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15 October 2014
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Famous pianist plays at 'Saint Nics'

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Joan Easthope
Location of story: 
Liverpool and Burgess Hill, Sussex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 July 2005

This story was added to the website by a CSV volunteer on behalf of Joan Easthope, who has given her permission for her story to appear on the site, and understands the terms and conditions of the website.

On the 3rd of September 1939, after listening to Mr. Chamberlin's speech on the radio, my father walked down the path to the gate and actually started talking to people passing by - something unheard of!

I was 14 and had been working for two weeks at Vernon's Pools in Aintree. The following day, September 4th. I arrived at work only to be told to go home as there would be no more Pools as we were at war. In other words we were all 'sacked'. It was panic stations. After a couple of weeks, when nothing had happened, things got back to normal and the 'pools' went on working again.

In the meantime I had got another job in the town centre and had to travel by tram. Of course tram lines were out of commission on many occasions when the bombs started to fall. Then we would walk part of the way, picking our way through debris and I remember well the smell of gas leaks. The bombs disturbed the sewers and so out came the rats.

It was on one of these occasions that I was walking through 'Saint Nics' churchyard where they held moral boosting lunchtime concerts. I was thrilled to hear Dame Myra Hess playing the piano, I would never have had the opportunity to listen to her if it hadn't been for the war!

My father told me that German planes did not make the same sound as ours and described the noise to me, so it was very frightening one night to be awakened by the sound of a German plane overhead. This was early on and must have been a plane on reconnaissance as there were no bombs dropped, or gunfire. The other very frightening thing was a tremendous explosion outside our house. Unbeknown to us, there was a mobile anti-aircraft gun in the area and it opened fire within yards of our Anderson shelter.

I used to buy a newspaper each day, but after reading about the sinking of so many ships, especially the large war ships, The Hood etc and the details of the hardship of the sailors, I decided not to read the newspapers and so stopped buying them. I relied on the radio of news in general, I could not stomach the details.

I volunteered for the A.T.S. just before my 18th birthday and so had 4 birthdays there, although I was only in the army for 3 years. I did not see service abroad and did my driving course a Burgess Hill. It was winter time and the girls were housed in large houses, no central heating, no hot water. I remember organising 'baths' with the local people. They were very kind to us and allowed the girls to go in turn to their homes and have weekly bath.

We trained on the Downs in 15cwt. trucks with no heating and no proper doors, just a piece of canvas half way across as a door. We had to double declutch, which was very hard to master and there was only a small slit on the headlights to see by night. It was so very cold in winter time. We also had to learn to map read as there were no signposts, as all of them had been taken down.

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