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Free Time : Brownies and Guides, and a special occasion

Guides and Brownies

The thing I loved most of all when I was young was Guides and Brownies. When I first joined the Brownies, a remarkable lady called Mrs Hans Hamilton was in charge of all Brownie and Guide things. She was Brown Owl and the Guides always called her Madam, as I believe she was also District Commissioner.

Now in those days, each meeting that we had was stopped for a minute or two as she inspected us to see that our uniforms were as near perfect as possible. First you wore a hat. If you had long hair it had to be plaited or tied back off your collar. Ties at that time were made out of a shiny shaped material folded and tied at the back of your neck with a reef knot. The idea of this shaped tie was if someone hurt their arm the tie could be unfolded and used as a sling. Then there was the Brownie or Guide badge made of brass, and they had to be polished until they shone. Belts and shoes had to be polished as well and the shoes had to be black or brown with white socks or brown stockings. May be that seems a lot of fuss now, but we were proud of our uniforms and to make them look smart was a challenge. The Guide and Brownie activities were so numerous it would take for ever to relate them all, but the story I’m now going to tell, I’m doing so in the hope that someone may be able to remember what this occasion was.

There was some sort of parade that took part on Yarmouth Quay. Mary Lord (nee Hayles) and I were told as senior Sixers in the Brownies that we were to be very smart and represent the Brownie pack. I know we lined up with a few Guides and Scouts, Red Cross and all sorts of other people in uniforms. A gent, who I understand was an Admiral, and two other gents walked along the line looking at us. This went on for a long time and when it was at last over, we were taken out to a large Naval boat off the Common. We all stood along the side of the ship when someone blew a whistle. I later found out it was called a Bosun’s whistle. Then a loud voice yelled ‘Muster on the upper deck!’ and everyone moved. Several sailors showed us the way.
Now I thought they said ‘Mustard’, like you eat. I could not make out why they would have this on the deck. I looked around and of course could not see any. So I said to Mary, ‘I can’t see any mustard, can you? Why would they put it on the deck?’
Mary was the daughter of Harold Hayles the boat builder and what Mr Hayles didn’t know about any boat was not worth knowing. Mary said, ‘Don’t be so daft’ and then explained to me what it meant. I did feel daft! Then a lot of talking went on and prayers were said and hymns sung. I can’t remember what happened after this. I think we went home. If anyone has any ideas what this was all about it would be nice to know. My husband Norman thinks it must have been the end of war celebrations, as in the war we would not have been taken out to the ship. If anyone knows about this it would be lovely to hear.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

Carnival week 1949 : Pier Shore

1949 Regatta at Carnival Week

For several years my friend the late Sheila Kennedy (nee Reeves) and I used to take part in the ladies’ rowing race using one oar each. We had this heavy old dinghy that her Uncle Bern used to use to take people out to his launch for fishing trips. It was almost round in shape and the last thing you should use for rowing. However, it was all we had.

Every year to our amazement we came second, and every year we were beaten by Mary Lord (nee Hayles) and her rowing partner. One year Sheila asked her cousin Godfrey if we could use his dinghy. It was longish and light and a green colour, much better for racing. We practised for two days to get used to it.
On the morning of the regatta we went to collect the dinghy but we could not find it. It was not at its mooring. Sheila rushed to her cousin’s who came out to look with us. Then he went to the Police Station to report it missing, so we still had to use the heavy dinghy and we still came second!

Several days later the green dinghy was found tied up quite safe at Lymington. Apparently two St Swithins’ boys had got out of their Home (now Port La Salle) and had escaped to the Mainland in the green dinghy. Well at least no real harm was done, and the boat was safely returned.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

Carnival 1949, trips from Pier Shore

Carnival 1949, trips from Pier Shore. Harold Hayles with daughter Christine. Delia Whitehead centre right looking after Charmaine. Amongst watchers, Serena Hunt, Mrs Ryall with children, Mrs Sloper, Mrs Maitland,
Photo : Delia Whitehead nee Hunt

The Dashwood Family and Yarmouth Church

The Dashwood Family and Yarmouth Church

The Dashwood family did a lot for Yarmouth Church. They let their garden be used for the garden parties to raise money for the Church. Mr Cuthbert played the organ.

