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- Joan Twyman
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- 06 May 2004
A Letter Full of Tears
Mrs. Joan Twyman is the wife of a previous Mayor of Margate and Chairman of the Local Council. She spoke to Steve Murphy.
“I saw the troops coming back from Dunkirk. I saw planes that would swoop over the sea with big silver magnetic mine detectors to explode the mines. In 1943 they bombed the bottom of the high street and that also destroyed Holy Trinity Church. The Regal cinema in Cecil Square was also hit and that evening at the Regal the film ‘Target for Tonight’ was showing! One man waiting for a bus across from the cinema at the time was extremely drunk, when the dust had cleared he hadn’t even got a mark on him! There is a lady who worked at the bottom of the High Street, I think it was Perry’s, and she had just gone out to go home when the shop was completely destroyed. Another luck escape.”
She told me of the times when the doodlebug bombs went overhead. “They made a particular noise, a zoom zoom zoom and once the noise had gone by you knew it was going to land somewhere else. If it came close and then stopped you were in trouble.”
Thanet was a staging post for the invasion and she has many memories of this particular time. “Salmestone School was filled with soldiers. My mum was expecting to be evacuated so she took all of our spare food down to the troops, she said that if we were to be invaded the Germans were not going to get it.
On the day of the Normandy invasion a couple of gliders landed in the field by the railway on Nash Road, they thought they were in Normandy but they were still in England.”
Being evacuated was a traumatic experience that was not made better by the family she was billeted with. “I was evacuated to Great Whirley in Staffordshire in June 1940 and then moved to Salisbury in November that same year where I lived with my mother, two sisters and grandparents. We came back to Thanet in 1942. Evacuation means that we all gathered at Margate station with our nametags and gas masks. In Great Whirley we went into the school when people were taken away and put into different homes. I did not like it at all. Had I been housed with others that I knew I would have been much happier but we didn’t have a say in the matter. My brother in law came to visit me in November and I showed him some embroidery I was doing and as it was a Sunday and I got told off. He knew that I wasn’t happy. A friend of mine, Brenda Jones, brought me some paper and a pen so I wrote my mother a letter. The letter was all blotched with the tears I shed as I wrote. My mother read the letter and took the next train straight up and took me back home. I didn’t even know she was coming.”
Mrs. Twyman doesn’t elaborate on the particulars of her host family but being given sliced carrot sandwiches for her school packed lunch would drive the heartiest of us to put pen to paper.
The two years spent in Salisbury were fairly uneventful and the family returned to Thanet in 1942.
“I was an ARP messenger when I returned to Margate and my job was to relay any phone messages. The only message that ever came down was about the ‘Salute the Soldier’ week! As the war went on the air raids became less and less and Margate just went back to normal. You couldn’t go on the beaches though. Margate beach always used to be absolutely marvellous. We used to have the Punch and Judy, The Marigolds, The Salvation Army Band every Sunday, there were donkeys on the beach but during the war it was all covered with barbed wire. When they took that off it was a sign that things were getting better.
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