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My Experiences as a Child in WW2

I grew up mostly in Plumstead. I was a boarder at the Notre Dame Convent in Eglinton Road. I was born in 1938 so was very young when the War started.

I remember sitting in our dormitory at the convent listening to the bombs falling but not knowing what the noises were. I asked the Sister in charge of us what was happening and she said, "Be quiet, and say your rosary. It is the devil and all his works." Consequently I had a very strange view of the Devil and the noise he made whilst going about his business of being evil.

We often had to go down into an air raid shelter, which was under the playground. There, if it was in the daytime, we would have makeshift lessons, all sitting on the ground with a blanket.

My father decided to take me away from the Convent because he felt that I was being brainwashed too much by the sisters. I went back home with mum at Plumstead Common. My brother was born in 1943 and I can remember us having to go down into the shelter at the bottom of the garden. It always puzzled me why, very often, I would wake in the night, standing in the living room with mum or dad putting my coat on over my pyjamas. It wasn't till much later I realised I had been lifted from my bed and carried downstairs when the air raid warning went off.

We would go out into the garden with dark skies overhead riven with searchlight beams and already the sound of bombs dropping, or later, the sound of the rockets and buzz bombs in the skies. I was very afraid of this and once I panicked and pushed my dad into the shelter and he cut his forehead on the corrugated metal round the doorway.

I remember one time when mum, my baby brother, and me spent about a week in the shelter. It seemed there was back-to-back air raids day and night. Mum used to rush out buy food, or get more water, or simply to sweep up the broken glass, left as a result of the blasts from the bombing nearby. We were near the Docks and the Royal Arsenal so were bound to get the overspill.

By Diane Francesca Smith (nee Jones)

'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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