Interview with Nancy Titman

Title

Interview with Nancy Titman

Description

Nancy Titman was born in 1918, and grew up in Deeping Saint James, Lincolnshire. At the age of eleven she won a scholarship to Stamford High School and did her teacher training in Peterborough. In 1938 she attended an interview in Cambridge, had a medical in London and her first job was teaching infants in Fulham. At the start of war, she was evacuated away from London with the children, with whom she continued to teach, and remembers seeing the glow of fires from London burning during the Blitz. She returned to Spalding and continued teaching, and in 1943 moved to Hayes. After the allied victory she remembers celebrating the war’s end in London and hearing Churchill’s speech. She married in 1945.

Creator

Date

2018-10-05

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:34:11 audio recording

Conforms To

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

ATitmanEA181005, PTitmanEA1801

Transcription

DK: Right. So, so that’s working ok. So, this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre Interviewing Mrs Titman at her home on, well it would be, well that’s the 5th of, the 5th of October 2018 and daughter —
MA: Yes. Marion.
DK: Marion Ashton, her daughter. Right. Ok. I’ll just put that there. So, what I wanted to ask first of all and I hope you don’t mind me saying this for the benefit of the recording but you’re one hundred years old.
NT: Yes.
DK: So, you were born in 1918.
NT: Yes.
DK: So, that was towards the end of the First World War and did your family, father or uncles serve in the First World War?
NT: I lost an uncle in the First World War.
DK: Right.
MA: And Marion’s been to his grave. Haven’t you?
MA: Yes.
DK: Right.
MA: And something about Aunt Et.
NT: Yes. And my aunt was a nurse. A sister.
DK: Right.
NT: At the Horton Hospital in Epsom which was a huge military hospital.
DK: Right. So, your uncle then, where was he killed? Do you know where it was?
NT: I can’t remember.
DK: On the Western Front somewhere, was it?
NT: Yes. Yes. Yes, definitely.
MA: I think so —
NT: Marion’s been.
MA: His grave. But I’ve forgotten now.
NT: Yeah. Yeah. Never mind.
DK: Yeah. So, as you were growing up then and it’s, it’s end of the First World War, 1920s, do you have any reminiscences going back that far of, of —
NT: No. We, I can’t remember. Nobody talked very much about the war. No.
DK: That’s what I was going to say.
NT: But we always had the Memorial at church and big parades, you know. Armistice Parades. Ever such a lot of people. Ever such a lot of men obviously been in the First World War when we were kids.
DK: Yeah.
MA: Didn’t you say they would only talk about it really, really when they were old —
NT: Oh yeah.
MA: And about to die. Then they probably would say something —
DK: Yeah.
MA: About it.
DK: So, whereabouts were you born then? Which town?
NT: I was born here. About five hundred yards from here.
DK: Oh, ok. So —
NT: I’ve not moved very far.
DK: So, have you lived here all your life?
NT: Yes. I’m a native.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
MA: She’s well known.
DK: Well — [laughs]
NT: Yeah. Yeah. You can’t, you can’t have a better spot.
DK: So, are you one of the oldest in the village now then?
NT: I think, yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Probably.
DK: So, growing up here then what was it like? Well, we’re talking about eighty years ago. Over that time.
NT: You can hardly believe it was the same now. When you think back, you know. I’ve written stories in the book.
DK: Yeah.
NT: It was so primitive really because we had an outside lav and no water in the house. We had a pump in the yard.
DK: And what were most of the people working here? Were most of them working on the farms?
NT: Most of them worked on —
DK: Yeah.
NT: In some way. They were connected with agriculture in some way.
DK: So, what, what were your parents doing?
NT: My father was a cattle dealer.
DK: Right.
NT: And I used to go out with him in a pony and trap around the fields and we used to count. Count the heads. How many sheep, how many cattle because they used to move them from one field to another to go to market. You know, on the way to market.
DK: Right.
NT: It was good. I had a good childhood. Went to school across the road here where, where Marion went. Where we all went.
DK: So, what was the name of the school then?
NT: That was the Cross School.
DK: Right. And where —
MA: Because you’ve seen the stone cross.
DK: Yes.
