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15 October 2014
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Rissy's War

by cambsaction

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs Iris Smith
Location of story: 
Peterborough, UK
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 October 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Steven Turner a
Peoples War Story gatherer with the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Action
Desk. It was submitted on behalf of family friend, Mrs Iris Smith and has been added to the site with her permission.
Mrs Smith fully understands the site's terms and conditions. Another story was entered for her husband, Mr Stan Smith, under the title "Nice work Smudger!".

“During the war I lived in Nicholls Avenue, opposite the Westwood Hotel, Peterborough. I’d just started work when the war started. I’d been to secretarial school, where I met Stan my husband and when I finished I went to P.K Hill the solicitor, above Westgate Arcade. The firm was called Palmers and Paling but Mr Hill was better known. He was in the Territorial Army and he got called up to the Sherwood Foresters as a Major. A Mr Hayes took over and I didn’t settle after that so I left and went to work for the Railway Savings bank in Walpole Street, where the Salvation Army centre is now. I was secretary to the boss.

The bank backed onto the railway and we took turns to be firewatchers at the office. Two men and two women had to be on duty but there was a very kind old man who was the railway night watchman and he’d let us sleep and if there was a problem he’d wake us up. There were so many false alarms with the sirens going off. One night the line got bombed and I was actually looking out as a German bomber went over machine gunning up and down the track. I saw the tracers going by! It did a bit of damage but only dropped a couple of bombs.

Stan also did firewatching for which he got extra money. He worked for Fairbrother & Sons the coal merchants before he joined up.

Life was a bit of a struggle food wise and you had to work together. How my mother managed I don’t know. We’d get two ounces of butter or two ounces of margarine. You could have four ounces of margarine instead if you wished, but never four ounces of butter! We had coupons for clothing as well. We’d mix and match the coupons to get what we wanted.

When Stan came home I used to go back as far as London with him as I’d get free train travel working for the railway. One night I missed the last train because there was an air raid and it left the station early! It was midnight and I was stuck. The Station manager saw my ticket and that I was a railway employee so he put me in the First Class waiting room and then saw to it that I’d get on a mail train at 2.30am. It was full of RAF aircrew and he warned them to look after me because he was noting them!

I married Stan in January 1945 at St.Botolph’s Church in Longthorpe. My wedding dress was borrowed from a friend called Joyce Tee. Stan had to borrow shoes because his army boots had made his feet spread and none of his old shoes fitted him anymore.

On VE night I went out with a friend called Doreen into town. On the way home we decided we wouldn’t actually go home but we would go to my friend’s house and drink her Dad’s Port. It was lucky my mother didn’t see me like that! We decided we’d go to the RAF base (Ed:RAF Westwood) so we got on our bicycles and peddled off to the Sergeant’s Mess. We had a great night! Next day when I woke up my Dad said to me, “Where’s your bike?” and I didn’t know where it was. Then I realised that we’d left them on the airfield. Luckily when Doreen and I went to get them they were still there!

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