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15 October 2014
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Julie Allen's War Memories of an Infant

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Julie Allen
Location of story: 
Penge, South London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
28 September 2005

I was born in Penge in South London and I was 4 years old when the War started. I lived with my Mum, Dad, and older brother in a 3rd Floor flat above Lennards the shoe shop, which was on the comer of Maple Road/High Street, Penge.

My father was not fit enough to join the Armed Forces so he was commissioned to work in an ammunitions factory in Streatham, South West London.

At the back of the flats on the ground floor we had a small back yard, where my father used to keep rabbits, which were used to substitute meat for us to live on. There was a small door in the yard, behind which was a tunnel which you had to crawl through on your hands and knees to get to the cellar where they used to, at one time, keep stock. When in the cellar you could not stand up fully but had to bend over to walk around.

At Christmas, so as not to be interrupted by the Air Raids, our family used to stay down in this cellar all night. There was my Mum, Dad, brother and myself, my grandparents, and my aunts and cousins. They used to take all our Christmas food down there and Christmas presents, and they put paper chains and balloons up to make it more of a Christmas for the children. We could hear the aircraft and the bombs being dropped and wondered what we would find when the Air Raid was over and we emerged from the cellar.

One of my most vivid memories as a child was in about 1943 when I must have been 7 or 8 years old. I was on my way home from school at lunch time and the Air Raid Siren went off. I started to run to get home quickly and suddenly heard an aircraft above. I looked up and the aircraft was so low I could see his face and the fact that it was a German aircraft. I was terrified and frantically looked for somewhere to hide. I was passing a Home and Colonial food store in Maple Road, Penge and rushed into the doorway to see if I could get in but they had locked the door. I banged and banged on the door for someone to let me in. An assistant came and opened the door and took me in and down to the cellar where all the stock and provisions were kept. The other assistants were already down there. They comforted me, sat me on a barrel and gave me a biscuit and a piece of cheese and asked me where I lived. After the All Clear Siren went off they took me upstairs and let me out and I ran home to my Mum, who was very worried.

Afterwards we found out that the German pilot that had flown over had machined gunned a playground in a school in Lewisham and had killed lots of children, obviously before the siren had gone off, otherwise they would have been in a shelter. This made National Press at the time. The pilot was eventually shot down.

This story was submitted to the website by Eleanor Fell, on behalf of Julie Allen, who has given her permission for her story to appear on the website.

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