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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Elizabeth Munday
Location of story: 
Neasden, London, 1940
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 November 2005

At 16 I was just out of school and working in my first job in a dressmakers in Bond Street, just off Oxford Circus. It was 1940 and the Blitz had started. Our air-raid shelter was in the basement of the building and I remember how we would have to pick up our dress-stands which we were working on, and carry them with us into the lift and take them down to the shelter, as we couldn't leave the customer's work behind in case it got damaged! You can imagine what a palaver this was everytime an air-raid warning went off!
I had a long way to travel to get to work, it was 14 tube stops to Neasden where I lived and the journeys could be long and hazardous.I would finish work at 5.30pm and go down to Oxford Street tube station, where people would be already settling in for the nightly raids. I remember the crowds, and the amateur concerts and the bunk-beds with the tea-trolley going round, whilst the bombers would start coming over.
I had to get home quickly because there were sometimes pimps and a danger of getting picked up - it was very near Picadilly Circus after all! The tube trains were always stuffy, cramped and crowded. I remember one chap had managed to buy a dustbin from somewhere and was forced to stand inside it in the train because there was no room otherwise! Once, the train suddenly stopped dead near St. John's Wood and all the electrics went out. No one knew what had happened and we couldn't have got out even if we wanted to because the doors wouldn't work. A guard with a candle went up the line to investigate. We waited about 20 minutes and then the train started again and we all cheered up, only to be told to get out at the next station and to make our own way home. Nobody told us why. Luckily, I knew London well, and was able to find a bus to Kilburn and I arrived home exhausted and very late. The next day was work as usual, and travelling down the same line again, we found out that a bomb had exploded the day before, and what's more it hit and damaged the train just before the one I was travelling on. It made me realise how lucky I was, as I could have been on that train instead. These things were all part of everday life and work - somehow you just had to get on with it.

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