Bishop Andrewes Church during the 2nd World War

An article taken from the St. Helier Herald

LIFE AT BISHOP ANDREWES DURING THE WAR


As recalled by the Reverend Charles Richardson

 

My curacy at Bishop Andrewes Church covered the worst part of the war. At the outbreak I became redundant at St Barnabas, Eltham. It was an evacuation area. Neil Nye introduced me to Fr. Brooke ­Hunt at a tea party and he immediately asked me when I could come. January 1st 1940 was agreed. Some may remember there was much snow that winter. My arrival that New Year's Day found a. mother standing on the doorstep waiting to be churched. She was cold and had come a long way. I searched my baggage for robes, opened the church for the first time, found a service card and she made her thanksgiving. So began a predominantly pastoral ministry.

 

The blackout was the continual hindrance to gathering 2, 3 or more people together for Church or community. I never saw lighted road lamps. We accepted it of course.  Good fellowship grew at night among fire-watchers, A.R.P and W.V.S men and women. Women used more red tape but were quicker at cutting it. There was the lighter side. One dark night Bill Richardson, stoker and hall caretaker, answered his door to some kids selling firewood. Next morning he discovered he had bought his own fencing: If in the blackout you misjudged a road corner and fell into a bush, you were glad none could see you. As in Midsummer Night's Dream, moonlight nights were important.

 

All this inconvenience of course was intensified during the two main bombing periods. At first people assembled fairly regularly with increasing boldness. This was all broken up with the Blitz air raid warnings and dispersal to shelters to start with and then the explosive and incendiary bombs incidents. The Estate houses were much tougher than the Bramblewood Close variety! The main job for the clergy was ministering to the frightened, injured and dying. We were also able to help track down members of households and families. People were taken off to different hospitals and centres and there was much anguish until all were accounted for to each. Nothing mattered except people. We had our priorities right then. It was always difficult t to console parishioners when their dear ones in the Forces were killed. It was poignant when members of the Forces came home, perhaps happily on leave, to find their families dead and their homes a heap of rubble.

 

My impression is that there was always at least a handful of the faithful at services, no matter what was going on outside. There was no sermon-saving! We started the Sung Eucharist when I came. Evensong was in the afternoon during the winter. When I arrived Ulrich Simon was a curate. He produced splendid sermons, not always understood, but always identified as real sermons. Nancy Scott and Pat Tatlow were also on the staff and helped us with the girls. There was much for children with separate boys and girls clubs, senior and junior, together with scouts and guides, cubs and brownies. Closer to Church life there was a strong Sunday School where among others Mrs Hyde and Doreen Imbert taught. Mrs Manners ran the Coral Overseas League and of course there was the choir with Marjorie Gold. A good band of servers included John Hill, John Bullen, Ralph Milner, Eric Cooper, Charlie Allen. Later, Captain Arthur came from Carshalton with his cadets for parades in our church.

Photo:Inside of Bishop Andrewes Church c.1955

Inside of Bishop Andrewes Church c.1955

Donated by Terry Wooden


As time passed some were confirmed and formed a fellowship we called Koinonia, the objects of which were worship, study, service and recreation together. Among them were Jean Harrington I last saw a few years ago coping valiantly with MS, her family and good social works. My wife and I stayed with Doreen Richardson and her husband last year. There were also David Moody, Tony and Peter Trollope, Ron Smith, Lionel Rose, Ken Perry, Peter Greetham, John Kearsey and my teenage brother Tony. There were Aileen Milner, Rose Coles, Gladys Hartley, Freda Hill, Vera White, Doreen Smith, Betty Hart, Joan Childs, Jean Nethersole, Angela David, Elsa and Valerie Domsch and Peggy Allen. I wonder where they all are now and if any will read this article: Older boys and girls were continually leaving for the Forces. Terry Wooden, your editor, was in the Sunday School!

