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A Young Girl's War Time Memories

When war was declared I was seven years old and was aged thirteen when it finished. I also had two sisters, Dorothy and Sylvia. We lived at Waverley Cottages, near Woolwich Common.

The day the war broke out I can remember the neighbours talking to each other about it in our road.

As the bombing steadily grew worse we got evacuated, along with our mother. My dad stayed behind and carried on working with the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society, as a driver.

We were evacuated to a village called Shalden, near to Aldershot.
While we were away our house in Waverley Cottages got bombed and, when the bombing eventually eased, we came back to a house in Cheriton Drive, at number 13, the next to last house at the top, on the left.

I went to school at the Slade School. I think that I must have been about 11 years old when I went to Plum Lane School.

NHS Medical CardI can remember that if we were walking to or from school and there was an air raid warning, ladies would come out of their homes and ask us kids if we would want to take cover in their homes and shelters, and so we would go into their houses till the all clear sounded.

I think it was one Saturday, and it was lunchtime. The air raid siren went. Dad always said to us kids to go down to the cellar under our house when this happened. These instructions were given to us to do if he was away somewhere working, and so we did this. I remember a time when we were in the cellar and we could hear a doodlebug (VI flying bomb) coming. My mother was looking out of the cellar door, where we were sheltering, and said to us, “All get down”. I threw myself on top of my sister Sylvia and the whole place shook. There was lots of dust and when we came out of the cellar all the tiles were off the roof of our house and all the glass in the windows were all blown in with the blast!

The Air Raid Wardens came round and we went into the Anderson shelter, situated in the garden, till the 'all clear' siren sounded. We didn't sleep in the Anderson shelter because it was really very damp.

That night we slept at the Slade School. I think that it must have only been for a couple of nights. We were then evacuated up north to Sheffield.
I can remember going to the Woolwich Council Offices and being given labels, that were then tied onto our clothes. We all carried our gas masks. Once again, my Mother and I and my two sisters were evacuated (Victor, my brother, was not born until 1945).

As far as I can remember, we were taken by bus to a railway station, somewhere in London. On the way we had to get out of the bus and go into an air raid shelter, situated above ground, as there was an air raid. Whilst we were in the shelter there was a boy, who we didn't know, and he was saying, “Don't shut the door” His mum said, “Poor boy, he had been buried in a previous bombing.”
We got on a train and eventually arrived in Sheffield, where we were taken by bus to a church or a school hall, I can't remember which, and they gave us a meal.

People came and offered to billet some of the children and families. No one wanted us, as there were four of us. But eventually we were taken to a small cottage and were billeted with a lady and her grown up son. We attended school whilst there. We eventually returned to our home at 13 Cheriton Drive and I lived there until I married in 1952.

When we were at The Slade School, before I was 11 years old, a lady used to come and bring knitting that we did for the Merchant Seamen. The wool was grey and I can remember taking home wool to knit a jersey.

Fire Watching instruction letter dated 1941The other thing that I remember is that my dad used to do fire watching at the United Glass Bottle factory in Charlton. He said that one night they were on duty and they rushed out with stirrup pumps as there were incendiary bombs dropping, all of a sudden the man in front of him fell into a crater that had filled up with water. Dad said that it was very dark and the mans hat floated on the water. Dad said that he had never laughed so much. You had to have a sense of humour in those times.

Another thing was that the men came around and took all the railings off of the front walls of houses. They all went for the war effort.

We as children used to go and collect paper from houses and take in back to School at the Slade and that was called 'salvage'.

Also, at Plum Lane School, I can remember that we used to get our feet measured and get extra clothing coupons if you had certain sized feet.

My two aunts had coats made out of blankets. This was because there were hardly any thing to buy in the shops.

Ration Book CoverAround about 1950 the sweets came off ration and they had to put them back on again as the shops just sold out so quickly. Then the ration allowance was gradually increased until people got used to being able to buy them.


I lived 13 Cheriton Drive until I married in 1952.

Miriam and Peter's wedding at St. Margaret's Church in 1952
My wedding to Peter Bastable at St. Margaret's Church, Plumstead Common, 1952.
My sister Sylvia Crooks is standing extreme left and my other sister Dorothy Crooks is the bridesmaid standing next to me. My brother Victor is the middle of the children in the front row.

St Margarets Church was pulled down when I went back to England in 1970; it wasnt there.

We emigrated to New Zealand in 1956.

Victor also lives in Wellington, New Zealand, same as I do. (December,2006)

Miriam Bastable (nee Crooks)

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