It was funny but when the three ladies came to Church on Sunday mornings, they all came separately. Miss Teresa sat upstairs (it was not all that safe even in those days), Miss Constance sat down the front and Miss Caroline half way up the church. I think they must have fallen out at this time as they had a family row.
They were a very thrifty family. It used to amuse my Gran because when they received Christmas cards they would stick paper over who had sent them and then write on them again.

When I was a Girl Guide they let us perform a garden ballet there on the lawn. The ladies came into the garden to watch with their sun shades up. It was all such fun for us children.

I remember Mr. Cuthbert for a special reason on my wedding day. A new vicar had just arrived and somehow the date of my wedding hadn’t been passed on to the organist. My mum rushed up to The Mount to find Mr. Cuthbert, who arrived in his gardening clothes to play for the service.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

The Dashwood family of ‘The Mount’

The Mount and the Dashwood Family

In the middle of Yarmouth Common was the Mount, a large house owned by the Dashwood Family. In my life time there was Mr Cuthbert, Miss Constance, Miss Teresa and Miss Caroline.

I remember my Great Uncle George used to go and help a Mr Harry King who did the garden there at this time. There was a lot of garden, a big lawn in the front and back and lots of flower gardens. I can remember my great Uncle George pushing barrow loads of animal manure from the Toll gate to the Mount garden to feed the rose trees.

Now, all four of the Dashwoods painted. They could often be seen sitting around Yarmouth painting. Miss Caroline often painted on Yarmouth Common. My Aunt Alice would often take me to see what she was painting. I loved this as I think I was born ‘arty’. I spent hours with my crayons and pencils, colouring. I remember telling her this, and she asked to see some pictures. I remember taking her some but I don’t remember her saying, ‘Have you ever tried to paint?’ Apparently I said I could not, because Mummy, Daddy and Granny said they could not afford to buy me boxes of paints. I did not know I had said this until Aunt Alice said about it later. But what I do remember was a couple of days after I had taken my pictures for Miss Dashwood to look at, Gran opened our back door one morning, and there on the step was a most lovely box of paints with my name on. No message or who they were from. I just could not believe it. Gran said they were from the Dashwoods and Aunt Alice said the box was like the ones the Dashwoods used. When Dad was told, he said I must say to Miss Dashwood ‘that I had had a lovely surprise. I found this lovely box of paints on the door step. It was the best present I’d ever had.’ I had to keep practising this until I got it correct. When I saw Miss Dashwood, I managed to get it right. She grinned from ear to ear but never said a word.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

Oil painting of Brooke point by one of the Dashwood family given as a prize to Eileen Smith nee Lansdowne

Oil painting of Brooke point by one of the Dashwood family given as a prize to Eileen Smith nee Lansdowne

WWII Brownies War Effort: Delia Whitehead

During the war, I was in the Brownies and we joined in with the War Effort. Our Brown Owl had a car with an old wooden trailer at the back. We had to go to each house in turn in Yarmouth to collect waste paper. Sometimes there were a few comics that we used to “borrow” when Brown Owl wasn’t looking, and bring them back at the next collection. They were tucked up our Brownie dresses and the belts tied tightly. One day, somebody’s fell out and Brown Owl was not pleased! We never borrowed any comics again.

Brownies 1940s

Brownies outside the White House, Yarmouth Common 1940s Pat Burt nee Adams extreme left
Photo: Pat Burt

Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

WWII Childhood Memories: Sheltering in Air Raids

When I was small and living in South Street, my mum decided I should go for a holiday to stay for a week at the Toll Gate at the end of Yarmouth Common with my Great Uncle, Granny Hunt and Aunt Alice. I caught bronchitis and Dr. Drummond decided I would be better staying at my Great Uncle George’s bungalow ‘Downs View’ at the beginning of Thorley Road, because the air was better there. We had a horse, pigs and chicken on Great Uncle George’s small holding. The bungalow had a big garden with fruit trees and a lot of grass and a greenhouse attached to the front porch.