Mr Rose and Lionel Harrington were churchwardens, Miss Purfield local headmistress and member of the Third Order of St. Francis was treasurer. My wife was Enrolling Member of the M.U. and began a very happy lifelong association with the Society. Ringleaders were Mesdames Bullen, Richardson, Milner, Haagman, Harrington, Barker and Paxton. Mrs Hurdman was our oldest house­bound member, getting on for 100. She was pushed to Church on special occasions. Vera Allnutt was a very patient bed-ridden sufferer.

 

Of course BA members shared parish events with St Peter's. Our own social highlight was the annual parish concert. They were held at mid-summer so that people could come and go in the daylight of double summer time. The disadvantage was the intense heat for the hall (hut!) was blacked out for stage lighting effects. Weeks beforehand 50 or 60 children were auditioned for the singing and dancing numbers. Mrs Imbert with no music and only a phrase of music half-remembered by the girl could accompany anyone. The tap dancing Hudd twins shook the stage and I remember Sheila Hoadley and Kathleen Bailey sang sweetly. Then of course men and women and all the organisations added their items. I was a `gendarme' more than once and there were some good sketches. For such events we had to have special coupons for `light refreshments' and `beverages'.

 

There were staff changes when Nancy married Billy the curate and Pat left. They were replaced by sisters of the Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary. Sister Joan was attached to BA. She kept us up to scratch. In 1943 Fr Godfrey came as Vicar and then Hugh Ford as curate. The staff were also chaplains for St Helier Hospital. The outside blocks and lowest floors were used in a stop-go manner at the beginning of the war. Many bombs and land mines during the Blitz period caused this. Afterwards more wards were opened and required many hours visiting and administering the Blessed Sacrament. (I had a very near miss when the land mine fell on the nurse's block early one morning.) We relayed a 5-minute meditation each night through the radio system. It was eerie to enter the hospital from the dark, go to an underground room, speak to a microphone and leave without seeing a soul!

 

After quiet months and some complacency the life of the parish was all disrupted again by the doodlebugs. I was fire watching the first night they came our way. They looked and sounded devilish with their fiery tails. All was well while you could hear them. It was the shut-off engine, silence and then earth shaking that was sickening and meant more death and trouble. There could be no warning for the final V2 bombing and mercifully it did not last too long, BA church was lucky although the tiles were always being blown off and windows broken. The father of the large Brookman family at last told me to come down from the roof as he was a tiler. I carried on with the leaded windows.

Towards the end of 1944 the war for the Estate was as good as over. I applied to become a Naval Chaplain and left the parish early in 1945. My younger brother joined the Merchant Service and Hugh Ford later joined the Mission to Seamen. My wife Mneme and I were very happy at BA. Until we were married in the May I had my meals with Mrs Milner and her family and prepared the House. Our first two boys Paul and Adrian were born in St Helier Hospital. (Mark, Stephanie and Quentin were born in the same place when we were later in Mitcham). I came to the Diocese of Sheffield in 1954 and retired in 1980.

 

Mr Hensman had two allotments, one for flowers and one for vegetables. With the war on he decided to use both for vegetables and filled BA House garden with all his magnificent flower plants. He was a very gentle man. So were many other men and women we remember with affection. We are given to each other for a while and love grows. Then we are separated but the love continues

 

 

Written in response to a request for an article about the History of Bishop Andrewes for the St Helier Herald - June 1983

 

 

This page was added by Beverley Walker on 10/07/2011.
Comments about this page

Sunday morning 3 September 1939, I, at the age of 12 years, was in St. Andrewes Church attending Sunday School. Having been in the Scout Group for a little time it was expected of us to attend Sunday School. During the lesson the Air Raid Warning sirens sounded. Unknown to us the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had been on the radio annoucing that we were now at war with Germany. The sirens sounded, probably not of an imminent air attack but of letting people know that we were now at war. When I came out of the church my mother was there to meet me to take me home quickly, as, like other mothers that had come to collect their children, it wasn't known if the sirens had warned of a real air raid. That was the first time that the sirens sounded in wartime but it certainly wasn't the last!

By Gordon Jones
On 08/08/2011

This is so interesting to read about! As the current vicar of Bishop Andrewes' Church it is great to read about what has gone before. So many good people. Thank you, Kevin

By Kevin Lewis
On 17/11/2011

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.