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War-time Memories of a School-Girl.

by bridie sutton

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bridie sutton
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Bridie Sutton
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08 November 2003

The evacuee children travelling from the south of England to what was thought to be a safer environment area in the northern
North West countryside, were issued with refreshments for the journey. As they were travelling through the tunnel the boy called out to his sister “Don’t eat that yellow fruit Mary; when I took a bite, my eyesight went.”
Well that was the tale. You see the child had never eaten a banana.
Bananas and oranges were rare. When they occasionally arrived into the shops, the word spread very quickly.
“Only for those with green ration-books” would be called out from the shop counter. The supplies were limited to
expectant mothers and the very young.
There was a constant reminder to “dig for victory.” Those with allotments and sizeable gardens did just that.
Instead of sweets we munched on carrots. The teacher would call out “You are like a set of donkeys. Put those carrots on the window-sill, and get on with your work.” Many times our school work was interrupted by the air raid siren when we had to leave the premises in an orderly fashion. Other times it was for gasmask drill. We had to carry our gas-masks everywhere along with our identification cards. If we went without our gas-mask we faced having to write lines, or a good whack of the cane.
Although we had envisaged the risk of gas, I have no knowledge of gas attacks in England.
My brother, a scientist, employed by a well known chemical company in Widnes, being engaged in secretive work was exempt from national service.
We found out later, that he had suffered from the effects of mustard-gas, and had suffered perforated lungs.
Two of my brothers were already members of the local A.T.C. (Air Training Corp.) The younger of the two was the first to be recruited into the R.A.F. Terence along with our father joined the A.F.S.(Auxiliary Fire Service) My brother took his piano accordion to the depot, to pass away the time in between his duties. My father was too young for the ’great war’, and too old for W.W.2.
He often travelled to the depot by car. On being called out for duty, he discovered that the petrol had been siphoned from his vehicle.
Petrol was scarce and therefore on ration. Food was rationed; we were issued with clothing coupons. Growing children received more. My mother struggled to provide us with decent food. She also had a book entitled ‘Make do and mend.’ And that is what she did. She cut down clothes and sewed them by hand to fit us. At that time I learned to knit. Now when I see the colours of navy and red together it reminds me of when I made scarves, gloves and balaclava helmets, with the wool that had been provided.
Many times we had electricity cuts. Many times our coal ration ran out, so we went to bed to keep warm.
Terence did most of his R.A.F. training in Canada, returning to England just in time for his twenty-first birthday.
We thought it bad enough that he came home on sick leave with a broken nose and black eyes from playing rugby for the squadron.
Later we heard that the French resistance had rescued him when he was in danger.
The worst was yet to come as a Navigator Pilot we received a war ministry letter ‘Missing presumed killed.’
How we all hoped that he would return. Eventually we received a photograph of the grave. We had seen the last of him and we hoped the last of the war. Three months later the armistice was signed.

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