- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Gloria Lavender
- Location of story:
- Ashford, Kent
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 August 2005
I remember as if it were yesterday. I was not quite seven years of age, and living at Kingsnorth, near Ashford, Kent. After attending Sunday School, I was just along the road playing at my friends house, when a vehicle came down the road with a loud siren sounding…over a loud speaker, we were being told that war had been declared. Everyone was very frightened, not knowing quite what to expect. An older member of the family picked me up in his arms and carried me very quickly back to my house. My father was frantically digging a huge hole in the garden to make an underground shelter. We had already anticipated the worst…but it was summertime before we saw our first air-raid.
At the time, I was attending school in Hamsfleet. One particular memory I have, was a threat by the teacher saying “The next person to talk in class must wear their gas mask all day!” Yes!.I was the person who spoke! When I arrived home, I told my mother that I did not want to go to school the next day. After explaining to her what happened, she kindly wrote a letter to the teacher, which I remember was not too polite!! However, it must have had the desired affect, as I was excused the punishment.
I can recall the first Flying Bomb coming overhead — very early in the morning. At first glance we thought it was a fighter plane on fire, with a very strange noise coming from the engine. Nobody seemed to know what this odd plane was. Most of the children were kept home from school that day, but being that I never liked missing school, I went along as usual on the school bus. I was the only girl on the bus that morning, along with a boy. I was then attending the South Central School (later called the South Secondary Modern School) at Jemmett Road, Ashford, Kent. The total number of children in school who stayed for lunch was only fifteen that day. The school canteen had prepared and cooked lunch for around 300 pupils that day! We were told to eat as much as we liked, and to take home as much as treacle pudding as we could carry home on the bus!! I just can’t imagine now how we managed to carry treacle pudding home on the bus that day…but we did, and plenty of it!!!
In the corner of our playing field at school stood an AA Gun, which made a very loud bang when fired. Once shattering the school windows when it was fired in action!
Most of my school days were spent in the air raid shelter, and at night, sheltering under our beds during air raid warnings. I am very surprised we all did so well with our learning!
Father joined the Home Guard. Meetings were often held at our house during which they had Rifle Drill and Rifle Cleaning, they also practiced the Morse Code. The characters of the television programme ‘Dads Army’ were almost identical to those in our local Home Guard!! — It really was a laugh, and I often wonder now what might have happened should the enemy have landed!
Crowded places were closed for safety reasons, including the swimming baths, and not being allowed to any coastal areas, we never did learn to swim. The only water we had was when we took a bath, and nine times out of ten, whilst having a bath, the air-raid signal would sound. Mother would then have to grab us all dripping wet, wrap a towel around us as quickly as she could and rush us down to the safety of the air raid shelter!
My brother and I once found a live incendiary bomb in the woods whilst out walking. We picked it up and carried it home. Mother knew immediately that it was ‘live’ and shouted “Don’t bring that indoors, take it to the Police Station” — which we did, all very carefully…Carefully carrying this so called ‘dangerous’ weapon we made our way to the police station. On arrival, the policeman said “We don’t want that”. We could not understand, as children, the treasure we thought we had found a nice new unexploded bomb with no rust — and no one wanted it!!
Another incident I recall was how generous American servicemen were to us children. They would give us chocolate, tinned fruit, chewing gum and almost anything edible. We appreciated their generosity, as we only ever had a small amount of treats on ration.
I could tell many more stories, but my lasting memory I have, is how everyone helped each other. As a nation, the opinion being, everybody was less selfish and more sociable and friendly towards one another. A real sense of community spirit.
On VE Day we walked with another family into the woods, lit a small fire, and danced around it! We also opened some tinned fruit (another luxury after rationing).
This story was added to the site by Elizabeth Legate on behalf of Gloria Lavender. Gloria fully understands the site's terms & conditions.
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