Sutton woman (97) writes of wartime memories at Teversal school and Birmingham evacuees

97-year-old Freda Barnes  who has been putting pen to paper to write her memoirs.
97-year-old Freda Barnes who has been putting pen to paper to write her memoirs.

MEMORIES of life in the Ashfield area during the war years have been recorded for posterity by a Sutton woman who has written her memoirs.

Former schoolteacher Freda Barnes (97) started writing her recollections of war time in a village school in April this year.

Freda taught the infants class at Teversal school from 1939, just before the Second World War broke out, and remembers how the children all had to be issued with gas masks and how air raid shelters had to be created in preparation for potential bomb attacks.

“We did have air raids but no bombs were dropped and eventually we became a safe area,” said Freda.

“There was no panic - the children accepted it. In fact, they looked upon it, I think, as an adventure!

“It’s all those sort of memories that I thought would not happen again.”

Freda, who has lived at Manor House Care Home in Sutton for five-and-a-half years, has also written down her memories of the Girls Training Corps, where the Home Guard taught girls aged 14-plus how to march and skills such as morse code.

“It was purely voluntary but they enjoyed it,” she said.

Freda, who later taught at Priestsic Road Infants School from 1965 to 1977, added that one of the things she remembers the most was the ‘marvellous community spirit’ in the area during the war.

Her memoirs recall some emotional moments, such as when children from Birmingham were evacuated to Teversal. “They were welcomed whole-heartedly,” she said, “but they were quite apprehensive about what was going to happen.”

Residents were also brought to tears when soldiers who had been at Dunkirk marched into the village, looking extremely tired and unkempt but singing songs expressing their joy at being alive. “It was very emotional,” said Freda.

As a teacher, Freda also had fire training and would stay overnight at Station Road School in Sutton in case of fire. “It was one way of helping the war effort,” she added.