In 1942, my school moved to Hemel Hempstead and I was billeted with a Mrs. Lowe at Apsley, just outside Hemel. I was, indeed, fortunate because Mrs. Lowe was the head cook at the Apsley Paper Mills canteen, just down the road. You can imagine the variety and quantity of food we had. She was a first-class cook and used to produce wonderful pies and puddings. There was not much experience of rationing in that household.
During the day, I would ride to school on my bike. This school was based at the northern end of Hemel Hempstead at a place called Piccotts End. Our various classes were spread all over the town, some even in abandoned shops. At our school in Piccotts End there were two classes in what had been a local village school.
Here, we had school dinners delivered daily by a van. By the time they reached our far flung outpost, the food was warm. However, it was well cooked and we used to enjoy it. Later we would have meals in the centre of town at a large hall which would serve the whole school at one sitting.
At this time, there was an announcement from the headmaster to the effect that we would be asked to help pick potatoes at a farm near Piccotts End. For a few weeks, on one or two days a week, the occupants of the Piccotts End school only, were drafted in to pick potatoes. The headmaster said that this work would be rewarded by larger portions of potatoes at lunch.
The work was arduous and we all suffered in the mid summer sunshine. There were some boys who were quite young and they soon became exhausted. We parked them under a hedge at the side of the field. Helping us were several Italian prisoners of war. They spoke no English, but used to boo every time an R.A.F. aircraft flew over. We, on the other hand, all laughed.
Needless to say neither we, nor any other boys, got any extra potatoes.
At Easter of 1943, I returned home from evacuation. By this time, the trickle of children returning home became a flood and by mid summer, the whole school had returned to London.
Next chapter: Chapter 18: “Eat that, Boy !”