940.

This was how I become an 'evacuee' with a difference. I was

fortunate enough to be evacuated with my mother and father. Being

part of the evacuation of children from various parts who were sent

to the then small farming village of Thatchem in Berkshire, we were

all to attend a separate school, labelled by the locals as "The

Evacuee School"! This school was housed in the vilage church hall

with two teachers, resulting in two classes with students ranging in

age from 5 to 15. The local children attended their own school and

viewed us as very strange City kids to be avoided if at all

possible. ;O] The male of the two teachers was also considered to

be the Headmaster. He was in fact a retired Army Officer (Mr Woods)

who under the circumstances did a good job of making sure we all had

a reasonably good understanding of the basic three R's.

This guy had another hat he wore in the evenings and on weekends.

He was the Commanding Officer of the Home Guard. My father became a

proud member of the Home Guard too. They were supplied with ill

fitting Army uniforms and proudly displayed the badge of the Royal

Berkshire Regiment. Dad would spend many hours polishing his badge,

boots and buttons. Mum tailored Dad's uniform to fit a little better

and suddenly had several more requesting her services! They then

proudly proclaimed they had to be the smartest Home Guard unit in the

country.... Being one of the first to join this local group my Dad

was issued with a real rifle. This firearm worried Mum but Dad was

very mindful of it and took very good care of it, keeping it out of

my way. I was about six/seven years old. Dad worked the night shift

for many years so most of the time he was home I was at school.

I don't think there are any of us in the group who have never

seen "Dad's Army" on BBC TV and laughed loud and long..... But from

the experience of having my Dad in the local group in Thatchem that

TV Series was not too far from the truth. They covered a large age

range up to very old and various backgrounds and job experiences, but

they all wanted to be ready to protect our village if called upon to

do so. Yes it was true, some of them only got wooden gun shapes to

practice with as there was only a limited number of real guns

available. Heaven knows what they would have done had our village

been invaded. It would have to be very dark for anyone to be fooled

by these wooden replicas. They did also have an old artillary gun

though with two big wheels, a gun barrel arrangement and

ammunition!! Every Tuesday night the locals in the village would

not venture out of their homes because they were scared of the "Home

Guard" group. Why? This was the night the Home Guard dismantled

the Artillary Gun, which was kept behind the same Church Hall we

called school and then carried it in pieces to the top of the hill

overlooking the village. Once there they would put it together

again and fire it three times.... After this had echoed over the

village they would dismantle it once more and bring it back down

again. From what I heard at the time and later from my parents it

seems some of the locals were more worried about the Home Guard than

they were of an ememy invasion bringing them harm. :O] I think Dad

missed the closest he could ever get to being part of the military

services when they were demobbed. They had to give all the stuff

back, with the exception of their cap badge which Dad kept for years.


Keep smiling everyone.