- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Location of story:
- Holloway, London
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 June 2004
I lived in Holloway throughout the war and was 19 years old when war broke out. As one of the first women to be conscripted, I had to choose between working in the Army, on the buses or in munitions in 1940. I signed up for the buses but my Dad wouldn’t let me do it. He didn’t want me to be getting up and wandering the streets at 4.30 in the morning, so I ended up working at Enfield Small Arms.
It took an hour and a half to get to travel to the factory, and I worked there for four years. First, I worked in the assembly shop, filing parts of the guns so that the bullets flew out smoothly. It was a filthy job. Men who were exempt from service worked there too, and they all used to smoke while we worked. Before long, they got me smoking too. I moved to the machine shop after a while, where I did engraving. We used to work ‘fortnight about’, which was a fortnight of working during the day, then a fortnight of working nights. After two years, it changed to ‘week about’, then by the end of the war we just did normal working hours. When the war ended, the government said that we were able to leave, and I went to work in the Post Office.
I met my husband Frank at a Drill Hall dance when I was 16. I bumped into him again at a bus stop when I was 19 and we started courting, but he had to go into the Army before we got married. Luckily, he had a nice Officer who let him have ten days compassionate leave for our wedding. We married in 1943, spent ten days together, then didn’t see each other for 3 ½ years while he served in Italy. Frank and his brothers couldn’t even come home for their father’s funeral. One day, I was in the pub with my mum and dad and Frank telephoned the landlady to say he was home. I was so excited to see him. I ran to him, and he ran to me; it was just like a storybook. He was at home for a month, then had to go away again for three months. After that, we were married for 56 years.
We had to queue for everything in those days. I remember queuing for two hours for some rayon stockings only for them to run out. You heard about these things being available through word of mouth.
Even while the bombing was going on, life carried on as normal. We went to parties and went dancing. I remember sitting in a pub, hearing bombs fall, and not thinking anything of it. Incendiary bombs fell in the back garden and my dad would put out the fires. We had an air raid shelter, but we never went in it. My dad would go up to bed, and my mum and I sleep on the settee. I didn’t carry my gas mask around with me. Even the buses just carried on going when the sirens went off after a while. It was normal to see bits of shrapnel in the street. I only remember one girl, Vera, who was killed in an air raid in Iseldon Road. You knew there would be an air raid if it was a full moon but at least it was easier to see your way around in the blackout.
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