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When the war started I was 12, and we were living in a farm cottage at Bumpit, Lynsted. My father was a farm worker, and the house came with the job. My father was often ill, a she had been affected by mustard gas in the First World War. He was a member of the Home Guard for awhile, until illness prevented him from doing so.

At age 14, on leaving school, I worked as a domestic, for the wife of the Chemist at Green Street, Teynham. This family was called Eacott. Mrs Eacott was heavily involved in Women’s Institute activities during the war. I worked for them for about 3 months.

After working for the Eacott’s, I went to work for the Mother of Dr. Birch, who lived in Borden Lane, Sittingbourne. I lived in at the house during this time.

My last job during the war, was working at Graveney Vicarage. My ‘call up’ letter arrived when I was 18, but by this time I was in Tonbridge Wells, having had my twin boys, Eric and Roger. So I did not have to register to do war work. After having the boys, I moved back to 33 London Road, Teynham, to live with my Mother.

I remember the day that the war started. It was a Sunday morning, a lovely sunny day. My brother, Dick and I, had been to Lynsted Church, and then we had been to Potter Oyler market gardens, to get some vegetables. These market gardens were in Lynsted Lane, opposite where Batteries Close is now. As we were coming back down the Lane, the Sirens all went off. We came across a gypsy lady further down the lane,who shouted at us to get home as soon as we could because the Germans were coming! We ran home as fast as we could!

I remember my Dad doing Home Guard duty. I remember his uniform and his rifle. We were not allowed to touch the rifle, or go near it. There was some kind of Home Guard post behind Lynsted School, that my Dad used to go to. The school had some gardens behind it, and there was a path along there that led to the Toll,and somewhere along there was the Guard Post.My father, Edward Willis would sometimes go on Home Guard duty with two of our neighbours, Charlie and Fred Underhill.

My mother would sometimes do farm work when there was any available. My father died when we were at Bumpit, when I was 15 or 16. We then had to move to London Road, Teynham, as the cottage had come with his job on the farm. Our address was 33 London Road Teynham, near the water pump on the London Road. There were market gardens behind these houses. The market gardens were called Rays. They sold flowers, and used to do wreaths and other flower arrangements. One of my cousins worked there for a while. The shop front faced on to the London Road,and was on the corner with Station Road.

When I was attending Lynsted School, Lynsted Church was bombed. When there were raids, at that time, we all had to go in to the school hall, as there were no shelters at the school.When the bomb hit the Church, there was a terrible noise and commotion. Some women had been working picking blackcurrants nearby, and they rushed in to the school to shelter.

After this some of the parents would not let their children attend school. They insisted that shelters be built for the children to use at the school. I lost quite a bit of schooling because I was not allowed to attend the school until the shelters had been built.

I don’t remember being much affected by the war, other than that. I do remember one of the school Christmas parties being affected though,as we had to have bangers and mash, instead of party food. I suppose this was due to the rationing. In the main we had enough food. I suppose because my Dad grew lovely vegetables, and my parents worked on the land.

I seem to recall that there was a British Restaurant in Teynham. Possibly in Station Road.

There may have been searchlights behind The Toll at Lynsted.

There was a searchlight and anti-aircraft gun along the Whitstable Road. I used to go past it on my way to work at Graveney Vicarage. My husband, Eric Parrish, was stationed on the searchlight and that is how we met, as I would pass by on my way to work.

Sharsted Camp

When my husband was de-mobbed from the army at the end of the war, we had to live with my Mother at 33 London Road, as there was a housing shortage. We put our name down on the Council Housing list, and waited for something to come up.

In 1947 we were offered a place to live at Sharsted Camp, in the grounds of a large house called Sharsted Court, near Newnham and Doddington. The house had been taken over by the army during the war, and at this time barracks had been built along each side of the avenue of trees, leading up to the main house. When the army had left after the war, the huts remained, and initially some ‘squatters’ moved in. After a time the local council took them overas temporary housing, for those families on the housing list.

My son Michael was born in November 1947 and my twin sons,Eric and Roger were around two when we moved in, having been born in July 1945. We stayed at the camp until my daughter Susan was around 6 months old, which would have been around June/July 1950.

There were two types of army huts along the avenue. Some had corrugated metal rounded roves, and others, like ours, were more like wooden sheds.I have a feeling that our hut was a bit nicer than the metals ones, and may have been for the officers, but I am not sure. The buildings had been divided up, according to the size of family living in them.For example, our building was roughly divided into us having a third of the space, and next door having two thirds of the space, as they had a bigger family.

Our address whilst at the camp was Number 33, Sharsted Camp.I would estimate that there were between 50 and 100 families living there. Our hut had a wooden frame, and the wall covering was made out of some sort of heavy duty, waterproof material, possibly thick canvas. Ours had two bedrooms, a living area and a toilet room, with a flushing toilet. We had piped water, to a sink in the living area, and the water also went to the toilet. The toilet was next to the kitchen sink, in a little boxed off area. The living area contained a wood/coal stove or range. This was our only source of heating, for heating water and for cooking on. A metal flue went up from the stove, through the roof. (My son Eric fell on to this stove and badly burned his back, while we were living there, he has the scar to this day!) When I needed hot water I used to fill saucepans, and heat them on the stove.

Our rent was paid to the council, and was 10 Shillings a week. This included the cost of our electricity. We had to provide our own furnishings. If you wanted a bit of garden to grow veg/flowers you could just dig up a piece next to your hut.

I think the family who owned Sharsted Court, did move back in to the big house while we were there.There was always a gamekeeper there.

I can recall the names of a few families who also lived at the camp. Frank and Jean Neaves (Jean Neaves was the sister of Ellen Taylor, later Ellen Olney, who would one day become my son Eric’s Mother-in–law).Eileen Cornwell and family, Ron Gates and family. I knew these families as we had known each other from Lynsted or Teynham. The Coker family were also living there.

I don’t know where most of the children would have gone to school. I suppose it would have been at Doddington, as there was no school at the camp.Most of our children were too young to have started school. The camp was made up mostly of young families,and families of men who had been de-mobbed and recently married.

My memories of the camp are happy ones. It was a lovely place to live, out in the countryside. In the summer it was a beautiful place to be. We were just happy to have our own roof over our heads, after having to share with family. In the end we put our names down for the new pre-fab housing that was being built around Sittingbourne. We put our names down for Bapchild and Borden. In the end we were offered a house at Mount View, Borden and we moved there in the Summer of 1950.

JP 2013

Childhood in Lynsted and Teynham 

by Joan Parrish (nee Willis)

childhood memories | Lynsted | Doddington Sharsted
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