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15 October 2014
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Doodlebugs and Socks!

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Hazel Burchell (nee Miller), Myrtle Miller (nee Golds - my Mum)
Location of story: 
Washington, West Sussex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
15 November 2005

I was born in November 1939. My family were market gardeners and kept chickens; we produced fruit, vegetables and eggs, even the egg production was seasonal so some eggs were preserved in ‘water glass’ for our own use in winter. During the winter also some of the chicken were butchered — the whole family did this and I remember being knee deep in feathers! Even these were saved, treated, and used to stuff pillows etc.

Everyone had an identity number, mine was engraved on the locket clasp of my bracelet that I wore all the time.

Three evacuee children stayed with us; one was very adventurous and he got into a lot of trouble once for having detonators in his pockets.

An Aunt from Portsmouth who had been bombed out also came to live with us. At any sound of enemy aircraft she’d grab me and her two girls and head for shelter in the outside lavatory away from the house. Her husband in the Army would send her a cigarette or two in his letters.

The Army wanted to site an anti-aircraft gun under the trees in our garden, but Mum refused to let them. There were always lots of troops around, wonderful suppliers of sweets. Being put into a tank once I was terrified — someone, holding me under the arms, tried to lower me into a round very dark hole.

If the invasion happened my Mum planned to kills us all. She had a gun and was quite prepared to use it. An Aunt planned to drown herself in the dewpond.

The sound of the doodlebugs was unmistakeable — horrible popping and spluttering, and when that stopped, knowing the thing was going to hit the ground shortly was scary. We were once shot at by a low flying plane, a huge scramble to take cover in a roadside ditch. I used to sit on our garden wall waving to RAF planes overhead and passing road traffic, large vehicles transporting aircraft, called Queen Marys.

Two POWs, Rudi and Yob, came to work for us. They lived in our Nissen hut, and spoke very little English, so Mum taught herself to speak German. At Christmas (1945 probably) their decorations were delightful especially the angel hair (glass wool?) on the tree. Yob had wool and a sock knitting machine — he couldn’t shape toes or heels so my socks were just tubes. Also from reclaimed wool Mum knitted me a multi-coloured jumper, it was very itchy and I hated it.

This story was entered on the People’s War site by Melita Dennett on behalf of Hazel Burchell, who understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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