MA: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
MA: It’s right next, its right next to it.
DK: Right next to it. Yeah. And was it a good school?
NT: Yeah. There were about five or six teachers weren’t there? There were about —
DK: Yeah.
NT: Two, two teachers at the infant school.
DK: Right.
NT: And about five in the —
MA: Primary.
NT: Cross School and that was the education department of Deeping St James.
DK: Right. So, the town then was a lot smaller then.
NT: Yes. Well, I think it was about fifteen hundred population.
DK: And how long did the pupils stay at the school for? Did they leave at —
NT: Oh, until they were fourteen.
DK: Fourteen.
NT: That was it.
DK: And that was the same with the boys and the girls.
NT: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And of course, a few people lucky enough to pass the Eleven Plus and got a scholarship to Spalding or Stamford.
DK: So, did you leave at fourteen then?
NT: No. I left at eleven. I got a scholarship.
DK: Oh. Ok.
NT: I went to Stamford High School then.
DK: Right.
NT: Then I went to Peterborough Training College to train to be a teacher.
DK: Right. And, and was that something you’d always wanted to do then?
NT: Yeah, there wasn’t much. There wasn’t much open to you. You’d either be a nurse or a teacher.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Or something like that.
DK: So, what did the boys go off to do when they were fourteen?
NT: Well, most of them worked in agriculture or an office or something like that. Depending on their —
DK: Yeah.
NT: Or apprenticed to be a carpenter or a mechanic or something.
DK: Right. So, did you see teaching as something to get away from what a lot of other people were doing?
NT: Well, yeah. Earn a living.
DK: Earn a living. Yeah.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So where did you train to be a teacher then?
NT: At Peterborough.
DK: Right.
NT: It was a good. It was a good college. It was a church college and we were the last. We were the last students because they closed it after we left.
DK: Oh right. So, you have happy memories there then.
NT: Very. Very.
DK: Yeah.
NT: It’s all in this.
DK: Yeah. I’ll probably need a copy of the book.
NT: You’ll have to. You’ll have to read the book [laughs]
DK: Read the book. So, so we’re talking about now — ? Where are we? Sort of nineteen —
NT: Yes. Getting a job.
DK: We’re talking of —
NT: This is where the story starts.
DK: Right. Ok then. Do you want to tell us about the —
NT: Well —
DK: The job then?
NT: When, in 1938 I passed the, you know, got the [pause] became a teacher. Went to get an interview for a job. Went to Cambridge to an interview and doing —
MA: It’s all in there.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
NT: Then had to go to London for a medical exam to County Hall.
DK: Right.
NT: Which was by Westminster Bridge. Near where the wheel is now.
DK: I know it well. I used to work across the road from there.
NT: Anyway, this going for the medical or coming back I’d be walking down Whitehall thinking I was the bee’s knees.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Somebody gave me this leaflet and this is the one I’ve lost.
DK: Yeah.
MA: Really mad.
NT: You know. What to do, and war was coming. There was, warning you about it and you weren’t to gossip and all this and to be ready for it and so on which, it was a good leaflet, wasn’t it? It was a real good leaflet. I’m so annoyed I’ve lost it.
DK: So, this leaflet was handed out to you.
NT: Yes.
DK: By a total stranger.
NT: Yeah. That’s right. Somebody.
DK: Yeah.
NT: It was 1938. And then of course I got a job at Everington Street in Fulham. That was, that three-storey school. You know, all those in London.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Those. There used to be a big playground and we had senior girls at the top and infants at the bottom.
DK: Right. Oh right. Ok.
NT: And we had.
DK: That was in Fulham.
NT: The head mistress was Miss Bolton.
DK: Right. So, you’d have been twenty years old at the time then.
NT: Yes.
DK: So, was this kind of your first time away from home?
NT: Yes.
MA: Yes, she was quite excited, weren’t you?
NT: Yes.
MA: Being in London instead of being —
NT: I was thrilled.
MA: In Deeping St James.
DK: Yeah.
NT: I stayed with a cousin for a week or two just to get me started before I found some digs.
DK: So, what, how did you find the difference living, being born out here and then going to the big city in London?
NT: Well, it was different, of course but I enjoyed it [laughs] Yeah, it was interesting.
