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Growing Up In The War Years

by Pat-Hills

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Patricia Jones
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21 September 2004

I was 6yrs old when world war 2 broke out and was attending a small private infants school very near home and the only thing I remember is going to school with my gas mask case over one shoulder and a small-sealed box containing my iron rations over the other. I never needed to find out what iron rations were but I guess they were dried concentrated food to keep you going in an emergency. At age 7yrs I went to a Convent school ran entirely by French nuns who listened in to the free French radio to find out how their country was fairing under German Occupation.

A lot of the war years for me were spent at my Granddad’s house mainly because Granddad (a builder) had built a wonderful air raid shelter. Not for us a half buried Anderson shelter but a real underground cave complete with bunk beds and light. My brother and I, as all children in those days, didn't think it was unusual to be dragged out of our beds in the night and taken to this hole in the ground.

My Granddad, who fought in the trenches in the first world war, did his bit in the second as an air raid warden. At dusk every night he would put on his tin helmet with ARP painted on it (air raid patrol) and made sure that no one was showing any light from their windows to aid the German bombers. No one could put a light on until their blackout curtains were right over the windows .It’s hard to imagine now how dark everywhere was, no streetlights, every house and shop in darkness from the outside. All the sign posts were taken down in case of invasion which was always a threat especially in the south with nearly all of Europe and the Channel Isles occupied by the enemy.

My own Dad was in a reserved occupation so didn't go to war. He enrolled in the Home Guard. His job was so important as he had a 10 acre nursery which in peace time was filled with flowers, his specialty was carnations but with the outbreak of war he had to grow food as Great Britain had to try to feed itself as no ships with food could reach us. Everyone had a ration book so that things were shared.

Although we never saw bananas, oranges or many sweets we were never really hungry although I can only speak for us country folk The boy next door (my age) used to shoot rabbits and hang them over the garden fence and ask my Mum if she wanted one. It would be on our kitchen table, skinned and cleaned and in a pot in no time- it was a very tasty meal to help out with the rations.

A lot of children were evacuated but my Mum wanted to have us with her so she took us to our paternal grandparents in the Midlands. Mum missed her own home too much. While we were there I remember my brother caught Whooping Cough. I shall always remember how awful that disease was it was dreadful it to watch him.

Dog fights over our house were a common occurrence but one day my Dad and I saw a plane which looked the size of a Spitfire going straight over with flames coming out of the back. At first we thought it was a plane on fire but soon realised it was something quite different and turned out to be the first Doodle Bug (Vl Rocket) on its way to London. Soon came the V2 Rockets which you couldn't see and didn't know were coming. The V1 was OK all the time you could hear the engine but when it cut out it turned into a bomb and came down. Remember there was no television very few telephones so news took a long while to reach us.

Other memories - my Nan and I were machine gunned by a German plane and threw ourselves into the hedge. Two sisters living a few doors up from Nan both lost their husbands in the same week in different battles.

One day my Nan's best friend came towards us on the street crying. Her only son had been killed while taking off from West Malling Airfield. The accident was thought to be sabotage.

A favorite snack an coming home from school was condensed milk sandwiches or dripping on toast (dripping was the fat left over from cooking meat) - sprinkled with salt it was great!

Radio was listened to and my favorites were Dick Barton Special Agent on at 6.45pm until 7pm and on Saturday evening Paul Temple - wonderful detective stories.

V E day was spent in the back room of The Royal Oak public house (now pulled down ) in King Street, Maidstone. My best friend 's parents ran the pub and there was great celebrations that day.

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