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Bitter-Sweet Sixteen

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Doris Flowers
Location of story: 
Allens Green, Herts
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
12 December 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War Site by Doreen Oaks for Three Counties Action, on behalf of Doris Flowers, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

My earliest recollection of the war was of working on a local farm, although living at home. At that time I was about fourteen and we lived at Allens Green, in Hertfordshire.

The Battle of Britain was at its height and I recall working on top of a threshing machine when the air-raid siren sounded. All hell was let loose in the sky as assorted ‘planes were fighting for their lives. I was terrified.

After that I went to work in an engineering firm, which meant having to cycle a ten-mile round trip, in all weathers. We made angle iron for the Bailey Bridge, which proved to be quite hazardous. No goggles were issued and hot pieces of steel were embedded in our clothes and hair — how we missed getting them in our eyes is a miracle! Eventually I returned to helping on the farm.

I was now sixteen and loved to dance. Fortunately there was a small airfield with RAF personnel not far from Allens Green, so partners were not in short supply. Once my sister and I went up to the perimeter gate of the aerodrome, when a guard charged at me and threatened to put me in the guardhouse. Another time we were cycling through the aerodrome (which we were allowed to do as our house was within the wired off area), when we heard lively music coming from one of the huts. We stood listening and soon an officer came out to invite us in to join in the dancing. Later on we went to other dances, where they had the most professional band playing. Sad to say that the whole group was lost to a U-Boat; no survivors. Then there were the searchlight boys, who would entertain us in their barrack hut. They would be warned if an officer was imminent and my sister and I would jump out of the window and hide in the fields. It was a lovely, innocent, era and we spent happy times singing and improvising musical instruments.

There were the not so happy events, such as the airfield being bombed by a landmine — damage but nobody injured, then a Lancaster bomber crash-landed nearby. It had run out of fuel but the pilot had managed to save it and the crew.

The unhappiest was when my mother died, leaving nine of us. It was difficult coping without electricity or modern appliances. We managed food-wise being near the farm, and we older ones took it in turn to run the home.

I wrote to the appropriate office to get compassionate leave for my brother, who was serving in the army abroad. I did have a reply but they were unable to locate him! Because of troop movements contact was lost by the people who should never have lost contact. So he was unable to be home for our Mum.

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