Preserving your Past for the Future

 

My early life at Aveton Gifford. 


The day the village was bombed.
We lived at Blacksmith Cottage which was in Fore Street, just a little higher up the road from the Pub. I was born on 29th February 1940 so I was just a month short of 3 years of age when the bombs fell on the village. I remember being pushed under the kitchen table by my mother and afterwards looking out through the rubble to the kitchen window with its broken glass and torn curtains. What I don’t remember and only learned recently, is that it took a number of men to dig me out and shortly afterwards the table collapsed. I had nightmares for a long time afterwards and I still don't like caves or being shut in small places. If I visit a property that’s being renovated the smell of disturbed old plaster, brings these wartime memories flooding back.
 
Living at Bridge End.
Blacksmith Cottage was a write off after the bombing and we were put up, for a short time, by someone I knew as Aunt Taura who lived near the school. I can’t remember her surname and I have no idea if we were actually related. Neither do I know if Blacksmith Cottage was repaired or demolished.
 
We were eventually offered a mid-terrace cottage at Bridge End just down the lane running west from the southern end of the bridge. On one side of us was Col Lampard and on the other a lady farmer called Mrs Prouse, her daughter Josie, and a lodger called Harry Widger. Mrs Prouse ran the farm down the lane belonging to the people called Dobell who lived in the big house there. I spent a lot of time there helping Mrs Prouse and I remember feeding the cats which belonged to the Dobells. Mrs Prouse also took in evacuees from London.

I started school in the village and had to walk every day from Bridge End to the school and back, passing the garage on the bridge about half way, calling in most days and spending time with a friend who lived there, before going home.  If the bombing started whilst on my way home, I would sometimes call in on an elderly lady (Bertha Cranch) known to every one affectionately, as Cranchie.  When not at school, I spent a lot of time with Col Lampard who would take me and his dog Pickles in his rowing boat down the river past Pittens, collecting soap or anything else useful that had washed-up on the banks from shipwrecks.  He kept his boat in the boathouse beside the bridge.
 
Memories of the war.

The bombing occurred mainly at night, and I remember seeing the search lights most nights. When there was bombing around I either spent the time in the cupboard under the stairs, or I had to take my toys and a chair and sit outside under a hedge in the lane across the main road from us until it stopped. We had relatives in Kingsbridge at Tumbly Hill, so spent some time there from time to time. I do remember walking along the river at Kingsbridge quay, and the Americans would go by, shouting from their lorries and throwing us chocolates.

 The Church featured regularly in my early life.  We would attend most Sundays. Many of the Taylor family (my mother was a Taylor) were christened there, some married there and several buried there.  I recall walking up to the Church after the bombing with my family; we couldn’t believe our eyes and just looked at each other and cried.  I have vivid memories of the dust and smell of destruction as we walked past all the bombed houses and can recall it today as I write about it. It was a very frightening experience.

My father was demobbed later in 1943 due to ill-health and remained unwell for quite a while. He found it very difficult to settle back into civilian life after his army experiences.  Eventually he secured a job as Head Gardener at Newport House, Countess Wear, Exeter, bringing our time at Aveton Gifford to an end around 1946/7.
 

by Lorna Lockley.

 

Lorna was reminded of her own experiences when she read a copy of David Balkwill's memoir recently published by the Project Group, and has kindly contributed her own memories of that time.

She is the granddaughter of John and Ellen Taylor, nee Edgcombe, both of Aveton Gifford. John Thomas Taylor lost his life in WW1, and is commemorated on our village memorials; after his death Ellen remained in the village to bring up their seven children. By the time of the Second World War she was living in Blacksmith's Cottage on Fore Street, and her daughter Netta with granddaughter Lorna had come to live with her there. Blacksmith's Cottage and the cottages next door to it were completely destroyed, and in later years several new houses were built on the site.