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15 October 2014
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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Roberta Taylor
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Contributed on: 
08 July 2005

“This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bob Davis from the Burgess Hill Adult Education Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Roberta Taylor with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions”

I lived with my parents in the well-known “ Ilkley moor ba’t ‘at " as the song goes. We did not suffer from enemy action, as aircraft passed us either full of bombs for Leeds, Bradford or conversely empty of bombs, short of fuel, and anxious to reach home base.

We had our little moments like the time we stayed with some friends near an American Air base, counting the craft that went out and those that did nor did not return.

I was exempt from the forces as my mother was severely crippled and needed my help. Of course, no help was forthcoming except for our lovely lady from Czechoslovakia. She was a solicitor’s daughter but being an ‘alien’ was not allowed anything but domestic work. She cooked divinely and it was sometime before we discovered she was using her own meagre rations to produce our delicacies. She and my mother formed a firm bond of friendship.

My father joined the Observer Corps for spotting enemy aircraft and in this way cemented an already wide friendship with local farmers etc. He told us that one day he was approached by one who said " Tha knows, Philip, that pig I had? Well, it had a terrible accident last night. It fell against a sharp knife”. My father subsequently had his little bit of black market bacon.

He had a licence to shoot rabbits — a considerable source of food. One day when I went to collect a brace from the butchers, he said “You won’t want these, they smell awful”. Well I took one sniff and said “that’s all right - only garlic!” These rabbits had spent all their lives in a garlic wood and it had permeated their flesh. No need for seasoning!

My father had heard that the safest place in a house was by the staircase. To reinforce this he had a massive beam (12 x 12 ) installed as an extra support. Well, fine, except that towards the end of the war it shrank and was more of a hazard than a help as it was always in danger of toppling.

Once when my father was at the Observer Post during a beautiful sunny day, a lone German aircraft came down the valley, flying below the skyline and went to the end of the valley, turned round and came back and disappeared as if to say "See I’m German, now report to Headquarters".

Our war was not without anxiety both on the personal side and, of course, following anxiously the progress of the enemy across Europe, and the beautiful relief when Hitler missed his chance for invasion. We made friends, and, thankfully lost no family so paradoxically it was a good experience to go through.

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