Interview with Margaret Hodgin


Interview with Margaret Hodgin


Margaret’s family lived in Fiskerton and her first memory of war time, when she was seven and her brother four, was of her father digging a shelter in the garden. The children would walk or cycle to Reepham school.
Margaret was about eleven when an aerodrome was built a couple of fields away. When she heard the Lancasters take off she would run upstairs to watch from the open window and wave to the crew. She would write the aircraft number in a book and lie awake at night listening for them to return. She remembered a German aircraft flying low to take pictures of the station and then being shot down over Lincoln. Margaret’s parents took in an evacuee before the RAF Fiskerton was built. On a Saturday morning the village children would collect salvage in wheelbarrows and take it to a shed where it would be sorted by the adults. She recalled the time when there was an explosion which blew the house door in. When Margaret was fourteen she worked in Cherry Willingham Post Office and shop. Margaret’s father worked at the forge doing war work and was also in the Home Guard. She remembered he had once been shot at by a German plane but wasn’t injured as he dived into a barn. Margaret’s mother helped with the whist drives and dances in the village hall.







00:27:10 audio recording


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SB: This is Suzanne Bellhouse interviewing Mrs Margaret Hodgin. We’re at Margaret’s house in Fiskerton, Lincolnshire. Margaret lived very, very closely to RAF Fiskerton during the war years and she’s going to tell us all her about her experiences and, and what she saw.
MH: Right. The first memory of me, of my, of the war time was my father digging a shelter in the garden and we used to be carried down because I was only seven and my brother was four. And we used to be carried down when the air raids came. But they were, we were quite fortunate where I lived for, being bombed. And, and then later on as the time went on they would, when we went to school we, at Reepham School which was the next village we had to go and walk or cycle about two miles and you always had to take your gas mask with you. If you didn’t, you got halfway there and remembered it, ran back home and my mum coming up the road with it. And, you know, and it’s so vivid what I can remember of all these things. And, and then when we were at school if the, if the siren went we would take, we’d no shelters there. We were taken to houses in the village. Everybody, you know my, me and my brother was taken to a house and all the other children and they used to put us under the, cupboard under the stairs and, and that was at school. And well then going on to the war days, you know to the aerodrome being built I can remember that being done. Now, because we was only two small fields away from the, the ‘drome you could hear the Lancasters revving up to be taken off, you see. Take off. And I used to hear them and run upstairs and open my bedroom window because if the wind was, whichever the wind was as it came our way it, they used to be parallel by my bedroom window, and I could see the crew, the pilot with all his gear on and the one next to him. And I used to write down because it was AE. The number of the ‘drome there was AE1 or, and so on and I used to write. I had a book and I used to write them all down. I mean I was about eleven by then when the, when the ‘drome was, was on. And then I used to try and keep awake at home at night to hear how many came back. And they got to know. Some of them used to actually wave to me. The pilot, because they knew because I used to open the window and really look out and wave and all the rest of it. But the thing is it’s so vivid in my mind that, all that. Well, one Sunday afternoon, and in those days you hadn’t, you had to make your own entertainment. Well, I used to read a lot and I was curled up in a chair reading a book and I heard an aeroplane revving and flew upstairs, opened my window and what was it? A German plane. And I was terrified because, you know it had got the sticker on the thing. And I went down, I said to my mum and dad, ‘It’s a German plane gone past.’ My dad wouldn’t believe me. He said, ‘It never was.’ I said, ‘It was.’ And because it had apparently, this is what we were told later it had got into the, into the rear, near ours to take photographs of the aerodrome and it had come down low to do it and it was just taking away again. But as far as we were told it was shot down over Lincoln. Past Lincoln. So, that was the end of it. To see a German plane going past. I mean to a child it was terrifying and that was a frightening experience to me. Anyway, yeah I used to do it all through the war. Listening for these planes. And I tell you I wrote a book. I put a book with it but I think my mum must have lost it because I haven’t got it now. I wish I had but I haven’t. And I, and I used to really be upset when there was any missing when they came back. And that was my experiences with the Lancasters, you know. But to see them right near your house was amazing really. Yeah. Yeah. It was good. Anyway, I think I’d better stop a minute now.
SB: That was brilliant.
