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15 October 2014
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3 September 1939: Sunday Morning 11 O’Clock

by The Fernhurst Centre

Contributed by 
The Fernhurst Centre
People in story: 
Ivy Blinkhorne
Location of story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
08 March 2004

This is Ivy Blinkhorne’s story: it has been added by Pauline Colcutt (on behalf of the Fernhurst Centre), with permission from the author who understands the terms and conditions of adding her story to the website.


Those solemn words over the radio. I can still hear them and right now writing this down I have goose-pimples. Within minutes of the announcement the sirens went off.

I was twelve years old.

Schooling came to an end for me except for gas mask practice — mine was in a longish to square box with, of course, a strap to go over my shoulder.

I had a younger sister by two years and then there was Mum and Dad. My Dad was exempt from National Service because he was a Master Butcher (which was a reserved occupation) and it was important to keep the food chain going.

We lived in Rathbone Street Market, Canning Town, London, East 16.

Mum took my sister and I to the station to be collected by the appointed people to escort us by train to our destination for evacuation. We had our numbers and names on our backs — a big piece of cardboard with holes punched in it and string threaded through the holes. But when it came to it Mum couldn’t bear to part with us and said ‘No if we are going, we will all go together’, so we came home to our house at 50 Clarkson Street, Rathbone Street Market, Canning Town, London, East 16. There we stayed for a while because the dreaded air raids did not happen until the Blitz, sometime in 1940.

In the meantime, my Dad had rented from a farmer a tied cottage because the farmhand who worked for him had been called up for National Service. It was in a village called Kelvedon Hatch, near Ongar, Essex. My Dad carried on his business and travelled each day to London and twice a week stayed overnight to do his Fire Watching duties.

By this time the Blitz had started and one morning when we arrived at our house in London it had been bombed overnight and the neighbours had salvaged some of the furniture — Mum’s piano was standing on the pavement. We never went back there to live, although Dad continued to keep his business going in Rathbone Street Market and his Fire Watching and, of course, to keep an eye out for looting which was rife. Eventually we came back nearer to London, 49 Water Lane, Seven Kings, Essex. By this time I was aged fourteen and a bit — I went to work in the local Post Office and earned fifteen shillings per week.

Dad still continued to work in Rathbone Street Market, but we had been allocated another shop because the previous one had been bombed.

Then there was a new phase in the war — and I was getting older and went to work in East Ham, London, East 6. I worked as a typist for The Licensed Victuallers, by then my sister had started work as an apprentice hairdresser, also in London, East 6, so we used to meet up for lunch, but poor Mum was left on her own and constantly worried about us, especially when there was an air raid and of course, these happened daily.

In our back garden we grew vegetables and kept chickens. Mum was in charge of these and I can see her now mixing the food for the chickens in a galvanised bucket, potato peelings and some sort of cereal, they must have enjoyed it because we did quite well for eggs. Also in our garden, at the bottom, we had two air raid shelters. One was dug into the soil and one on ground level and Dad had built wooden steps to lead down to the lower one so they joined each other. The top shelter was our living room and when we came home from work Mum had cooked stew or some sort of appetising hot meal — boiled chicken or maybe a rabbit. My sister and I changed into warm old clothes and then went down to the shelter where all four of us had our evening meal. We had oil lamps for lighting and before we went to bed Dad would go up to the house and make a tray and a flask of cocoa and bring down a tin of biscuits that Mum had made from a variety of ingredients she was able to lay her hands on. We all read, played board games and listened to the battery radio.

My Mum and sister would go down to the lower shelter where we had four bunks, two up and two down, they would get themselves comfortable before Dad and I retired. Dad and I would sit and read for a bit, of course there was an air raid but there was little else we could do but just pray, especially when the Doodle Bugs came chugging overhead. We would not say anything to each other, but just stopped reading and looked at each other waiting for it to stop. If it passed over we were relieved although of course somebody was going to get it. If it stopped you would hold your breath until it came down and hit the ground with a sickening thud and possibly see a huge crater in the morning. We were some of the lucky ones.

The V2 Rockets came without any warning. They were the worst. No chance of protecting yourself. So all four of us would sleep in the lower shelter and sometimes Mum told us she would wake up in the night and pick spiders off of our blankets. In the morning if the All Clear had sounded we would scoot up to the house and get ready for work and a repeat of the day before.

I was now seventeen and I think we were beginning to get the better of our enemies and our defences were better, the raids were less frequent.

I started to go to dances and, of course, there were plenty of men of all nationalities to choose from. I went mostly to the Palais de Danse in the High Road, Ilford, Essex. Invariably a soldier, sailor or airman would walk you home as there was no transport of any kind. On the way home the skies were glowing red and lit up with gunfire and it was very noisy, occasionally we would duck down or shelter against a wall, but mostly you would just carry on.

I met my husband at one of these dances. He was a Glider Pilot and was in three battles, D-Day, the battle of Arnhem and lastly over the Rhine. We eventually married after the war.

I was eighteen years old when the war ended.

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