DK: So —
NT: Everybody was kind.
DK: Yeah. So just going back to this leaflet that was being handed out down Whitehall. Was that an official leaflet?
NT: No. I don’t, well I don’t know it was official. I don’t think it was really. I suppose it must have been. I don’t know. I can’t remember now.
MA: But you didn’t think much of it but you kept it.
NT: Yeah.
MA: We can look it for it again.
NT: I mean, looks —
MA: She’s still got it somewhere.
DK: Right. Ok.
NT: Lots of people have been and asked about war. I had a lady who was writing a book and I gave her lots of bits but I’m sure I didn’t give her that.
DK: No.
NT: And I’ve been through every scrapbook and I can’t find it.
DK: So —
MA: It’s bigger than this wasn’t it?
NT: Yes.
MA: Was it about that size?
NT: Yeah.
DK: Yes.
MA: Yeah.
DK: So, so 1938 then this would have been the time of the Munich Crisis.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Were you aware of what was going on in the world at the time then?
NT: Not particularly. No. We knew. You tried, you tried not to believe it because you didn’t think it was real because Mr Chamberlain had assured us everything was going to be alright after his visit with Hitler, you know.
DK: Peace in our time.
NT: That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
NT: So, you know like you carry on with your life don’t you and you hope for the best.
DK: Yeah.
NT: But then we knew because we, we had to do gas mask training and all this.
DK: Yeah.
NT: All these things. We knew it was coming later on.
DK: And, and, this might sound an odd question now but when you were with your work colleagues. The other teachers. Did you talk about the world situation and the fact there might be a war or was it something you kept —
NT: Didn’t talk about it very much. We tried [laughs] tried to think it wasn’t going to happen.
DK: Right. So, what were you actually teaching at the school then?
NT: Infants.
DK: Right. So, it was a wide range of subjects.
NT: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Were they well behaved?
MA: Well behaved? They were in those days.
NT: Oh, they were. They were very well behaved. Ever so good.
DK: Yeah.
NT: I don’t think, I can’t remember anything bad happening. They were all good kids.
DK: Right.
NT: You know, they must have been but you forget about that, don’t you?
MA: When you told me the story about being evacuated. I, I always think that they would cry.
DK: Yeah.
MA: And not want to —
DK: And they were —
NT: But they didn’t.
DK: So, just for the benefit of the recording not everybody knows what Infant’s is because I think they’ve changed the description now. So how old were the children? Between what age group? Were they five?
NT: The ones that I taught?
DK: Yeah.
NT: Oh, about five. Just after reception. Six. Five or six.
DK: Five and six. Right.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Ok. And how, how did your lessons go? Were you, were you there and —
NT: Yeah. I can’t remember now. You know what you just.
MA: You could play the piano as well.
NT: Oh yeah.
MA: So they could sing.
NT: We used to sing a lot and stories and all that. Taught them to read and write as you always do.
MA: Basic math.
NT: Yeah. Yeah.
DK: And, and even the children at that age did they understand anything? That there might be a war coming?
NT: No.
DK: So —
NT: They wouldn’t bother about it all.
DK: No. So going back.
NT: Expect they’d have to.
DK: Sorry.
NT: Go in these blessed masks. Gas masks, which weren’t very good. Smelled horrible, and ugh.
DK: So, did you have to show the children then how to put the gas masks on?
NT: I think, I think we went to a centre. I can’t remember now. I think we went to a centre and had a go at it, you know. I don’t —
DK: Yeah.
NT: I can’t remember those things very much. It’s all gone hazy.
DK: Yeah.
MA: It’s a while ago.
DK: It is now. So, moving on to the following year now you’re still in London. 1939 and the war starts. Can you remember your, your feelings then of how it got to you?
NT: Oh, we were a bit apprehensive I can tell you but you just had to accept it because what could you do? Nothing. Well, you just accepted it.
DK: So, did you remain in London for the beginning of the war period?
NT: No. We were evacuated on the 1st of September.
DK: Right.
NT: And war started on the 3rd and it’s in my little story —
DK: Yeah.
NT: We went to wait. Wait for the transport, I suppose. We waited in, in the school hall.
