Memories of Helen Stewart (nee Pickford)

Recording of living in Benfleet including during WW2

Helen Stewart painted South Benfleet in the 1940’s and we have some of her work on the site. On Thursday 8th August 2013 she made a recording of her memories of  Benfleet. Highlights include:

  • Memories of being in South Benfleet School.
  • Having to take the 11+ three times due to air raids interrupting the exam.
  • Being strafed on Benfleet railway station in 1943. (Sheet 7)
  • The attack on Canvey oil tanks in 1940. (Sheet 1)
  • Not knowing about the V2 on Benfleet.
  • Her father Walter Pickford the church organist and choirmaster.

Helen's parents in the Benfleet 1937-38 Electoral Roll
Coming to Benfleet and South Benfleet School
Part 1: Describing her family and the schools they went to, especially her sister's and her experiences of being taught at South Benfleet School. (7 mins 19 secs)
Living in Benfleet
Part 2: Living at Dormador in Vicarage Hill, tobogganing with her brother, exploring the site of the old Benfleet school in School Lane and walking a lot, especially her mother using a old Swiss cow bell to call her if she was late. (5 mins 32 secs)
War Time - The early part
Part 3: Being frightened by a German reconnaissance plane in June 1939. Hearing the start of war in September 1939. Seeing the start of the first air raid of the Blitz. Taking the 11+ three times as the students were interrupted by air raids each time they sat it. Seeing Blitz battles over Canvey Island and the pickup of downed pilots. The possibility of a spy in Benfleet. Army wishing to commandeer her family's house. Having a friend who was a Spitfire Pilot. (13 mins 37 secs)
War Time - The later part
Part 4: Being evacuated to Nottinghamshire. Coming back to Benfleet after three years. Hearing a Doodlebug. Being strafed by a German plane on Benfleet Station (This occurred on Tuesday 9th February 1943 at 08:35). Memories of the V2 rockets and not being told by her father of the V2 that landed on Boyce Hill (Saturday 2nd December 1944 at 08:26). The attack on the Canvey Island oil tanks which caught fire and covered the area for three days in smoke (This occurred on Wednesday 19th June 1940 at 00:45). (10 mins 45 secs)
Celebrations in Benfleet
Part 5: Back from evacuation. Her father arranged music for the church including hand bells. She and her siblings became part of a hand bell team going around the Benfleet pubs. Memories of a Party at the Hoy and Helmet pre-war. Armistice day in Benfleet being very quiet. (9 mins 15 secs)
Painting Benfleet
Part 6. Memories of pictures she made of Benfleet: the Creek, the Downs, The Close, the various pubs, Reeds Farm, Hadleigh Castle, Shipwrights School (started being built pre-war), Waterside Farm, and the Wheeler family. (14 mins 43 secs)
Her father Walter Pickford
Part 7: memories of her father Walter Pickford who remained in Benfleet until 1977. (6 mins 28 secs)

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  • This was told to be by my mum. During WWII she was doing some courting around Hadleigh Castle when a German plane, using the the river as a quick guide home, saw her and flew low giving her a thumbs up probably thinking he would hopefully be doing some courting himself if and when he got home. Right up to her final days mum would often wonder if he was lucky in his hopes.

    By Rob (Nobby ) Keen (04/06/2018)

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