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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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by Researcher 238883

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Contributed by 
Researcher 238883
People in story: 
Vera Charlesworth
Location of story: 
London and Sheffield
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 August 2003

I was eighteen when war broke out in 1938. I was going out with a nice boy a few years older then me.

I was living in London where I had been born and we were all prepared for a hail of bombs from the start - but the first few weeks it was very quiet. I lived in a small place called Highams Park about 20 miles out of London with my parents.

In 1939 my young man was called up to join the army so we got married. It was a small wedding - no more than 30 people could gather together by then, so we had a few guests at a reception at my uncle's house in Higham Park.

Gerry my husband went off to become a soldier and I was called up to do war work. That was in the Halex Factory which originally made toothbrushes. I and all the other girls made fire leaves - small square of plastic which our planes, which had no bombs, went over Germany and dropped on towns and forests and set alight. I suppose they were a kind of incendiary bomb.

We often had to leave our machines and sit in the air raid shelters and listen to the bombs being dropped by the German bombers in the hope of hitting the factory but luckily for us they never scored a direct hit.

One day I was walking along the high street which ran parallel to the railway lines when I heard the air raid sirens. I stepped into a shop doorway hoping to go into the shop but the door was locked as were all the others. A small plane swooped down and fired bullets all along the street they I heard a huge thump - the station signal box had been bombed - I had a lucky escape - I was about a half a mile away.

By then the bombers were coming over day and night to bomb London. We had an Anderson shelter in the garden but hated to use it. Our neighbourhood was hit regularly as when the bombers were coming out of London and if they had any bombs still onboard they would jettison them over our houses to make a quicker getaway.

One night the bombing was horrendous and my uncle sent for us to go to his house which had a large cellar. We went out into the street and stood watching London and the docks go up in flames. It was a terrible sight. Huge flames shooting up into the sky and the noise of the bombs dropping I will never ever forget.

Soon after that my parents went off to live in Sheffield and arrived there in time for the Sheffield bombing when the whole town was raised to the ground. Luckily the bombers missed the steel factories where heavy ammunition was made.

By then my husband had been discharged from the army he had TB. So we followed my parents to Sheffield. My brother and sister had been evacuated to the Duke of Bedford's Estate and my parents had a large Victorian house which we shared.

I went to work and I was asked to go to Gloucester for an interview for a job which I did. On the way back Gloucester station was very crowded and a troop train came in. I got on my train eventually and so did many soldiers. We were sitting on the train in the station when the sirens went off. We heard crashes and bangs getting nearer and then a soldier sitting next to me pushed me on the floor and threw himself on top of me. There was an almighty crash and then after a while silence. The whole station was shattered - there had been a glass roof over the station - nothing left but shards of glass. The bomb had just missed our train but everything was in ruins, but thankfully I was unhurt - another lucky escape! I got the job though.

Eventually I was called up to do war work - women and girls didn't work in the steel factories thank goodness. It was too heavy. I was given a job on the trams as a conductress - that's where I stayed until the end of the war. I quite enjoyed the job and had quite a few adventures as a "clippie". But that's another story.

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