DK: Right. And this is the school in Fulham.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: This is the school in Fulham. We waited in the church hall and the kids had got all their bags and things.
DK: Yeah.
NT: I had a rucksack. I thought I was the bee’s knees. We didn’t take much with us obviously.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And we waited there. I was a girl you see. I was the young teacher. Miss Bolton was fifty seven. We thought she was —
DK: Ancient.
NT: You know [laughs] One foot in the grave. And she was a funny little lady but she was kind. And she said, ‘My dear,’ she said, ‘I want you to go up to town.’
Other: There you go. Thank you very much.
NT: Thanks very much, Keith.
[recording paused]
DK: So, just, just going back there then.
Other: The order’s come, sorry, the order, I’ll make a —
NT: It’s alright.
DK: So, you’ve had to evacuate then. Were the parents there when their children were going?
NT: The parents didn’t come to the station. We went from, we went from school in Fulham Palace Road.
DK: Yeah.
NT: In buses. I think we went to Sudbury. And the parents weren’t with them then.
DK: Right.
NT: We’d just got children. I don’t remember the parents at all, and we got to Sudbury. I haven’t told you the story.
DK: Yeah. Go on.
NT: And that’s the best bit though.
DK: Do you want to tell it now then?
NT: I do.
MA: Tell it mum.
DK: Yeah. Fire away.
NT: About Mrs Bolton. We were waiting in the hall with all our gear and ready to go and Miss Bolton said, ‘My dear, I want you to nip down to Hammersmith.’ She said, ‘They won’t be here for us for a long time. You nip down to Hammersmith. Make haste and get me twenty pounds out of the bank.’
DK: Right.
NT: ‘We don’t want to get stuck in some God forsaken place with no money.’ So, so I had to go to Hammersmith on the bus. I was the girl, the runner and get this twenty pounds. I hope nobody, I hope I manage to get back with this money alright. Anyway —
DK: Quite a lot of money back in those days.
NT: I got back with the twenty pounds in time and Miss Bolton went in to her staffroom and stitched the money into her stays [laughs] You don’t believe me, do you?
MA: He does actually.
NT: Absolutely —
DK: No one was going to steal it from there, are they?
NT: See, twenty pounds was a lot more than I got for a month’s wages.
DK: Really. Really. So —
NT: So anyway, that was it. So off we went on the bus to Sudbury and we got on the train and they’d all, they were quite happy the children were and the guard was walking up and down and I said, ‘Where are we going, please?’ He said, ‘I can’t tell you my dear.’ He said, ‘I can’t tell you’ He said, ‘But I think it might be somewhere in Northamptonshire.’ And I thought oooh, we might be going to Deeping. Anyway —
DK: Yeah.
NT: It was Brackley.
DK: Right. So even when you were on the train then it was all secret and you didn’t even know where you were going.
NT: Yeah. It was just, it wasn’t funny but —
DK: No.
NT: It was just as if we were going on a trip. What else could you do?
DK: And so, you had the headmistress there.
NT: Yeah.
DK: And yourself. Was there any other teachers?
NT: Yeah. We had a lot. Quite a lot.
DK: Right.
NT: Ever such a lot. But when we got to Brackley there was a row of little buses and we all had to change. Different buses. And Miss Bolton wasn’t in our, our lot. My friend and I, we got in the, we were in the last bus and we got to a place called Twyford. But no, they were quite good.
DK: Yeah.
NT: The children were quite good.
DK: And what accommodation did the children get?
NT: Well, farms and we got a council house where a lady, a new council house and the lady was very houseproud. She wouldn’t have any children so we had to go there but some of the people didn’t want the children very much.
DK: No.
NT: But —
MA: But they didn’t have a choice. They had to.
NT: Oh, they had them. Yeah. We went to the village hall and they got some lemonade.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And bits of food there for the children and there were ladies there choosing which one they wanted.
DK: So, what about the children themselves? How were they reacting to this? Did they —
NT: I don’t remember.
DK: Did they see it as a big adventure?
NT: Yeah. They just take, they just —
DK: Yeah.
NT: Have to don’t they? They just took it in.
DK: And, and for some of the older children were any of them being chosen because they might be able to work on the farms?
NT: Oh, no. No. No.
MA: They weren’t.
DK: None of that.
NT: No. They weren’t old enough for that.
DK: Right. Yeah.
