Margaret (Burrage) Thorne - Caldecott 1939-1949 - Start of WW2
I was actually standing in the kitchen of The Mote that Sunday morning when, on the radio, Neville Chamberlain told the world and in particular, of course, Great Britain that war had been declared between Germany and Great Britain.
I don't think we had any immediate reaction. I can't remember that it made any difference to how we went on doing what we were doing but in time things changed a great deal because New Zealand Army people were parked in tents around The Mote and I think we felt it made it very vulnerable. I was there for the period of the Battle of Britain and I still remember Eileen Chadwick, who had charge of the farm, coming back from milking with an airman's boot which had fallen into the chicken pen. As I've just said, we had a small farm where we had great metal containers of milk which was our milk supply for the whole house and we used to get somebody to skim off the top so we had the cream from the milk. The other thing is the children all took part in looking after them, the animals, including a rather elderly pony, I've forgotten it's name but that was of great interest to everybody, the young people, and it was very much an integral part of the whole of the Community and people involved in it as we were entirely.
As things got much worse the decision was made that we couldn't, as a whole, stay at The Mote and we were offered (Ed. Temporary?) accommodation at St Peter's Hall College in Oxford and that was because one of the staff was Helen Stocks and Helen's Mum was Lady Stocks and she was involved with this college and we went off there. I went with Carol Lovegrove (Community Secretary) in her car, of course only one or two people had cars anyway, because if they had a car they couldn't run it 'cause of petrol rationing. But I went with Carol Lovegrove and it happened to be the Sunday on which most German fighter planes were shot down, and I still remember there were no traffic lights then of course, and where policeman stood on point duty they were supposed to be looking after traffic though there wasn't very much in those days, they were all looking upwards at the sky, so we just sailed through to Oxford to this accommodation which was just so unsuitable because everything was so big but we had to do the best we could and as a youngster really and not very much experienced in life in general I was asked to go to Oxford market to plead, which really what it was, to plead with people who sold food, meat and bread and all that sort of thing, if they would give us supplies and trust us until some money came, because there was no money at that point.
Anyway I think, I can't remember much about what we did in Oxford except just try and keep things going. We had about forty children with us,some had gone to other schools, some of the boys went to the posh 'Dragon' school, and some of them stayed there afterwards, they didn't go back to the Community at all; and we were there for three weeks.
After three weeks we weren't able to stay any longer, but we then went to Somerville College where the staff there had already begun to gather for the term time so we used to have meals with them, they used to sit 'on high' as it were and we would sit 'lower', but they were very kind and very helpful but one of our worries was, of course, some of our children's clothes were not in very good condition and we used to sit up very late, the few of the staff that were there, mending holes in socks and things like that, because you couldn't just go and get new socks, apart from rationing there as no money to go and buy new socks.