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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Connie Mager
Location of story: 
Thornton Heath, Marsden, Mounts Nursery, Canterbury, Kent
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ted Newcomen from the Hastings Community Learning Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Connie Mager with her permission and she fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.

My name is Connie Mager and when war broke out in 1939 I was living with my parents and my first husband in Thornton Heath, near Croydon. One day when I came home from work in London I was surprised to find that my husband (who was in the Territorial Army) had been called up and had gone away. I had absolutely no idea where he was, but later found out that he was stationed near Marsden in Kent. So I joined the Land Army and followed him to a posting nearby and worked at Mounts Nursery, Canterbury, where I lived with my cousin at Rough Common
The nursery had the biggest greenhouses I had ever seen which were used for growing roses. One of my first jobs was to cut the red petals, which were then sent to the makers of Abdullah Cigarettes to be used in their rose-tipped cigarettes. But this soon stopped and they changed over to growing tomatoes for the war effort.
We would work in the greenhouses whilst the sky above us was full of planes involved in dogfights during the Battle of Britain. The air was criss-crossed with vapour trails & falling spent shells and other debris and it was thought to be a real hazard. So they positioned a man outside who would blow a whistle when it was too dangerous and time for us to leave. We would go outside into the orchard and then shelter in the boiler-house. When it was safe we would come out again and return to our work. One greenhouse was actually destroyed but non-one were hurt, as we had already been evacuated.
One evening in 1940, I was pushing my bike up the hill on my way home from work when a German plane came over very low and dropped a string of bombs. I flung my bike down & jumped into a ditch. An air-raid warden was killed in town during the same raid. When I tried to ride my bike back down the same hill the next morning, there was a barrier across the road saying ‘Danger — Unexploded Bomb’. It was just by the same ditch where I had dived for safety the previous day!
Later in the war, my husband was sent home from fighting in Sicily as he was suffering from shell-shock.
My experiences from the period made me into a life long peace campaigner — early on, joining the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). I also joined the Labour Party in 1945 but tore up my membership card in disgust, when in 2003 our Prime Minister ignored millions of demonstrators and assisted in the illegal invasion of Iraq.

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