NT: No.
DK: So —
NT: We liked it. Then we had quite but first of all nothing happened at all and we got all these children shoved in to the village school. We had to take it in turns. The village children had the morning and we’d have the afternoons for teaching because there wasn’t enough room. Then gradually the mothers came from London and fetched the children home because nothing was happening. So, we were left with the twenty or twenty four something like that and we more or less integrated with the children then.
DK: Yeah. And where were you actually staying then?
NT: I stayed with the lady in this, in this council house.
DK: Right.
NT: But I didn’t like her very much and after a while I moved with a teacher. One of the teachers.
DK: Right.
NT: That was alright. That was better.
DK: So, the school moved but where were the lessons taking place?
NT: In the village school.
DK: In the village school there. So those that had come from London were then mixing with the local children presumably.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. And, and how long were you evacuated for?
NT: Well, I went home after about a year and a half I suppose. Mum wasn’t very good and I’d had enough anyway so I wasn’t too sorry to go.
DK: So, and all the children were evacuated for that period as well.
NT: Well, most of them. Most of them but quite a lot had gone home but there were some still there.
DK: Right. So, you were out of London so when the Blitz had started you missed all that.
NT: Yeah. Actually, actually the Blitz was going on while we were there. We could see the light of London from sort of Aylesbury time. We were near Aylesbury in Buckingham. You could see the glow in the sky from London burning.
DK: Really?
NT: Yeah.
DK: And did you have any other memories of that period?
NT: No. We didn’t have any bombs or any raids. It was too, too isolated.
DK: Yeah. So, you’ve gone home after a year and a half.
NT: Yeah.
DK: And but what was the reason for that then? What was the reason for you going back?
NT: Just that my mother wasn’t very good and they just needed me. And I tell you I’d had enough really. It was very isolated.
DK: Yeah. And, and so what did you do after that? Were you teaching somewhere else?
NT: Yeah. I went to Spalding.
DK: Right.
NT: From [unclear] maybe?
DK: So, you moved back.
NT: A little while and then I got a bit of country living then. We got butter and eggs and things. Mind you we’d been alright for food in, in Twyford. I’d been no problem.
DK: So, and can you remember much about sort of the rationing and the, the lack of food?
NT: Rationing didn’t hit me until I went back to teaching in Hayes in Middlesex in 1943.
DK: Right.
NT: And then it did.
DK: And, and what was the ration then? What were, what were you entitled to?
NT: My friend and I, my cousin and I lived together and we used to have a little pot. We put a pound each in the pot for housekeeping. Our rations like butter and sugar and the things that were rationed came to three and eleven pence. So, by the end of three weeks when Mitch had got a day off from the telephone exchange we used to take ourselves to London.
DK: Right.
NT: And we had a real treat out of the change out of the pot.
DK: So, all the rations —
NT: Yeah. My, my yeah you had, you had to queue for everything.
DK: Yeah. And you could only get that with the ration card presumably.
NT: Yeah. Ration card.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
NT: Ration books. Yeah.
DK: And, and did you kind of feel hungry at the time, was it?
NT: No. We weren’t hungry. We’d always got enough of something. I can’t remember. I can’t remember where we got bread. It’s just gone out of my head.
DK: Yeah.
NT: But I can remember these rations and my, we used to give my auntie who lived nearby we used to give her the meat ration so it helped her with the family and we used to go —
DK: Right.
NT: And have Saturday and Sunday dinner with her.
DK: Right.
NT: She was a wizard at making Yorkshire pudding with dried egg, and making dinners out of nothing really.
MA: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: But she had to queue for everything.
DK: Yeah. And, and you said come 1943 you’ve moved to Hayes.
NT: Yeah.
DK: In West London.
NT: Yeah. We went. I lived in West Drayton.
DK: I know, I know West Drayton well.
NT: Yeah.
DK: It’s, well, I was born and brought up in Hounslow and Southall.
NT: Yeah.
DK: So that’s my area.
NT: Yeah.
DK: So, what school did you go to in Hayes then?
