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Early Wartime Memories by David Willis

David Willis no longer lives in the town but has kindly sent in his reminiscences of a Wartime childhood in Hartlepool. 

In the late 1930s I remember the visit of the 'chocolate train', which was parked up in a dead end platform at the east end of West Hartlepool Station. The whole train was decked out in colours which from memory resembled the Cadbury colours. I made several visits as samples of various chocolates were on display and were given away to hungry kids like me. I wonder if anyone else remembers the 'chocolate train', which left many very sad small people as it finally pulled out of the station. 

The other major event was the spectacular burning down of Dyke House Farm and its surrounding buildings, which I think must have been organised by the Fire Brigade, as I distinctly remember Firemen silhouetted against the flames as the fire took hold. There was also an accompanying firework display. It seemed to me that most of the town must be in attendance as we looked on from Wharton Terrace. This was prior to the house-building on the site and also that of Dyke House School, which never got beyond the foundation stage before the onset of the War, but provided a magnificent playground for children. 

With regard to St Oswald Street itself, it had its own garrison of troops, stationed in a building at the Raby Road end of the street. The building was Waugh's Bakery and the soldiers were from a Scottish regiment resplendent in their kilts. Each evening a lone piper would march up and down the street. The soldiers used a large sliding door in Wharton Terrace backlane to access the building and a well-known tramp could often be seen near this door looking for scraps of food. One day the soldiers put him in a barrel of water and scrubbed him clean. Waugh's also had a cake and bread shop immediately opposite the bakery. In addition there was a further shop at the other end of the street, known as McGhees general store. 

Prewar the United Bus Company had a garage on Raby Road immediately opposite St Oswald's Street which was taken over as a Fire Station for the duration, housing several large engines. 

In the early years of the War, Brougham School was taken over by the army. Many of the pupils spent the next 3 or 4 years getting a part-time education in houses. For example, a group of pupils from the St Oswald Street/Chester Road area met for about three half-days a week in my parent's house (12 St Oswald's Street), next door at number 10, or at a house at the Raby Road end of Chester Road. 

When Dyke House opened we resumed full time education there and I can remember growing vegetables in the quadrangles in the 'Dig for Victory' campaign. I was there  for 1  or 2 years and my teacher was Miss Salt. I took the 11 plus at Dyke House before moving on to West Hartlepool Grammar School in September 1945.

Just postwar I joined the youth club run by Westbourne Church between Stranton and the Burn Valley. We had a very successful football team, playing as far afield as Darlington and Sunderland. We were known as the Guild of Youth, a future well known team member being Brian London who fought Mohammed Ali for the World Heavyweight title. I was at the Grammar School at the time, a bastion of rugby, where the Headmaster insisted on boys playing rugby in winter if they wished to play cricket in summer, which I loved. This led to all sorts of rushing journeys between morning rugby matches and afternoon soccer games, especially if these were 20 miles apart. 

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