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15 October 2014
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The Wartime Memories of Shirley Miles (nee Greenen) : Fate and Peter Panda

by CSV Solent

Contributed by 
CSV Solent
People in story: 
Shirley Miles (nee Greenen) and family
Location of story: 
Isle of Wight
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A5952468
Contributed on: 
29 September 2005

This story has been submitted to the People’s War Site by Jan Barrett on behalf of Shirley Miles and has been added to the site with her permission. Shirley fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was 5 years old when war broke out, and living in Castle Street, East Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. Dad said “the balloon’s gone up” and I remember feeling very apprehensive.

On April 28th, 1942, we were bombed out. German planes had come over on reconnaissance flights to take photos of J.S.Whites and Saunders-Roe. When they flew down the Medina River, the Polish ship “Blyskaweika” opened fire and the Germans off-loaded their bombs on us.

I am a believer in fate, and this is why.

The night before the raid a lady living in the street had asked if she could come over and stay the night with us, because her husband was working night-shift and she was very nervous being on her own. Dad said she could come over and she was welcome to have my room. But I kicked up a real stink and said I didn’t want her to have my bed. In the event Dad put me to bed in my own room and then when I was fast asleep moved me so that she could have my bed.

Early the next morning at about 7 o’clock (Dad had already gone off to work) our house received a direct hit and the lady in my bed was killed outright. I woke up under a pile of rubble where the roof had caved in. I remember the radio was still playing. An Air Raid Warden from Saunders-Roe dug me out and carried me all around Columbine works looking for my parents. Eventually, I ended up in Old Road where they had underground field hospitals and that was where Mum and Dad found me. Mr. and Mrs Bartlett who lived next door and their two boys were also casualties (I think they may have been killed) , and Mrs Halliday who lived the other side lost an arm.

Even to this day I dread going past anywhere that is being demolished. The smell of the dust brings it all back and I find myself tearful and upset. And the sound of a lone plane at night sends shivers down my back.

Our house had been destroyed, so we moved to Yarmouth, where Mum and Dad rented a house. I clung to a mangled Peter Panda, but otherwise we had nothing but the clothes we stood up in. The Canadian Red Cross fixed us up with some clothing and furniture. Also I had an Auntie who was in service with a family at Yarmouth (the Creagh-Osbornes) and they had a stable full of old furniture. They kindly gave us some of that.

At Yarmouth there were 2 air-raid shelters which we would go to when the sirens went. Dad also built a little bed under the stairs for me. Our neighbours wouldn’t go to the shelters, they stayed in their house.

My best friend at Yarmouth, who was called Avril, had two step-brothers — Stan and Colin Smith (famous for having sailed across the Atlantic in a tiny yacht called the Nova Espana). They were in the RAF and went to Canada. They brought home some Lifesaver sweets and dried bananas. I can’t remember tasting the dried bananas, I think we were just allowed to look at them!

When the War was over, we could put the lights back on at night. We used to go up onto the Downs and look down at all the twinkling lights in the houses and street. It was like magic.

Shirley Miles
September 2005.

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