Memories of Stamford Evacuation in WWII

by Francis "Fruit" Gibson

Perhaps it would be of some interest if I recall the Stamford evacuee episode. The bulk of the school was evacuated very soon after the outbreak of war but for some reason I didn't go until some 3/4 weeks later and together with a chap called Malcolm Bingham finished up at 40 New Cross Road, Stamford in the care of a Mrs Skerritt. I think that she was a widow lady who was doing her best to make ends meet by taking in lodgers. One of these was a tanker driver as far as I recall, but the other was a retired fellow with an ulcer and a temper to match. Very soon after we two were installed two more Mundellans joined us and the four of us all shared the biggest bedroom. Not exactly the Hilton but it made for interesting post supper discussion covering a wide range of topics as you may imagine!

That winter of 1939/1940 was vicious with snow and frost persisting until well into March and we all developed a lovely crop of chilblains but this may have been our own fault, as after homework in the evening we and others (including girls) met on a local recreation park to exchange gossip. Mundella boys shared a local school (Brazenose College) - they attended in the mornings and we in the afternoons which meant that we had to be kept occupied each morning. This was accomplished by the school being offered the facility of the Assembly Rooms where various activities were organised including dancing classes (a sight to see with people doing the polka in Wellingtons), philately under the guidance of Mr. Broadbent who hadn't a clue about stamp collecting and who had obviously drawn the short straw, and a most comprehensive series of lectures on the history of architecture given by a notable professor. My memory regarding weekends is a little hazy but I do remember parties of us exploring the local area and sometimes playing a modified form of ice hockey (using walking sticks and suitably shaped branches and anything else we could get our hands on) on the lake in the grounds of Burghley House as the ice was over a foot thick!

It was decided by the powers that be that as some form of thank you to the long-suffering citizens of Stamford the school would stage a concert, and so arrangements were set in motion for the concert to be presented just before the Xmas break .The programme included the school choir of course, Kath Pinder with a tap-dancing routine, an absolutely virtuoso violinist called Booth (He was also a dedicated Communist and was forever trying to enrol new recruits) a rather strange tin whistle group and, I think, some sketches and recitations. It went down very well and I seem to recall a second performance being given.

I also have vivid memories of listening to Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch in "Bandwagon" on the radio in our digs and of fearsome games of Ludo when any tactics short of physical violence were permissable and encouraged. Mrs Skerritt became very ill in February and rather than try to find fresh digs Malcolm and I returned home and we were followed shortly after by the whole school.