Newly-cut wood takes me back

Memories can be triggered quite unexpectedly. A photograph of an event decades ago will bring back that day to your mind as if was yesterday. A piece of music can remind you of people and places from way back.

David Kindred

Memories can be triggered quite unexpectedly.

A photograph of an event decades ago will bring back that day to your mind as if was yesterday. A piece of music can remind you of people and places from way back.

For Peggy Brett (nee Sayer) of Hawthorn Drive, Ipswich, it is the smell of new timber that takes her back to her childhood at Morland Road School, Ipswich, during the Second World War.

I recently featured a photograph and memories from Willy Simpson, of Elmsett, who was a pupil at the school during the war and told me about when boys would play with guns and ammunition stored in a hut at the school by the local defence force.

Peggy Brett recalls how, as a ten-year-old, she had to care for the bewildered infant pupils when they had to go down into the air raid shelter during German bombing raids.

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Peggy said: “Miss Batley was the headteacher and my teacher was Miss Fair-

weather. I was chosen to help two teachers take the little ones to the air raid shelter when the air raid warning siren sounded. I chose Joan Browse to help me.

“We had to leave our class and make our way quickly, but not run, to the little one's classrooms.

“We took a tin of biscuits, a bottle of water and a story book.

“We had to watch the children because the shelters were recently built and there was a lot of loose sand and soil still lying about.

“The teachers were Miss Cullingford and Miss Driver. They came down with the registers and sat one at each end of the shelter.

“It took a little while for the children to settle down and there were endless questions like 'does my mummy know I am down here'? and 'How long will we be down here'?

“I was only about ten years old and my hands were not very big, but somehow they managed to get three or four little hands inside of mine and sat on each other's lap to get close to us.

“We played I Spy and said nursery rhymes.

“The shelters were built of new wood and very thick. When I smell new wood now it always reminds me of those times.”

While little children were worrying if their mothers knew they were huddled in fear in an air raid shelter “mum” was probably busy helping with the war effort as companies had to adapt their skills to the production of items for the military.

With thousands of men away fighting with the armed forces, women found themselves doing jobs which until then had been mainly done by men.

Frederick Tibbenham Limited of Turrett Lane, Ipswich, were joiners and cabinet makers, but during both the First and Second World Wars they produced wooden aircraft propellers.

A series of photographs taken at the company in September 1944 shows how many women joined the staff to help with production.

No doubt for decades these women's minds returned to their time making propellers whenever they could smell newly-cut wood or glue.