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Memories of a wartime childhood in Kensington

by epsomandewelllhc

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
epsomandewelllhc
People in story: 
Roy A Johnson, Derek Pace
Location of story: 
Kensington, London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A6344633
Contributed on: 
24 October 2005

Memories of a Wartime Childhood in Kensington

The author of this story has agreed that it can be entered on the BBC website

1. Evacuation to Corsham, Wiltshire with whole school. Billeted with Derek Pace. Brought back three weeks later by parents, who had a car!
2. Blackout — treated as a game by children. Games played included milk bottle on a cotton across pavement, waiting for an unsuspecting adult pedestrians to trip over.
3. Back in Kensington — father ARP warden — views of East End during the blitz — memories of church spires burning like candles.
4. Just after blitz (approx 1941/2) school received a consignment of presents from the people of Canada. I wanted a garage kit but there weren’t enough, however every child was obliged to accept a present. I was given a box. Being a London boy I remember feeling disgusted on opening the box and finding a doll! I rapidly went and exchanged it for a penknife!
5. On the way to school everyone collected shrapnel and traded the fragments at school. The most prized fragments among the trading fraternity were the copper (non-ferrous) bands from around the shell.
6. The first bombed house in my area was a doctor’s surgery. My father as an ARP warden had to tape off the area surrounding the damaged property. Many people from the locality came to have a look. The GWR railway ran behind the property. A train went by and the front wall collapsed. Up until then there were no casualties but this wall killed the local baker and injured three others.
7. In order to experience sleeping in various shelter types I stayed with my older brother in Neasden in an Anderson shelter. It was very cold and damp. Another evening I experienced sleeping in a Morrison shelter with other children.
8. My father, as an ARP warden, was issued with a silver badge, helmet, styrup pump and three sandbags.
9. Social climate of the time: everyone was leaving London so property on the outskirts was being sold below value. My uncle bought a property in Barnes that I thought was marvellous. One visit I made on a Sunday morning in 1944, I was walking from Hammersmith tube to Barnes across Hammersmith bridge when a doodlebug came over (it was too early for the number 9 bus to be running). The engine stopped so I cleared the bridge in record time and dived into the first front basement area. Luckily the V1 went into glide mode and I had to wait for the anticipated explosion before I was able to continue my journey, somewhat shaken.
10. On VE night1945 they lit bonfires in the road. I was14/15 and everyone seemed to go mad that night. I was very frightened. There was more damage to empty property that night than during the blitz in my area. They burned doors, floors, window frames — anything that was combustible. Roads were made of oak blocks, they burned too.

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