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Scraping By in Wartime Norwich

by Norfolk Adult Education Service

Contributed by 
Norfolk Adult Education Service
People in story: 
Marjorie Thorpe
Location of story: 
Norwich
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3130318
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 Marjorie Thorpe and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was 21 when war started and got married at the beginning of the war. My husband was in the Fleet Air Arm (part of the Navy), but was invalided out in 1942 with shrapnel in his lungs. He didn’t come home straight away but spent time in hospital in London, Aberdeen and Norwich. When he was being transported from Aberdeen to Norwich the train would stop at stations where people from the Salvation Army and the Red Cross provided refreshments for the servicemen.

He was in quite a bad state when he first came home in both his physical health and his mind. He found it hard to adjust, and this happened at the same time as the Blitz on Norwich. Our house was affected by the bombing when the house directly opposite got a direct hit, so I used to spend quite a lot of time at my sister’s.

I was working at a place called Chamberlain’s in Botolph Street, making protective clothing for the Forces. The particular clothing was for protection in case of gas attack, and it was all soaked in something to make it resistant to gas.
I lived in one room at the back of my house because I didn’t have any upstairs. We didn’t have any light, gas, electricity or water and lived like that for some time. There was a standpipe on the allotments at the back of us and we were allowed a pale of water a day which we had to fetch. We couldn’t have any cooked meals there, so I used to go to my sister’s in Sprowston for a cooked meal and a bath. But I still slept in my house.

Even after the main blitz we still had buzz bombs coming over. When the sirens went we used to go down the laundry shelter which was partly underground. We used to knock the buzz bombs off the kitchen with a linen prop. Buzz bombs seemed intended to frighten us more than anything else as they used to make an awful noise.

One particular night I remember quite well. The factory near to us was hit by a fire bomb which blew alight instantly. It was a windy night and large chunks of factory which were on fire were being blown towards us all the time.

Our house in Heigham Street was eventually given some repairs so that we could live in it, but after the war it was pulled down.

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