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15 October 2014
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The war was a huge adventure for us children

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
John L Miller, my parents Owen and Connie Miller
Location of story: 
Bayswater, London and Alfriston
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

My earliest memory of the war is being carried into the garden of our ground floor flat in Prince’s Square, Bayswater, to see the red, red sky at night over East London during the Blitz — my last memory is sitting on my father’s shoulders in Whitehall underneath Winston Churchill’s balcony and outside Buckingham Palace all in the midst of vast crowds of celebrating people.

During the war I had three clearly defined jobs to do. I had to scour our local streets after an air raid and collect shrapnel which was sewn into the bottom of our blackout curtains to help prevent bomb blasts blowing glass etc into our rooms. It was also my nightly duty to unfold our shutters and bolt them in place, and I learnt to knit (plain not pearl) and produce 6” squares of multicoloured wool which Mother crocheted into blankets.

Later in the war we children found it most amusing to see adults lying on the ground when V1s and V2s were overhead. Bombed buildings and waste ground provided us with endless opportunities for playground activities, in particular we used wooden doors from bombed out buildings as rafts on the EWS (Emergency Water Supplies) reservoirs that sprung up everywhere.

Our narrowest escapes were an incendiary bomb in the garden square, the carter of which we were told to avoid at all costs. The next block to us was flattened by a lethal parachute-dropped land mine; but most dangerous of all was being shot at in Alfriston by a Messerschmitt making its way down the Cuckmere Valley to the Channel. Once I was on a country road with my Father and we jumped into the roadside ditch, the second time we were in our hotel room in Alfriston and the bullets bounced off the roof. But basically to us children the war was a huge adventure and just a fact of life!

My Father was an artist working with the Ministry of Aircraft Production on Millbank. Once in about 1941 he produced what he thought was a futuristic poster of a fighter plane with no propellers. He was severely questioned about this but eventually convinced map management that the poster was simply artistic inspiration. Needless to day it never saw the light of day.

As a child I must say we had the best of everything that was available for us — milk, orange juice (condensed), eggs (dried) etc etc and I never felt deprived of anything. It was amusing stepping over beds on the Underground platforms to get into the tube trains.

How our parents coped I will never know. Talk about stress problems today — they are nothing compared to wondering if you will have a home to come back to!

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