Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 16:19 UK
My life as a young WWII evacuee
By Linda Serck
BBC Berkshire

Richard Holdsworth
Richard Holdsworth was six-years-old when he was evacuated to Pangbourne

Richard Holdsworth has published his childhood memories of life as a young World War II evacuee in Pangbourne.

But with his father accused of being a Nazi spy, the escape to the country was not the rural idyll the infant Richard had hoped for.

"The constable, who used to drink with my father at the Red Lion, walked to the bookshelf and found dad's map of Germany," says Richard.

His book Six Spoons Of Sugar refers to the ration of sugar allowed per day.

Richard's father was a huge fan of the German composer Richard Wagner and had enjoyed several pre-war trips to Germany as a result.

But when the constable discovered the map of Germany Mr Holdsworth came under immediate suspicion.

"The constable held it up by the tips of his fingers as though he didn't want to smudge the fingerprints on it, and he said 'what's this then Mr Holdsworth?'", remembers Richard, now in his seventies.

Gone in the blink of an eye, a roar and an ear-splitting crash…and the People's Pantry on the corner of Friar Street and opposite the town hall is no more.
Richard Holdsworth

"Cheerily my dad said 'that's my map of Germany'".

His father was promptly taken away for further questioning at the police station.

"Dad was taken off as a potential Nazi spy," says Richard. "You can imagine the effect on me next morning in school."

Six Spoons Of Sugar adopts a young boy's - sometimes humorous - slant on life in Berkshire during the darkness of wartime tragedy.

"I remember cutting out the strange picture of the men goose stepping across the front page of my father's paper," says Richard, who at the time thought they looked funny.

His mother said 'they're not funny at all, they're very serious, they're Mr Hitler's troops'.

Richard Holdsworth's father
Richard Holdsworth's father was a fan of composer Richard Wagner

"I remember having a nightmare about them afterwards," says Richard.

Mr Holdsworth retains a vast memory bank of his time in Berkshire, helped by comparing notes with his older sister.

"When you're a youngster things do stick in your mind and certain events are as they were yesterday. I can remember my mum always saying 'oh stupid war'," he says.

"You remember the good bits, and writing it down really augmented that."

Though despite these 'good bits', a rare shopping trip to Reading could have killed him.

"It just was bad luck that we went into Reading on that particular day. I'd worn my shoes out and mum said that we've got to have more shoes.

"On the bus going in the ladies had been talking about going into the People's Pantry, this Government-sponsored restaurant where you could get a meal for under a shilling, but we didn't go there.

Richard Holdsworth
A young Richard Holdsworth on holiday in Hastings

"Mum said that we would go to Lyon's coffee shop, and that's where we were off to when the bomber came overhead."

An extract from Six Spoons Of Sugar from February 10 1943 reads:

"Suddenly, there's a shadow. Gone in the blink of an eye, a roar and an ear-splitting crash…and the People's Pantry on the corner of Friar Street and opposite the town hall is no more."

Mr Holdsworth reflects: "I suppose you could say that little bit of luck saved our lives. We were knocked over and it was rather unpleasant to say the least."




SEE ALSO
Seventy years since WWII began
03 Sep 09 |  Europe
Start of WWII commemorated
01 Sep 09 |  Listen again
Poland marks WWII anniversary
01 Sep 09 |  Europe
The last survivor of Hitler's bunker
03 Sep 09 |  Europe

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific