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Growing Up In Wartime Sandown

by Isle of Wight Libraries

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Isle of Wight Libraries
People in story: 
Olive Saunders (nee Cousins)
Location of story: 
Sandown, Isle of Wight
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 October 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bernie Hawkins and has been added to the website on behalf of Olive Saunders with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

When the War started I was six and living at 115 High Street, Sandown. My family owned a sweet shop and tea rooms and my grandfather, who lived next door, had a tobacconists and ladies and gents hairdressers. The town was thriving in those days, with 3 wet fish shops, two florists, four butchers and some cake and pie shops.

Many troops were billeted in the town — British, Americans, Canadians. My brother had to sleep in my room when the Army told my mother that, as we had five bedrooms, they were going to use them. We got soldiers from the 40th Royal Marine Commandos and I became their mascot. Three of them were P.T. Instructors — this was the start of my lifelong interest in lifesaving. We fed all the troops behind the sweetshop. There was rationing of course, but I don’t remember ever going short of food — the soldiers made sure we were o.k. They did a lot of climbing on Culver Cliff and out in the countryside, and often brought back the odd chicken or some eggs from the farms around. I even remember them going out scrumping. We went out picking blackberries to make jam and pies. We also received extra rations because we ran a café. I had to count the ration coupons — I believe it was 200 for a pound of tea.

I remember once being approached by an American soldier and he said, “Want some gum?” I said yes and we got talking. He asked did my mother take in washing. I told him that she didn’t, but that she sent hers out to someone. He came to the café and my mother gave him directions to where he could get his washing done.

I think my father (Raymond Cousins) and Alex Bruemont, a photographer, were the only men who had shops in the High Street to join up. Most of the others went to Cowes and worked on making seaplanes and munitions.

Around the town things changed. There were gun emplacements on top of Culver Cliff and look-outs at Culver and Battery Gardens. The top floor of the Sandringham Hotel was added at this time to provide a look-out. Scaffold poles were put in the sand to prevent tanks coming ashore. (I was the only one allowed to swim in the sea because of the troops staying with us.)

When the town was bombed we went under the stairs or across the road to the basement of Savoy Court, where bunk beds (three high!) had been provided.

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