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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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FIREBELLS AND NETBALL in Cambridge

by cambsaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Mrs Ruby Fordham
Location of story: 
Cambridge
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A4139525
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

[This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of Ruby Fordham and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Fordham fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.]

When war broke out I was 18 and had been out of school a year. I was working on food distribution for the Co-op and when rationing came in, we had to keep registers of what people had.

I was called up for the fire service and I was on the switchboard one night in six. My station was known as 3Z and it was on Arbury Road.

After working at the Co-op all day I went on duty at 7 pm, and stayed on until 11 pm. If I had a ‘live watch’ through the night, I would sleep on a bunk at the Fire Station.

I remember once that I was asked to go in and wake up a man for duty. I was very uncomfortable with going up to a man in bed and said to the Officer, “My mother wouldn’t like it.” I was 20! I can remember the officer replying, “No one is your MOTHER do anything.”

To help my work, I went to evening classes to learn the method of book-keeping. Some of the men I got to know there were up learning to fly planes — and they couldn’t even drive a car!

Whenever there was a call from the centre of Cambridge, it was a full call-out: the buildings were very old and close together.

I was a keen netball and hockey player and played netball for the Fire Service. I was chosen to play for the County. We didn’t have sirens in those days — there were big brass bells on the fire engines. When we won the cup one year, they allowed me to ring the bell.

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