War broke out to the sound of air raid sirens. Alan’s parents believed war meant bombing and gas attacks. When a safe haven in Oxfordshire was offered for Alan they were thankful. Alan’s brother, Brian, was evacuated with his school elsewhere, so their family was broken up. Unselfishly they were certain it was the right thing to do putting him above their emotional needs.
Alan was five in 1939 and hadn’t been out of London. Alan’s interminable journey involved crossing London and two hours on a coach to Headington. His new home was Downside Road, on an estate built for Oxford’s motor industry just like Dagenham.
Alan wasn’t welcomed in his new school. Oxford was insular and he was ‘alien’. Alan’s first experience of school included consistent bullying. Although ‘Auntie Hilda’ was lovely he had severe challenges each day, which he had to cope with. Being five he wasn’t always successful especially during the night. Almost unimaginably Alan was completely cut-off from his family. There was no phone and being five he couldn’t communicate his feelings to his mother by letter.
Alan returned to Dagenham in 1940. The eight month ‘Phony War’ was ending but they didn’t know that then. Unsurprisingly Alan’s parents took the view they’d been suffering unnecessarily. He returned as the Blitz began. His mum kept him in the house till the war ended. Love conquered fear.
Once home in Becontree Avenue Alan thrived. He went to Stevens Road school. Like most people in Dagenham he spent considerable periods of time in Anderson shelters between 1940 and 1943 and, after the war, in 1946, he entered Ilford County High School.
Alan and I have sat next to each other at Dagenham & Redbridge FC for quite a few years. He is absolutely impressive and I’m delighted to have written this biographical fragment, which has been done with his help.
For memories of Headington see http://www.headington.org.uk/history/reminiscences/index.htm
For a general history http://www.headington.org.uk/history/timeline_briefhistory/briefhistory.htm
For the phony war September 1939-March 1940 see https://www.britannica.com/event/Phony-War
For Chadwell Heath’s history see https://www.francisfrith.com/chadwell-heath/memories