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15 October 2014
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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Lorna Ducharme
Location of story: 
Brighton, East sussex
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 August 2005

I worked in my mother’s shop during the war, Barkers, cooked meat and groceries because it wasn’t called a delicatessen in those days — we cooked all our own meat: hams, beef, lamb, pork — we cooked it all ourselves. When the war broke out of course you couldn’t get meat like that because you were rationed and you registered with a shop and then you were allowed to get your rations for that week, because the food office took the rations.

We started with about 25 customers and ended up with 700! I was 18 when the war broke out, so I joined the ARP and if the sirens went, which they did every night, after the first lull in 1941, we used to go up to the Out-Patients at the hospital in case there were any casualties coming in and you’d see the searchlights looking for the bombers. And of course it was the Saturday morning when the bombs went into the Odeon and Bedford Street and that was quite a horrible thing because they strafed right along the road and people and children amongst them killed that day. I was on ARP duty that day and I had to leave the shop, I ran it with my mother but I had to go, I was ARP. So we went up and I can remember seeing these poor little kids lying on the stretchers waiting to be seen in the Out-Patients Department, it was miserable and horrible that day.

We just had to get them ready to be seen by the doctors. I don’t know that there was penicillin then, I don’t think there was, so it was a very hit and miss thing, we did our best but there were a lot of casualties that day.

I remember my cousin got married at St George’s the next week and the sirens went just as she was on the steps so that was a bit scary. We all went very white. But it wasn’t anything, so that was OK.

We had good times as well as horrible times. We used to go dancing at The Dome and we were able to walk home at night on your own, with lots of soldiers around but no trouble with raping or anything. Young people are going to enjoy themselves somewhere anyway, aren’t they?

We used to have some of the worries with the rationing. I remember we used to have those big 80lb cheeses and they used to come in two in a big box thing and we took them in. And when we undid the box, there was only one cheese in there and we didn’t have enough rations!

I met my husband at The Dome, dancing, and he was a good dancer, too. We loved dancing. We got married in February 1943. My husband was an infantryman and then he went into the RCASC, that’s the catering corps, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps where he was with the cooking and everything. He went to Holland mostly when he went abroad but we didn’t know where they were when they first went, did we, they just went overseas and we didn’t know where they were. But as he was one of the first over here, in 1939, they were the first to be repatriated back. So he went back in 1945 on a troop ship and I went the following year. I went in November on a ship called the Lady Rodney with just one child then, Bob, and we came back to England the following April. And then he went into the shop for a while, but he wasn’t really a shop person. He did sort of building work, outdoor work. And that’s how we were. We had a happy life until he died, unfortunately, when he was 47. He had a coronary. My youngest son was 8 then and we battled along. Now he’s a doctor, and my two daughters, one’s a physiotherapist and the other is an occupational therapist and my other son is a geologist, so I’m sure their dad would have been proud of the bunch of them.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sue Craig on behalf of Lorna Ducharme and has been added to the site with her permission. Lorna fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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