By his own admission, Douglas Wood was brought up in a somewhat unloving family. He lived in a council house in Chinn Brook Road, Birmingham with his mother, brother and baby sister and attended the infants’ class at the school on Trittiford Road. His mother was a conductress on the number 13 and 24 buses from Yardley bus depot.
He remembers the war starting, and the sound of bombs “screaming” around him while he sat in the air raid shelter. Then, in February 1946 he was evacuated with his brother and the rest of his school from New Street Station to Rolleston-on-Dove. He remembers arriving at Burton upon Trent railway station, and taking a bus from there to the village hall in Rolleston. There, Douglas and his classmates stood around in the hall waiting to be chosen by villagers. He can’t remember ever getting on too well with his brother, so wasn’t too bothered when a lady, who he would soon know as Aunt Edith, said she would have him by himself. They then walked the 2 miles back to her home, which she shared with her elderly aunt, Kate.
He can remember it taking some time for the locals to see the evacuees as anything other than children from the slums of Birmingham. However, he believes his eagerness to join the church choir and going to services with Edith and Kate helped him become part of the community. His brother wasn’t so lucky, and had three billets in Rolleston before finally going home 18 months after arriving. Douglas stayed until 1944 and cannot imagine how his life would have turned out if he hadn’t been billeted with the two ladies who were more than just mothers to him. Click on the audio link below to hear him speaking about this:
On leave from the forces, his father came to see him for the only time whilst he was in Rolleston-on-Dove and Douglas can remember walking straight past both his parents in the street. He still finds this sad.
In November 1944 a taxi was sent to take him back to Birmingham and he can remember this as a sad day. Upon returning to Birmingham, he found he no longer had an affinity with his ‘real’ family. His father was no longer around and his mother was still working on the buses, so the three children were left to fend for themselves. He was also ridiculed by his classmates because he no longer had a Birmingham accent and had gained manners.
He would not have been without his time in Rolleston-on-Dove, and visited Aunt Edith at every opportunity to stay for a holiday. She died three months before her 100th birthday, and Douglas now keeps in touch with her nephew.