Edna Upton

Edna Upton was born Edna Wylde in London in 1929. She moved to Birmingham as a young girl with her mother, father and two slightly older sisters. She lived at 122 Castle Square, which was a road that formed a ring around a central green in Weoley Castle. They lived over a butcher’s shop and had to run to the shelter on the green if there was an air raid because they couldn’t have one in their garden.

At the age of 12 she started at Ilmington Road School, although wasn’t there long before she heard about Pipewood Boarding Camp and was very excited to go. Even though her mother was happy to send them, her older sisters didn’t go with her (there was only 2 years between the three of them, so they could have attended had they wanted to). She can remember the journey there from Birmingham on a horrible rainy day, but she also remembers the kindness of those at Pipewood as soon as she arrived in 1942. Each of the girls were allocated to one of the older girls to show them around and she remembers the kindness of the teachers.

For Edna, Pipewood remains one of the happiest memories of her life. She recalls stories of her and Olga Harvey being great friends and getting told off all the time:

scratching the organ Transcript of Edna’s audio clip

She was always hungry there and so enjoyed it when they had the opportunity help with bottling fruit because she could snack on the pears! She remembers being taught elocution in her English classes, and had a slight crush on Miss Richards who she was desperate to please. She was mortified when she got the words wrong to Shakespeare’s Three Withces rhyme from Macbeth.

Aside from stories of Pipewood, she tells in her interview of how the practical lessons they were taught there have come in handy throughout her life and have been passed down to her grandchildren. She also tells of the reunions with her fellow ‘girls’ and teachers and how they decided to call it a day in 2009 as so many were becoming less able. Edna believes Pipewood changed her life and the person she was to become completely. She is completely different from her two sisters, and joined the Land Army at 18 after not really settling back at home after leaving the camp.

A Pipewood reunion in 1994.