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We Managed

by ateamwar

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

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18 August 2005

I was nine when the war started. And I can remember having to go and trying to get a gas mask fitting. I was terribly upset about one little girl. She panicked and panicked. I realised after that she would suffer asthma, and putting the gas mask on didn’t help at all.
And then during the Blitz we used to go down every night into the air raid shelter. I would go fast asleep. Mum would sit up all night, awake. Dad was on night’s often, I would stay in the back bedroom normally, we’d have a wire, a tin can, just inside the bedroom window, attached to a long rope that came to the door of the shelter. And if the bombings were very, very bad we would rattle this thing and Dad would get up and come down into the shelter as well. I never knew this because I was past asleep.
Then we’d collect all pieces of shrapnel, any shells or bombs, pieces of metal, and we’d take them into school the next day and do swaps.
I can remember the food. I don’t know how we managed. We always managed to have a Christmas cake because I think it got extra sugar. There was always a ham salad and tomato ketchup. And you got only one egg, a little bit of bacon, cheese. I hated margarine, so I’d have dry bread and I wouldn’t eat the margarine, but to make the margarine go further, mum used to mix it with milk and corn. It didn’t taste quite so bad.
Then in school, we often had to stay in their shelters which I didn’t like: brick built shelters with a concrete roof on them. We didn’t feel a bit safe in that, it was very dark.
Before we went there, when war first started, we used to have to go to one person’s house where about ten of us would sit around the table and the teacher would come and teach us in the morning and then give us lessons to do to go away to do in the afternoon and back again.
I can remember having school dinners. We used to have to go down into the cellar. I remember I’d had this lamb stew with this gristle in and I said I couldn’t eat it. And this old teacher, I think she should have retired years ago, came along and said “You eat it, there’s a war on!” And I can remember to this day getting that piece of gristle and just swallowing it you know, so horrible!
But we didn’t have anything taught about the war in school at all, so I thought it was wrong. I think we should’ve learned about it. So, say names like all those places; Stalingrad, they were just names, you know. We saw the odd thing, because we didn’t have television.
It really, it wasn’t a bad war for me. But obviously I think the grown-ups would feel it far more than I would.
VE day, I can’t remember much about that, I think there was a street party. But VJ day, I was most annoyed because we were pee-picking with a school, when VJ day came all the girls were allowed to have half a day holiday.

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