NT: I went to Pinkwell School in Hayes. Do you know Pinkwell?
DK: Yeah.
NT: Do you?
MA: She hasn’t found many people who know.
DK: I know where it is.
NT: It was a big, it would have been an open-air school and there was classrooms in a sort of big quadrangle with a veranda inside.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Every room opened on the veranda. You couldn’t, you know, you had to go on to the veranda if you wanted to go anywhere. So, if you wanted to go to the dining room or anywhere you had to go out of the veranda and go to the loo down the yard, you know. Down the veranda. It was all, and then we had to fire watch there. That was the fun. Fire watching.
DK: Right.
NT: So, there were three of us. There were fifteen of us on the staff there. They were all, we were all fairly young. There were two older ladies and all the rest were in our twenties and we had two men. The boss and Mr Miller. He was the, a bit elderly, about forty I suppose he was and they, they ran the school. Boss was exactly like Arthur Lowe. Just exactly like and he behaved like him too. He was pompous.
DK: So, you’ve gone back to Hayes.
NT: Yeah.
DK: In West London then. Did you see much destruction there of —?
NT: Not too much. Not too much.
DK: Bomb damage.
NT: But of course, we had, we had to go into shelters for the Doodlebugs.
DK: Do you remember seeing those? The Doodlebugs or —
NT: We heard them though.
DK: Right.
NT: And the noise. [laughs] and I, because I was a bit excitable Mitch used to say, ‘Don’t you talk. Don’t you say anything.’ We used to hold each other’s hands and she used to say, ‘Don’t say anything because I’m just as frightened as you and it’s no good you saying, “Oh Mitch. Oh Mitch.
MA: What did they sound like then?
NT: [humming]
MA: Oh right.
NT: [humming]
MA: Yeah. Spooky.
NT: It was alright when they were doing that but when they stopped you had to worry if it was going to fall on you because it could have done.
MA: Yeah.
NT: Then you heard this [noise] the earth shaking. Oh dear, I’m saying all this rubbish.
MA: Rubbish [laughs]
DK: So, how long were you at Hayes for then?
NT: I stayed there until 1946.
DK: Right. ‘Til after the war has ended then. So, is there any other memories you have of being in the London area at that time? Do you remember the servicemen who were about?
NT: Well, there was, everywhere you went there were uniforms. Everybody seemed to be in uniform. You know you went on the Tube to work, and all, everybody was in uniform. It was, it was a strange time but we were quite happy. We helped each other and went to school on a bike and slept on the floor in the staff room, and you know and made a little breakfast before the children. It was funny. Really funny.
DK: Do you remember meeting any Americans?
NT: We kept away from the Americans.
DK: Ok. Fair enough.
NT: My cousin Mitch was on the telephone exchange and she used to come home with lurid tales of what the Americans said to the girls on the phone.
DK: Oh dear. So, do you remember much about the, do you remember much about the war when it came to an end?
NT: Oh, do I? That was my day of days. We went to London for the victory.
DK: Right.
NT: I’ve never had such a lovely day. Oh, we were so happy. It was wonderful.
DK: So whereabouts in London did you go?
NT: We went to parks, and went to Buckingham Palace. We went everywhere.
DK: So, you were in the Mall then, were you?
NT: Oh yeah. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: We just went dancing all around, and changing hats with the sailors and all that. It was fantastic. I’ve never known such a day. It was just like a cork coming out of a bottle. Everybody was so happy, you know. You couldn’t believe it.
DK: Yeah.
NT: The blackout was terrible. I think that was one of the worst things of the war. Everything was black. When, when you went on a train you know, everywhere was dull, and just a glimmer of light and perhaps there was a soldier there with a blooming rucksack and you had to get over them to get to the train. It was awful.
DK: Yeah.
NT: When we used to, if I came home used to get to Peterborough. Perhaps the train would get nearly to Peterborough. You thought oh good. And then it would stop for goodness knows why. And then eventually you got there. Got the last bus home, and they were only small buses and a little man, the bus inspector used to say, ‘Move down the bus. Move down the bus,’ and it was already packed with people. ‘Sit on anybody’s knee. Sit on anybody’s knee.’ And we did. Any fella was sitting on a man’s knee. Nobody seemed to be nasty, you know. There was —
