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Peterborough Adult Learning Service and East Community Centre VE Day Event - Memories Book Chapter 1

by PeterboroughCollege

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Contributors at East Community Centre VE Day Event 8th July 2005, Peterborough
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14 December 2005


“The People’s War”

East Community Centre, Peterborough -- 8th July 2005


I was particularly pleased to have been invited to write the introduction to this collection of people’s memories from “World War Two”.

I was approached by the Peterborough Adult Learning Service to provide a venue to which people could come along and share their experiences with one another. These are contained in the pages of this booklet.

One thing that strikes you as you read these anecdotes is that although times were difficult and people were often afraid and shocked by what they heard and saw for themselves. A great shift of togetherness existed among the people of these islands.

On the evening these memories were collected and shared, this same camaraderie existed.

Everyone was so happy and the atmosphere was truly wonderful.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did, and feel able to relate to them yourselves.

Michael D Kettle
October 2005


The memories of Mr D. Garratt
They were very hard times. I served in the army at Belgium, Holland, France and Germany with the Pioneer Corps for 4 years. The first bomb that dropped in Peterborough was at the Lido pool. Another bomb dropped on the cathedral.

The memories of Ivy Bembridge
I remember in the war my father building an air raid shelter at the bottom of our garden. No one ever used it, although we had air raids and bombs dropping around us. The air raid warden would come round to check that we had no light showing. We lived close to two aerodromes and when my mother heard the planes droning over -head, she would make us children go downstairs until the all clear sounded. As the raids got worse she had our beds moved down into the front room permanently.

The memories of Edna Cresswell
My childhood home was in Lincoln, so we were used to aeroplanes and gunfire because there were so many aerodromes around. Absolute panic all around when we heard the first air raid siren. Wardens came round to check that the blackout was perfect. I have lots of memories of sirens and the friendliness of neighbours and strangers.

The memories of Mrs J. Emerton
I remember my father making black outs for all the windows — on one of them, I put my foot and the mark of the footprint was always there. The day that I started at St. Marks Infant School, I spent the morning in the shelter. I went to school with my gas mask on my shoulder. On VE night everyone in Springfield Road were rejoicing. I went to the cathedral with my parents and nearly all of Peterborough saw it floodlit. On the night of the party on my street, my cousin came home from a German POW camp.

The memories of J. Bratley
Listening to all the news, hoping it wouldn’t be war. We had to help, we couldn’t let Hitler win. It was a very different time for me as I had only worked in an office, but ended up on a machine making parts for machine guns. Quite an experience for me, but I stuck it out - two weeks on days — two on nights. I met many nice people who like me had only done office work. It was a time of people pulling together, time we all pulled together.

The memories of Marjorie Piper
My first baby was born in 1942, and he never met his father until 1945, as he was in Burma. When he saw this man come in, he said, “Is that my Daddy?”

The memories of M. G. Luckhurst
I remember the evacuees coming to our village, the black outs and also going down to the shelter.

The memories of Edna Rushbrook
Between 1941 and 1942, I remember rushing to the air raid shelters in Wisbech. Bombs were dropped on the farm and they sometimes set it alight. We had to go to school with our gas masks.

The memories of Mrs Althea Holborn
I was a young girl living in India and we were evacuated from our school in Calcutta to Luckwon (our sister school). I did my Cambridge exams there and passed them. British troops moved into the Calcutta school because they were going to fight the Japanese. Later I remember, Calcutta being bombed. I lost a relative when his ship was torpedoed. His wife was a young mother, her son never saw his father.

The memories of M. Wakefield
The only thing I remember was my brother being born on 8th May 1941. I lived in Doncaster 16 miles from Sheffield. A bomb was dropped in Sheffield, and it made our house shake, we all flew out of bed to where my mum was. We all got on the bed, my Grandma, Brother and me.

The memories of G. Wallis
The war started in Sept 1939 and I was fifteen. In Dec1939 two bombs were dropped in the back garden of two houses in Queen’s Walk t, the Street we lived in. No one was hurt. Another bomb fell on the railway siding at New England. The driver and Fireman were both killed on the engine. We also had an air raid Shelter in our school playground at Orchard Street. We were also trained to use a stirrup pump and carried buckets of sand during air raids. Great fun for a fifteen year old!

