The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

1939 - Preparations and changes

May and Walter, Mortlake, 1930s

Walter's job as school caretaker ticked along fine until 1939, when the impending war began affecting basic services, including Walter's school.

The War in 1939 descended on us, and the school children were all evacuated to surrounding seaside resorts, or other towns more inland. Our boys went to Reading and I had an empty school. All the girls went to another school, and I stayed on to keep the school clean and be on duty. It was quite an easy time for me, but not for long! One morning, I had a letter from the County Hall in Kingston asking for my presence to be interviewed for a post of Hall Keeper at the County Hall. It meant more money, and I had to cycle to Kingston each morning and return at night – a distance of five miles. I got traveling allowance weekly, and I found this duty very exacting, blackout of windows being the chief precaution. This was 1939 September.

Ron stayed at home with his mother, and he joined the Air Training Corps. They used our school as a training establishment. Ron loved this work. He was 13 years of age now. He was learning to play the drums. Air Raid Shelters were provided for us to instal in our gardens for protection against air attack, but I hardly stayed in it. Things were rather quiet during the end of 1939. Ron eventually left the Air Training Corps to come and be a messenger boy at the County Hall. There were three boys and they took it in turns, taking people to the different departments.

When I spent the day with Ron last May, he shared some great war stories that I'll pass along in future posts. Suffice it to say that with all that Walter had been through in his life, several years of blackouts and bombs falling on Mortlake was nothing for him. He'd been in the trenches of the Great War and the Germans weren't about to get a second shot at him. More about this later.
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posted by MaryB @ 1:39 PM  


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