Peter Phipps was born in 1928 in Kent. He was an only child, and lived with his parents in their flat in Horley Square, Margate. He was a keen boy scout and as his parents both worked he used to amuse himself by going to the beach. His father was a painter and decorator, and his mother was a hotel maid at the Nayland Rock Hotel.
Before Peter’s evacuation, he attended Pettman Central School and it was the gardening master at this school who informed him and his classmates of their impending evacuation (although he told them that they wouldn’t be away from home for more than 6 months). Peter remembers thinking the whole thing was a bit of an adventure. He said goodbye to his parents at Margate Station, and can remember that as well as evacuees the station was full of French and Belgian soldiers who were being evacuated from Dunkirk. All the boys had been given packed lunches and they threw oranges to the soldiers.
It was a long journey and they finally arrived at their destination at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. They were in Hednesford, although they didn’t know this at the time. They walked from the station to the church hall where Peter and his friend Norman Spicer were introduced to Mrs Taylor. They all then went by car to her clean, two bedroomed terraced house.
After being an only child, Peter found it strange sharing a double bed with Norman, and although he had to get used to a completely different way of life, Peter got on well with his hosts Mrs and Mr. ‘Whistling’ Jack Taylor, so-called because he worked as a fireman in the mines and always whistled. Peter admired him for the hard job he did and remembers well each night how Mr. Taylor would need to have a bath:
On a Saturday Peter joined the couple at their local dance and they shared meals with Rhodesian air men that the Taylors invited back to their home.
At school all children were taught by both the local teachers and teachers from Pettman’s Central. He found it hard to get used to having girls in the school and that the local teachers liked the cane. On one occasion the whole class was given a stroke on each hand for being noisy when the teacher was absent.
Norman stayed with the Taylors for one year and Peter for two. He then left Hednesford at the age of fourteen when he sensed that it was time for him to start work. He had missed the seaside but didn’t return to Margate; during his evacuation his parents had left to move first to Bath and then Bristol.