Wartime Rye – Childhood Memories


By Doreen Smith

As the media recently reminded us it is Seventy years since the Battle
of Britain and Sixty-Five years since V E Day. I was only two when
war broke out so all through that time I was too young to understand
what it was all about.

In 1940, when the danger of invasion was imminent, my mother, my youngest
brother and I, together with some others from Rye, were evacuated
to Taunton in Devon for six weeks. My brother was eleven and I was
three. We weren’t happy there, we didn’t have a very nice billet.
My brother went to school. I remember my mother reading me some stories
about the Bruin Boys.

We all missed my father and when he wrote it made us cry. On the day
that I knew we were going home I jumped up and down on my bed with
excitement. I fell off the bed and banged my head on the bedroom door,
no serious injury was sustained.

Home Guard Uniform
Home Guard Uniform

When I was five I started school at the Ferry Road Primary School.
We all had to take gas masks wherever we went, fortunately they were
never needed. When I was old enough to walk to school alone (six or
seven), I was always afraid that the siren would sound and I would
have to find a shelter to go to and I wouldn’t know what to do. Thankfully
that never happened. If the siren went while we were at school we
had to get under our desks. Occasionally we had to go to the big brick
shelter in the playground. There was one shelter in the Primary playground
and another in the Senior.

There were four serious bombing raids on Rye during the time I was
at school. One raid happened when I was at school. My mother became
very panicky and wanted to go straight to the school in case it had
been hit! My middle brother was at home. He pacified her and told
her that the school was all right, although I don’t think he actually
knew! It hadn’t been struck and all the children were safe.

At home when the siren went we used to crowd into the cupboard under
the stairs. One night it must have been going more than usual, none
of us could sleep, so we went into the back garden. One or two neighbours
were also in their gardens. One family was drinking tea and they called
to us.

I can remember my two youngest brothers standing at the window of
our back bedroom, which was my bedroom, waiting to see if any Doodlebugs
were coming. I liked them doing that when I was in bed. A few Doodlebugs
did come over on various nights.

Even wartime had its moments of humour. One evening, one of Rye’s
leading businessmen was walking in the High Street in the dark (because
of the blackout), when he bumped into something. Thinking it was a
person he said “I beg your pardon”. Later it emerged it was a pile
of sandbags!

Rye Home Guard
Rye Home Guard

One of our friends who lived in Bedford was an ARP Warden. One night
he was called out in a rush and mistakenly put his wife’s knickers
on instead of his underpants! They both had a good sense of humour.

Of course, the War was a very tragic and sad affair. My family had
its share of sadness when, in 1944, my eldest brother was killed on
active service in Italy. This was a big blow, although we knew it
might happen. The rest of us survived the War and lived to tell about

November the Fifth


While reading the November issue of Rye’s Own, it brought back boyhood memories of life in Rye back in the late 1940’s. I was born at 10 New Winchelsea Road to Jack and Marjory Fuller. Later moving to 46b Udimore Road, where the bonfire night procession used to start. My brother and myself were ‘Bonfire Boys’, as our father was. We wore the badge with the ‘burning boat’ emblem upon them. A few days before the “big night”, all the Bonfire Boys would meet up in Bedford Place, at the back of the old cinema in the Landgate. This is where the torches, which were soaked in paraffin, for the procession were made. The bonfire had been built on the Salts with chestnut and birch faggots made by Jimmy Dewhurst at Udimore. Over the years he must have made thousands of them. On bonfire night all the local children would follow the floats around the town, their pockets full of penny bangers! A very dangerous practise, but we all did it then. As we all followed the procession, we would pick up torches which had been dropped in the gutter. We used to get covered in paraffin as it ran down the handles. The best part of the night was eating bloaters, which had been cooked on a brazier in an old steel boat in the procession. The bloaters had been smoked by Frank Jarret who had a fishing tackle and net shop down the Mint. I remember one year my father making a Readicut rug with the ‘burning boat’ emblem on it for a raffle. It was displayed in a shop window in the High Street, and whoever guessed how many knots were in the rug won it. The proceeds from the raffle were given to the Bonfire Boys’ fund.

Bloaters from the Boat
Bloaters from the Boat

It would be interesting to know if anyone remembers the rug, or indeed if it is still around almost sixty years later! The following day (Sunday) lots of children would go to the fishmarket and around the Nissen huts to pick up rocket sticks. Why we did it, or what we did with them I’m not sure, but it was obviously great fun! I attended Ferry Road Primary School, (now sadly demolished), and can remember the Bonfire Boys putting on a party and pantomime in the school hall every Christmas. They also used to distribute presents, to children in Rye on Christmas morning. The presents were purchased by the parents, and they made a donation to the Bonfire Boys’ fund for the delivery service.

From the December 2007 issue of “Rye’s Own”

Six Million Pound school

Here it is! The proposed £6,000,000 new Primary School to be built
in the grounds of the Thomas Peacocke replacing both the Freda Gardham
in New Road and the Tilling Green Primary in Mason Road. Continue reading Six Million Pound school

£6,000,000 New Primary School

Here it is! The proposed £6,000,000 new Primary School to be built in the grounds of the Thomas Peacocke replacing both the Freda Gardham in New Road and the Tilling Green Primary in Mason Road. Continue reading £6,000,000 New Primary School


Those who went to the Ferry Road Primary School in the years just after the War will be especially interested in the 1946 Staff Photograph that is publish on page twenty-six. What a fine bunch of teachers they were. Continue reading Editorial