Palmers Green Tales and reminiscences of Mike Barnard

On some occasions we had the company of my sister and elder brothers and I mostly remember being with them in cold winter weather when they took us on the frozen ponds and towed us through snow on a large wooden toboggan.  The other times I remember with them were during World War 11 when, after air raids, we all went hunting around the park for shrapnel (fragments of shells fired at enemy aircraft)

Once, too, a returning Luftwaffe fighter-bomber unloaded two bombs in the park to gain speed escaping from our fighters.  One bomb landed fairly harmlessly in the big field west of the tennis courts but the other demolished the bowling club pavilion.   Broomfield House at that time was an Army convalescent hospital.  There were always dark-green ambulances with a huge red cross in a white circle on the side parked in front on the house and the main arched entrance to the park bore deep scars where the drivers sometimes misjudged as they drove in at night with only a slit of light from headlights shrouded because of the black-out.

A Roman Catholic Army chaplain was based at the house, but with sometimes no Catholics to attend his morning Mass, he would often come to our house to say Mass on our sideboard – his vestments, chalice and other necessities for the service, carried with him in a metal case which could be opened out as a field altar.

One Christmas when Tim and I had been made ‘soldier suits’ by our mother, we went to collect Captain Perrott to join us for Christmas lunch, and while we were waiting one of the convalescing soldiers polished the brass buttons on our jackets with an Army-issue button stick designed to protect the uniform while Brasso-ing.  We were thrilled by this ‘real soldier’ attention!

Temporary wartime cafe

While Broomfield House was being used as a hospital, with no general public access, a brown-painted wooden booth was set up opposite the western side of the house to provide refreshments.  There was a door at one end for the serving staff to enter, and one third of the side facing the house lifted out-and-up so customers were somewhat sheltered as they were being served.The employed staff were only teenagers, and by making friends with them I was allowed to help serve too, even when only 8 or 9.  Most of what was sold were cups of tea, and slices of cake in Cellophane wrapping – though once we had a supply of Mars bars which were made available to anyone despite the rationing because they had been salvaged as damaged stock when bombs blew in the windows of the Slough factory.  This was a real case of ‘let the buyer beware’ because of the risk of glass in the bars-though mostly they were just a bit squashed.  The cafe manager visited on one occasion and said I shouldn’t be helping serving there, although he didn’t forbid my visits.  After he left one of the ambulance drivers asked me for a slice of the wrapped cake and I said she would have to ask one of the ‘official staff’, but they were busy and she pleaded with me and said she had the correct change and had to go out immediately with her ambulance.  She was a very attractive redhead whom I can still picture vividly though I was so young and it was so long ago. She got her cake… After the war she became our ‘milkman’ working for the United Dairies from a depot and stables in Broomfield lane, the other side of the railway bridge where Morrisons now stands.

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