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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Teenager in the War (12 - 18 years)

by historycentre

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Doreen Hitchen
Location of story: 
Dagenham Essex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 October 2004

I am working on behalf of the BBC Peoples War and this is a story given to me by Doreen Hitchen.
My Father was a fireman in the London Fire Brigade, his leave had been cancelled in the middle of August because we were waiting for the War to start. On the 3rd September the neighbour came out into the garden and said war had been declared.
My Father immediately cycled to his station 8 miles away in Poplar in the East end of London.
We were all called to our schools to decide if we wanted to be evacuated. We decided that I would go privately to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, 25 miles away.
My school with all equipment, desk chairs, etc. were put on a train to Norwich in Norfolk. They realised that it was nearer to the Continent, so they put it all back on a train to Ilfracombe in Devon.
After Easter in 1940 my school which was Dagenham County High was re-opened as a receiving centre for any children of Grammar
Schools in the area as these were all closed. Although I went to a friends Uncle when I was evacuated, I was sent to a fee paying Grammar School, where the pupils were very unkind as I was a scolarship girl.
I went back home when the school was opened and was there until 1943, spending most of my time in barricaded corridors in the daytime and in the Anderson Shelter at night.
My Father drove a turntable ladder appliance and was decorated for bravery during the bombing of the St. Katherine Dock. The traumas of the war gave my Father Alopecia. When I was sixteen I went to work for May and Baker manufacturing Chemists, which was a target for the bombers, being at the side of the Thames, and I spent a lot of time in the shelters there, especially when we were making up the pay packets, as I was a wages clerk. We did not have a social life except May and Baker ran dances and invited the airmen from the nearby Hornchurch Aerodrome. We grew all our own vegetables as my Father had two allotments and this helped with the rations. My Mother was called up to be a machinist making map cases for despatch riders and webbing belts for the Officers in the Army
My Grandparents had to go away to Leicester, they were in their 80's although they told everyone they were 70! Their home was given up and they did not have a home when they came back and had to spend the rest of their years with their children.

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