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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Doreen Garnham nee Davies
Location of story: 
Hackney, London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4514933
Contributed on: 
22 July 2005

(This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from Radio Cambridgeshire Action Desk at Duxford at their VE Day Commemorations on behalf of Doreen Garnham and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Garnham fully understands the site's terms and conditions).

During the War every family had to salvage everything. You had a bone day and you had to save tins, glass and scraps of food for the pigs. We used to help collect it all, but we used to do it in the local mortuary as it was the only building that didn’t have any windows. We sat in there as children as it was a safe place so no glass could hurt us. We used to sort the rubbish on mortuary slabs including magazines, and everything else as you couldn’t throw anything away.

We had no fear as children we used to go round the bomb sites to collect shrapnel. The blast from the bomb once took out 2 floors of a block of flats and bringing down the rest. Blast used to do strange things — it would take out anything.

There was once a landmine, it took out a whole block of houses. Blast in one house blew a piano out, without a scratch! It was smothered in dust. That piano was the only thing that survived from the house! The soldiers came to help clear up and rescue people, one of the soldiers said “does it work?”, and he sat down and played the piano and played all the tunes. Dozens of children were signing the war time songs round it. The King and Queen came to the area because there was so much bombing.

On Hackney down, we had the Pilot light — that pilot light could light up anything. It would scan round, then search lights could be used. Then it would go underground, we thought it was the greatest thing on earth. I lived over the road from it, it was seemed to be a danger, they used to bomb us every night to try and get at it, but you never told anyone where it was or what it was as we were told not to tell anyone.

We didn’t have school you just worked like filling sand bags as all the teachers were evacuated. It was such a lovely atmosphere. My mum used to bring people in so no one was left alone. It was so communal and companionable. It was the safest place on earth as a child. It was taken for granted someone would look after you!

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