Ronald Challis

Photo:In 1945 Ron was conscripted and joined the Royal Engineers.

In 1945 Ron was conscripted and joined the Royal Engineers.

Ron Challis

Photo:Emmie Simmons' wedding party in September 1939. Ron is pictured kneeling second from the right.

Emmie Simmons' wedding party in September 1939. Ron is pictured kneeling second from the right.

Ron Challis

Photo:Ron Challis pictured with his two sons and grandson.

Ron Challis pictured with his two sons and grandson.

The build-up

Ron Challis talks about the build-up to war

The threat of war

Ron Challis recalls the threat of war in the summer of 1939

The dangers of war

Ron Challis talks about the dangers of war

Joining the Army

Ron Challis remembers joining the Army

Recollections of evacuation with Brockley Central School.

Ronald was a child when war broke out in 1939. Ronald attended the Brockley Central School and was evacuated with his classmates from Brockley Cross station. His mother dropped him off with his small suitcase before she travelled to work. Ronald travelled to Lingfield – during the journey he felt lonely and frightened as he had never been away from home before but when he arrived his fear gave way to excitement.

The Simmons family

He and a classmate were billeted to the Simmons family in nearby Felcourt, who rented a farm of 30 acres, although their house was small and overcrowded. Mr and Mrs Simmons had a son and three daughters. Ronald and Stan shared a small bedroom which had one bed. One of the Simmons daughters, Emmie, got married shortly after Ronald and Stan arrived – they were invited to the wedding and celebrations, and were present in the family photographs. Emmie and Frank rented a cottage nearby and to ease the overcrowding at the farmhouse, Ronald and Stan were billeted with them. They were able to play on the farm and often went rabbit hunting. The boys were also invited to Christmas dinner and were introduced to the rest of the family.  

The impact of war

After Dunkirk, war on the Home Front became more prevalent – Ronald saw some of the soldiers from Dunkirk returning to the railway station at Crowhurst. Some of the soldiers were wounded but for the large part were cheerful and waved to Ronald from the train. Ronald saw many German aircraft flying towards London, and witnessed many dog fights. On one occasion an unexploded bomb was discovered in a neighbour’s garden and all were evacuated whilst the Army disposed of the bomb. On another occasion, incendiary bombs were dispersed, which set a patch of gorse and woodland alight. All of the local residents went out to fight the blaze with old blankets and sacks – few people considered the danger they faced in doing so. Ronald kept some of the incendiary bombs that had not exploded as souvenirs! When German planes crash landed Ronald and many of the other boys would race to the site in order to gather Perspex, which they made into rings.

Education

Initially Brockley Central shared the local school in Lingfield – they could only be accommodated for half a day and so arrangements were made for a local hall to be used. Many of the boys were able to board there and were provided with meals and a laundry service. Many of the teachers were drafted into the forces and so lessons were taught by retired teachers – therefore many subjects were not covered. Ronald was walking through the High Street one day when he and his friends spotted one of their teachers marching with the Irish Guards – the boys stopped to make fun of him but were soon told to move on!

Returning home

When Emmie and Fank started a family, Ronald and Stan were posted to alternative billets. Ronald stayed with a few families, and then at Ranworth, where he remained until he left school in 1944, and returned to London. He worked in a bank for a year and was called up on his 18th birthday. He served in the Royal Engineers for three years.

Ronald and his old school friends from Brockley Central meet twice a year and he is still in contact with Emmie and Frank’s daughter.

Downloads

Ronald Challis
Ronald Challis (43k)
To read more about Ronald's memories in his own words please press the above link.

The build-up
The build-up (129k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip with Ron Challis please press the above link.

The threat of war
The threat of war (134k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip with Ron Challis please press the above link.

The dangers of war
The dangers of war (133k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip with Ron Challis please press the above link.

Joining the Army
Joining the Army (121k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip with Ron Challis please press the above link.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 15/01/2012.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.