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 (Colin Penney)


When the  war broke out I had just left the Broadway School  and I was due to start at Jefferson Road School (The Central School for Boys ) but  nobody seemed concerned  about our schooling ,when we were to start or where to go , we thought  this arrangement was  ideal at first until the weeks went by and we started to feel fed up and  guilty ???(pardon!)

In November it was getting too cold to play on the beach, so  ten or so of us decided to demand to be taught and we marched up to Jefferson Road and presented ourselves to the Headmaster. I don’t think he was very pleased to see us and he took us to his office. He then split us into two groups , and he told us that one group was to attend  lessons   in the mornings and the other group in the afternoons But, he said, should the air raid sirens sound we were  to go home immediately , even if we were on our way to school . Of course most of the school were late most mornings just in case the sirens sounded  and we had to walk all that way home again. The sirens of course sounded quite frequently and  almost every day there were either practice Fire Drills or  practice Air Raids  Drills,  or practice Gas Drill or practice something ,and sometimes the alarms never went off but by word of mouth (usually from another boy !) we heard that we were to go home .I sometimes wondered whether these were false false alarms.!! But no one ever bothered .A few of us started the rumour one day to see what would happen and  we cleared the school even the Teachers went home.

Most of the school was evacuated  1939/early 1940 .My father went to Alexandria ,Egypt with the Dockyard and in June 1940 off I went to Pontlottyn  South Wales to be billeted with another Sheerness boy Geoffrey Cullum .I was with a Welsh family , Morgan  of course. The father was a coal  miner, one son  David was the manager of the local food shop and the other son was Abraham the same age as Geoffrey and myself.

There was also a girl Margaret , but she had been sent to an Auntie in Chepstow ,she was away for nine months . We were told she had been naughty .She went to live with a friend  later and we seldom saw her . I remember she used to walk up and down the road for exercise, a very happy girl, always smiling at everyone especially the men.

Although David made sure that  we were never short of food , when Mrs. Morgan was making a plateful of sandwiches for the three us boys for tea, the plateful was never divisible by three hence the fastest eater had the most sandwiches.

One day a German Bomber was shot  down at Aber-cum-Bargoed we all walked miles over the mountains to collect pieces of it to exchange for cigarette cards etc.

We went to the local school and all the Sheerness boys were in the same class , we were taught Welsh every Friday afternoon but most weeks the class with the best attendance that  particular week was allowed Friday afternoon off school. Naturally us evacuees always won this, much to the annoyance of the local lads and many fights started because of our gloating . We learnt  very little Welsh. I think we could all count up  to ten , sing the Welsh National Anthem (sometimes with our own words, “ My hen laid an adder….etc. “ these words almost sound the same), and a few hymns. Very useful especially as Welsh was never spoken by the locals.

I was once arrested as a German Spy (I was only about 12 years old) by the local Police Sergeant Annie  as we called  him. A few of us were flying  our home made kites and he said   these were  wireless arials and we were signalling to the enemy using radios .We had to go to the Station and were duly charged and then released. We changed our mind about this sergeant when a Welsh friend  Douglas Price drowned in a feeder lake ,all the local people turned out to watch and Annie dived and dived , and searched for two hours before he found the body , Annie was as blue as our friend Douglas with the ice cold water ,we liked Annie after this. Douglas  was on show for a few days after this in his front room ,he looked so peaceful. All the boys paid their respects.

One pastime was to slide down the mountain on pieces of cardboard or dustbin lids, imagining that we were skiing and when we tired of this  the other lads  would roll large boulders down to the road below.

We would also dig out coal from surface seams to take home to earn a few pennies. Another way to make money was to act as look-outs for the miners as they gambled  in groups among the slag heaps and they would get very cross at any false alarm especially  when a lad would shout out “Here comes the police “ and then start running as if to hide. It was fun to see them all scatter. Sometimes they wouldn’t stop even  to collect their money!!!

One day we discovered a ventilation shaft to a disused mine, it was about 10 feet square very very deep  and strengthened by criss crossed large square wooden beams .We dropped stones down to see how deep it was , and a splash occurred after about  four seconds we lit a bonfire and threw it down the shaft to see how deep it was. We tried to see who could climb down farthest, the bravest managed to climb down 20 feet (I could only manage about 10 feet ) We played here for a few days and then one day we saw that it had been covered up with tin sheeting and bolted down .Still perhaps  that stopped us from  killing ourselves. When you are younger, danger is not really an option is it?

We would combine with the local lads when the boys from Rhymney -the next village- came into our territory to fight, we would meet on the local slag tip and throw the slag at each other .One day the “enemy “ caught one of our side, tied him to a post and used him as a target, throwing stones at him then starting to build a fire at his feet and telling him they were going to roast him alive and eat him. Such fun. He was very pleased when we“charged “ and saved him and cut him free. Then our side caught one of the opposite side and we decided to tattoo him with red hot needles using their bonfire but we let him escape, we weren’t  bad really.

We would always go to Chapel twice on Sunday ,or was it three times, or even four ,and  with our nasty coughs and upset tummy  and bad headaches we were still  expected to sing loudly and enjoy ourselves.


I sat for and passed the exam  for the “Tech “ with six other Sheerness boys  and we  attended The Bargoed Mining  and Technical Institute for three months .I then decided to return home after 18 months away from home. I did not want to become a  Welsh miner!!

One thing I did learn there was how to play Rugby properly .Our sports  teacher would run up behind us and with his hand behind our neck throw us at our opponents feet and the very hard football boots came in contact with our face .It didn’t ‘alf hurt mum.

The Government then decided that those born in 1928 and I think 1929?  were to be exempt from  the National Service and the Home Guard because  our lives had been so badly disrupted ,and we had such a hard life and our education had been so badly affected  as you can see from the

above !!!!