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15 October 2014
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Little pots of sugar and butter

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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BBC Southern Counties Radio
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Iris King
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02 June 2005

I commenced my Nurse Training at the Middlesex Hospital which was just behind Oxford Street. The school was in the Nurses Home in the road just behind and connected by an underground passage to the sub basement air raid shelter. We would process here when the Siren sounded. This was where we had to sleep at night on a mattress. Above us ran three pipes which carried hot and cold water and sewage and I imagined these being fractured by a bomb coming down the lift shaft! This had happened in a store in Oxford Street. I could envisage being drowned in a mixture of the three! I much preferred being on duty in the wards even with the risk of being bombed. The only real scare I had was when a bomb landed in the Pub next door and we were told to grab anything precious and get out quick. I was in the third room from the end so I did just that! The bomb did not go off and was safely sand bagged before being detonated.

We were not paid while in the school so our day off was spent exploring London by foot ending up in Lyons Corner House where we could have all we could eat in the Salad bar for half a crown (equal to 15 new pence today). Travelling by Underground at night one would find the stations full of people settling down in sleeping bags for the night. There would be singing and dancing, the camaraderie among Londoners was wonderful.

On duty, life was hectic especially first thing in the morning after a heavy bombing raid. The morale among the Cockneys was super, especially in the Fire fighters. I remember one who had been on an 80 ft ladder when a bomb landed in the middle, he had fractures in every bone in his body including his spine but he was always cheerful and full of Cockney jokes. I know he recovered enough to go home but I often wonder what happened to him.

London Theatres carried on as usual and we were lucky enough to be often given free seats in those and in the Cinemas.

Rationing did not affect us too badly, people like Lord Astor thought that it was important for nurses to eat well so subsidised the cost of our food and so we did very well. We all had our little pots of sugar and butter which we would save to take to people who asked us into their homes so that we did not rob them of their rations.

London in wartime was a wonderful experience and I was very sorry that having been there all through the war I moved out in February so was not there for the VE day celebrations, very little was laid on where I was so I missed it all.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sue Craig from MyBrightonandHove on behalf of Iris King and has been added to the site with her permission. Iris fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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