I have just read a truly fascinating book “Youth at the Gate”, an autobiography written by Ursula Bloom who lived in Walton and Frinton during the First World War.
Ursula was one of the most popular bestselling authors of the twentieth century. She wrote over 560 books, a feat which earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for many years, as the world’s most prolific female writer. She also wrote short stories, radio and stage plays, and worked as a Fleet Street journalist.
Ursula’s books have been out of print for a considerable time, but some are being republished by Corazon Books.
“Youth at the Gate” was first published in 1959 and tells the true story of life in Walton during WWI, recounting the challenges of food rationing and the constant bombing by Zeppelins overhead. Also, in a time of great paranoia about German spies, Ursula and her mother found themselves (wrongly) under suspicion by their neighbours in Walton.
Other memories include: soldiers working day and night to build heavy sandbag reinforcements all along the front at Walton (leading to some of the cliff between Walton and Frinton collapsing).
– a mine being washed up on Frinton beach
– bodies being washed up on the beach after the picket-boat from H.M.S. Conquest was shelled off the Naze on 28th March 1916 .
(The Conquest Graves in the Garden of Remembrance)
Other local places mentioned include Mark James Newsagents, The Albion and Pier Hotels, and three houses where Ursula and her parents lived -“Hertford House” in Saville Street, Walton plus “The Cedars” and “Thallasa” in Frinton.
As I write this the centenary of the Battle of Jutland has just been celebrated –one of many WWI events which Ursula remembers in this autobiography.
The book is currently available from Amazon as an eBook, and a paperback https://goo.gl/JG6kPp .
Read more about Ursula Bloom at www.ursulabloom.com
Ursula returned to Walton shortly before her death aged 91 in 1984 to officially unveil the horse trough and fountain at the Albion corner after it had been reclaimed from a council tip and restored by the late Bernard Norman.
I can truly recommend this book – it captured me so much that I read it in one sitting.
I am now hoping that Corazon Books publish another of her books “The House That Died Alone”, which I understand is based on the story of Walton Hall at the Naze.
Let me know if you read the book and hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.