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15 October 2014
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A Child's Memory of the Declaration of War

by cambsaction

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Clare Channell
Location of story: 
Cambridge (Girton)
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 October 2005

[This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of Clare Channell and has been added to the site with her permission. She understands the site's terms and condtions.]

I was seven years old in July, 1939 and on Sunday, September the 3rd, Mum, Dad, my sister and I were in Cromer on holiday, and we were at Mrs Martindale’s boarding house. We went down to the beach to play whilst Dad returned to the boarding house to listen to the 11.00 a.m. news on the radio and left Mum, my sister and I on the beach. I, Clare, thought that hiding behind a large rock would mean we would not have to go home because of the War. When Dad returned, he gave us the news that we were at War. We packed up our black Austin and came home to Girton. Blackouts were on my mind. I remember saying to my mum,”Our curtains in the living room would be thick enough,” but they were not. So, my mum made blackouts for all of the rooms.

Gas masks were issued for everyone, but my sister was only two years old and had a red one with a long bit that came down and it was referred to as a Mickey Mouse one. That was for the infants; they were not ready for immediate distribution and my mum was worried about that. My mask was black, an adult type, and I cried when I first put it on because it was claustrophobic—it was horrible as far as I was concerned. It was made of rubber and perspex so you could see. We got it from the W.I. Hall. We always had to carry them wherever we went—-to school, to town. We had them in cardboard boxes and I still do not understand why we were not given covers. I think Mum made a cover for mine—-it was red and white. I never had to wear mine except during drills at school, which at the time was The Shrubbery in Cambridge.

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