Delia Whitehead's childhood home.

Downs View, Thorley Road 1940s where Delia Whitehead grew up with Granny Hunt, Aunt Alice and Great Uncle George who had a small holding there.
Photo: Delia Whitehead

When the gun at Bouldnor Battery was fired at the enemy planes flying in the Solent, all our glass used to vibrate. It became a worry in case it smashed and cut us so my Great Uncle made a dug-out affair in the garden. All I can remember is a tin roof with earth over the top and the floor had shingle on it and there were four chairs. On bad nights, we all sat in there while the air raids were on, except my Great Uncle who stood outside to keep watch.

One night we were sitting there by torch light when suddenly my Aunt screamed and dived out of the door. No, we had not been hit by a bomb, but a little frog had suddenly appeared and jumped onto my Aunt’s leg. We never went down the dug-out again!

We spent the rest of the war in the passage in the middle of the house, or on the sitting room floor. I always had to have my head under the keyboard of the piano. I’ve often wondered since how that was supposed to protect me!

On one occasion during the day time, I was taken into Yarmouth Marsh and we saw a crater that had been made by a small bomb. It had rained a lot and the crater was half full of water with a duck swimming on it!

One morning the people of Yarmouth woke up to find the streets covered in strips of silver metal stuff. No one knew what it was until later in the day, when we were told that it was to jam the Radar Stations. But we had all been told not to touch it, even with our feet. After we knew that it was safe, lots of children collected it to play with.

Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

WWII: Thorley Marsh mystery

War Time – Strange Goings-on over the Marsh

When I was about nine I used to visit my Mum and Dad in Yarmouth. I lived at the Toll Gate just outside Yarmouth with my Great Uncle, Gran, and Aunt Alice, and if it was dark I used to get a bus in Yarmouth Square and get off the bus right outside my Uncle George’s bungalow. I can’t quite remember why, I think I might have missed the bus, but one evening in the winter I had to walk back home. I did not mind the dark.
Because of the black-out in the war it was always dark with no lights on except for some natural light from the sky and sea. I walked past the Mount, a big house on the Common (not there any more), past a few yards with trees called the shrubbery. Then you came to a low hedge and you could see over the marsh. It was a fine night and you could see a bit.

As I got to this part I heard a drum drum of a plane’s engine. I did not know if it was a German plane or an English one, so I got under a tree and watched. You could just see the outline of a big plane flying low towards the marsh. It seemed to circle round the marsh and round Thorley Copse twice. It dropped two white flares and two red ones, then flew off. I ran as fast as possible in the dark. It only took a few minutes to get to the Toll Gate and home. I told my Great Uncle, who did fire watch. He went out and looked around but could not see anything. Next day when I went to Yarmouth I told my Dad. He said I must not talk about it as in the war you had to be careful what you said. But my mum told me afterwards he did go down to the police station, so I suppose he told them.

I’ve often wondered about this, and would love to know if anybody else saw it that night. I would love to hear about it. I think it must have been between seven and eight p.m.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

WWII Firewatch : Delia Whitehead

War Time Fire Watch

When I was young, I lived with my Great Uncle George, Granny Hunt and Aunt Alice. Uncle George had a small-holding at the Toll Gate just outside of Yarmouth, but because it was war time he also did fire watch. We lived in a bungalow called ‘Downs View’. You could not see much from the garden so he had to walk down Thorley Road when it was dark.

Delia Whitehead's childhood home.

Downs View, Thorley Road 1940s where Delia Whitehead grew up with Granny Hunt, Aunt Alice and Great Uncle George who had a small holding there.
Photo: Delia Whitehead

There was a gent called Mr Rowley who was in charge of the men who did fire watch. He lived along the Bouldnor Road. If a fire was spotted the men would have to go to his house and tell him, or even look round to find him. Very few people were on the phone.

