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WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk
People in story: 
Ronald, Richard & Elsie Smith
Location of story: 
St Johns Wood - London
Article ID: 
A4042964
Contributed on: 
10 May 2005

One ofmy first recollections is of sitting on my rocking horse, which my dad purchased at the Caladonian Market in London. As he worked at London Zoo he was able to get the Harness maker to make a saddle and other horses furniture. We lived in a road named Ordenance Hill which also housed the Kings Troop Royal Artillery, So when they rode by on exercise I would ride my rocking horse. When the second world war broke out, my mother and I were evacuated. The London Zoo sacked all the staff of military age and kept the older staff of which my father was ons as he was a WW1 veteran. The Zoo arranged for the wives and children to be evacuated to Whipsnade Zoo. When we arrived we were housed in missionary huts which were formally used by the catering staff. Children were sent to school in Dunstable eventuallyand in our free time allowed the free run of the zoo. We were also aloud our meals in the zoo resturant. The boss of the zoo would get us to collect acorns for the animal feed which we were paid 6d per sack. At this time the air raids started in ernest, we had an Anderson shelter in the garden in which we took cover, but it was damp, dark and we didn't get much sleep. One night an unexploded land mine was dropped near to us, so we were ordered to evacuate our home and went to my aunts whilst it was defused. As this was so close my dad found us another shelter inside a block of flats. If we happened to get caught in an air raid with the ack ack guns going dad would lay on top of us to protect uf from scrapnel. After a year we moved near to St Johns wood under ground station where at first people took blankets then later on they put bunks in. People even left their bedding there in a shop for a few shilling per week. Nearly all the lads had wooden barrows and made a few pence by taking bedding off to the station. We had a garage in our street which was taken over by the Canadian PRO 00 Corps we had our own little war with them as we would steal the little ball bearigs that were left around we used the as wheels for the scooters we made. When I was 14 my father told me to go into the post office as a messanger boy - I was posted to the West End of London, no cycles all messages were taken on foot. i had been a messanger for about nine months when the doddle bugs started dropping, so dad said I'm not having you rushing around the West End with those things falling, so he got me a job at London Zoo.

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
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