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15 October 2014
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21st Birthday Cake in the Morrison Shelter

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mrs. Doreen Ellen May Trussler, Mr. Joseph Stanley Rogers (Father), Mrs. Ellen C. Rogers (Mother)
Location of story: 
Streatham, Balham, Norbury
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 July 2005

I was 16 years of age when the war started - living at Streatham, London SW16.

On the 3rd September 1939 I recall passing a telephone box near my home — someone was on the telephone — when a man called out “run quickly — take shelter — war has been declared — we are going to be bombed.” A siren sounded.

We had an Anderson air raid shelter at the end of our garden. The signal box was at the end of the next door garden. The London to Brighton train line ran by our garden — we thought it a strange place to run to the air raid shelter in that position — and we heard the guns etc. on the railway. The garden was lit up by searchlights. Sometimes, when the warning sounded, we took cover, running from the house. Bob, the dog, came as well. We also had an cellar, and later a Morrison Shelter which was like an iron table with an iron grid cage like thing around it.

My cousin, mother, aunts and myself went to Wiltshire for a while during the war. On one occasion, travelling back by train, I remember bombs just missing the train. When we came home we could not get through to Waterloo Station and had to get off the train at Clapham Junction due to the bombing.

On my 21st Birthday we had to keep diving under the Morrison Shelter with our tea and cake — due to the bombing.

My mother and father were both ARP Wardens and I remember neighbours saying they felt safe when my father was nearby — he was, or appeared to be, always calm and ready to help. Our house lost windows with bomb blasts. Bombs fell nearby. I worked at a Grocers shop for a while, dealing with ration books etc. Later I worked in an aircraft factory — I could not go in the forces due to illness. I also did fire watching and Red Cross nursing duties at the South London Hospital for Women and St. James Hospital, Balham. Some duties were not very pleasant but others were very rewarding. Naturally some sights were not too good.

One morning, having got off the bus to go to the factory at Norbury, the guns were going. A man from the factory got off the bus also and suddenly said “down quick”, pushed me to the ground — a piece of shrapnel had just missed me — it was quite warm when he picked it up — saying he had possibly saved my life.

On another occasion we had gone from the factory to the canteen, which we had had to go to outside and up a staircase — we heard this noise, then it shut off — later we realised it was one of the flying bombs.

On my first day at the factory I was shown how to use a drill on a machine. i wasn't very good at it as I drilled my finger and nearly lost the top of it! I had to be rushed to hospital, fortunately by digital pressure it was saved, but was told “don’t worry, the man yesterday lost his finger on the machine — oh dear — it was not a good beginning. I was put on the “Inspection Unit” after that and then to the “Time Office” where everyone had to check in under a clock.

We did night watch fire fighting at the factory, staying overnight. I was on duty one night when it was very foggy. I had to walk from home and could not see at all. A man stopped me by Streatham Common — he said I was walking the wrong way and would get lost. He asked me where I was going and insisted on walking with me to see me safely to the factory gates — wasn’t I lucky. We had to naturally take shelter from the factory sometimes in air raid shelters.

This story was added to the People's War website by CSV Volunteer Pat Latham on behalf of Doreen Trussler. Doreen fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - factory at Norbury?

Posted on: 04 September 2005 by 1943baby

I am interested to know more about this factory at Norbury. Was this the 'aircraft factory' mentioned earlier in this account? Where, exactly, was it situated?

Although born during the war I lived most of my early life in Norbury so still have an interest in the area. If there are any more details about Norbury that people can recall I would be most interested to hear them.

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