1942 War Teen

Diary of a teenager in WW2


Family Photo taken in the back garden in Evelyn Road, circa 1947
Back Row; Left to right: Tom Lepper (Uncle), Frank, Peter Cooper (Cousin) , Betty Lepper (nee Peterson) next to her husband, Roy Lepper (Cousin). Tom Johnson (husband of Sheila Johnson nee Osborne, cousin ). Ernest White (Uncle Ern - second husband of Mary Osborne, Peter Coopers Mother - known as Auntie Poll).
Middle row: Maggie Lepper (Mother) and Vi Lepper (her sister, wife of Tom Lepper and mother of Roy)
Front Row: David Lepper, Auntie Poll, Betty Lepper, Iris Cooper (wife of Peter Cooper), Sheila Johnson.

Frank Lepper
The diary writer, aged 14 and who celebrated his 15th birthday on August 10th 1942. Called up for National Service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1946 and based in Lossiemouth during a period when the immediate post war austerity meant ships could not sail. Following National Service he became a coal miner, living in Mansfield and working at Bilsthorpe Colliery. A letter from 1948 expresses surprise at his decision, but this seems at least in part to have been a political act, associated with a campaign to ensure the coal mines were nationalised.

Very active in the Labour League of Youth and in the NUM he stood alongside
Ken Coates for election to NUM councils as a ‘young miners’ representative, and during the late 40’s and early 50’s visited Germany, Czechoslovakia and Rumania as part of ‘workers delegations’. Other diaries, letters and memorabilia from this period are amongst his papers.

During 1952 or 1953 he met Anne Chance, probably at a Labour League of Youth social event. They were married in 1955 and had three children together; Stephen (born 1959), Michael (born 1962) and Ruth (born 1965). In 1973 he had a change of career, retraining as a social worker and working in Nottingham with the City’s social services until retiring in 1992. He remained a staunch Socialist, albeit blended with a strong Christian faith which he seemed to have come to fairly late in life, and continued living in the same house in Rainworth he’d bought with Anne, until his death in 2009.

Peter (Cooper)
Peter was Frank’s cousin and about the same age as Frank. He features throughout the diaries, and frequent entries record ‘having a bath at Peter’s’. Frank’s younger brother, David (who was not yet born at the time of the diary), recalls that Peter

“lived in a council flat at 18 Gordon Road, Richmond - off Sandycombe Road. The flat had a bathroom - which our house at 3 Evelyn Road did not have until the late 1960s.”
In separate notes made in 2005, Frank recorded some reflections on life during the 1930’s, that include his earliest memories. Of particular relevance to these diaries and Peter’s constant presence is this reflection:
“On a Friday night Mum and Dad went to the pictures with Mr & Mrs Bidwell. …… Auntie Pol used to come and “baby sit” as at that time Peter Cooper, my cousin and Aunt Pol’s son lived with us from Sunday night until Saturday morning. Aunt Pol worked cleaning at the National Records Offices, Kew. She worked from about 6.30 and for a couple of hours or so, then again in the evening. We enjoyed her reading to us & then our treat for supper was an oxo cube with hot water and bread. We loved that and looked forward to Friday evenings with Aunt Pol”

David separately noted that

“After Peter's father died in the 1930s, for some time I believe he lived with our parents at Evelyn Road”
By 1942 Aunt Pol had remarried and Peter no longer lodged in the week with Frank, but the close family ties remained - along with baths at Peters’ and an occasional treat of oxo and bread.


Betty was Frank’s younger sister. She passed away in 1988, and for the last few years of her life lived and worked with her husband, Jim, in the gate house at Hickey's Alm Houses where Frank's Mum had moved after eventually leaving Evelyn Road in 1983.

The Baker
Thought to refer to Mr. Matthiae, proprietor of Matthiae's bakery in Kew Road. Frank’s father worked there as a delivery man in the late 1950s-early 1960s. Over the shop and bakery was a function room where his sister Betty had her wedding reception

Probably Leslie Goodman who lived nearby

Mrs Cluer
The family’s next door neighbour at 5 Evelyn Road.

Mr Skilton
The neighbour at 1 Evelyn Road;

Dr Goldney
Family Doctor with a practice on Selwyn Avenue or Beaumont Avenue

Mr Chaplin
Lived opposite in No.2 Evelyn Road. David describes how

“Later the very elderly and widowed Mrs Chaplin would stand at her front door and clap her hands at any passing child who she wished to run an errand for her”