My Early Years in Hayes

By Brian Simmons.

"I was born at 6am on 1 December 1938 in Marylebone hospital. The family were living in Grosvenor Avenue, Hayes and my few early memories, which are very important to me, are of my Father. He was home on leave and we were making toast for breakfast, which we duly burnt and of course got into trouble with my Mum. I have no other memory of him; I must have been 3 years old.

The next memory is one I've never been able to erase and that was of my Mum's scream when she got the telegram to say that Dad had died; I was then 4. Dad died because of a flash fire in the engine room of his Motor Torpedo Boat in Calcutta.

I have visited his War Grave 3 times in my life. It was from this moment on that my life was to change considerably, although I wasn't to realise how much until later in my life.   A while later my sister and I were sent to live with the family of a man called Richard Bell, who my Dad served with in the Navy. They lived in Bradford in a district called Thornbury close to Pudsey. The Bell family treated Sylvia and I very well and I remember a lot of happy times there playing with the local children.

Sylvia and I returned from Bradford, either in the summer of 1944 or early in 1945, as I can remember clearly the German V1 rockets or Buzz-bombs as they were called and even one that exploded in Ruislip, close by. One thing that is quite clear is that when Sylvia and I went to Grange Park Infant School the children there thought we were quite strange as we had broad Yorkshire accents, so we must have spent quite some time in Yorkshire.

At home, I made friends with some of the other boys living in our street, one in particular, Derek Stampfer, who is still a close friend of mine today. Also at this time I went to Charville School, which was closer to my home than Grange Park.

Kinderdorf Pestalozzi
It was at Charville that I first heard of a village in Switzerland called Kinderdorf Pestalozzi, a War Orphanage for children who had been affected by the war. As a boy who had lost his Father due to the conflict, I was chosen to go to the village along with a number of other children from Hayes, Ealing, Leeds and Hull. I believe we were chosen because of who we were. In other words, it was thought we would get on well together living in the village, as there were children there from France, Italy, Greece, Austria, Germany, Finland and Poland.

So on 4 September 1950, 30 English children arrived in Kinderdorf Pestalozzi and the children already there led us to our respective houses. One English House was called Stepping Stones and the other Thames. I was in Stepping Stones and my first surprise was that my bed had on it a very large pillow, but was of course a duvet. Second surprise, in the bathroom, which was in the basement, we had showers not baths. A huge stove situated between the kitchen and the living/dining room centrally heated the house. And finally we had triple-glazing on all the windows.

This was a totally different world to children from English homes where you were lucky to have a bathroom in the house, let alone a shower. We soon settled into our life in the village, which was different in as much that we had school in our own houses in the morning in our own language and in the afternoon, international lessons, such as wood work, metalwork, music, model making etc. all carried out in High German the international language of the village.

Freddy with British Boys from Thames House
Thames House
My first year in the village was a happy one and I really enjoyed skiing and the winter sports and mixing with the children of other nationalities. In the second year, things did not go at all well. I was transferred from Stepping Stones to Thames House, why I don't know, but it was not a good move as the Housefather there, a Mr Stone took a dislike to me and decided to humiliate me in any way possible and this made me unhappy, but I stuck it out and stayed away from Mr Stone as much as possible.

There was always something going on and time went by so quickly. After my third year, I returned to Hayes as I was close to my 15th birthday and would soon be old enough to start work, but first I would have to complete school and so I went to Barnhill Secondary Modern.

Back to a school in Hayes was not the best thing. I found that I was once again in an environment that was alien to what I had become used to in Switzerland and I was also 'different' as I had come, for all that the other kids knew, from a foreign country and I even spoke another language.

This was the start of my early life in Hayes and after school and many odd jobs I finally joined the Royal Navy and served for 12 years. On being demobbed from the Navy, I returned to Hayes and worked in the Airline business until I retired in 2003.

I have lived most of my life in Hayes and I can say that it was a good life until I moved to Norfolk 17 years ago but after my Wife and I retired we wanted a quieter life and we have certainly found that here."

Page last updated: 16 Mar 2021