- Contributed by
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- Mrs Jean Holden
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- Contributed on:
- 12 November 2003
A child’s memories of WW2
I was five years old when the war commenced, and eleven by V.E (Victory of Europe) day. Our Northern town of Accrington happily escaped the bombing — except for one miscalculated bomb which fell at Clayton-le-Moors, and two VE rockets which landed on the moors above town.
Apart from the obvious wartime restrictions, we ate healthily because my mother managed to concoct sustaining meals — with more pulses and vegetable than with meat. (At this time most householders grew vegetables in their kitchen gardens) Pickled eggs and dried eggs were transformed into magical dishes and thanks to sweet rationing, I still possess a decent set of teeth at 69.
I walked to school each day carrying the requisite gas mask in a cardboard box, and stared up into the sky at the barrage balloons hovering overhead. I wondered what on earth they were doing up there. When the air raid warning sounded, it was a matter of either scurrying to the school’s air raid shelters or, if at home, hiding under the stairs. But nothing happened to alarm the residents of Accrington.
Occasionally, G.I’s (American General Infantrymen) descended from Burtonwood, to court the local girls, and ‘ any gum chum?’ became the standard phrase. The Yanks seemed far more interesting than their British counterparts, and their stylish uniforms, suntanned faces and attractive accents fascinated me. When I spotted the occasional American Negro, I presumed he had appeared from the depth of the African Jungle. I had never seen a coloured person before.
Two evacuee boys from London were billeted next door, and they persuaded me to truant from school to watch a Shirley Temple film. My father (who was also the headmaster of the school I attended) was waiting on the doorstep when I arrived home.
He was in the ARP and spent most evenings playing cards at their local headquarters. He once dressed up in a dead German’s uniform and pretended to blow up the local reservoir. Naturally, the local ‘Dad’s Army’ team failed to discover his whereabouts.
My class teacher surreptitiously whispered sweet nothings to her R.A.F boyfriend when he was on leave. This took place at the back of our classroom, where they played Glen Miller records. He was later shot down in his plane and she wept bitter tears as she stood before her intrigued pupils.
On V. E day, our local war memorial was illuminated and I was enthralled at the spectacle, having been used to the blackout for so long. Life seemed very dull when the two evacuees returned to London.
Jean Holden 2003
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