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Memories of Evacuation

This story was submitted by Chris Foord of the Greenwich heritage Centre on behalf of Kitty Liddle and has been added to this web site.

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'

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