- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Elizabeth (Liddy) Driscoll
- Location of story:
- Homerton High Street - London
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 May 2005
These are the war memories of Elizabeth Mary Driscoll nee Doubleday, my grandmother, born on the 24/1/24 in Homerton, London. Nanny ‘Liddy’ lived through the blitz and its consequences to all; throughout the war she made ammunitions for the front. Helping me to write these anecdotes she is rather surprised that anyone wants to hear of her experiences. All of these stories are in her own words.
Chamberlain and peace in our time
The previous year chamberlain had gone to Germany to see if he could get any type of peace deal from Hitler.
Everyone laughed at Chamberlain when war broke out but I knew that he had managed to buy us time. We had nothing, no bombs, no planes, nothing and he bought us nearly an extra year to prepare.
The day the war broke out
It was announced on the news. My mother panicked expecting us to be bombed any second. She ran around packed up my father, Aunt Mary and myself, rushing us out of the house and closed the door.
We sat there on the door step, with no keys to get in and no bombs overhead, feeling stupid.
The year leading up to the Blitz
We carried on expecting the bombs at any minute but angry with the government. All the government seemed to do was drop leaflets on Germany telling them how bad they were. We all imagined what they thought of us!
We had nothing, Germany had been preparing this for years and we had nothing.
It started in August (1940) and went on for a year.
The first week was continuous, night and day. We became tried and tetchy but we needed to get on with life.
The only entertainment we had was the Cinema. At first all cinemas closed and we did not go out, gradually as everyone saw that this would go on and on, the cinemas then started to open. If the air raid warnings went off you either chose to stay in the cinema or find a shelter.
One night it had gone on so long and I needed to get home, as I was due to get up early for work the next day and I dashed out of the cinema (you could not be late — there was no excuse). Creeping along I thought the planes were aiming for my head! As I dashed along the High Street, a warden pulled me into an air raid shelter. ‘You shouldn’t be out in this’ he said. Everyone was moaning and crying and I did not want to be there! As soon as the warden’s back was turned I ran and dashed for home.
I felt as if I was in a film (remember I was only 15). The searchlights across the sky, noise and danger made it exciting and glamorous. That stopped the day I saw the Stoke Newington flats levelled. I had to walk to work and went past what was left of the buildings. The police, fireman and air raid wardens were digging out dead bodies. It never seemed to end that long line. The Fireman could not get the majority of the bodies out as most were in a shelter in the basement; they drown when the water pipes burst and the authorities had to concrete over the area over with the bodies inside. Years later they put a plaque up, if there is anywhere there should be ghosts, its there.
Courting in the War
I met Harry; he was classed as a c4 with a perforated eardrum he served in the REME. When Harry was on leave we went dancing and to the pictures, enjoying ourselves like every couple should.
We laughed; as a solider Harry had a tin hat, as a civilian I had no protection against the shrapnel of the bombing raids. He refused to wear his hat if I had nothing to protect me.
We married at the worse time in the war in 1942; he had 48 hours leave. I saved coupons for a white wedding dress and he wore his uniform. We got married on Christmas day in a Church that had had its roof blown off a few days before that, we had a small reception with neighbours and friends with a chocolate wedding cake made from all the sugar coupons my family had saved up. When the 42 hours finished Harry went back to his unit on the 27/12/ 42
Working in a munitions factory.
I had chosen to work in a munitions factory rather than have to do my normal job in the cloths factory during the day and then work on the searchlights or something similar in the evening.
Virtually all the factory workers were woman and we worked on all heavy machinery taking turns on different stages of the munitions. The factories lined the Thames and were always being bombed by the German planes; we could not go to the shelters until the bombers were overhead and the claxons sounded. One day I was in the canteen when the bombs dropped near by, the windows were blown out and everyone was covered in flour from head to foot.
Everything seemed to be rationed except fish and chips and cigarettes — we seemed to live on these throughout the war. God knows how we survived the smoke fumes in pubs and the three-year-old dried eggs.
Getting on with life
Even though a war was on we all took pride in our homes. We all scrimped and saved to buy new furniture and decorate our homes. My mother in law had completely redecorated her best parlour for Christmas with new wallpaper and furniture. It lasted a week until the windows were blown out and the whole room ruined.
The turning point
Churchill had made his speech telling us we would fight on the beaches and the streets. The tension was terrible waiting for Hitler to walk in, we had nothing left. Many Jews committed suicide rather than face the Germans and we could all understand why.
Suddenly we hear that he had turned on Russia. We all cried, we knew we had been saved.
Harry was home then. As soon as we heard it was over I wanted him to come to the pub to celebrate with my family. He insisted that he help his mother, a market trader to help sell flags and souvenirs in central London. He came home late and we had a bloody big row. Great start to a new life after the war!
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