Steve Godfrey's Story



I was born in East London and moved with my Mum & Dad to Dagenham, Essex

when I was about 5 years old. Since we lived near the Ford Motor Works, all the kids

(or most of them) were evacuated on Sept. 1 '39 I was then 10 years old, and ended

up in a small village in Somerset with a middle-class family.

All in all it was a very good time, and I learned a lot about the finer things

in life, such as going in a car to the seaside, having napkins at the

dinner table and going to the local church every Sunday, but I could go on and on,

Anyway, I returned home to Dagenham just in time for the "Blitz."

To us kids it was just a great adventure, collecting bits of shot down

German aircraft, unexploded incendiary bombs (which we took

apart and disarmed them) and I had three of them on the window sill of my bedroom.

School was on and off every day because of the raids so life was not dull.

I eventually, ended up in the Navy to do my National Service, went into a

Consulting Engineering Office, and finally ended up in B.C. Canada with

my family and retired to Abbotsford B.C.

I now have a part-time job as a Movie Extra, the film industry here is

booming, and I just love it, but that's another story.

That's all for now as I don't want to bore you all.

Greetings to all you fellow 'Vacs.

Steve Godfrey




Dear Gerry:

Your remarks about collecting salvage certainly rang a bell,

I was in the Boy Scouts at that time and we were all 'gungho' to do our bit,

We had a shed filled with old newspapers and magazines that was picked up on a weekly basis;

I don't know how we found the strength to move it all. We also erected "under the table" sheet metal

air-raid shelters for the elderly folk which was also quite a task.

We did hear after the war that the aluminium pots and pans collected to make aircraft was a scheme to

make the people think they were part of the war effort, when; in fact, it was all dumped.

But, we heard so many tales, who knows what the truth is, as they say the first casualty of war is the truth.




I just loved the tram talk, I can remember riding on the open top of one

on the way 'up-west' wiv me Mum& Dad, and oh what joy.

Hamley's was the biggest toy shop in the world, or so I thought,

I still have the Schuco sports car that was bought for me (after much

whining by me) I also have vivid memories of the Steam Train ride to

Southend from Dagenham, and the feeling of awe coming out of the

station and beholding all the shops laden with so many goodies. The

soft ice cream cones & the eel and pie shops, no eels for me, just

Bangers, Mash and Peas. I wish I had kept my bucket and spade, could

have passed it down to my year old grandson. Ah well MEMORIES (eh.)

That's a Canadian suffix !!!.





I was evacuated to small Somerset village called Bawdrip, near Bridgwater.

We went back there a few years ago, it hadn't changed very much...

I visited the house I was living at, it looked much smaller than I remembered...

it was nice to recapture all the happy and sad memories of those days.

I met a very ancient Farmer whom I talked too, and he remembered us kids.




Alan mentioned all the old games, Hop Scotch and Conkers.

We did the same, soaked the horse-chestnuts in vinegar,

I think the highest I ever got to, was a " tenner." It was the type called

a 'cheeser' not completely round but thin and tapered. I found that

the game always ended up with bruised knuckles 'ouch,' and the Tin Can

Tommy we called it Tin Can Copper " don't ask me why Alan. And the

Cigarette Cards. We used to go to Becontree Station and ask the men

coming home from work: "Got any Ciggy Cards Mr.?" and we did get

plenty that way. I also remember that Kensitas Cigarettes had

silk pictures of flowers and the like inside, and to get those was a real


Eileen asked how long I was evacuated I guess it was about a year,

but I'm not sure. Yes Eileen the names of villages are fascinating.

One that I remember near to us was Western Zoyland, then there was Middlezoy &

Shepton Mallet. I didn't finish up with a Somerset accent, but my

'cockney accent' was softened up, but 'me old mates' thought I was

rather posh, so did my Mum & Dad.

Eileen also made me remember all those wild flowers on the long walk to school on my own

(no worries about being molested in those days)

Primroses, Bluebells, Wild Violets and Cowslips, such unspoiled countryside.

My gas mask, was always carried everywhere, I had mine in an old

battered cardboard box, hung over my shoulder with a piece of string.

Other more affluent kids, had them in smart colored vinyl or posh

colored boxes, there was even a 'fashion statement' in those days !!!.

As for the buzz bombs, at that time I was working in London and I must

have been around 14 or 15 years old. I can recall whilst walking home from

Becontree Station with a friend, we heard that horrible engine sound,

looked up and saw it flying towards us, so we dropped to the ground, the

motor eventually stopped and soared over the top us and eventually blew

up somewhere in Barking, a town a few miles from us. Those V2 Rockets

were another thing altogether, no warning, just an explosion and they

were causing havoc until the R.A.F. knocked them out of action. Len you

must have seen plenty of the war, also being in the middle of London at

that time, working for Reuters. I know that my Dad was in what they

called a reserved occupation (They wouldn't let him join the Services)

he was a Telephone Engineer for the GPO, and spent all his time splicing

the telephone cables in the centre of London that were blown up by the

bombing, and he was working whilst the raids were actually taking place.

