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A Boatscrew Wren's Wartime Experiences

by cornwallcsv

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Archive List > Working Through War

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Barbara Rose Lorentzen (nee Kneebone)
Location of story: 
Dartmouth. Plymouth, Devon. Falmouth, Cornwall.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
02 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War website by Claire Shaw on behlef of Barbara Rose Lorentzen, the author and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was born and lived in an old cottage in Falmouth High Street, close to the Harbour, with beach, boat sheds and boats in the back-grounds. So they became my playground, fishing, rowing and swimming around in the Harbour.
The famous Cutty Sark was moored off Flushing-Trefusis opposite. During the summer months Sea Cadet's used to learn seamanship on her. Often when allowed I would join them.
Because of a sisters illness, we, my parents had to move to a modern house, near the Falmouth Hospital.

The year the War started I left school to work as assistant Cashier in Home & Colonial Grocery Stores. The rationing started, coupons were used, I always had the job counting them.
Food such as butter, margerine, dried fruit, sugar, cheese and bacon were delievered in bulk. So when not working on the Cash Desk, I would serve custmers or work in the stores cutting and weighing the stock. Two oz's butter, 4oz margarine, half lb sugar and fruit, also learnt to bone and slice up sides of bacon. Also to slice up cold meat.

When enemy air-craft, startede bombing there were aid-raid shelters to go in or we we would go into the cupboard under the stairs. Every house had black curtains on the windows. When Plymouth was raided with incendery bombs, our house being so high up, we could see the lights coming down from our bedroom windows.
I vowed when I was old enough I would join the W.R.N.S the recruitment age being 18 years.
One day I was walking around Custom House Quay watching all the boats, as I often did, when I saw a boat come along side crewed by WREN's. I decided that was what I wanted to do. I enquired from one of them where and who I could contact to join. She advised me to go to Cliff House on the seafront (one of the hotel's taken over by the Admiralty), I went there right away. Asking to see the 1st Officeras I was told to do. I got an interview right away when I explained what I wanted. She just asked me my age, when Ireplied 16 half years, she just told me to come back in eighteen months time when I was 18 years old.

Having enough of work in Home & Colonial, I left and obtained a job as shop assistant in Harvy Shop, Tabbacoist and Fishing Tackle.The Official Owner was a Fighter Pilot in the RAF. His ancient Father and his wife Mary worked the shop, Mary having a young baby, I was left to my own devices. I enjoyed it there.
After a while cigarettes became scarce, when they did arrive, there were long queues outside the shop. Young Mr Harvy's Spitfire was shot down in the Bristo Channel. He and his partner managed to get ashore on the North Coast of Cornwall, he was given a medal.
I had a narrow escape when the Weslyon Chapel on the Moor was bombed.The bottom of the Chapel was turned into a canteen for the Forces, my mother helped there. One evening she was not well, as I was attending evening classes at the Technical College in Killigrew, she asked me to take some cakes to the Chapel afterwards, which I did, whilst making a foursome with three lads playing Billiards. When it was time for me to leave, a soldier asked me to post a letter for him, to catch the next post. I was half way to the Post Office when I saw two soldiers lying down where the T

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