When America came into the war,
they set up a small camp at the bottom of the “Back Lane” in a field near the old quarry. They set up a searchlight battery and ack-ack gun position. During night time bombing raids over Teesside, the German planes would turn over Trimdon to head out back over the sea. When this happened, the searchlights would come on and the guns would start. I don’t remember any plane being shot down but they made a lot of noise. They were a quiet bunch of soldiers and were very friendly. They were probably a little bored during the day and enjoyed playing ball games with children from the village. They were very generous and usually gave little gifts from their “K” rations.
Before the D-Day landings in 1944, there was a major military exercise on the North Yorkshire moors. Day and night for a whole week every kind of military vehicle passed through Trimdon on the way south to this exercise. They strung up their own communication system, hanging wires from the trees and telephone poles, a control centre in a large tent was in the field at the bottom of Chishom’s bank. The tanks really chewed up the roads. The process was reversed after a week of exercises and The Village got back to its normal quiet.
While I do not recall any German prisoners of war, we did see quite a few Italian who were allowed to work on the local farms. They arrived each morning in a truck with a couple of guards, once in the village they just went to the farms on their own without guards. At this stage in the war, they had no incentive to escape.
During these war years school went on as normal, there were a few but not very many air raid warnings, we saw more friendly aeroplanes including a few that crash landed nearby. We abandoned the Anderson shelter early in the war and just stayed in bed during air raids. It used to fill with about six inches of water and it was difficult to keep it dry. I remember staying over at Grandma Kell’s house in Hartlepool one night (a rare occasion) and the sirens went off. They also ignored the air raids but on this occasion, I was scared and crying and we went to the shelter, much to Tommy’s disgust as he liked to stay in bed.
Mr. Stubbs the headmaster and teacher of the older children in the Village school, was a fairly strict disciplinarian. He used a cane walking stick for punishments. For some reason he would never cane a girl and one of the boys had to volunteer to take the cane for the girl. We all had our turn, which, was not a pleasant experience. I never personally got into any trouble and was a quiet type of person. While my math and reading skills were good, my writing was a scrawl with the letters not in the expected copperplate. Once I was taken by the collar and dragged into the infants class to look at the beautiful writing my sister Ellen was doing at her age. This however had no effect as I still write in the same way and sometimes cannot read my own writing.
In 1944 all of the pupils who has reached the age of eleven sat an exam to see if they were good enough academically to go to the Wellfield, Secondary School (High School). The school was closed to all pupils that day except for those taking the exam. I do not remember it being any special occasion, it was just a routine that everyone reaching that age had to do. In fact the exam had already started before I got to school. I was late because I played on the way to school with Charlie Nattrass, who was not very interested in taking the exam in the first place. The teacher was quite angry that we were late but led us to our seats and gave us the papers. I do remember working through the various sections of the exam and actually finished fifteen minutes early.
I had already forgotten about this exam, the intake to the Secondary School from the whole region was only 50 boys and 50 girls and usually they were lucky to get places for one or two pupils from each school, especially a small village school like Trimdon Village. It was quite a surprise when we found out that I had passed together with four others from the school, which was quite an achievement. I was put into the “B” stream, not good enough for “A” but better than “C”. In the family, Hannah and Billy did not pass, Harry got into the “C” stream by default when someone refused the placement. Jim was the clever one who made the “A” stream.
A few years later, my younger sister Ellen and brother Paul also qualified and attended this school. I know that mother was pleased, since she herself had qualified, but could not go because the family could not afford the cost of travelling to the school in Hartlepool every day. Since her days, the country and county recognised the value of education and now provided it for free including transportation by bus, in my situation to A. J. Dawson Secondary School in Wellfield.
As a reward for passing the “Scholarship”, mother decided that she would get me a bicycle. I was almost 12 years old and had never had a bicycle and could not even ride one. It was still wartime and these were scarce commodities and expensive. Billy was serving in the navy in Scotland and he bought an old model and had it shipped by train to Trimdon Station. I walked to the station and wheeled the bike home. The bike had a “fixed wheel”, i.e. a direct drive from the crank wheel gear to the back wheel, no free wheel. I used to take the bike up onto the West Lane road and try to practice riding. It took me over a week before I could ride, mainly because of the fixed wheel. Eventually we found a free wheel gear and replaced the fixed wheel which made riding much easier. I was quite happy to have the bike but remember some of the other people who passed the exam ridiculing me having an old bike while they had newer models.