Derrick Gravestock

Derrick Allan Gravestock (Junior No 82 / Senior 184)

I was born in London on 26th April, 1932 at Kings College Hospital, Dulwich. I was the youngest of four boys. Peter (slightly older than me) and I, soon after my birth went to live in Leighton Buzzard with our Nana.

I have no idea why we went to Mr Fegans Homes. However, we arrived at the Orphanage in Stony Stratford on August 17th, 1939. We left around 26th April 1946 when I reached fourteen years of age.

My two eldest brothers, who I mentioned earlier, went to another home, somewhere near Bournemouth.

It is always sad to leave your family at such a young age, but you soon get used to your new surroundings and make friends.

I was at Fegans during the Second World War, but on the whole we young hungry boys were given a good staple diet. However, the one thing I didn’t like at all was marrow, but you had to eat it! One of the puddings most boys liked was what we used to call ‘Baby Heads’. They were dumplings with currants mixed in, and of course this was served with custard.

Football was my favourite sport as it was for most boys. We also enjoyed Cricket, Cross Country Running, Vaulting and climbing the ropes in the gymnasium. During more relaxed times we occasionally watched films of Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin on a Cine Screen; it was a very ‘jumpy’ watch in those days!

One of my best memories from my days at Fegans was when Captain Flood, who was the Superintendant at that time, took Sid Sharp and me to Stamford Bridge to watch a football match between a Chelsea side and a collection of professional players from various other London Clubs…. I will never forget that.

I have a reasonable memory of the staff at Stony. Mr. N. E. Bennett the Superintendant and Mr Cairns, a Scottish gentleman, who when we were on parade, would slide a bunch of keys towards a cat, if one dared appear! Mr Lowther was the sports master, and I remember other masters and Mistresses: Mr Swell, Mr Foules, Mr Dobson, Mr Davies and last but not least, Miss Watson.

I don’t remember too much about going on trips, only the one previously mentioned. We did often go for walks in the local area, accompanied by some of the staff.

Chores: I did quite a few in my seven years. Here are a few: cleaning wash basins, polishing floors in the dormitories, using what was called a long arm polisher, spreading butter on lots of bread for 200 boys’ tea time, helping sweep the parade ground when required and scrubbing tiled floors. I was even asked by the lady cook after scrubbing her kitchen floor if I would like to help in the kitchen on Sundays. Then, the House Ladies asked me if I would like to be their House Boy, which involved making and taking their morning tea to their rooms and serving breakfast.

I wasn’t particularly clever at school, my brother Peter was far ahead of me in that department. However, I always had a decent report and tried hard.

I was called up for National Service in 1955 and served in the R.A.O.C (Royal Army Ordnance Corps), reaching the dizzy heights of Corporal. For nearly fifty years I was a Letterpress Printer, then in my last year of work, Litho printing took over so I learned the basics of that.

I married Greta Barton, (her name when we met) and we had two children, a son and a daughter. Since then, our family has grown to seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

I still live in Leighton Buzzard, after moving there as a baby to live with my Nana.

Derrick A. Gravestock
(June, 2016)