The memories of J.Walls
Blackouts-sirens (air raids) warnings —servicemen call ups. Ration Foods — Queues for food.

The memories of Tony Woodward
I was 5 years old, I remember soldiers marching through Hollow village. Dad went to war in his uniform. I remember the air raid shelters, they were dark. The people in there were worried; we went in them every time the air raid sirens went off. There were benches in the shelters.

The memories of Mrs Grace White
I was in the Dentist’s chair in Deal near Dover, when a bomb was dropped on Marks and Spencer’s just down the road. If it had gone off we would have been killed.

The memories of Jessie Cape
I was kept awake with bombs dropping but had to get up and go to work the next day. Sleeping in an air raid shelter. Every time the sirens went off we had to run out to the Shelters. Bombs dropping and destroying our country. People getting killed. Children leaving their homes for security.

The memories of Mrs M. Phillips
I was 5 years old when my dad went to war, so we went to live with my grandmother in Eye. Dad was away for 6 years. When the siren sounded, we would go down the shelter wrapped in a blanket.

The memories of Mrs D. Adcock
I was almost 6 when war broke out. I remember the shelter we had built in the back garden, and going in it every time there was an air raid. I was a member of a local dance school and we did concerts for convalescing soldiers. I also remember Auntie Rhona (who did a children’s column in the Standard newspaper), organising a big concert at the Embassy Theatre. The dancing school took part, to try and raise funds for the war effort.

The memories of Betty Eileen Starling
My sister was a plotter in London and my brother was at Dunkirk. We had to wait three days for any news but thankfully he was safe. My father drove trains in London. I was often sent home from school, as there wasn’t any heating. For entertainment we used to dance around the Peterborough Park Bandstand.

The memories of Shirley Clark
Living in the country rationing wasn’t so much a problem. I remember going to school one day and having to go home because the siren sounded. Hateful gas mask, smelled of rubber, air raid shelters in my town weren’t used.

Dad was in the home guard having served in World War 1. Didn’t know my brother — he was a POW in Burma, I saw him in 1946.

The memories of E Walt
I remember carrying a gas mask at all times and the ration books with the coupons for food and clothes. We were not allowed to show any light at all during the night-time so we had to put up big, thick curtains. I also remember going into the air raid shelter when the siren sounded. I also helped the war effort by working in a factory, which filed bomb tails and rifle bitts.
The memories of C. E. Earis (nee Chesworth)
During the war, my four children were born. My father was a Methodist Minister and I married a Methodist Minister, who unfortunately died in the early part in 1962.

The memories of Sylvia Easey
Making black out curtains, going to school by bus with German prisoners on the back seats going to work on the land. No sweets, rationing books, dockets for furniture, coupons for clothes being put under the stairs, when the German planes came over. Knitting articles for the troops.

The memories of Gordon Christopher Garner
Born 10/5/36 my brother Charles Robert Garner was 12 yrs old. He joined the army at 19 yrs. After a few weeks he was sent to North Africa, the first time in action he was hit by a mortar shell and was missing in action for many months. I remember my Mother and Father changing from jolly people to always crying, I couldn’t understand why! He came home much later with the loss of use in his right arm. Later in life he bought a plot of land built a house as he was a Bricklayer. Thank You.

The memories of Mr. D.Garrett
I was in the home guard and working at the brickyards. I was called up in 1943 and served in the pioneer corp and went to France, Germany, Holland and Belgium. Being demobbed in 1947

The memories of Vera Goodale
Going to bed in a cold Barrack Room. Army cookhouse- Dogs and Cats running around — Mice around the rafters. Birds overhead. Rushed wartime wedding came home on Monday - Married on Friday- Weekend at Haycock Hotel, Wansford. On Monday I went south and my New Husband went north. No new dress no wedding cake. That was 61 Years ago (Still together)

The memories of P.W Goodale
Village LDV/Home Guard Characters. Bombers Straffing, the village, working on war effort in local factory, a reserved occupation. Joining RAFVR 1942 training in Canada. Returning to marry my wife before posting to India. Joining 355 squadron at Salbani. Bengal operations over Burma, Siam and Malaya. After VJ. Relief works dropping rice in sacks to remote Burmese villages sailing home 1946 to rejoin my wife for civilian life.
Eternal meat and veg out of cans in India. The ‘Prickly Heat’.
Canada all Food no Shortages.
Demob suit/Comforts Fund/Civvy Street
All a Long story.

