- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ann Jenkins, now Mrs Ann Mathers, her cousin Barbara Hughes, now Mrs Barbara du Feu and friend Jennifer Till, now Mrs Jennifer Podger
- Location of story:
- Guernsey, Bury, Stockport, Liverpool
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 November 2005
At Stockport Town Hall charity workers gave toys to the children. Ann is peeping out between two children behind the dolls pram.
This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Mrs Mathers with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions
When I was just five years old my happy, innocent world fell apart due to World War 2.
I was born in 1935 on the beautiful island of Guernsey, which is the second largest of the Channel Islands.
World War 2 began in September 1939 but did not affect me very much until the
next year, although my father and my Uncle Harold travelled to England to join the R.A.F.
My mother put our furniture into storage and we moved to the Farmer’s Hotel on the seafront where her sister ran the family hotel.
My Aunt was also missing her husband. I loved being there with my Aunt and my cousin Barbara. It was a tall building and had nice banisters which I used to enjoy sliding down!
The Germans swept rapidly through France and on the 12th June 1940 the Swastika was flown for the first time on public buildings in Paris.
With the fall of France imminent the German Occupation of the Channel Islands became inevitable.
Over 34,000 people voluntarily left the islands and moved to Britain - many men
joining the armed forces.
Very early one morning in late June my mother took me down to the harbour to
join other children from my school. There were many groups from various schools,
each with one or more teachers.
My school needed another adult helper as one of our teachers had been taken ill that day and my mother volunteered to travel with us in her place.
As my father was already in the U,K, and I was an only child my mother was happy to be able to travel with me. She sent a message to her sister explaining what had happened and travelled with just the clothes she
My cousin travelled with her school group to Bury and my Aunt managed to get away a day or two later. Not everyone who wanted to, managed to get away in time though.
Guernsey was occupied by the Germans on 30th June, Jersey on 1st July, Alderney
on 2nd July and Sark on 3rd July.
Our ship sailed to Weymouth then we were bundled onto a train which eventually
arrived in Stockport, Cheshire. My cousin was taken to Bury along with various other groups so it was a long time before I saw her again.
It was quite an exciting journey for us children as most of us had never been
away from the island.
We had never been on a large ship or a train before - there were no trains on the island. I was fascinated by the sight of all the animals in the fields as they were not familiar to us.
We had no sheep in Guernsey then and all our cows were a beautiful golden brown so I was curious about all the black and white cattle.
We finally arrived at the Town Hall in Stockport where we were put into quarantine for two weeks and then gradually local families offered us temporary homes.
Our time in the Town Hall was awful - long rows of camp beds laid out close together with prickly, grey army blankets on them.
As a result of the closeness we all ended up with head lice and fleas - it was a real nightmare. We had very limited washing facilities and almost no privacy which must have been dreadful for the adults — children of course are not usually too fond of washing anyway!
Charity workers came round with toys and clothing for us and we had a group
photograph taken with some of the toys.
I had a very old wooden doll’s cot given to me which I still treasure and often wonder just how old it is.
After about three weeks Mum and I were taken to live in a nice house in Frodsham Avenue with a lovely family named Robinson whose children had grown up so they had some spare rooms.
My best friend - Jennifer - was also placed with a nice family in the same road as us. It was great that we could still play together and we also attended the same school in Stockport.
There were often air raids and we had to get used to dashing to the shelter. We
had a Morrison shelter in the house which was like a metal cage with a solid top
and was used as a dining table.
In the garden there was an Anderson shelter.
Most children had warm “Siren suits” which were rather like a Babygrow, which we
put on over our pyjamas when we had to go outside to the shelter at night.
The following year I said goodbye to Jennifer when Mum and I moved to a small
village in Cornwall where we lived on a farm for a year. I loved it there and
used to help the farmer walk his cows from one field to another.
Next we moved to Dorset for a few months where we lived with some relatives. Our last move was to Liverpool where we spent the remainder of the war.
I enjoyed catching a train to school every day. All food was rationed and we didn’t have sweets or chocolate so we often mixed some cocoa powder with a little of our sugar ration and would dip a finger into the mix.
There were no oranges or bananas but all children were given a very concentrated orange juice and thick, sticky Cod Liver Oil and Malt to keep us healthy.
I remember spending many hours in the air raid shelter in the playground of the
school in Liverpool. All I can remember doing in there was miles and miles of
French Knitting, but maybe we did do some lessons as well.
The owner of the house where we stayed in Liverpool was a very old fashioned lady called Mrs Steele. She wore her hair in two plaits wound in circles over her ears so she looked as if she had earphones on.
She was also very strict and forced me to eat every scrap of food put in front of me. The thing I hated most was Tapioca Pudding which I found impossible to swallow.
Mrs Steele was taken ill and died very suddenly so my mother took over the running of the house. Mr Steele found a new lease of life after his wife’s death as he was able to handle his own money for the first time.
His wife used to take his wage packet every Friday evening and hand him a few shillings
spending money then she dealt with all the household expenses.
I am sure it has been good to experience so many other people’s ways of life.
During the war all pencils were plain wood colour and even crayons were the same. They just had either red, blue, green or yellow centres. We didn’t have pink or purple or turquoise etc. Many years later when crayons were made in many pretty colours with coloured outsides I thought they were wonderful.
Another strong memory of those days is of tins of a solid pink tooth cleaner called
When the war was finally over we were really anxious to return to the island but
had to wait our turn. My Aunt, Uncle and Cousin returned before us and my parents and I arrived in Guernsey on the morning of 5th November 1945.
We all lived together again for some time which was great. However, when my parents
went to the storage company to collect our furniture it had all gone!
The man had sold it! So my poor parents had no home of their own (our pre-war home was
only rented) and no furniture and it must have been a dreadful shock for them.
But, at least we had each other and were all in good health.
Another Aunt and Uncle who didn’t manage to leave the island in time were sent to Germany where they were imprisoned in an internment camp in Biberach.
They had a dreadful time and both suffered poor health for the rest of their lives.
All the schoolchildren in Guernsey were presented with a Liberation medal.
This is now a very treasured possession of mine.
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