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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Brian Parsons, Eileen, David, Eric, Arthur and Len Parsons
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02 September 2005

I was two years old, the youngest in a family of six children, when World War Two broke out. We lived with Mum and Dad in our house in Portsmouth, near the seafront and docks.

My father was First World War wounded and Unfit for Active Duty, but was able to work as a store man in Portsmouth Dockyard during the day, and as an air-raid warden at night.

Mum and us children evacuated to Bridport and were taken care of by a lovely family. Dad stayed behind in Portsmouth to look after the house.

Our home in Portsmouth was bombed. My Dad survived.

Mum took us all back to Portsmouth to support dad — we lived on Wymering Council Estate, near Cosham, Portsmouth. The house was on the side of Portsdown Hill about 5 miles north of the docks. A chalk pit just north of our house had tunnels under the Downs, and this is where our family and neighbours would go when the bombing was heavy. During ‘light’ air-raids, we sheltered in a sunken earth covered Anderson shelter in our back garden.

Hurricanes and Spitfires sometimes flew over our estate. I remember on one occasion, my mother saying “Poor sods, our planes are outnumbered ten to one”. On another occasion, a German plane flew at roof-top level over our house. I can still see the pilot looking down at us with a sad concerned expression on his face. Another time a Hurricane flew over the estate and crash-landed in a field on Portsdown Hill.

The bombing changed from daylight to night time. Sometimes bombs fell near us, and we could feel the ground shake — the thud of shrapnel hitting the earth covering our shelter…My father would say “Stay calm, stay calm” — and we did.

Because of food rationing, we grew our own vegetables and kept chickens. I am quite certain that my mother went without, so as to be able to feed the family. All she would say was “Eat all your food, because convoys have brought it over. Men have died, so that you can eat”. Each day we were given a teaspoon of cod liver oil and malt to keep us healthy.

I started school at 5 years of age, but could only attend in the mornings because of the shortage of teachers. Air raids became less and less. Now and again a V1 Buzz Bomb flew over, we never saw a V2. After HMS Hood was bombed, mum would take us to visit recently widowed neighbours.

Towards the end of the war, allied bombers passed overhead on their way to Germany. We were “getting our own back”, but at the same time, sad that German women and children were being killed. I remember my mother saying “Poor sods”.

Italian Prisoners of War were allowed to walk about Cosham and go to the shops. They wore dark green clothes. There was never any trouble — we even invited one home for tea!

On VE Day we made a ‘guy’ of Hitler and burnt it in the steet.

This story was entered on the site by Elizabeth Legate on behalf of Brian Parsons. Brian understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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