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Dodging the Doodlebugs

by CSV Solent

You are browsing in:

Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
CSV Solent
People in story: 
Mollie Isabel Ashby (nee Mitchell)
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A5905181
Contributed on: 
26 September 2005

This story was narrated in 1993 by Mollie Ashby (b.1923 - d.1999) to her grandaughter Sarah Douglass (then aged 14) as part of a school project. The story has been submitted to the People's War site by Ian Douglass (Mollie Ashby's son-in-law).

Q: What did you do in the war?
A: I went to work. I could't go into the forces because I was in what you would call a reserved occupation (secretary). I was also deaf, so they wouldn't take me. At night I worked in a canteen serving food to the forces. I was an air raid warden too, so I had to go round the shelters. That's about all I did really!!

Q: Did any interesting events happen when you were on your warden duty?

A: Nothing in particular. The Chief Warden didn't like the women going anywhere near where the bombs were, just in case we saw anything we shouldn't! So I didn't really see anything much.
The nearest I got to it (a bomb) was when a doodlebug went past, just as I was walking by the office where my sister worked. Just after I had walked past, a bomb landed on that very office!

Q: Did you carry on your job after the war?
A: No, because the canteen shut down after the war, The canteen was in the Connaught Rooms in a big hotel in London.

Q: Was life very different during the war?
A: Yes, it was a different sort of feeling. You were always wondering what was going to happen and thinking whether you were going to get blown up. It was different, very different to life in peace time.
People who went into the forces had a very different sort of war. I tried to get into the forces but of course they wouldn't have me. I don't think I had a very exciting war but it was very different to peace time.
I went to work by train but you could only get so far before you had to walk. Sometimes there had been an air raid and the trains weren't running at all, so I had to walk through the bomb damage.
We used to sleep in the cellar of the pub where I lived. Some nights I did't get any sleep at all because I was out on warden duty. It was very different to peace time.

Q: Name something that sticks out in your mind from the war.
A: In Fleet Street there's a church called the 'Wedding Cake' Church (St. Bride's). It's a spire with a series of layers like a wedding cake. I always remeber walking past it, the day after it was bombed and flames were shooting out of the middle of it. I remember that distinctly.

Q: I suppose views about women working were very different beacuase the men were out fighting?
A: Yes, that's right. The men were fighting, so a lot of women took over their jobs. It liberated a lot of women because they had never done anything like that before and it gave them new ideas.
I used to worry about my brother, Jack because he was away in the Royal Air Force. My sister Kath was like me and wasn't called up because she was deaf too. My younger brother was evacuated.

Q: How old were you when war broke out?
A: 16, so I was only a bit older than you (which is 14).

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