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15 October 2014
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The story of Francis Wait Born 6 June 1939

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Francis Wait . Mr & Mrs Budd. (Bill and Pritt)
Location of story: 
Seaford, East Sussex.7 & Manchester
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Mr Wait with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions

My father died in the war in Greece when I was 10 months old, he had been in the TA and had been conscripted straight away at the age of 39. My Mother found it hard to cope, as she had to work for a living so the decision was taken to send me to live with her sister in Manchester. She had lost her son at the age of sixteen in a motorbike accident. At first I was not aware that there even was a war on. Up the road from us the mills were busy full time producing cotton. I remember going to Manchester on the trams (hard wooden seats). We had to walk across numerous bombsites to do our shopping. It was also very grimy; everything had a coating of black dust from the factories burning coal. Us children used to play in the bomb shelters. Everybody had a garden full of vegetables, as food was scarce. We got a food parcel one day, I think it came from Australia and there was some soap in it which smelled beautiful, but mostly we used carbolic soap for washing and soap flakes for the clothes, I had to turn the mangle for my aunt when she washed on Monday’s.
Luckily for us, my brother had worked in a local butcher’s after leaving school, so my aunt got a little extra meat with a nod and a wink. He was at sea in the merchant navy during this time and one time came home with a sea boot stocking full of things like rice. There was also a tin of pineapples but when they put them in front of me I cried as I thought they were trying to poison me. My aunt shopped in what was called a fence shop for remnants of cloth, which she used to make dresses for the local girls. She made me model them sometimes so she could shape them properly; I hated it and used to cringe when she asked.
We came south to Seaford to visit in 1944, my uncle worked on the railways at that time so probably qualified for the tickets, and I remember feeling that I didn’t really like my mum, as I had never known what it was like to live with her. There were a lot of Canadians billeted in the house, as it was quite large. They had all their equipment with them including rifles, which fascinated me. One of them fired it into the ground and told me to look for the bullet, but I dug for ages and never found anything, looking back later it was probably a blank.
Rationing was probably the worst as there were very few sweets and I have never developed a taste for them, even now. We also had to shop every day but on reflection we were all healthy. Although I called mum’s sister Aunt. I didn’t return home until 1950 and always thought of her as my mum.

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