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Some memories of my childhood during World War Two

by BBC Radio Norfolk Action Desk

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Radio Norfolk Action Desk
People in story: 
Pat Greenrod ( now Wilson ), Tony Greenrod ( my brother ), Eva Greenrod ( my mother )
Location of story: 
London, Kent, N.Wales, Staffordshire
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A6185405
Contributed on: 
18 October 2005

This contribution to People's War website was received by the Action Desk at BBC Radio Norfolk and submitted to the website by Tracey Gray with the permission and on behalf of Pat Wilson.

I was seven and a half when World War Two began; living in South London (Herne Hill) with my mother, father and younger brother aged four and a half.

On 3rd September 1939 our school (Rosendale Road Infants) was evacuated — just the children and our teachers. I can remember feeling a bit apprehensive as I’d never been away from my parents before, but we were encouraged by our teachers to think of it as an adventure. We were told that a war had started but that meant very little to us small children.

We were marched to Herne Hill Station, given a gas mask, a carrier bag containing an orange and a bar of chocolate and an identifying label was hung around our neck. We climbed aboard the train and I can still hear my mother calling to me to keep hold of my little brother’s hand and “don’t lose him”! The train began to move, our parents waved farewell, and we were off — goodness knows where!

We ended up in a small village in Kent — Harrietsham — where we were ushered into the village hall for “selection”. Families were kept together and I can remember standing in the middle of a large room, holding my brother’s hand, while the ladies of the village paraded around us to ‘choose ‘ their evacuees.

We went to live with the lodge keeper and his wife in their cottage on a large estate and attended the village school. My mother visited about once a month. I can remember being quite happy there, although it was a bit primitive after what we were used to — no electricity, no running water (an outside pump) and a “thunder-box” in the back yard! The lodge keeper kept us all well supplied with meat (by now strictly rationed) with all the rabbits and pigeons that he shot and to this day I never fancy eating either (or corned beef) as I had so much of them during the war! My brother and I both caught worms — probably from all the wildlife we ate — and I can remember the local district nurse visiting us at the cottage. She gave us both an enema to rid us of worms and whilst we were sitting on a chamber pot each she was combing nits out of our hair at the same time!

Kent became a target for German bombers to drop any excess bombs on their way back over the channel after a London bombing raid, so after a few months we were all moved back to our homes in South London.

During 1940 our local council moved us out to West Wickham (also in Kent) and we rented a house there. We were playing in the garden one beautiful early September day and we suddenly noticed what appeared to be lots of silver birds high up in the sky, shining in the sunlight. Half an hour later the air raid siren sounded and we all dashed down into the Anderson shelter. We were only three miles from Biggin Hill and we later discovered that what we’d seen was in fact one of the air battles from the “Battle of Britain”.

We moved back to Herne Hill again. By now my father had been “called up” - into the RAF. The bombing of London — the “Blitz” — was increasing and we spent most nights sleeping on a mattress in the coal cellar (which was well stocked with tins of food), listening to bombs falling and exploding nearby. Next day, on the way to school, we would collect shrapnel and maybe watch people sifting through the ruins of their bombed houses.

At the height of the Blitz we were evacuated again — this time to North Wales. Again, it was just my brother and I — our mother stayed behind in London although she did join us after several weeks. We were billeted on an elderly who lived half way up the Great Orme (Llandudno, Wales). I remember it being very cold and bleak, again no running water — and the elderly couple had very little sense of humour and thought that ‘ children should be seen and not heard ‘ ! We went to the local village school where only Welsh was spoken — which we learnt very quickly ! After mother arrived, she rented a room down in the town, where she joined the Civil Service and worked for Inland Revenue. We went to Lloyd Street School — where they spoke English — but we still had Welsh lessons. During the war many BBC radio shows were broadcast from Llandudno and we took part as audience in several ITMA shows. We enjoyed Llandudno, but eventually returned to London in time for me to take the 11 + in 1943.

We left London again during 1944 to escape the ‘flying bombs ‘and stayed voluntary with friends in the village of Clayton near Newcastle Under Lyme. While we were away the back of our house was hit by a “flying — bomb” - but it was sufficiently repaired for us to return to once the bombing had quietened down.

My mother was a very good pianist and often used to entertain the troops in various of their clubs in London. She particularly felt sorry for the young American soldiers and often used to invite them for tea on a Sunday. I remember one in particular — tall, dark and handsome aged 19 and called Jay (I never did find out his surname), from Arkansas. He used to come quite often. One Sunday he got down on one knee and asked mother for MY hand in marriage! I was speechless ! Mother had to politely point out that I was only twelve and that we couldn’t marry at that age in England (although you could in certain United States).

Eventually the war was over and on VE night mother, brother and I were part of the throng in the Mall cheering the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and later dancing around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus.

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