20 OCTOBER 1984, Page 22

Girls and rats

Sir: Susan Crosland's account of her rat- disturbed night in France (Diary, 13 Octo- ber) brought back a childhood wartime memory. My sister and I attended an Edinburgh school which had evacuated to a castle in Berwickshire. For a short period in the summer of 1940, there was an invasion of rats. In daylight we saw them scuttling ahead of us up the spiral staircases and heard them scrabbling in the walls. At night they became extremely bold and thudded about in our dormitories. Several children who were not safely hidden under their bedclothes got bitten. Our letters home describing these events were cen- sored and our parents knew nothing. Although the memory chills me now, at the time we were somehow able to accept it as another of the curious things that hap- pened in wartime.

Later during nightly air raid warnings while the Glasgow blitz was on, we unques- tioningly huddled beneath a large billiard table, sucking our ration of Horlicks tab- lets and never doubting our safety. In truth the real risks lay elsewhere. Whereas we fraternised harmlessly with the Italian POWs while picking potatoes, we did so at our peril with the noble owner of the castle, who had a predilection for nubile young girls.

Gillian Pemberton

14 Hillside, Wimbledon Common, London SW19