Brian was born in Margate in 1930. He grew up one of a large family, with six sisters and one brother. His mother was continuously “on the move”, so he went to lots of different schools in the area. As a child he spent a lot of time with his sister playing on the old railway line and down on the lido, where he sang for a penny and roamed for miles through the town. Brian and one of his older sisters, Brenda, would also earn money doing chores for their Grandmother.
He remembers the soldiers coming over from the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940 and you can listen to him speaking about this in the clip below:
At this time, Brian’s mother was taken ill and spent nearly 9 months in hospital. As the oldest child, his sister Eileen had to leave school to take care of the family. She was only 12. Then they were told about evacuation, and Eileen helped the children prepare a PE bag with a change of clothes. His address was pinned to his jacket and after being shepherded from his school to Margate Station he got on the train with Brenda, who as the second eldest could claim the children to travel with her.
They arrived in Lichfield where they were given a meal in a hall and Brian was put on a bus with some other boys to Gentleshaw. At Gentleshaw a lady was waiting to take Brian and another lad back to her home. They were given Sunday tea, a bath and were put to bed. Brian was mischievous, and recalls how he was “walloped a good many times” by his hosts. After about five months some bruises were discovered and Brian was relocated to Chasetown to live with a Mr. and Mrs Wall in their miner’s cottage.
Brian describes his new hosts as marvellous people. Mr. Wall was a shot-fire in the pits at Cannock Chase and was also a St. John’s Ambulance man. Mrs Wall stayed at home and taught Brian to do pretty much everything including making peg rugs, knitting and darning. He was also expected to help out in their large garden, which he loved.
While he was at Gentlesaw he went to the local village school, and he believes the evacuees and the locals were schooled separately in mornings and afternoons. There was never any animosity between the two sets of children, although he did have some Staffordshire words to get used to!