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From delivery boy to soldier - how I grew up during the war.

by CSV Solent

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
CSV Solent
People in story: 
John Revill
Location of story: 
Portsmouth
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A6051764
Contributed on: 
07 October 2005

This story has been added to the People’s War website by Jenny Burnett on behalf of John Revill. John has given his permission and understands the sites terms and conditions.

I was 13 when war broke out. We lived in Monmouth Road (Portsmouth) and I was a delivery boy for Liptons, using a tricycle with a basket for the groceries. I was paid 7/6 a week.

I remember the first air raid over Kingston Crescent — I was stacking jars of jam. We ran to the shelter — it’s still there — and got there just in time, the bomb fell next door.

I used to climb on the bike shed roof at work to see the planes better. German planes sounded different. One time, I fell through!

I started fire watching too to make more money — 5/ a week. Two of us went together; we carried a stirrup pump, bucket of sand and a long-handled shovel. The shelters were bombed all along the back of our street. The lady next door gave me a cigarette for putting out her fire. That’s what started me off smoking.

Once a doodle bug was coming over. The gunners hit it. It came down over Newcomen Road and about 21 people were killed. We got used to the raids — if you heard whistling you were safe, if it stopped, you weren’t.

I think it was 10th January 1941. Terrible bombing — saw the sky lit up, the Guildhall burning. There were big black pipes to bring water from the sea but the tide was out. So many people were killed. All the shops closed on London Road. It was the biggest funeral out. They were buried in Kingston Cemetery.

I remember the coal year/railway yard — lines and lines of Red Cross carriages and nurses. I saw the wounded coming back and put in grey ambulances.

At about 16, I was in the Home Guard. The 17th Battalion at Hilsea — where the Lido is. Then it was really lovely — there were bumper cars, open air dances, a little train. All gone now unfortunately.

In 1944 though I got my call up papers. It was near the end of the war, although we didn’t know that, and I ended up in Egypt for three years.

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