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Memories of a schoolboy from Earlestown

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Tom was 12 at the outbreak of war and lived in Earlestown, Lancashire. All the following stories are from WW2.

One day after school he jumped over the back fence of the playground where there were pens containing rabbits. He'd seen a black rabbit that he liked, so decided to take it. He was walking down Crow Lane East when 2 French sailors on bikes came over asking if he would sell the rabbit to him. He didn't want to but they eventually persuaded him. They gave him some French coins, which were copper in colour and they took the rabbit and put it in one of their saddle bags and rode off.

He remembers walking over to Haydock Park with his mates, across the fields and into a wood. They would wait to make sure no one was looking and sneak in to the camp. He remembers the sailors in their uniforms with a red pom pom on the top of their berets. He remembers them cooking beef and vegetables in a big cauldron over a fire and remembers cabbage leaves floating on the top.

He remembers a canvas church that the sailors had built with painted windows on the side.

The Marklands, sign writing family, had 2 daughter, his age, that went out with 2 French sailors.
Tom tells of the time that he and his mates hid in a ditch near the race course off Swan Road. The Home Guard used the race course for hand grenade practice. They would watch men being handed live grenades and study his they would throw them. On one particular occasion they saw one being thrown, the explosion followed by a whistling sound which came closer and closer, they were around a quarter of a mile away. The whistling was made by a piece of the grenade which landed on a dirt track close by, he remembers the dust being thrown up, as it was a hot summer's day. One of his friends picked it up but had to drop it as it was hot. Once it cooled down, his friend took it home.

In the late 1930s, Tom and his mates used to sing songs at break times at school. One of the songs they sang was about Mussolini:

"Will you come to Abyssinia, will you come,
bring your own ammunition and your gun,
Mussolini will be there
shooting peanuts in the air,
will you come to Abyssinia will you come?"


Person the story/items relate to

Tom Mercer

Person who shared the story/items

Mark Richardson

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

My wife is his niece.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID