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Wartime childhood

by epsomandewelllhc

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Selina Harrison
Location of story: 
New Malden, Surrey
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 December 2005

The author of this story has given permission for it to be entered on the BBC web site.

I was nearly 8 years old in July 1939 when, on the last day of school, our Headmistress told us that letters would be sent to out parents giving the date of school opening. However, it was commandeered for an emergency hospital and after some months of going to a neighbour’s house 2/3 mornings a week to be taught by a teacher, the blitz started.

Shortly after the end of term we were ‘fitted’ with our gas masks. As I had recently had tonsils and adenoids operations I was terrified and refused. Three or four adults held me down on a chair whilst another ‘forced’ my gas mask on. Eventually I calmed down and put it on myself.

We children were aware of the coming of war some time beforehand. I was about 7½ years old when we walked through Hyde Park and when I asked why the sandbags were being built, my aunt informed me ‘There is going to be another war’. There was also activity in Richmond Park and on Wimbledon Common and obviously many more areas.

My father, who was deaf, joined the A.R.P. as warden. When my mother was also asked she refused as she explained she would have to tell my father when and where the bombs were.

Before we were issued with a Morrison table shelter (I think late 1941) we sheltered under the dining or kitchen tables. My mother had started cooking chutney when one raid began, so kept dashing over to the stove to stir the chutney during the short gaps between bombs and gunfire.

Due to meat shortages our butcher one Christmas put raffle tickets on various meat items, then customers picked out a ticket. My mother came back in tears, she had drawn a rabbit. However, my parents made the best of the situation, father carved it and stuffing and bread sauce were made.

My experience as an evacuee in 1944 was similar to others. Being lined up and ‘selected’ by our hostess. I was evacuated to Cardiff and apart from being called ‘dirty London slum kids’ we were also ‘cowards’. Cardiff had suffered severe bombing earlier of course. However, when the siren went off for the usual weekly ‘test’, not having been warned about it, the evacuees treed to break the shelter door down. This made the locals realize V1’s were more sinister. I returned to New Malden after three months to the V2’s.

Cycling home from school in Wimbledon one day I was pushed by the blast of a V2 across Worple Road. Somehow I kept upright and continued to ride a few yards. Then I started to shake with shock. A trolleybus driver who had seen what happened also stopped a bit shaky. We recovered and my friends and the trolleybus continued on our way.

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