I was nine years old when the Second
World War began, on Sunday 3rd September 1939. That day was
the first of very many times that I would hear the air raid
siren wail its warning. I remember being prepared for the evacuation,
which was mostly consisting of London children who were being
sent away to the countryside for safety. I was living in Majendie
Rd, Plumstead and I went to Elmley Road School. Along with others
from my school we were taken to Plumstead Railway Station, all
of us with a label attached to our coats. For some reason we
were all sent back home, and no one was more surprised than
my mum when she saw me back on the doorstep. As a result I was
sent to stay with an unknown distant aunt who lived a long way
from London ( In fact it was Ottershaw in Surrey). I received
some sort of schooling there but all I can remember is acting
in Shakespeare's,' A Midsummer Night's Dream' and learning how
to spell 'melancholy'.
I stayed happily in Ottershaw for a
while but when my uncle died I was sent back home to stay with
my father's sister and her family in Eltham. I attended the
local Henwick Road School. My two cousins and uncle helped me
a great deal with my homework and it is with thanks to them
that I passed my 11 plus examination. My aunt suffered with
sever arthritis and hardly went out, so it fell to me to pick
up some of the shopping on my way from my new school, Eltham
Hill. My aunt smoked black cat cigarettes. I would get these
for her from the Co-Op in Well Hall road, Eltham. Each time
I had to ask the assistance in a whisper if she had some matches,
one of the many items almost unobtainable during the war. These
were only sold to you if cigarettes were sold with them. They
then passed them quickly to you from under the counter so as
not to be noticed. Some mornings, before school, I had to go
to Mitcheele's the butchers, also in Well Hall Rd. There was
always a queue for your meat ration and one day I fainted whilst
waiting my turn. When I revived I was sitting in a chair and
was very pleased to be able to go to the front of the queue.
It was at this time that the bombing of London was at its height
and every night we ritually made ready to spend the night in
the air raid shelter in the Garden. I had a wind-up gramophone
and some records which I played to deaden what was happening
out side. I can remember seeing, by candlelight, the condensation
running down the inside walls of the corrugated iron. One night,
raiders came early and my aunt, who was always the last in the
shelter (her arthritis made it difficult for her to move very
quickly) was just about to enter the shelter when a bomb blast
split the seam of the back of her coat. Another time I was coming
home from school when suddenly an enemy aeroplane swooped down
and fired at men working on the roofs of bombed houses in Rochester
Way. I hid behind a bush in someone's front garden until it
was safe to continue my journey home.
My mother had been working in Siemens
in Charlton and then in the Woolwich Arsenal all this time.
In 1943, when I was 13 years old, I went back to live in my
own home in Plumstead. I went to Woolwich Central School, Bloomfield
road, until 1946.
At 14 years old I lost my very best
friend who died of rheumatic fever, thought to have come from
the dampness in the air raid shelters. She lived in Plum lane
in Plumstead. Her name was Hazel Evens. She was very talented
and clever at making things. I missed her very much indeed.
The war ended May 1945 .
'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories
contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC.
The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'