Sometimes Mr Rowley would visit the men’s homes to see if they had been out looking round. Trouble is in winter when it was bitter cold, Uncle George would pop home for a hot drink. He always sat in the kitchen on an old couch. It was warm and he kept falling asleep so the rest of us had to take it in turns to poke him just as he was about to drop off to sleep and hope Mr Rowley would not turn up in the middle of it.

WWII Canadians at Rofford House: Delia Whitehead

War Time at Rofford House in Thorley Road

Now during the war, Rofford House in Thorley Road was used by service men. One day Granny Hunt and Aunt Alice and I were sitting in the kitchen at Downs View, Thorley Road, when suddenly the back door opened and two young men with shirts over their arms walked into the house, much to our surprise. One looked at Gran and said: ‘ Hello Ma, we are living in Rofford House. Can we borrow your iron?’
The other one explained they were (I think) Canadian. They had dates with two young women that evening, and there were no irons in Rofford House to iron their shirts.

Gran went out to the shed and came back with two flat irons because this is what she used then, and said: ‘They will take a while to heat up, boys, I have to put them on this range.’ Their faces were a picture. ‘What are they, Ma?’ one said. They could not believe it when Gran explained. They had had electric irons for years at home they said.

Gran decided if they tried to use the irons there would be two young ladies, with young men who had shirts full of holes, so she did it for them. Next day they came back and brought Gran several packets of biscuits. She said, ‘I can’t take them, it’s not right when things are rationed.’ They laughed and said they had plenty. Gran did bits of ironing for them and Gran got several lots of biscuits and then one day they came to say they all had to go back to the mainland.

They certainly had a forward approach but they were very nice young men. It seems that people just walked in and out of people’s houses in their home town. It seemed rather strange to us but then lot of things were strange in the war years.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

Delia Whitehead nee Hunt :Confirmation at St. James’ Church

Delia Whitehead nee Hunt in her Confirmation Dress made from parachute silk.

Delia Whitehead nee Hunt in her Confirmation Dress made from parachute silk.
Photo : Delia Whitehead

Confirmation at St James’s Yarmouth

Those of us that were the 12 to 14 age group who attended Yarmouth Church were told that there was to be a Confirmation at St James’s, not just for us; people from Freshwater and out in the country would be joining us. A lady, I can’t remember her name, told us that all us young girls must have white dresses. Older girls could wear blue, men and boys should wear “Sunday best” as it was called then, or if you were in the Services you could wear your uniform.

Now to buy white dresses at this time was just not possible. You had to try to get some material and get the dresses made and that was not easy either. I don’t know how my Mum and Aunt Alice got it, but they got some bits of white parachute silk and a lady in Yarmouth Square, Mrs Kellaway, fitted the bits together and made me a dress. My friend Sheila Kennedy (nee Reeves) had a great aunt in London. She somehow got hold of some beautiful white satin. She would not say how she got it, and Mrs Kellaway made a dress for Sheila as well. I remember one girl had a dress made from butter muslin, this looked very sweet. A girl from the country had a white blouse and had made a skirt from white net curtains. It was different, but she did look very pretty. There were other white dresses made from all sorts of materials, whatever the girls’ mums could get hold of. I must say my friend Sheila’s dress stood out, it was so beautiful.

After what seemed to be a very long service we at last came out and stood around the church yard while people took photos with Box Brownie cameras. It must have been late on the Sunday afternoon because people were putting out old metal dust bins before it got dark ready for the dustman who came very early in the morning on the Monday.

Sheila started to run about and suddenly she jumped over a dustbin and caught the hem of her lovely dress on a lid. The hem came down and made the dress look like a nightgown. Luckily for her, her mum could see the funny side of it and when you think about it, it really had been a lovely day to remember.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt