‘My move to Princethorpe village school was arranged by Mrs Reeve of the Poplars Farm, Eathorpe. She was an exceptional lady who was very kind to my family and provided us with shelter when we were bombed out of Coventry. The farm was situated about eight miles [south-] east of the city in idyllic Warwickshire countryside. Mr and Mrs Reeve lived on the farm with their [four] children…and they always invited …[my brother] Eric and me to their house for the Christmas party. This was held in the school room, where there was always a large Christmas tree decorated with crackers and present. It looked like a magical tree to me.’
Helping on the farm
‘We became closely involved with the Reeve family, and Eric and I eventually helped with the work of the farm; it was an exciting place for children though the work could be physically hard…During the war, all clocks were adjusted to double summertime, so the evenings remained light and harvesting would continue until it became dark, after eleven o’clock at night. At harvesting Mrs Reeve would drive to the fields with two large baskets of sandwiches, cakes and tea, or a cold drink. Village children who had reached the age of thirteen were allowed to miss school and go potato picking. I hated doing it. It was a back aching job but we got paid for the work we did. Some Sundays, after attending mass, Mr and Mrs Reeve would drive around the farm in a trap drawn by a pony.’
Prisoners of war working on the farm
‘Italian and German prisoners of war worked on the farm. I got on particularly well with the Germans and with a child’s innate ability soon learned some conversational German from them. One was a school teacher who, after the war, learnt that his family had been killed during a bombing raid over Berlin. He was devastated and cried bitterly to my mother. Two others settled in this country after the war and married English girls. Martin, the teacher was exceptional. He was so nice that I could not believe that he was an enemy, and I used to ask my mother: “are you sure he is an enemy Mum?” She would say, “Yes he is an enemy but he is a nice enemy”, which I found confusing and I would ask her, “Then why are we fighting them?” I was young at the time, just ten years old.’
1Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR 3913/1.