To me he is a 'unsung hero.'

Stan talking about food during the war, do

you remember the powdered egg and Spam ? I loved it, we were never short

of food, but missed the bananas and other 'exotic' fruits. The

'sweet' ration was a bit of a hardship for us kids, but we could always

rely on the 'Yanks' for chocolate and gum now and then.

Bread Pudding, now that's a great favorite of mine, alas, my wife doesn't make, but

whilst in Upminster (Essex) on our last UK trip we found a baker by the

railway station that made most wonderful bread pudding that I have tasted in years.





I can still remember that as a ten year old kid being taken by my Mum

to catch the coach to take all us kids to

the railway station en route to 'somewhere' which turned out to be

Bawdrip in Somerset. I must have been overwhelmed by it all, I shed a

few tears along the way, but in those days anyone in uniform or older

than oneself was an authority figure and 99.5% of us did what they told

us without question. The worst part was the arrival at the local village

hall waiting to be picked the 'villagers," I was lucky to be

picked by a Welsh couple, the father was a manager at the local

Cellophane Company in Bridgwater, and so were (dare I say it Middle

Class) they treated me as a member of the family and I did learn a lot

about the finer things in life, had my first trip in a motor car to the

'seaside' and did enjoy my time with them, of course, I did miss my

Mum & Dad very much, but I received letters and parcels of sweets and

comics from them and they did visit me once or twice, so I guess I had

the best of both worlds. The one room school was a great learning

experience, as we all received one on one tuition from "Miss," I can't

remember any friction from the local lads, but mainly us vacee's had our

own gang and the adventures we had would fill a book, but I won't bore

the pants off you all. All in all it was a very positive experience and

one that really changed my outlook on life. I thank the "Supreme Being"

for being so lucky. At times when I feel in a depressed mood (which is

not very often) I always think of those unfortunate people who were

taken to the Concentration Camps, and think how so very lucky I have

been to have lived the life I have.

Regards to you all.




As kids we collected shrapnel and lots of other stuff, I had

three Incendiary Bombs on the bedroom window sill, we kids used to take

out the fuse and powder so that they wouldn't ignite, makes me sweat to

think about it now, I had lots of german bullets and bits and pieces of

shot down planes and lots of other 'stuff', alas my Mum threw all away

when I did my National Service, she thought it was junk. ah well.

Regards Steve.




I can remember "Dig for Victory" and most families who

had a bit of a garden did plant vegetables etc.

We had most of the rear garden occupied by an Anderson

air raid shelter but did have a small vegetable patch, I used

to have to go round the streets to collect horse dung with a small

shovel and bucket and even tho there were lots of horses around in those

days, i.e. milk carts, beer deliveries, rag & bone men ( we used to find

old clothes and get a goldfish for them !!) etc.,

it was still hard to find a 'steaming pile" just like finding gold !!!

Incidentally whilst in England a couple of years ago we saw beer being

delivered to a pub, the cart was being pulled by Clydedales, and what

magnificent horses they were.





I can remember very well the days of the Battle of Britain. At that

time we were living in Dagenham, just a short distance from the Fighter

Base at Hornchurch (Essex). We often watched the 'dog-fights' overhead

in the clear blue skies, with lots of vapour trails all over the place

showing the gyrations of the RAF and the enemy aircraft. It really was a

sight that I shall never forget.

My father had a radio that could pick-up the radio talk between the

fighter pilots and can remember hearing...."Bandits at 12 o'clock --

Bandits at 3 o'clock - Blimey there are thousands of the bastards ". Its

a pity I didn't have a tape recorder at that time.

Soon after we had "blackout curtains" up at all the windows at the time

of the "Blitz", and at night even if you had a chink of light

an Air Raid Warden would shout "Put out that bloody light"

or words to that effect.

Ah memories....




I remember the "tuppenny rush," in the Heathway, it was every Saturday morning;

I think that I wrote about it in a past mail. All the walls of the cinema had round holes

in it where the kids who were waiting used to grind holes in the bricks while waiting

an hour or so to get in, the rush was to get seats in the balcony, 'cause if you sat below

you used to get pelted with all kinds of cardboard cups, chewing gum and all sorts of

other stuff. The serials were "Flash Gordon" and other cowboy films and the like

Iused to go to the Toy Shop in Old Dagenham? What a treasure that was,

lots of Dinky Toys (I still have only one that I bought there from money from

my aunt & uncle who used to visit us in Woodwards Road on a Saturday it wa

s only a shilling but in those days it was a lot of money,) While I was in the Navy my

mum gave most of my toys away as she thought I was too old for them, bless her...

.they would be worth a fortune today, but I guess many of us say that now.

Regards, Steve



Updated 10/21/2000