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Memories of WW2 from around 1942

by epsomandewelllhc

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
epsomandewelllhc
People in story: 
June Harris (nee Heath), parents and grandparents
Location of story: 
Earl's Court, near Exeter, Lancing
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4215061
Contributed on: 
19 June 2005

During the war years I lived in Radcliffe Square, Radcliffe Gardens, Philbeech Gardens in Earl’s Court, London. My Father, who originally came from Devon, was a policeman operating from West End Central Police Station.
The first thing I remember was when I was two years old and the big house in which we had a flat received a hit of some sort causing tit to burn fiercely. I was suffering from whooping cough, was well wrapped up and placed in my bassinette pram.
If I close my eyes today, I have a vivid picture where my line of vision is partially blocked by the pram’s hood, I am looking around at the flames as my Mother and possibly Father are running in and out of the building, (where we had a basement flat) with belongings and throwing them across my pram. [My age and medical condition details were given to me when I was older and described my picture]
This was the last straw for my parents so my Mother and I went to down to my grandparents’ home in Devon and my Father joined the Navy.
My grandparents owned the Crown and Sceptre public house on the Exeter to London Road A30 at Whimple. Exeter Airport was some 2/3 miles away towards Exeter and was being used by the American Army Airforce. The men spent a lot of their free time in our pub.
I can remember lying in bed listening to the laughter downstairs anticipating that I would grow up and be able to join them! There were blackouts of course and I would watch the vague shadows and listen to the sounds of the convoys of military vehicle including tanks trundling along the road whilst I was in bed.
June 1 1944 was my fourth birthday, just a few days before D-day. Unbeknown to me, the American Airman somehow managed to get a special party dress made for me as a surprise. It was white gauze material with pink ribbons. I remember it so well but I do have a lot of black and white photos to assist me.
I have vivid memories of waltzing around in it and there being a great deal of excitement whilst photographs were taken. My party was held in Grandma’s posh lounge bar; my Uncle Bill had a ventriloquist’s dummy and he entertained my cousins and I with the dummy and tricks/magic.
Apparently many of these men did not return from the D-Day invasion.
We lived in the pub between late 1942 and sometime in late 1945/early 1945.
One day I was sitting in the dining room and I saw a soldier walk past the window — it was my Daddy home on surprise leave. He had come from America, having been in the Battle of the Atlantic. He had been able to buy me a doll and for my baby brother a grey soft toy elephant. As he had been in the States I told everybody that he would have stripes on his sailor’s collar and apparently this was the first thing I looked for.
In late 1944, my Mother’s brother got her a bungalow to rent in Lancing; it was from here that we walked into Brighton for the VE day fireworks.
I remember insisting on cycling ther on my three wheel bike and then getting into trouble for tiring very early in the walk, and it had to loaded onto my brother’s big pram.
This memory always makes me feel exhausted and yearning for bed. I can’t remember the fireworks or anything else!!!

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