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My War-time Teen Years

by csvdevon

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
csvdevon
People in story: 
Daphne Hamilton, Bill Hamilton, Bert Smith (father)
Location of story: 
Various locations in Great Britain
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4150577
Contributed on: 
03 June 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Coralie on behalf of Daphne Hamilton. The story has been added to the site with her permission and Daphne fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.

When war broke out in 1939 I was 14 years old and had been at work for 9 months in a factory making welding rods. I had no idea what they were used for but soon found out it was important war work. But despite some day and night raids things were not too bad, but that was soon to change. Father put the air raid shelter half-way down the garden and put in bunk beds, candles, blankets and water. This was needed when the Blitz started.

But September 15th was the day that the Dog-fight took place in the sky near our house. If only those Pilots in the Spitfires could have heard the whole of our road cheering I'm sure they would have been surprised. But worse was to come as the Blitz really started and our nights were spent in the shelter and we felt the full force of the Bombs dropping. We knew that they were often the Powder Mills near Waltham Abbey and the Royal Arms factory at Enfield Lock which was just a couple of miles from our home, and 8 miles from the City of London.

I can remember walking home from a dance during a raid to see a fire which looked to be very near my home, but getting home there was no fire there. I was to learn next day it was the City of London burning. My Dad worked for London Transport by day and was in the A.S.A. and had been all night trying to put these fires out, but as the tide was low in the Thames and water mains broken, they had to let it burn.

By 1942 I was tired of working in the factory so at 17 1/2 years joined the W.A.A.F.S. I was first sent to Innsworth and then on to Morecombe where we learnt to drill and how to salute officers. It rained nearly every day and was very cold up there and the landlady none too friendly to us girls. But a posting to R.A.F. Bowdsey came and we girls lived in the Manor House which had a wonderful panelled ballroom. I wasn't there for very long before I was sent to Portsmouth and into billets with a very good landlady.

As I was training to be a cook, I was sent to the college. We had 6 weeks before going to R.A.F. Madley for the final 6 weeks of the cooks course, where I passed out 1st Class. I then had my first leave before my posting to 214 Sqd based at Chedburgh. This was where I was to see how large Lancasters were and the noise of the engines. Despite the war it was to be a very happy year, but I was to learn what war was like when the boys were on bombing raids most nights and how many went out and how many we lost each night, and just on our station.

My next posting was to Netheravon where I was to meet the love of my life, an airman, and to marry him in December 1944. Just before we were to marry we were both posted but to a different station. I went to Great Dunmow and he to one the other side of Braintree, but we were able to meet there on our days off. But on VJ day I was on route to be demobbed and a group of us girls had to stay in London overnight so we all joined in the celebrations on Trafalgar Square which was a wonderful night to see and give thanks for the end of the war.

I then lived at home and had my first baby, and when by husband left the Airforce in September 1946 we moved to Leicester where his home and job were waiting for him. We were lucky to get a Prefab home which was very good as it had everything one needed. Our son was born in 1947 and another daughter in 1954. But my husband then got a job in Devon and we have lived in Westward Ho for 42 years.

We were very lucky that despite bomb damage to our house in Enfield we all survived the war years. But I did miss my teenage years and all the things my firend and I had planned to do. But I've had a wonderful life with a wonderful husband and our 5 children, and 11 grandchildren plus 2 great-grandchildren. I could tell more tales but it would take too long!

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