DK: No.
NT: It was lovely. It was a lovely spirit about in the wartime.
DK: Is that something you think is missing a bit now then? Wartime spirit.
NT: No. No. You just go on, but it was nice in a way.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Yeah. We, we made, my cousin and I used to go to London. We used to look around the shops and find, we’d probably find that it looked a bit like sheeting with a hem each end, and we used to buy that and make tennis dresses out of it. We were sewing and knitting all the time you know to make do and mend.
DK: Yeah. So, on VE Day did you see the royal family?
NT: Didn’t hear.
DK: When you were outside Buckingham Palace did you see the royal family?
NT: Oh yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And we saw, we went, when we were in Whitehall and heard Mr Churchill’s speech.
DK: Oh right. So, you were there for that.
NT: We were, and my cousin said, ‘Keep hold of my hand,’ She said, ‘Because we should get lost.’ And I’ve never been in such a crowd in all my life.
DK: Right.
NT: When we moved off you could feel people pressing on you. You know. You couldn’t get your breath properly and we got right down to Westminster Bridge before we felt —
DK: Yeah.
NT: You know, it was such a crowd you can’t believe it.
DK: I’ve seen the photos of that. That was at the top of Whitehall, wasn’t it and Churchill is on the balcony.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Of one of the Ministries.
NT: Yeah. It was. It was War Office or somewhere. It was.
DK: Yeah.
NT: It was absolutely incredible. It was such a relief. You can’t believe it was such a relief.
DK: So, I look at one of those photos I might see you down there somewhere.
NT: You’ll see me there. You’ll see me there. Yeah.
DK: Oh right.
NT: Yeah. I’ll tell you. I’ve told these kids about these wonderful days of days.
MA: Oh yeah.
DK: So, did —
MA: I should think so.
DK: Do you remember what Churchill actually said in his speech or —
NT: No. I only heard it on —
MA: Too many glasses of wine.
NT: Yeah. Yeah. No. It was, it was great relief when it was over because we really we couldn’t believe it was ever going to be over. You know. You couldn’t.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And my husband in the desert he said they just didn’t think war would ever be over.
DK: So, when, I should have asked about this. When did you actually meet your husband then? Was it —
NT: Oh, I knew him before he went. I met him in Deeping.
DK: Oh. So, you knew him from here before the war.
NT: Yeah.
DK: So where did he serve then?
NT: Where did —
DK: Where did he serve?
NT: In the desert. In the Eighth Army.
DK: Right. So, he was gone for years then.
NT: Yeah. We didn’t get married until ’45.
DK: Right.
MA: Tell the story about him coming back when he was coming. What happened when he was coming back?
NT: What about?
MA: When daddy got all the presents. What happened to him? When dad was coming back.
NT: Oh, when he came back and he went from, from North Africa, no Italy he’d been in Italy.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And when he came back, he was on tank transport. He was driving tank transporters from Birmingham to Leith Docks.
DK: Right.
NT: When he got to Stamford and there were no bypass in those days they’d got to get the tank transports through these little towns. The shopkeepers used to come out, ‘Ahhh.’
DK: Oh dear.
NT: They didn’t think they could possibly manage it. It was such a job.
MA: I meant when he was coming back from the war.
NT: Yeah.
MA: And he’d got all the presents for the family.
NT: Oh.
MA: What happened to him when he —
NT: Well, he got, he got shipwrecked in North Africa.
MA: Yeah. That.
DK: Oh right.
NT: Yeah. He got shipwrecked. Well, the ship that he was travelling on got, and he said they got all scraped up their legs getting rescued off this ship. He described it later climbing up the ship, and all his presents that he’d bought to bring all got sank of course.
DK: Oh dear.
NT: And, and the spurs that he got for his dad because his father was a jockey. Had been a jockey.
DK: Oh right.
NT: And he’d got these spurs off a German general or something.
DK: Really.
NT: He said, ‘You don’t need them,’ you know.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Like the squaddies used to, and he got these from this German prisoner, and he was so proud he was going to bring these home to his dad.
DK: And they were lost at sea as well.
NT: Oh yeah.