[recording paused]
MH: The war to me was as I said at the beginning that my father built a shelter in the garden and down in the ground and all that. But when the ‘drome was built it was, it was compulsory to have an, I think it was called Anderson but I’m not sure if ours wasn’t called something else. And you had to have them in your house, these shelters and they were absolutely made of steel and oh quite big. I can’t imagine. From that doorway to about there’s big. And there were shiny tops of steel and then there were latts all underneath and my mum put beds in for us and they used to, but it was nearly, I mean I was only in a small house. It nearly filled your room but you had to have them.
SB: Yeah.
MH: Because we lived so near the ‘drome. Yeah. You couldn’t say no. Yeah. And then another experience I can remember so vivid was about the evacuees coming. Now, we didn’t have many because [pause] no this was before the ‘drome was built, these evacuees. And there was quite a big house near me, near us and this lady must have been a bit, I don’t know what you’d call her but she wouldn’t. She refused to have anybody and so they brought a girl to us from Leeds or Liverpool. I can’t remember which, which town it was. I know it was from Yorkshire. And she came to stay at our house. And my mum would bake. Had got some plums all washed ready for making jam because you did everything for yourself in the war and she’d never seen a plum or eaten a plum before and she was so excited with these plums. She was, she was ever such a nice girl. But we weren’t, we wasn’t forced to have anybody because there was, we’d three bedrooms and a boy and a girl, you see. So we weren’t. But they came and asked my mum if she’d have this girl because this lady refused but she was made to have her in the end. And she wrote to us for, oh and then when the aerodrome was built they had to go home wherever they were sent to because of the, it was just as dangerous here as where they came from they thought. But anyway she did write to us quite a bit after. Yeah. I remember that. And there was quite a few evacuees about and they all seemed to settle well. And, and that was that experience you know. And I can still see her in my mind. But with these plums, she was so excited about plums. What else was I going to tell you? Oh yeah. About the air raid. The shelter. Yeah. And my mum used to put us down. We used to sleep in there. And one day, oh and my mum used to help in the village hall. They used to do whist drives and dances and it’s only a small village hall. It, well it’s a church hall at Cherry Willingham and we, I used to go with her because she used to light fires, two fires in the, ready for the whist drive. And you used to, used to go and put some more coal on it. It was black you know. Everywhere. There were no lights anywhere. And it used to be so, because you know so dark and I can still remember that. And if you had a cycle you had a lamp on the front but it was all blacked out by about the size of a shilling in those days. I don’t know how they saw. But anyway. So, funny things. Oh, and on a Saturday morning us children used to collect the salvage as we called it from all the houses and put them in a shed and then it was sorted out. I don’t know what, what they did with it but anyway that was our Saturday jobs with wheelbarrows fetching all this salvage and taking it to this shed. And the grown-ups used to sort that out. My dad wasn’t sent for the war because he worked at the forge and it was, they did work for the war you see. I don’t know what they did. I can’t remember. And, and so we were lucky to have my dad at home when everything went and I used to be saying, ‘Don’t let, just tell dad to come in,’ if there was a raid, ‘Don’t let him — ’ and he would stand out listening. The men did. About watching the, you know all the hearing them more likely. The air raids were on, he’d say, ‘Oh, they’re bombing Coventry,’ and all that sort of talk. Yeah. But it’s so you know I think when you’re, it’s your young day you do remember but I think it was more vivid with it being the war that you do remember things so well. And what else is there to tell you? Stop it a minute.