The Memories of Stanley Harris
At the time I was an apprentice at B.P.Ltd Vo, where I stayed till after the war. At night- time I was in home guard in Peterborough Rocket Section. While at work, a situation occurred and I was machine gunned by German Aircraft as it went down the Railway Line near BP.

The memories of R.G.Haynes
Digging an Air Shelter in the back garden. Joining the LDV, later the home guard until being called up. My Grandma and Aunt’s being bombed
(69 London RD Peterborough). Joining the army in 1942-47. Landing in Normandy in June 44 Getting as far as Germany in May 1945 then travelling to Italy and Greece.

The memories of Daphne Hulme
I was born in Holbeach and lived there during the war, one day my sisters and I were in the garden with our Grandad who was visiting us from Sheffield when a German plane came over so low we could see the pilot. Grandad said ”That cheeky B” - and pushed us to the ground. When it started firing at us we were unhurt but there were several bullet holes in our house wall. Also I remember whenever a bomb dropped in the field near us, the following morning, lots of us would cycle to field to see the craters it had caused.

The memories of Jean Jepson
One night my mother woke up thinking someone was stealing her chickens but it was an army officer who had lost his memory through the war. He had walked from Willow Hall through our farm in the middle of the night. An ARP Warden from the next farm came to question him. My father took him back to London Road Drill Hall. Next morning he walked back to North Bank he remembered where he was the night before.
I often wonder what happened to him.

The memories of Peggy D. Kettle
The day was a Sunday Sept 1939 I was working at the Co-op Drapery, so that when I was 18 I had to register to go either in the forces or at BTH Woodston, and I chose the BTH. I was there for approximately two years walking every day from Mayors Walk, I particularly remember one very cold and icy winters morning getting to the “Peacock” Inn and falling off my bike and having a job getting on my bike again. Happy times as much as you could make them.

The memories of Alice Kuchauski
In 1938 I arrived with my family from Canada. My father emigrated 1919 Mother — 1920, married in 1924 — and coming to England August 1938. On the out break of war, my parents tried to send us 3 children back to Canada. We had medicals to go but they wouldn’t let my mother come with us so we did not go but a terrible thing happened the ship we were going on was sunk.

The memories of Peter G Lees
I was a baby — but my mother told me that our house was hit by a bomb and we were buried in the cellar. We were dug out and the only things that survived was the Christmas tree and all the trimmings and a glass topped linen basket. This was in Sheffield, which was bombed badly, trying to target the steel works.

The memories of Mrs. Nunn
I was fifteen and on my first holiday from work, so I went up to London to my Aunts and had a good week. When I came home I was getting on the train when a loud speaker told us we were at war with Germany. We got on with our lives but as time went on my two brothers and sister had to be evacuated. It was hard on my mum as we still had my 1 year old sister and five year old brother to take care of. My dad was stationed in Liverpool, we went to Preston to be near my Dad as much a possible. So my sister and I got jobs at Siemens but our land- lady wasn’t very nice but we made the best of it. But my sister got fed up and went back home to Essex but I stayed to help look after my little brother and sister. Things began to get bad in Liverpool so my dad came to tell us he was sending us to Canada to his sisters but my mum didn’t want to go, and as my Dad had to move on we packed up and came home. We were very lucky as the ship we were going on got blown up. I went back to my old job making navy uniforms. My sister went to Hoffmans in Chelmsford in the meantime I met my husband and went with him where he was stationed I didn’t like leaving my Mum but we had wonderful neighbours who helped one another. So I knew my Mum would be alright settled in my new job making Air Force Uniforms but my husband came home and said he was moving and wanted me to go home. Then of course it was D-day, which he had to go, so I had to have another job so I went as a platelayer for British rail and enjoyed the fresh air. We all survived the war but my Brother and Dad got torpedoed but were saved and sixty years on my parents have passed away but we are all alive — ten of us.

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