BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2012We've left it here for reference.More information

20 April 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site Print this page 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


Memories of a wartime childhood in Kensington

by epsomandewelllhc

You are browsing in:

Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Roy A Johnson, Derek Pace
Location of story: 
Kensington, London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
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.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

London Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy