We moved to Bata Estate in 1939 and our first house was 20 Queen Mary Avenue. It had only just been completed and the house next door was still unfinished and there were piles of bricks in the garden. Many years later we moved to 39 King George Avenue and eventually to 28 Queen Elizabeth Avenue which was right on the edge of the estate near to the fields.
During the war David slept under the kitchen table and I bathed him in the kitchen sink. One day there was a raid while I was washing him and I quickly got him as dry as I could, wrapped him in a towel and ran up the road to the house on the corner of Princess Avenue which had an Anderson shelter in the garden. I think that it was the only one and how we all got in I don’t know! As I was running with my baby in my arms three German fighter planes shot overhead so low that when I looked up I could clearly see the pilots. I remember thinking that they must be nice men for not shooting at me!
At different times I taught at East Tilbury village school and I remember cycling past the wonderful rose garden of Mr Deeks at the beginning of the village. I also taught at Lansdown Road school in Tilbury near the docks. The children lived in poor conditions and the first thing that we did when they arrived each morning was to check their feet for rat bites. At Christmas 1943 the teachers decided that the children must have a party and we decided to make some sponge cakes. We each experimented with flour, liquid paraffin and egg powder until we found the right balance and filled the sponge with home made jam, having used a month’s sugar ration to do so. We then looked around our homes, begged and borrowed until we had a small gift for each child.
Hazel Andrews with her son, David, left at the swimming pool and right in the playing field.
I cycled there every day across the marshes and on one day got completely blown off my bicycle, landing in a ditch. Finally I had the pleasure of teaching at Bata Primary School with the wonderful Miss Richardson whose standards were so very high.
During the war times were hard for everyone. There was no credit in those days but like many others I saved with the Co-operative Society just a shilling a week and after a time it was wonderful to have a whole pound to spend. On one occasion (and I still feel guilty) I actually resorted to buying bananas for David on the Black Market having heard about a shop in a little back street in Tilbury.
My husband Bill was so lucky to have got a job at Bata’s in 1939 when we moved to the estate, since employment was not easy to find. Being a slightly older man he was not called up until 1944 having been a member of the Home Guard until that time. He was often on duty guarding Tilbury Fort when the raids were on and so David and I were alone in the evenings like many other wives and mothers. I well remember the wooden rifle under the stairs. He became an army driver and landed at Arramanche a few days after D Day. It was so rough that they couldn’t land and then they go held up for ages at Caen. He often drove with the Americans and was in the Ardennes during the last enemy push there. Having often slept under the lorry at night and having a generally rough time, Bill became ill and was eventually flown back to England.
Hazel Andrews with other staff and pupils at the Bata School.
During the next years he underwent many operations leading to much time off work, but he was treated so exceptionally well by the Bata management and we were both so grateful to them. Bill died some years ago after many happy years in retirement. Bata’s was a wonderful firm for whom to work and I always admired Mr Tusa so much for arriving at work at 7.30a.m. with the factory workers - something unusual in those days. In addition he never left before the other employees. All members of the school staff received lovely Christmas presents from him personally.
I remember the Bata Estate with affection and often think that I did not appreciate it sufficiently at the time. David and Elizabeth and I often reminisce about the time we spent there and the people we knew. Happy memories.
Bill Andrews with his lorry.