Early years in WGC and Hitchin
1940s - 1950s
By David Colbeck
I was born at Brocket Hall on January 25th 1940 because my parents lived in Welwyn and the Hall became a Maternity Hospital, presumably to free up other hospitals because of the war.
We soon moved to Hitchin. One of my earliest memories was having to wear a gas mask. Later, about 1944, I saw a telegraph boy cycle up to our house to deliver a telegram. Unfortunately my elder half brother, Pete, had been drowned when HMS Kelly, captained by Mountbatten, was sunk in the Med.
We were quite poor, and my mother worked in the Cock Hotel in Hitchin High Street to survive. She was a single parent by this time. My sister and I attended Strathmore Infants and Wilshere Dacre schools until 1947, when my mother died. We were sent to [separate!] Childrens’ Homes, Briar Patch, Letchworth and The Grange, Stevenage, for several weeks, until my grandma, who lived in WGC, agreed to look after us until my father set up a new home in Hitchin in 1949.
Another memory I have of this time is when sweets came off the ration. I was first in the queue at the local sweet shop, and a photo of me sinking my teeth into a Mars bar appeared in the local paper!!
So: back to Hitchin, to Wilshere Dacre and the Grammar School. Happy days/years! Camping out at Oughton Head, cycling to the Pegsdon Hills, bird watching with my friends etc. In 1951, whilst in Year 6 at WD, I won an essay prize for an essay about living in Hertfordshire and was awarded a book about the County signed by the author, William Beech Thomas. It is still one of my treasured possessions.