Stella Green's Luggage Label.
- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mrs Stella Haxforth
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 July 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from Age Concern, Dorchester on behalf of Stella Haxforth (née Green) and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Haxforth fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
I was living at 2 Sandringham Road, Bittern Park, Southampton at the beginning of the war. I was 7½ years old. I remember a man coming to the house and we were all given a gas mask. I had an ordinary one – it smelt horrible, the rubber I suppose. My sister, who was 15 months older than me, locked herself in the downstairs loo and wouldn’t try hers on. You had to take them everywhere with you. They were in little square boxes.
My grandmother lived near Andover in a village called Goodworth Clatford, so my elder sister and I were sent to her and we went to the village school. There were other evacuees from Portsmouth and Southampton. My parents said that they would have us back because nothing seemed to be happening. Our school re-opened and we went back there.
I was terrified during the Blitz. Neighbours had a dug-out – just a big reinforced hole – and we all went down there. Then we had an Anderson shelter. My father was a retired policeman so he was in a reserved occupation. He had been in the army for 25 years but, as he was over 50, he was too old to go back. I remember the barrage balloons particularly. As the crow flies we weren’t far from Eastleigh Airport where they had a big barrage balloon centre. There must have been some sort of warning before the sirens and when the barrage balloons went up I knew it meant danger. I was very frightened. I used to rush down the garden to go head first into the shelter. We heard aeroplanes – you got to know the sound of the different planes – theirs and ours. There were quite a few daylight raids in Southampton. One was on an aircraft factory where many people were killed.
We were in the Flat Foot Clinic when the Art Gallery was bombed. I can remember it as it if was yesterday. We were all put into the basement. Then a woman said this was the boiler room and if a bomb dropped then we would all be scalded to death, whereupon my mother took us up to the street. We had to climb over all this rubble and we walked about 2 miles to get home. I didn’t like the noise – anti-aircraft gunfire, more bombs. The trams were all stopped.
All night during the Blitz it was more frightening. Our house was on a hill overlooking Southampton. If “things were quiet” as my mother said, we went to bed in our own beds. Then, if the siren went, we had to get up and go to the shelter in the garden taking our little attaché cases. We were put to bed in the bunk beds. You could see the whole of the city of Southampton from the hill and if there was a raid it looked like dozens of vast red fans over Southampton. I found that very frightening and I was glad to be in the shelter. If in the day time there was raid and we hadn’t time to get to the shelter, my mother used to push us under the stairs. Whatever my mother said was good was good. I think my mother was wonderful.
Some children from my school, Bittern Park School, were being sent to Canada. All your clothes had to be firmly labelled and we had to have labels like luggage tags which would not disintegrate in water. My father made one for each of us out of skin from a drum. My father decided that we should not go and we were sent back to my Grandma’s in Hampshire. We stayed at my Grandma’s until the end of the war. We went down to Southampton on the train (1s7d) and our parents came to see us. Just by chance, when I took the scholarship to my new school (Itchin Grammar School), we went to school at Andover Grammar School in the afternoons which happened to be where Itchin Grammar School had been evacuated.
In the middle of the night a V2 bomb fell in the middle of the village. It destroyed the village school, pub and two cottages. Quite a lot of people were killed – some refugees from London. No village people were killed. I took charge because I was a veteran of the Southampton blitz.
My grandmother and I were in her garden when we saw a German plane coming down – a fighter. I said, “It’s going to come down on the railway line”. I ran to the railway line and there was the plane on the line with the pilot thrown out of the side, apparently dead. So I ran to the railway station to give the alarm. All the trains had to be stopped. I got an award – I was a heroine.
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