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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Norfolk Adult Education Service
People in story: 
Doris Cassidy
Location of story: 
Postwick, near Norwich
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 October 2004

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Sarah Housden of Norfolk Adult Education’s reminiscence team on behalf of Doris Cassidy and has been added to the site with her permission. The Author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was in church when war was declared. The Rector fixed up a wireless so that we could hear the Prime Minister during the service.

Evacuees came at about the time of the start of the war, and a woman and her daughter were brought to us. At the time my sister was a baby and was quite poorly and my brother had recently died of meningitis. The woman let slip that her daughter had got TB, which was very worrying, so my parents got in touch with the authorities. They apologised and said they hadn’t known and would move the girl. After that we didn’t have any other evacuees to stay, and even those who’d come to the village began to go back again because they couldn’t stand the country life, and in the first few months of the war there wasn’t a lot happening anyway.

I’d left school at 14, a year before the war started, and was working at a gentlemen’s outfitters. After a while I wanted to do my bit for the war effort so I got myself a job making uniforms at Harmers. Being a country girl, and having worked in a shop, I wasn’t prepared for factory life. The other girls seemed so crude, and the conveyer belt just went on and on going past you. So I left there and went back into a shop. This time it was a big department store – Frank Price’s down Magdalen Street in Norwich. Although I wasn’t very old, because all the men had been called up, I ended up in charge of the men’s shoe department.

They had shelters for us across at Botolph Street, and we had to take customers in there if there was an air raid warning. One day there was no air raid warning, just the ‘crash’ warning, which meant that we hadn’t got any time to get to the shelters. We just had to go downstairs to the basement. We heard a huge bang, and the whole place shook. When we came up we found that the bank next door had been completely destroyed.

On another occasion, I went to work one day and all the shop windows had been blown in. The things which had been in the windows were strewn all over the road. We had to pick all the stuff up and see what could still be sold as damaged goods.

One Sunday, we were having our tea outside, in Postwick, where I lived. It was a lovely day, but all at once we heard aeroplanes and my Dad said “They’re Jerries, look!”. They were ever so low. A few minutes after that we heard them dropping their bombs, and then they came back.

One Thursday afternoon I was on the train to Acle to see my Granny when a plane came along and shot all down the train. I was lucky not to be cut by the broken glass.

At the beginning of the war I was really frightened of the search lights in the sky at night. I didn’t really know what they were and they seemed so eerie. They frightened me more than the ‘crash’ warning!.

In 1942 I still wanted to do my bit for the war, so I joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service). On the whole I enjoyed this, and it was where I met my husband.

Just before D-Day all leave was cancelled and I was sent to Yorkshire. Although I didn’t know anything about petrol at all, I was given the job of filling up the tanks and reserve tanks of a long line of lorries, which were getting ready to invade.

We were going to get married in August of that year, but we didn’t know whether we’d be able to get the leave to get married. Just before the date of our wedding, they let us have leave! The whole village helped with our wedding, giving Mum little bits of their rations. The local farmer killed a pig so that we could have a joint of pork at the reception, which was a real treat. One of the farmer’s friends had outbid my Dad for a bottle of whiskey which had been up for auction. The farmer told his friend that I was getting married and he gave us the bottle of whiskey free. We weren’t supposed to have iced cakes, but some of the local women gave Mum some icing sugar, and the local baker made me a cake and iced it for me. So, I was one of very few at that time who had an iced cake for their wedding! A friend lent me her wedding dress, which happened to fit me, as we had no spare coupons for clothes. My husband was in uniform as he had no clothes that fitted him after he’s put on weight in the army.

After that I was sent to Bicester, and that’s where I was when peace was declared. We were all given a day off and transport was arranged to take us into Oxford to celebrate. Everyone was really friendly and having a good time.

As I had got married I was amongst the first to be sent home. I discovered that I was pregnant soon afterwards, and had a baby soon after the end of the war. I went to live with my mother-in-law in Manchester, and my son was born up there. My husband was still in the Forces. When the baby was five months old my mother-in-law told me that I had to leave and that she wouldn’t even let me stay another night. So I went to the police and they went back with me and told her that she’d got to let me sleep there that night. Then they got in touch with my husband, and his officer sent him home on compassionate leave to bring me down to Norfolk.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Love in Wartime Category
Auxiliary Territorial Service Category
Norfolk Category
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