David Webb interview: Early years

To start, please could you give your full name, place and date of birth.

David Webb, Sutton, Surrey, 24 July 1934.

What were your parents' names and backgrounds?

My father was Cecil Webb from Bournemouth. He was a wireless operator with Cable & Wireless in Electra House in Moorgate up until 1940 when it was bombed and then he moved to Electra House, Temple Place by Victoria Embankment and he retired in 1952. I had three brothers and no sisters. My mother, before she was married, was called Helen Guerin. Her parents were Irish, grandpa from County Mayo, Ballynar. He joined the British Army in 1880 and he retired in 1920.

When did you move into your first home in Wimbledon?

My first home was in Sutton but we were only there for about another six months when we bought my uncle's house in Wimbledon.

Where did you go to school?

I went for one year to the Ursuline Convent Infants School. That was in 1940 and then in 1941 I went to Donhead in Edge Hill for three years. Then I took the 11+ exam in 1944 and went to Wimbledon College in September 1944.

What do you recall most about those first and second schools?

Well the first school was very disrupted because we were bombed every day and we had to spend a lot of time in the basement during the air raids. The first one I don't remember much about except that they thought I wasn't very good so I got stood in the corner sometimes when I was six. Then Donhead was quite good because the class was quite small as a lot of the children had been evacuated so in one year there only three people left in the class.

Do you remember the teachers?

Some of them. There was Miss Manning, I remember, and the headmaster. We used to make models of castles and things with plastercine in the history lessons. I found it quite difficult learning decimals but my brother Michael helped me. He was five years older than me.

[Then, in the grammar school, I remember Fr Sinnott, the headmaster until 1950, his secretary (my cousin) Helen Cole who married my science teacher Hilary Parsons, and my 6th form physics teacher, Fr Scoles.]

What sort of hobbies did you have in those days?

I used to like riding on the number 2 and number 4 tram because you could get an off-peak ticket for tuppence to go as far as you liked.

I used to like taking photos with a box camera, a Kodak, but I don't think I could do that until 1945 when you could buy films. It couldn't have been in the first schools.

About 1947 I used to get my box camera, the Kodak, and I stood on the footbridge over the main line from Wimbledon to Portsmouth and as the steam locomotives came towards me with the express trains from Bournemouth and Exeter, I used to take a photo just as they were about to pass underneath the footbridge. So I was standing right above them and I used to enjoy all the smoke as it came up through the cracks in the planks in the bridge. In Wimbledon College we had a darkroom in the tower where the photographic club was and I used to develop some of these negatives in there. They were 620 films, about 3.5 by 2.5 inches I think. I kept these photos in an album until about five years ago when I kept moving house and they got lost.

I also had a picture I took of King George VI when I was standing in 1950 by the Victoria Memorial opposite Buckingham Palace and he was coming back in a carriage from the Trooping of the Colour. My little brother, who was eight years old, was sitting on my shoulders so he could see the King go past. I took the photo just as he was going past at the roundabout at the Victoria Memorial. In 1950 it was, when I was 16.

What do you remember of Wimbledon before the Second World War?

It seemed very prosperous except there were some, a few men who'd been injured in the First World War who were standing with trays selling matches and I think they only got about 15 shillings a week in disability or injury benefit. But most people seemed very prosperous. My father had an Austin 10 car which we kept opposite in the garage where they sold petrol and my mother used to drive around Wimbledon with me in the back or in the front, seeing her friends.

I remember Sainsburys which seemed to be mainly a butchers in those days - in the High Street or in Wimbledon Broadway probably. One of the grocer's shops where I used to go with the ration books to buy some of the rations. A haircut shop and Lloyds Bank on the bridge opposite Wimbledon Station where my father used to send me with a cheque to get some money out. All the bank clerks were male and there were no barriers or glass, just plain counters.