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A Young Girl in East Acton

by epsomandewelllhc

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Marjorie Harris (nee Cannon)
Location of story: 
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Contributed on: 
15 November 2003

A Few Reminiscences of WWII from Marjorie Harris (nee Cannon)

I was aged 15 when on September 3rd. 1939, the Rev. Godfrey of St. Dunstans Church, East Acton, cut short the morning service to announce that war had been declared.

The following Friday evening my parents were seeing myself and young brother off to Cornwall under the care of an Aunt, where we stayed until Christmas, when we returned to London and stayed throughout the war.

When the air raids commenced, as soon as the siren went off we all went into the kitchen and my Father pulled out the Easiworker and we went into the space between the wall and the back of the Easiworker. When we heard the drone of the German bombers we waited with baited breath as the bombs fell in a stick of six; it was a relief when we had counted the six and had survived.

One Sunday night in a house at the top of the road, the family were celebrating the christening of their first grandchild. The house had a direct hit. The only survivor was a daughter who had gone to visit her boyfriend.

Local men, including my Father, used to take turns at Fire Duty with buckets and stirrup pumps. We all dreaded the Molotov Baskets which were filled with incendiary bombs and when dropped on roofs exploded and caused numerous fires.

At 18 years, I worked in London as a shorthand typist. After a night of bombing raids I was walking along Oxford Street; a large store had been hit and the demolition squad were busy clearing up. It was a store selling gloves, underwear, etc. The men had found some bloomers which they attached to a girder and chalked up “Winter Draws On”, lifting our spirits after a night of bombing.

One of the office girls came to work one morning and told how a German bomber was shot down and they found a young German airman attached to his parachute caught in a tree in their garden. Full of compassion for the young lad, her Father rescued him and took him into the house before calling the Police.

At 19 I received papers calling for me to decide to do factory work or nursing. I chose nursing and started my general training. It was in 1944 when the Germans started sending over Flying Bombs — commonly called Doodle Bugs. These were quite frightening. You heard their droning as they flew along and then it stopped, and they fell to the ground and exploded. We had three nuns training to be midwives and one day as we were going off duty, the doodle bugs started. Just as one stopped, one of the nuns called out “Oh my God” and ran for shelter. We stood and looked, shocked, at a nun saying “my God”.

Early one Sunday morning I was woken up by a ‘swooshing’ noise and then a bang; it was a rocket which demolished a building in the grounds of the hospital. No lives were lost as the patients of that Block had been evacuated the previous weekend. The explosion broke all the windows of the hospital but only a very few patients had been cut with glass. That day, we were allowed to wear a cardigan on duty!

At the hospital we ate quite well. We were issued with two jam jars each, one for a ration of sugar, the other for a little butter and some margarine. On the breakfast table there was always a pot of Vitamin C tablets for us to take. We had blackout curtains and when the siren sounded we had to pull all the beds away from the windows. This required quite a bit of strength and care.

Food was rationed but occasionally you could get a 1 lb. of sausages. One such dinnertime, we had an elderly Aunt staying and when she cut into the sausage she said, “We need to spread jam on this as it is full of bread”!

In Tottenham Court Road there was a very popular shop. It had three aluminium trays cooking away in its window with sausages, peas and chips. You picked up a plate and cutlery at the door, joined the queue, sat down in the shop and ate your meal.

We had very sad days when we heard of neighbours’ sons missing or killed. We hated to see newspapers’ hoardings with the words saying ’44 Bombers went on a raid and only so many returned’

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