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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Warwickshire Libraries Heritage and Trading Standards
People in story: 
Shirley Vinogradoff
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Contributed on: 
29 June 2005

I was born in Stepney, near the docks. My mother had a draper's shop on the Commercial Road and my mother, father, an aunt, my younger sister and I all lived in the flat above the shop.
During the war we children were evacuated several times but were always brought home when the bombing seemed to be abating. Sometimes we all sat out air raids in the cellar under the shop, sometimes in a nearby communal air raid shelter which was a bricked-in railway bridge. I remember walking home from there early on the morning the City of London had suffered a heavy onslaught. The sky was still red and shattered glass crunched underfoot. The sound of the air raid siren can still turn my stomach.
One night in the late Spring of 1945, my sister and I went to bed as usual in the room we shared. I do not remember a noise waking me, although there must have been a huge explosion, but I opened my eyes to find the walls and ceiling of our room had vanished, only the floor remained, and we were lying in our beds under the night sky.
I never discovered how our parents made their way up to us. The staircase had been blown away. They were greatly relieved to find us alive and relatively unharmed. Plaster dust and glass lay all over our beds and my sister had a fragment of glass embedded in the back of one hand. Covered with dust which made her hair stick out around her face and big, startled eyes, she looked like a little dark grey owl and I dare say I looked the same. My brand new cloth doll had been blown into the back yard and I wanted someone to go and get her before we left.
We were helped downstairs somehow and taken to spend the rest of the night, in all our dirt, on camp beds in the local maternity hospital. I was ten years old and, though relatively ignorant of the facts of life, was aware that something rather embarrassing went on there. I hoped no-one who knew us would know I was there.
My mother spent the night standing guard over her shop, which now stood alone amid the rubble of the buildings on either side and the rest of our home. It was full of goods for which clothing coupons were needed and there was a box of coupons under the counter. This was the first I learnt that there were looters who took advantage of the raids to go about their business.
We had been hit by the second last V2 of the war.

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