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Wartime in Woking

by Genevieve

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Genevieve
People in story: 
Ann Miller
Location of story: 
Woking, Surrey
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A5736882
Contributed on: 
14 September 2005

Wartime in Woking

In 1939 my parents moved from Llangollen to a 20-acre farm near Woking, when I was five. They were raising ducks, chickens and turkeys for the table and, without refrigeration facilities, needed to be closer to the main London market for their produce. No sooner had they arrived than rationing was introduced. The authorities said they were forbidden to raise poultry on land not previously used for that purpose. They were allowed to keep 28 hens but the rest of their livestock had to be killed. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries then told you exactly what to grow on your land. My parents grew vegetables, particularly great quantities of potatoes, and children were given a week off from school to harvest the potatoes.

We formed a group to make a Pig Club because you weren’t allowed to keep pigs independently. My parents used to go round to local hotels, cafés and restaurants collecting the waste vegetables and other food to boil up and make pigswill.

My father and uncle were in the Home Guard. My uncle had a field telephone which he used to call my father out on exercises or for actual duties during and after bombing raids. When they had all finished their exercises, I would serve them beer through the dining room window. I was in bed one evening when a doodlebug dropped half a mile away, blowing out our windows. Florrie, our housekeeper, got me out of bed to make sure I was safe. When we went back to my bedroom, there was glass all over my pillow. She may well have saved my life. For years afterwards, my aunt and uncle’s house had any number of small, unexploded bombs — mostly incendiaries - lying around the place. My aunt had no idea what they were.

My aunt was an Air Raid Warden but she was never issued with official protective clothing. She simply wore a red one-piece siren suit that she’d made herself. Her work was based at the nearby barracks, mainly keeping watch for approaching bombers.

One day a friend was riding her bicycle along Woking High Street when she heard a doodlebug coming up behind her. She did the best thing: she turned her bicycle round and went back the way she had come, letting the doodlebug carry on the way it was going.

Father was appointed Weed Officer with the job of inspecting local land to eradicate thistles, ragwort and other injurious weeds. I used to go with him by playing truant from school, saying that I had a cold. One day while I was waiting for him a doodlebug fell on the Carters Seeds factory, causing considerable damage to it.

Following the evacuation from Dunkirk, trains bringing soldiers back to London used to stop near where we lived. Some men had hardly any clothing, often just blankets. My parents and their neighbours went down to them with tea and coffee and other refreshments but, for reasons they were never told, the police stopped them doing it. The soldiers threw foreign coins out of the train windows to thank them. Florrie collected up all this foreign money and I’ve kept it ever since, labelled ‘Money from men from Dunkirk’.

When the end of the war was announced on the wireless, Florrie told me to run down to the farm to tell my mother. I did and, understandably, it was a great emotional moment for us both.

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Graham Brown of the BBC Radio Shropshire CSV Action desk on behalf of Ann Miller and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

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