- Contributed by
- CSV Solent
- People in story:
- Shirley Enid Peckham
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 August 2005
This story has been added to the People's war website by Marie on behalf of Shirley with her permission. Shirley fully understands the sites terms and conditions.
I was five when the war started in 1939, with two younger sisters. We lived with our parents in Crowthorne, Berkshire, near Crowthorne Farm.
I remember the siren that signalled the start of the war, which I think was during mid-morning on September 3rd, and only learnt its significance on asking my mother later. She said England was at war with Germany. I was too young for it to mean anything to me.
Gradually the idea of war sunk in for all the children in the village. We came to be issued with gas masks, along with our parents, but never had to use them for real. We were also issued with ration books, and certain food items and clothes came to be rationed. The children were only really concerned about having their sweets rationed!
Our curtains had to be changed for thick, dark-coloured ones, which had to be drawn well, before dusk, so that none of our gas-light showed outside to attract the enemy. German planes flew overhead, mostly at night. In stormy weather, at night, I sometimes didn’t know if I was hearing noises and seeing lights from enemy activity or the storm. They were frightening times and I lost a lot of sleep.
As time went on we had drills at school over what we had to do in any air raid while we were there. In the classrooms, this was mainly to get under our desks quickly and remain there until advised to come out. We did this periodically to get used to it. Also the classroom windows were covered permanently with something (I’m not sure what) to prevent the glass shattering if there was a raid. I don’t recall there being one, but several bombs fell in the area at spaced out times. One did a lot of damage and caused deaths at Wellington College in the village.
I think Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum (now Hospital) also in the village, came close to being hit by a bomb, if it actually wasn’t.
One bomb fell into a field, about a mile from my home, in Old Wokingham Road leaving a big crater. We had evacuees on two occasions. They were allocated to us by the authorities. On at least one of the occasions, a double-decker bus load of them was driven down our road and householders had no choice in who they had.
Ours were from London, as probably all were. The first time we had a man and his wife with their twin daughters of about my age. I can’t recall how long they stayed, but sometime after them we had a man and his wife with a two year old son. We didn’t get on very well with any of those concerned, because their personalities and way of life were so alien to ours, but we did our best.
My Dad, who was a skilled bricklayer, was late in being called up for service, I think because of his occupation.
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