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"I was one of the Lucky ones"

by nottinghamcsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

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People in story: 
Joyce Brown
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Contributed on: 
20 September 2005

"This story was submitted to the People's War site by CSV/BBC Radio Nottingham on behalf of Joyce Brown and Mrs P Sapey with their permission. The author fully understands the site's tems and conditions."

I was 7 years old when Britain declared war on Germany. I remember hearing the announcement on the radio on September 3rd 1939; but at that time did not realize the impact it would have on all our lives.

It was not long before many of my school friends waved goodbye to their fathers or older brothers when they were called up into the armed forces. I too had uncles and cousins who were conscripted into the forces, but I was one of the lucky ones. My dad failed the medical and therefore he was assigned to war work of a different kind. He was in the building trade so he was engaged to do building work which was of importance to the war effort. Things like building aircraft hangers at the many Lincolnshire airfields, to accomodate the extra aircraft needed by the RAF. Helping to build sea defences on the East coast against any invasion that might come from the North Sea, and later on bomb clearance work and repairs in the big cities.
Unlike many of my friends who saw very little of their fathers except for the occasional home leave, my dad was usually home at the weekends and was very often able to travel to and from work on a daily basis. He was also an ARP and did firewatching duties on a rota basis usually at Leamington Hall which was in the area where we lived.
My mother had begun stockpiling canned foods, sugar, rice etc when it was clear war was imminent and before food rationing was introduced.
I remember blackout blinds were hurriedly made for the windows in the first instant from something like a tarred paper - 2 sheets of brown paprer with a tar like substance inbetween the 2 layers. Later we obtained some black curtain material which was hung as additional curtain liners behind the curtains. The street lamps were turned off and we had our own little pocket torches which we carried everywhere on dark nights.
When food rationing was introduced we relied on home and locally grown produce to eke out the meagre rations. Butter or should I say margarine was spread thinly on the bread. Sugar was supplemented with saccharin. We ate any kind of fish available from the fishmongers and offal supplemented our meat ration. Cakes and pastries became a treat - ususally at the weekend, also sweets and chocolate became a luxury. My mother would save both hers and dads sweet ration from about September until Christmas so that we had extra ggodies for the festive season.
I can still remember queuing up for a gas mask very early in the war and then having to take it back for an extra peice to be fitted at a lter date. We took them to school daily in a small cardboard box or if you were "posh" a black leatherette pouch. We had practice sessions learning how to breathe properly in them.
Householders new to the school were asked to accomodate a few children each should an air raid take place during school hours. We were each given a nominated addresss to which we had to quickly go should the air raid siren go. We did have several practise runs or scatter practises as they were known, but I can't really recall any genuine air raid warnings taking place during school hours.
Some school hours were cut down and others, mainly senior schools, went on part time. I don't know if this was because of a lack of teaching staff or premises being taken over by the army.
I think it was 1940 when we had our first batch of evacuees in Sutton. They were mainly from the South East - most from the South End area. A teenage boy lodged with us from Thorpe Bay, but he was so homesick he only stayed about 4 weeks. On reflection, we had it good compared with other parts of the British Isles. Watching TV and seeing and hearing of all the other hardships others endured makes one realize how lucky we were to be well away from the target areas of the enemy.

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