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15 October 2014
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June Hammersley
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30 July 2005

I was the youngest child in my family. When Mum died in 1937 I was 6, my brother was 9 and my sister was 11. We all went to live in the Orphaned Children's Home in Ross Street, Cambridge where I stayed until 1944. I was an orphan but a lot of the children had been put in the Home because their mothers couldn't look after them. I am still friends with one of the other girls from the Home. There was one matron in charge of 24 children. In the dinner hour we had to wash up the dinner things and clean the bathroom taps and the brass stair rods before we went back to school in the afternoon. We got told off by the teacher for being later until she found out what we had to do. A cleaner came three times a week. She gave all the children one new penny on birthdays. The under 11's were given one penny a week for pocket money. If I broke a cup or anything when washing up I had to go without money for four weeks to pay for it. Matron did all the cooking and we collected blackberries and rosehips for syrup. On Sundays Matron washed 24 pairs of socks. When they were dry my friend and I had to darn them. If we finished by Saturday we could read Mee's encyclopaedia on Sunday.

We had an annual outing to Hunstanton. Sometimes we went by train, sometimes by coach. The Mayor gave us each a new penny. I sometimes bought a carrot instead of sweets because of the rationing. I rubbed off the dirt and ate it on the way to school. At Christmas we went on a lorry to American parties at Alconbury and Mildenhall. The boys were allowed chewing gum but the girls weren't because we were brought up to be ladylike. On Christmas morning we had cold sausage, HP sauce and coffee. The Mayor came to visit us and we sang to him.

During the war we had one cooked dinner a week of vegetable stew and dumplings. Matron told us there was no meat because it went to the soldiers, and we believed her. When the siren went the children hid under the bed covers and I had to go and get them up and put them under the stairs where Matron put mattresses. We brought the blankets off the beds and were packed in like sardines in the dark. If the siren went while we were at school we had to run across a big field to get to the shelter. One day as we ran across the field the Germans started shooting at us and we had to lay in the grass but they weren't very good and missed us.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Margaret Tabbitt of the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Story Gatherer Team on behalf of June Hammersley and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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