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The day war broke out.

by Ralph J Goodfellow

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Contributed by 
Ralph J Goodfellow
People in story: 
Me. Ralph J Goodfellow
Location of story: 
In our Air Raid Shelter, the day war broke out.
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 January 2004

((Background)). (This is an extract from the story of my life, that I am writing. The war was imminent. I was 12 at the time. I had recently bought a steel helmet at the Co-op on Stratford Broadway. It was Sunday.
My brother and I were in our church in Victoria park, the service was just about to begin.)

A wireless set had been put up in the pulpit. The priest climbed the steps to the pulpit and announced that as the Prime Minister was due to make his speech at 11am, we should all listen to it and if war was declared, we should be given the oportunity to leave. The set was switched on and then came the speech telling us that we were now at war with Germany. We were all given the chance to quietly leave if we so desired. My Mother had told my brother and I to hurry home if the war did start, as her brother Fred, who had been in the trenches in the first world war, had told my mother that Hitler would send a fleet of bombers out as soon as war was declared..

You could have heard a pin drop in the church. The wireless was switched off and the vicar asked those who wished to leave, to please go quickly and quietly. My brother and I literally flew down the road like an expess train. As we rounded into our turning mum was at the front door shouting to us to hurry up and get down the shelter as all the others were already there. That included poor old Liza De'ath from next door, in who's garden the shelter was.
As soon as Len and myself were in the sheter mother said, 'Right, now that we're all here, remember what my brother Fred said about Hitler sending bombers over, and his planes being full of gas bombs. Well, they must now be on their way, right. Well you must all put your gas masks on now and I don't want no arguments'. Mum had spoken and you didn't argue with that. So, we all put our gas masks on. Needless to say they very soon steamed up on the inside and life became intolerable. Poor Liza was balling her eyes out. She had not put her mask on. 'Come on Liza', shouted Mum, do you want to get gassed'?. 'But I haven't got a gas mask' said Liza. Well don't worry, Sam (that's my father), he knows what to do'.
Surely my father's not going to have to give Liza his mask, I thought.
'Come on Sam, you remember what brother Fred said to do if someone had forgotten their mask', and with that Dad took off his mask. 'Cor what a relief' said Dad, I couldn't stand another minute another minute inside that bloody thing. And all that farting everytime yer breathe'.
'Well go on' said Mum, you know what you've got to do now'.
So, I thought, what was this mysterious secret that Uncle Fred had brought back from the trenches?. 'Give me your hankie Sam', mum said to dad. He responded to her request
At the time I didn't believe what I actually saw next, but you'd better believe it. My father had to pee into my lovely brand new tin hat and having done so, mother soaked my dad's hankie in it and folded it corner to corner and tied it round Liza's face, just like you saw the Cowboys at the pictures. Dad put his gas mask back on and sat down again.
By now of course poor old Liza was sending down the tears like a sudden Summer shower and the hankie dripping all down Liza's front. We all stood there in total disbelief.
We stayed like that for about half an hour until finally Dad said, taking his mask off again, 'I don't give a bugger if I do get gassed, I'm not keeping that bloody thing on another minute longer.
All I can say is that it's a good job Hitler didn't hear him or I feel sure he'd have sent his bombers back. As it turned out, it was all a false alarm anyway.
The spotters on the South Coast had mistakenly identified a large flock of birds for enemy aircraft.

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Message 1 - The day war broke out.

Posted on: 16 January 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Ralph

I enjoyed reading your story. Unfortunately you have posted it to the Home Front Research desk where it will only be seen by voluntary WW2 Rearchers like myself and a few others. A Research Desk is where you can ask questions about WW2 or search for long lost comrades, relatives, or friends; in sum, where you 'Ask a Question'.

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