Reminiscing across the years

Just Regional
May 8, 2020 9 mins read

Care home residents will be celebrating and reminiscing on the 75th anniversary of VE Day along with their young friends thanks to Norfolk charity, Friend in Deed.

Volunteers dress up to bring back memories.

Families across the county were sent activity packs with ideas to get creative, making art, music, and baking – they then took pictures and videos of their fun. A DVD was also compiled, and sent to almost 30 care homes connected with Friend in Deed, for residents to enjoy and connect with the young volunteers.  

Children of all ages got involved. Young children got covered in cocoa while making chocolate potato truffles; lads in 1940s knee-length shorts “dug for victory” in the garden, and older children wrote letters to imagined brothers in the war. Families also sang wartime songs such as We’ll Meet Again.

Volunteers in fancy dress digging for victory.

The project was conceived by Christina Brailsford, a freelance community educator. Funding was awarded by South Norfolk Council and Broadland District Councils’ 75th Anniversary of VE Day Commemoration Fund.

Kelly Lindsay, founder of Friend in Deed, said: “We were thrilled to collaborate on such an important project. Our plans had to change significantly with the onset of coronavirus but that made it more important than ever to provide something special for those in care. Creating intergenerational friendships is at the heart of what Friend in Deed is all about, so we developed a way to do that despite social distancing.”

Christina added: “The 75th anniversary of VE Day is an extremely important occasion, especially to those who lived through the Second World War. At this difficult time, it has been a real privilege to work with Friend in Deed to make sure that our older friends in care homes are still able to mark this special day.

“I am sure that the DVD will bring many smiles, and hopefully also bring back happy memories of celebrations. Most importantly, we want this project to remind our older friends that they are still a valuable, loved and remembered part of our community – and that Friend in Deed families cannot wait to be reunited with them again.”

Residents from Halsey House, a Royal British Legion care home in Cromer, put together some of their memories of the war to share with their young friends.

“During the war I was staying in Devon with my grandparents on their farm and during the summer we used to help with the harvest.  After a long day, we would ride on the hay cart back to the farm.  Once back to the farm I would help my gran collect the water from the stream that ran alongside the house. Later we would help granddad take the shire horses to the stables and feed them and wash them down.”      


“I remember on rare occasions we used to visit my Great Aunt Julia.  She lived in a cottage in Stebbing (Essex). The ground floor was just a kitchen and a fire, the first floor was a big open space covered in hand-picked apples, she had a water pump just inside the kitchen door. When we slept there, she used to make a space between the apples put up a bed for us – the smell was lovely!  She used to make us Apple Charlotte, which was out of this world, which she cooked on her range.  She also cooked us toast on a long fork on it, it tasted lovely. She had an outside toilet just outside the front door.  She had oil lamps for light in the evening. To me this cottage felt very remote – there only used to be a bus service once a week.”            


“I remember:

When a loaf of bread cost 10d and cod & chips 1/-. 

You could go out on a Sunday ride and see maybe six cars! 

The churches were packed, and the pavements were clean. 

Sunday bath-time for the young ‘uns was in the tin bath. 

My dad worked with the remaining shire horse on the farm.

When I had to kiss my Great Aunt because I had to…..YUK!

When a family was a family, which included aunts, uncles and cousins.

In my country school we kept warm around the stove in winter.

Tinsel falling from the sky as German bombers passed overhead.

The toys the German POWs made for me.

The day my dog died of old age, and my mother of cancer.

BUT I am so glad I lived in the past and can cope with the present!”         


“I remember when the family moved from Reedham to Wymondham when I was six years old so memories of Reedham are few. However, I do recall running down to the riverside at midday most days to see the Colmans Mustard ship go along the river. November 11th at Wymondham saw a few ex-servicemen parade at the Market Cross (my father among them) & march through the streets to the War Memorial where I stood and watched, singing to a gramophone record. I remember war being declared and my mother with blackout material fitting all the windows, as a chink of light would bring the voice of a Warden saying “Put that light out” in no uncertain manner.

“I remember moving to Norwich as a teenager, going out to theatres, cinemas and dance halls which were open but closed at 10pm.  I learnt to dance around the bandstand in Chapelfield Gardens.  When I was 16 years of age, I remember the soldiers from the two Barracks would dance in their heavy boots, so you had to try to keep your feet to yourself! When the American servicemen came to the area the dancehalls took on a different atmosphere.  Their excessive drinking spoiled the strict ballroom dancing, which was sometimes to bands from London. I then met a man who didn’t dance – so it was a change for me….from dancing shoes to washing up gloves and enjoying bringing up four children.”             


”I remember when I was a small girl and my twin sister and I always used to be together. The baker, who was a friend of my father, used to bring the freshly cooked bread round to the door – what a lovely smell it had! He had a Trojan van and we used to be given a ride in it to the end of the road. 

“We lived in North Walsham where Eileen and I were born. My mother did not know there were going to be twins (no scans then) as it was in the year 1921, so it was quite a shock. The doctor was called out of church to attend her as it was a Sunday, and the midwife, who lived just across the road, also attended her. I also had a brother who was nine years older and a sister seven years older, they were both lovely companions. We were a very happy family but sadly my mother died when Eileen and I were 3 years old. My dad served in the First World War. He was such a kind man and must have missed her terribly. I served in the ATS (Women’s Army) in 1940.

“Unfortunately, my twin sister did not have good health so was not called for service, and it was the first time we had been parted. Lots of wartime memories, happy and sad – buzz bombs in London and hoping I would be seeing my dear Norfolk again!”                          


“I remember patrolling between Indonesia and Singapore to catch gun runners attempting to fight Malaysians who were defending Singapore island, and these Indonesians came over fast in a water craft full of weapons. In my patrol boat we endeavoured to stop them by going ahead of them. We had a local interpreter on board who ordered the occupants of the boat to get on board. It was noticed that these fast boats were booby trapped and set to go off at a pre-determined time. The patrol boat had experienced major casualty, which resulted in the death of one of the sailors who was trying to secure the Indonesian craft and confiscate the weapons on board and also take the boat itself to be used as a ski boat because it was powered by two powerful engines. 

“So the next time  we proceeded to the Naval dockyard at Singapore we stopped off at a suitable area on the beach so we could land the skiers with their equipment. The coxswain of the fast dingy then proceeded to the shore with two novice water skiers,  who donned their wetsuits and prepared to be driven at a fast speed towards our patrol boat. The skier was soon up on his skis and heading towards my ship, when at the last minute he let go of the towing rope and stopped just by our accommodation ladder to get out of the water.”


In normal times, Friend in Deed helps limit isolation and loneliness with visits to care homes by young children, who all enjoy interaction with a different generation.

Friend in Deed is continuing to work with volunteers and if you’re a parent with a baby or young children who would be interested in getting involved, you can find out more online at: https://www.friendindeed.org.uk/volunteering

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