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WW2 - People's War

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When I Was Your Age....

by tivertonmuseum

Contributed by 
tivertonmuseum
People in story: 
J.M.Bishop
Location of story: 
Exeter
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3604952
Contributed on: 
01 February 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life on behalf of J.M. Bishop.

We were all living in difficult times and the war changed many things. We had to carry gas masks in a cardboard box with a cord to loop over a shoulder- woe betide anyone appearing without it! I remember the blackouts and broken nights filled with the sound of wailing sirens and shouts of ‘Put that light OUT!’ from tin-hatted A.R.P wardens. I also remember the barrage balloons, so grey and graceful, they seemed to dance lightly in the sky.
Sweets were rationed as well as food, paper was also in short supply; one of my school books was tenth-hand. Clothing coupons were strictly enforced during this time too. There were no special clothes for teenagers, just smaller versions of adult wear. Shoes were another problem- did every woman in Britain wear size 5 shoes?! Wooden soled shoes appeared, nail varnish disappeared (I used varnish from my brothers model making kit) and women painted a line up the back of their legs to imitate stocking seams. They also wore trousers and turbans and utility clothes replaced pretty frocks and hats. Sometimes old curtains were cut up to make skirts and blouses- make do and mend was a well known slogan at this time. Hair was also worn in upswept styles, with ‘sausage’ like curls. Also, although it had been customary for men and women to cover their heads, hats were worn by fewer people and instead saved for special occassions for example, weddings and Sunday churchgoing.
Railway stations had dim lighting and no signs as to their location. Road signs were also removed. There was no petrol for leisure use and very few vehicles were on the roads, it was a real heyday for young cyclists.
We listened to the wireless, good and bad news was read unemotionally by announcers in clipped precise voices and we also listened to comedy programmes. Allied anthems were also played on Sunday evenings- it never crossed my mind that we and our Allies could lose the war!
The fear and dread were past by V.E. day in 1945. Relief. Not jubilation. Just a huge feeling of relief. Peace.

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