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The Story of Biddy Burgum

This story was previously submitted to the Peoples War site in July 2005 by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the BBC Southern Counties Radio website on behalf of Ms Biddy with her permission.

Biddy Burgum was born 14th August 1927 and her mother died when she was just seven years old. Aunt Lilian (William’s sister) took in the whole family, Father William) brother (John) and sister(Biddy). Biddy was in Birmingham throughout the war apart from 2 years evacuation. Biddy was first evacuated when she was 12 years old, in 1939. The school was evacuated to Worcester and then brought back to Birmingham after a year. John was evacuated to Monmouth, where he spent the remainder of the war. This meant that Biddy and John didn’t see each other for most of the war.

Biddy was evacuated to an elderly couple, a brother and sister, who had never had a family before and no experience with children. Bombing started in Birmingham and then Biddy went to Coalville, near Leicester. Biddy went to a younger couple. After 1 year in Coalville the whole school was moved back to Birmingham. While in evacuation the children only had school for half a day. This suited Biddy fine as she was a great sports girl.

Between 1941-1945 Biddy was in Birmingham. During this period there was some very bad bombing raids in Birmingham, Coventry and the rest of the Midlands. There were some terrible incendiary raids which set the city alight. Biddy would go up on to the attic roof in the evening and count the barrage balloons. There were over a hundred. The school playing field had a set of barrage balloons put there by a local army unit. Games had to be moved to the local park. Tennis balls and gym shoes could not be obtained which was a nuisance since Biddy was keen on any form of sport.

During the war the air raid warnings rang out every night. The family would go down to the cellar, which was extremely damp and stay there all night. They would sleep on deck chairs. There was no heating other than an open fire. Biddy used to cycle 4 miles each way to school. At school the children would go down to the air raid shelter and have their lessons there. The school staff would fire watch in shifts all night.

Rationing was very severe. Biddy had a “blue” ration book, which meant that she would be able to have bananas when they were available. A “green” ration book for younger children would allow them other things. Sample rations at the time for the population:
8ozs Sugar
4ozs Marge
2ozs butter
2ozs tea
8ozs meat

You could get Bovril and Marmite fairly easily, but Jam and Marmalade was also rationed. Everyone hated the “dried egg”. Real eggs were “preserved” in a horrible white paste called “icing glass”. Coal was also in short supply, so people would have to keep warm using blankets. Biddy would keep warm by doing a lot of running around. Clothes were rationed. Everything had to be mended. There was nothing thrown away. Biddy’s family planted vegetables in the garden. Every part of the garden was used - the lawn included. Any metal railings were taken away to be used in the war effort. Tram rails were also used.

Biddy’s family had a cat (Gin, short for Ginger) which ate horse meat. During one evacuation there was a time bomb in the road. The road was barricaded off. Biddy’s family (at number 8) had to stay in a school hall, for 4 nights. The cat was left behind. Biddy found a way in to the back of the house through a tennis club and a police cordon to feed the cat. Everything was blacked out for a lot of the time. There were no phones. Biddy would use the phone box at the end of the road. There were no holidays. There was no fridge or any other amenities and no car.

In 1945, after the war, Biddy went to PE college in Bedford. She then taught PE for 35 years. By 1949 she was playing hockey for Surrey Women, Surrey and Sussex Women, ME Maclagan's XI and ME Hide's XI. She went on to become an international hockey player (1950-1962).

The caption for the photograph on the right reads - Australian player J. Marshall (right) gets the hall past J. Brailhwaite and B. Burgum, of England, in their women's international hockey match at Folkstone, Kent, last week. Australia won, 2 - 1. It was England's first defeat in three years.
(Published Wednesday 7 October 1953 in The Advertiser, Adelaide, South Australia).

She had over 50 caps for England! Biddy also taught PE in Surrey, Nottingham and then Worthing, in 1959. In 1969 Biddy moved on to lecture prospective PE teachers at Chelsea PE College in Eastbourne, now part of Brighton University. In the 1970's she was writing "Biddidy Burgum's Schoolgirls' Columns' for "Hockey Field". She retired in 1983.

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar. The © copyright of this information remains with Biddy Burgum, WW2 People's War.

Click here for - "Biddy Burgum at 92!"

Click here for pictures of "Hockey Field", a magazine held by the Society in which Biddy had a column.

Biddy Burgum is part of the "QQ" family tree.