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15 October 2014
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Wartime Memories of Iris Mace

by gloinf

Contributed by 
gloinf
People in story: 
Iris Mace
Location of story: 
London, Oxford, Egypt
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3188621
Contributed on: 
27 October 2004

"stirrup pump" Priceless

At the onset of the war I was living in Kenton, London. I clearly recall the day war was announced on the radio, it was a lovely sunny September Sunday morning.

I was approximately 18 years old and at that time was working for L.M.S. at St Pancras Station in the offices as a comptometer operator.

Because it was anticipated that the station would be a target for bombing, the L.M.S. business was moved to The Grove Estate, near Watford, and we were housed in Nissen huts. There was a journey of about 10 miles and initially we relied on buses and trains to enable us to get to work but, eventually, I purchased a bicycle and made my own way, even though it was rather tiring -10 miles there and 10 miles back in all weathers after working all day.

In 1940 I became an A.R.P. warden, so I would do my daily job and then do a shift of 7—1 or 1—7 fitting things into the warden rota. My duties included watching for chinks of light escaping from the blackout curtains making sure that the blackout was complete and during air raids spotting for fires and anything untoward.

A street shelter had been built with a door at each end it was my habit to sit near the end of the shelter on a chair to try and get a bit of sleep before the 1—7 duty.

On one occasion there was a bomb which was a direct hit on that end of the shelter, where I normally sat.

But it was not meant for me that night as I had gone to the other end of the shelter to attend a meeting.

Sadly, a lady whose large house was on the corner of the street was killed by the bomb as she was sitting in the shelter, also my mother was injured by shrapnel and spent many weeks in hospital as a result of her injuries.

The blackout on the house of the lady who was killed was so efficient that no one knew that the house was on fire until the lady’s husband came home, having been summoned by the authorities because of his wife’s death. So there was severe damage to the property.

Because of the bombing my own home was badly affected and damaged beyond sensible repair at that time. One rather bizarre aspect of that incident was that I went home to make some coffee for my mother while waiting for the ambulance to come, and discovered that the sideboard in the front room, which was used to house our good china, had both doors closed, and yet there was broken china all over the floor.

The blast from the bomb had opened the doors, strewn china everywhere and then closed the doors again; also the jug that I went to use for the coffee was full of glass. As a result of that bomb we were obliged to take another property further up the road.

I remember a land mine fell at the top of the road, but was made safe by the bomb squad: also I recall seeing flying bombs pass overhead, but never saw where they landed.

My family were fortunate as we did not lose any member of the family at all as a result of the war.

I met my husband at the local tennis club and we married in 1944. I remember that he had a little Sealyham dog who was quite a character and, among other cute tricks, went round the neighbourhood begging for food. He was always being returned to us by wary neighbours.
He had a very appealing manner and we called him a flat bottomed Heinz 57, because he was able to sit down on the floor and beg on a completely flat backside.

My husband was a part—time fireman but went into the R.A.F. in August 1940 and was stationed at Oxford from 1940—45. After marrying we lived in Wembley, North West London, and afterwards lived in Oxford for about 18 months.

Unfortunately my husband fell from an aircraft on to the tarmac below and broke an ankle. When he was able to work again he was sent to Egypt in 1945 and then demobilised.

My father was an architect who worked at Woolwich Arsenal during the war as a quantity surveyor. He became a special constable in 1926 at the onset of the General Strike, and later became an inspector.

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