DK: Oh dear. So, what, what did he do in the Eight Army? Was he driving?
NT: Driver.
DK: He was a driver. Basically, the tank transporters.
NT: Well, he didn’t he didn’t have trans in those days, he just drove lorries.
DK: Right.
NT: Lorries in the desert. Went up and down with Wavell and you know.
DK: Yeah. And then went on to Sicily and Italy presumably.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
NT: [unclear] senorita.
DK: So, when did the shipwreck happen then? Was he on his way back or —
NT: I think that was Tobruk where it went, where the ship went down.
DK: Oh, so he was at Tobruk.
NT: Yeah. Oh yeah, of course he was in Tobruk.
DK: Right.
NT: That’s the bag up there.
DK: Yeah.
MA: Which date was that mum? Was it right at the end of the war?
NT: 1941 to —
No. No.
NT: Yeah.
MA: It was the first break he’d got for some time. He’d been working his socks off, hadn’t he? That was his first break and then that happened. Yes, he was exhausted.
NT: They’d had, they’d had a rough time in the desert really.
DK: Yeah.
NT: Anyway —
DK: Did he, did he talk about it much?
NT: No. He used to tell us the funny things.
DK: Yeah.
NT: The one nasty thing he told, he told us really had haunted him was he’d had to transport lorry loads of dead Poles.
DK: Yeah.
NT: And they were covered up but they knew who they were because they’d got brown boots on.
DK: Right.
NT: It used to haunt him.
DK: It’s a difficult job that one, isn’t it?
NT: Yeah. Anyway —
DK: So, when he came back then what, what was his career after that?
NT: Oh, he went, he went working on the land for a bit.
DK: Right.
NT: With a threshing set. And then he went to the engineering works at Peterborough.
DK: Yeah. And, and what did you do after the war? Did you remain in teaching?
NT: I kept teaching.
DK: Right, so —
NT: Well, I minded the kids first and then my —
DK: So, when did you retire from teaching then?
NT: 1979, was it? Yeah. I think.
DK: Yeah. Right. Ok.
MA: You say you’ve been retired more than you actually taught now.
NT: Lovely. And I get far more money in pension than ever I earned.
DK: That was the year I left school actually. So, so what did you retire as? Did you, did you make it to headmistress or were you just a teacher?
NT: No. I was deputy head.
DK: Deputy head. Oh right.
NT: Yeah.
DK: And what school was that at then?
NT: Deeping St Nicholas. Very little school just up the road.
DK: Right.
NT: On the way to Spalding.
DK: So, your career then.
NT: Yeah.
DK: Came back here.
NT: Yeah.
DK: And you’ve been here.
NT: I’ve always lived here.
DK: You’ve been here ever since.
NT: We like it here, don’t we?
MA: It’s a lovely place. Yeah.
DK: Just one final question then. I think we’ve got most of that then. All these years later how do you look back on the wartime years?
NT: Well, I look back on it with a bit of affection in a way. There was, it was a hard time but it drew people together, you know, and it was a very hard time but I was very lucky because I didn’t have any hard things to deal with.
DK: Yeah.
NT: I do. I quite look back on quite affectionate, but it was sad in a, very sad.
MA: The uncle who died didn’t his parents die soon afterwards because it was —
NT: Afterwards. Yeah.
DK: That was the uncle who died in the First World War.
NT: Yeah.
NT: Yeah.
ME: Yeah.
NT: I didn’t know him.
DK: Right.
NT: What else can I tell?
DK: What about children today? Would you like to still be teaching them today?
NT: No. I would not.
DK: No. Fair enough.
NT: Don’t start me on that. Don’t start me on that.
DK: We’ll skip over that.
NT: Oh dear. We were just saying weren’t we? We were just saying when children were the bottom of the heap when I was young. Now they’re like princesses and lords aren’t they?
DK: Yeah.
NT: Pampered. Not good.
DK: Not good, is it?
MA: We did as we were told.
DK: Yes. Yes. So, did we.
NT: Well, you had a good childhood.
MA: Oh yes.
NT: You weren’t treated —
MA: But we did as we were told.
NT: Yeah. Well, you —
DK: Ok then. Well, I think we’ll finished there unless there’s anything else you want to say. Or is there anything else you wanted to say? Or are you happy with that?
NT: No. I don’t think so.
DK: No.
NT: No. It was nice of you to come.
DK: Oh, no. Enjoyed it. Well, I’ll switch this off then. Thanks very much for that.

Collection

Citation

David Kavanagh, “Interview with Nancy Titman,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 10, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10627.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.