[recording paused]
MH: And one day my dad had been around the Cherry Willingham village. Well, there was only about [pause] I wouldn’t know how many houses. Say two hundred houses in there then. Now, it’s like a small town Cherry Willingham is. And he was, he’d been somewhere. They had a [pause] a place up in the village where the, when the [pause] what do church wardens and all them went to sort the people out. We had a man lived next door to us. He was called Twiddy Espin and he was only a very small man. My dad always said the whistle, he used to blow the whistle all around the village when it, so you knew, or if you were showing any light with your, and my dad always said that the whistle was bigger than he was. And he did look after us though. He used to come all around the village looking if you showed any light. You know, because you had to have blackouts of course. And he was very good really. He was. Nice man. And then my dad was gone up to this place whatever it was. I don’t know what it was about. They used to meet up there. Some of the men in the village. And one day he was coming down the village and he got shot at by a German plane. And one of the, there was a barn from the farm that was in the village and it happened to have the door open and he went in there and so they missed him. Yeah. And that was frightening to think they’d been shot at. Yeah. Because you didn’t know if there were some German planes about. I mean we used to go out playing. And, and I never went out of Cherry Willingham all through the war. Only to school. Because my mum used to go to Lincoln to get your clothes and she would never take us in case there was a, a, you know the sirens went. And so I never went out the village and I always remember being nervous going out for a meal after because I’d never been used to it. And nervous of such a lot of things because you were so [pause] And we used to be playing out sometimes when it was snowing. Behind the church we used to have a slide down there. Sirens would go. Fly home quick. But we were very fortunate around here as regards being bombed. And I remember one day my mum, she used, she was doing her hair, I was in curled up in one chair, my brother in the other. My dad was at work. And we were going up to see about this whist drive place so she was getting herself ready for going. And all of a sudden, we didn’t know if it was a bomb or a plane had crashed. Blew the back, the door in, in the house and the windows really rattled and I think that was before the, the ‘drome though because my mum pushed us under the ordinary table. And when she looked she’d only got her head under about, you know that was hanging out of it. But they are so protective of their children aren’t they? Mothers. Most of them anyway. And, yeah that was very vivid to remember. I can hear it now. The window really rattling and doing. Yeah. It was [pause] That was another thing that we did. What else was there? That. And that’s about it I think.
[recording paused]
MH: Now, on the crescent was the WAAF quarters. All the huts where the, where the WAAFs lived on here. And, and then just further down the road some of the, they weren’t the crew people, they were the ground staff. They had their quarter down there and where later on in life I got married and they brought a knitwear factory into this village and it was the old recreation place for the, for the crews where we, where it was. And it just finished about four years ago. Maybe more, wasn’t it? And it’s still there. You know. But they’re going to pull it down and it seems very sad to me that they’re pulling it down now. But they’re going to build houses so that’s it. And that’s another thing that we did. Yeah. Yeah, it was there and I was there forty six years. Because my first husband died when I was forty eight. You was only twenty something, weren’t you? And I was called Canner then and now I’m Mrs Hodgin. I married my second husband in 19 — what was it? ’92. Twenty ninety two. Yeah. That’s another thing. That’s not nothing to do with the war though.
SB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
MH: On the ‘drome. And we never knew about to be quite honest that there was such a thing as dark people. And one day we, as I say, mum as I said used to help with the whist drives and dances. Well, a lot of the RAF used to come up to the dances and brought this dark lad with them. He was only eighteen and they made such a fuss of him and he was such a nice person. And I, and that was the first black person I’d ever seen. Well, all of us had really. But they were so kind to him you know. Really looked after him. I can remember that vivid. Yeah. And he was nice. What else did you say?
[recording paused]
MH: And we had some Americans. I think they were based at Cranwell. Was it? Cranwell aerodrome. And they used to come around in to the town. By then this was a bit after the war though, Shirley. Wasn’t it? And they used to, used to go into town and they used to give us chewing gum and all sorts. Sweets and things. So we were always pleased to see them around. Yeah. Yeah. They were good. Yeah. That was another thing in my life. Yeah.
[recording paused]
MH: School it would be. I was fourteen and the rationing was still on and I worked in the Cherry Willingham Post Office come shop and still rationed we were. And, oh another thing. In the war we were allowed four of us two pound of sugar a week, half a pound of butter and then it was your flour and whatever you had. And the margarine was awful. I couldn’t stand it. But my dad used to, didn’t like wasting food whatsoever and he used to say I’ve got to eat this margarine on my bread. I said, ‘I’d sooner not have anything on my bread.’ But my mum used to put her butter on my bread and [laughs] but we only had two ounces each a week and that was in the war, well it was right after the war as well quite. Until nineteen fifty something it finished. Yeah. And a lot of the people had quite big families in those days and they couldn’t afford all what they got so they used to give up some of theirs and then other people who were better off used to buy that you see. What was spare. And we never had any tinned fruit. There wasn’t such a thing then in the war. You couldn’t have bananas over three years old. Yes. And I remember when the war finished and the man who, the shop was nearly opposite where, where we lived and I can remember him bringing the first lot of bananas. Well, bananas for us. And mum did us some banana and custard and I always remember that. It was wonderful. They were the first bananas we’d had, yeah. As I can remember. Yeah. And then the sweets came off ration. You didn’t get many sweets in the war. Then they came off ration. The first thing I bought was a Mars bar. Yeah. Funny things. Yeah. So better switch if off.
