The Nissen hut they called home

Ronald and Inge Philpot with Evelyn, Peter and Sylvia in front.
Two-week old Michael is in his mothers arms.

Ronald and Inge Philpot with Evelyn, Peter and Sylvia in front. Two-week old Michael is in his mothers arms.

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In the early years of the Second World War, a camp for the bombed-out people of Portsmouth was built at Bedhampton. It was located where you will now find James Road and Fraser Road, plus a large crescent where Woodgreen Avenue and Timsbury Crescent now run.

For some reason the camp was not used for its original purpose and it remained disused throughout the war until it became a home for displaced persons (DPs) after the war.

Inge Philpot with three of her children standing  in what I believe to be Hooks Farm Way, Bedhampton today.

Inge Philpot with three of her children standing in what I believe to be Hooks Farm Way, Bedhampton today.

To the north of Bedhampton Camp was another encampment of Nissen huts. This was HMS Daedalus III, a satellite from HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-the-Solent.

After the war it was also used by DPs until about 1949 when servicemen arriving home in their thousands and with nowhere to live were placed in the camp. They raised their new families there in the early baby boom years of the 1950s.

When houses on the Leigh Park estate were built, these people were moved into them and the camp, where Hazelholt Drive and Redbridge Road are now, was demolished and replaced with housing.

A couple who lived on the camp for several years were former soldier Ron Philpott and his wife Inge.Their daughter Sylvia spoke to me about living in this type of accommodation as a child.

The huts they inhabited became a street called Leyton Close, at the top end of Hazelholt Drive and Redbridge Road, leading out on to Park Lane. It would have been the Daedalus III site.

There was an elderly woman who lived in a bungalow just around the corner in Park Lane, who used to sell sweets.

The Philpotts had to walk around to the back door, the top half always open, and ring the bell. It was the nearest place to buy sweets, so when their dad took them there they knew they were in for some treat or other.

It was February 1954 and Sylvia remembers it well. She recalls: ‘There was an old type of heater with a chimney in the centre of the room we used as a living room.

‘There were two bedrooms and a bit of a garden at the back where my father grew vegetables. There were no local shops and everyone had to walk some distance to Havant.’

There was a man who used to visit with a horse and cart selling fruit and veg and a baker with a small van. The three older children went to Stockheath School and Sylvia can remember her classroom was curtained off down the centre to make two separate classrooms.

She was then moved up a year and went into a different classroom, which was partly below ground level. She had to go down concrete steps to get in.

The school dining room had long wooden benches called forms on which they sat for meals. During school time the gates were always kept locked and when it was time to go home all the children had to form a line by the gates and wait for their mothers before the gates were opened and they were allowed to go home.

Havant hospital was the nearest and the local doctor would often carry out minor surgery in patients’ homes.

The youngest of the family was Michael, who was born prematurely in the Nissen hut.

Sylvia adds: ‘We all lived quite happily until the family was allocated a council house on the new Leigh Park estate. The house was in Overton Crescent.

‘After being moved out of the Nissen huts we continued with Stockheath School until Riders School in Kingsclere Avenue was opened.’

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