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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Ann Kell
Location of story: 
County Durham, Sadberge, Darlington,Westmoreland
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ted Newcomen from the Hastings Community Learning Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Ann Kell with her permission and she fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.

My name is Ann Kell and when war broke out I was aged 8 years old and was on holiday in Blackpool with my parents. We came home early to County Durham by train but at the time I didn’t understand the reasons why.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my mother shortly became pregnant with my sister (who was born in June 1940) and I was sent away to live with my Aunt and her husband who ran a pub called the Three Tuns in Sadberge, near Darlington.
One night when I was asleep the air-raid siren went off and my uncle came into my room and picked me up, still asleep, to carry me down to the safety of the cellars. He tried to push open the door to the cellar with his shoulder but it was already unlocked and he stumbled right through and fell down the full flight of steps with me still in his arms. Although he broke his arm, shoulder blade, and cheek bone, I got away unharmed except for waking up terrified with a few bruises and skinned elbows. I was so upset by the experience that I was taken home that same day, only to find that out of nowhere I now had a brand new baby sister!
Nearly every night in my parent’s house we would hear the air-raid sirens go off as the German bombers passed overhead to attack Middlesborough docks. Sometimes they would drop their bombs on the way back. There was just one air-raid shelter for the whole street, which was built of brick with a concrete roof, but it was never used, as it was no stronger than people’s own houses. As a child I couldn’t cope with putting on a gas mask and so carried a card throughout the war, which said I was exempt, as I was claustrophobic.
For my safety it was eventually decided to send me away to live with my father’s cousin who farmed up in Westmoreland. This was my first experience of living in the country and I really enjoyed it. I stayed there until I was aged 11 and then returned home to sit my 11 Plus exam, by which time the air raids had finished. My parents never talked about the war, they were always very protective towards me.
In 1941 my mother had gone to work in the NAFI in Darlington. Throughout the war my father was a train driver, which was a reserved occupation, so he wasn’t called up. His job was to drive troop trains all over the country in an effort to deceive enemy intelligence.
I can remember all the iron railings, chains, and gates being removed to be supposedly melted down & used for the manufacture of weapons & munitions. In the end it turned out that nothing was melted down but just left in store. People were amused & often very annoyed that they had been removed in the first place, particularly if they were old or ornate.At the war’s end my father went to the local depository and picked up a set of chains to put them back in front of our house.
I also recall the big street party we had on VE Day but rationing went on for years and years and we were scrounging for simple things like currents to bake wedding cakes for a very long time after the war had ended.

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