[recording paused]
SB: On the buses.
MH: We used to have with them. So many RAF people in the buses used to come from Lincoln to pick us up to take us back to Lincoln. My mum more than me because I was a child. And you had a job to get on the buses because they were full of the RAF people. And there used to be conductress in those days and the bus used to be packed and they used to stand from the end of the bus right to the door and the conductress used to be hanging on like this. And the RAF if you was a child went on the bus at all they would always have you on their knees. It used to be absolutely packed. The buses. But now they’re not allowed to you see. But yeah, and that was, my mum often went out for a bus and couldn’t get on it. Yeah. It was strange that was. Yeah. It was packed up with there. The WAAFs. Yeah. I can remember. But this, as I was saying where I live now was the WAAF’s quarters and they used to be their recreation village hall, hall there. Well, then when it all finished they left. That was our village hall. It was a wonderful place and we used to have dances and all sorts in it. A nice big dance place it was. And then, then of course it’s gone now because this has been built but the shop. Yeah. It used to be just there where those houses were. That was. I can remember that. Yeah. But I used to like the WAAF’s uniform. And when I went to this Woodhall Spa.
SB: 40’s.
MH: 40s, was it? Yeah. I says, ‘I hope somebody’s dressed as a WAAF.’ So anyway this lady came up and I said, ‘Oh, do you mind me talking to you?’ I said, ‘I’ve always admired their uniform.’ And, oh she was a lady that organised parties for the whatever. I don’t know what. She’d got seventeen. Not them but all different uniforms and she says, ‘The only thing with the, with the — ’ which I didn’t know, ‘With the tunics is that they all fastened men’s side because they were all done for men. But then they had, the WAAFs came and they used those,’ she says, ‘And they were all fastened the wrong way,’ she said. Oh dear. I said, ‘Well, I’m still learning.’ Yeah. And she invited us to get but we didn’t get did we? So we’re going to go hopefully next year to it again. And, oh I did have a wonderful day there though. Everybody dressed and their hair done up how they used to have it in the war. Yeah. And the stockings with the line. You know. The seams up. That they got on. Yeah. I can remember wearing some of those and make sure your seam was straight. Oh dear. Yeah. Oh God. You’d better switch it off now.
[recording paused]
MH: In the villages you had to have what you called the Army. Things for the Home Guard. And my dad was in the Home Guard and they used to sort of do all, what do you call it on a Sunday morning? All get marching and doing. And I always remember, which is another funny thing is he couldn’t fasten his top hook and eye and I used to stand on a stool to fasten his button. And, yeah there was the Home Guard in the war. Yeah. That was good. Yeah. It was. There was all the men, elderly men who didn’t go to the forces or anything. And there was quite a lot of them used to go marching around on a Sunday morning. And they were there to protect us if the Germans had come, you see. So that was, and that’s all. That’s all I’ve got there. You’d can switch it off.
[recording paused]
MH: I always remember with it being so dark and when it was like November time we always had thick fog. And all of a, then they decided on the ‘drome to give a light for the planes to come in to and it lit all your village up. And I was terrified because of this fog light. Yeah. That was a strange thing. Yeah. That sort of thing. Yeah. That’s —
[recording paused]
MH: And I can remember also a couple living in Cherry Willingham and they had a car which was rare. For the war. People who weren’t, you know had nothing much to do with the war but he was connected with the war and they went through Scampton where Guy Gibson was and his dog. It had a name. I forget its name.
SB: N*****.
MH: And, and they were going past the entrance of the aerodrome on there and this dog ran out in front of them and they killed it. But they did stop and sort it out. But there’s been a film made of the, of Guy Gibson and on it it shows that, it says they didn’t stop. They were very upset because they did stop because, you know. But it was the dog’s fault. It wasn’t their fault. And they were a long time getting over the, of doing it never mind about being on the film that they didn’t stop. And, yeah and that was a sad thing. But, yeah.



Suzanne Bellhouse, “Interview with Margaret Hodgin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 29, 2023,

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