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A Young Boy (8 - 14 years) and World War Two

by cornwallcsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cornwallcsv
People in story: 
Keneth Roy Hamilton-Wedgewood, Elsie and Thomas (my parents)
Location of story: 
Coulsdon, London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7382964
Contributed on: 
29 November 2005

This story was entered onto the Peoples War website by Rod Sutton on behalf of Keneth Roy Hamilton-Wedgewood. He fully understands and accepts the sites terms and conditions.

At the time I was living with my parents in a house on a hill in Coulsdon, Surrey about 12 miles south of London and 5 south of Croydon on the A23, the London to Brighton Road.
Generally there was a very good camaraderie amongst people that would not normally be the same.
Certain items, such as sweets and cigarettes, were kept “under the counter” for little extras as a favour to customers in various shops. During wartime of course a great many things were in short supply to the public as they were rationed. Despite this I did not go hungry or feel ill. The things we were allowed on rationing may have been in short supply and somewhat bland or repetitive, nevertheless kept the public very healthy. Improvisation helped to make the best of the situation. To supplement the ration we had powdered eggs and milk.
At night there were no lights; it was a blackout. If a chink of light was showing, the air raid warden would shout “Put that light out!”
When there was an air raid and the anti-aircraft guns opened up one could hear the shrapnel from the exploding shells bouncing on the roof. Pretty lethal stuff. After an air raid as a schoolboy I went out and collected it. We would compare our finds at school! For additional safety I sometimes slept in the local church crypt.
One day my father who worked for the Air Ministry said to me keep your eyes open for an aircraft with flames coming out of its tail. If you see one let me know, wake me up if necessary. My bedroom window had a commanding view across a valley and I made a point of doing a little observation. Then one evening I saw one of these aeroplanes. It also made a rather deep throbbing noise, of course I told my father who was most interested. The siren would sound to let people know an air raid was imminent. From the age of 5 I have always had an interest in things scientific. The flying bombs, Doodle Bugs or V1s as they were variously known would come over. Some would fly on into London and some would land locally. This would depend on the setting of the Auto pilot at the launch of the weapon. The engine would cut, from a loud low frequency throb to silence. If you could not see the V1 the silence was deafening as one waited for the bang as it crashed. When I could I noted where they crashed and cycled out to try and retrieve the auto pilot. On one occasion I struck lucky. Then a deep voice boomed out, “Put that back”. Later, the Germans attacked us with another weapon, the V2. This was a rocket that travelled faster than sound, supersonic, so there was a bang when it returned to Earth — then you could hear it coming; quite an interesting phenomenon. I went to a wood once where a V2 had landed. The crater was conical and all the leaves had been stripped from the trees by the blast, which produced a curious smell.
At the end of the European part of the war there was VE day. I wanted to see what was going on in London. So I walked to the station and caught the train to Victoria Station, London. I walked to Trafalgar Square and found it to be tightly packed with very happy people. So much so that I picked my feet up I just stayed put as the crowd moved about I was carried with them. Quite a momentous experience.
Travelling back in the train gave me time to mull over the events in mind. Some time later my father took me to a special exhibition to see a V1 and a V2. The V2 was opened up and that is when I got glass wool in my hands for the first time — very itchy!
In 1953 people rushed to buy a colour television set which had just come out for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation.

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