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- Pamela Mason
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- 12 April 2005
Mrs. Pamela Mason : Growing Up Fast
Mrs. Mason is aware that her story will be placed on the BBC WW2 website and has agreed to this.
Mrs. Mason was a young girl living in Ewell, Surrey during the war and recalls the tragic crash of a Warwick bomber out on a test flight, which demolished two houses at the end of Ruxley Lane and killed two ladies in one of the houses. It was reported in the local paper that one of the ladies had just gone out for fish from the fish shop and the crash happened within minutes of her return to her visiting friend.
The fish shop which Mrs. Swan went to was called The Cormorant fish shop. I lived at 429 Kingston Road just round the corner from Ruxley Lane. It was the off-licence — Copes Taverns Ltd. It was a very large building with 13 rooms including the shop and the store room. The building has now been changed quite a lot. I lived with my mother but I had left school by the time of the crash and worked at Bailey’s the Estate Agents in Stoneleigh Parade. I walked to work there.
Mannings was a fish shop on the other side of the road from my office and someone ran over and said to my boss to let me go because a plane had crashed at Ruxley Lane. I rushed up the hill towards Ruxley Lane and when I was almost at the top, I could see the top of the off-licence building, so I knew that it wasn’t my home that had been destroyed. I was very relieved and then I didn’t run quite so much. When I got there I couldn’t find my Mum, but then I walked through the back and she was down the end of the garden, which adjoined the crash property. Mother was very upset and was talking to a number of neighbours. My sister June first found out as she travelled past on the bus as she arrived home. She was horrified to find what had happened. Mother was very concerned about her and decided to send us away to Wales to a relative for a while because my sister was at the end of her tether with the very bad bombing which we had recently been suffering. We didn’t know what had happened to Alan and Margaret Swan, the children of Mrs. Swan who had been killed.
Big Bertha, as we called it, was a huge searchlight which went up and down the railway line from Tolworth, right near our house, and the bombers naturally concentrated on that area, which meant we came in for some very bad bombing. Where I live now, in nearby Mortimer Crescent, we dug up some incendiary bombs from the garden after the war. Two sticks of bombs dropped around us along the Kingston Road. We lost windows. One of the things my Father did before he went away was to make frames of wood filled in with lino, to be temporary shutters for the windows.
Mother said many of the neighbours were out looking at the aircraft coming down. They thought it was coming down on the garage but it missed that and went down onto the two houses.
People say they shouldn’t have tested planes over the land, but we used to see them testing these aircraft from Weybridge all the time. They always tested over the land. My husband and I went to school together and he was always interested in planes so we tended to notice them.
When the war started, I was at Danetree Road school, which was brand new just before the war. We were in and out of the air raid shelters so much. The teachers trained us what to do in the air raids I believe, but I think I remember seeing an ARP man once. The shelters were brick-built on the playground and we all had to run if the sirens went off. We knew where we had to go. The doodlebugs were the worst. Our planes used to tip them by the wing and that’s what happened to the one that fell on Timbercroft not far from Ruxley Lane. There was a big open space amongst the shops there and it came down on the open space.
My mother was always out there with the ARP chaps; you couldn’t get her in a shelter. She’d rather be able to see what was going on. She wasn’t really frightened except for us.
In Wales, where Mother sent us for a break, it was full of Americans. Unlike my sister, I was old enough to be chatted up, but I found them a bit pushy and didn’t really like them. I didn’t want to be up there. I told my Mother we were coming home. In the war, you had to grow up very fast.
My father was eventually called up, although being older, it was later in the War. He was out in Egypt with the RAF for about the last 2 years. It was hard managing without him. Mum was running the shop, the off-licence. The stock was rationed which was tricky.
We were very busy a lot of the time. When we weren’t working or at school, we were helping Mum or working in the garden — digging for Victory. We grew vegetables, we had about 6 fruit trees and we kept chickens too. We didn’t go out very far, but we would go out on our bikes, perhaps to our Grandparents in Banstead or in Ewell Village. The Granny in Ewell Village worked for Sir Arthur Glyn and my Grandad was his caretaker. Grandad had a big garden laid out for vegetables and he had about 30 chickens as well.
One of the things we did for recreation was to help raise money for the Wings Appeal for the Air Force. Gwen Waters, the butcher’s daughter had a horse which also had a foal and we took them up to Ruxley Lane school for a fund raising event. That was the kind of time we had fun, doing things like that.
For entertainment we had the radio and we liked Sexton Blake, the detective. We had no TV of course. But mostly I loved gardening then and I still do.
The rationing made some things very scarce although we had the vegetables from the garden. I wonder how we would manage today, now that all the land and the gardens have been built on so much.
At the end of the war, I was back working at the Estate Agents after my little sojourn in Wales. My future husband went into the Merchant Navy at age 15. We got engaged when I was 17 and got married when I was 18. My husband was still in the Merchant Navy for some years so I got used to managing on my own. I wasn’t fond of cooking, but I did make all my children’s clothes which I did enjoy doing, even top coats. I wasn’t considered particularly young to be married - quite a few girls were married aged about 18 at that time. The war did make us grow up more quickly.
When I first went to work from school I worked for an Insurance company evacuated from London to Epsom, near West Hill. I used to cycle there from home and I had to go down an alleyway between two buildings to get to their offices. One day, I had just arrived when a doodlebug cut out just above us. I was madly riding to try to get in and a policeman shouted at me, “Get off that bike!” so I jumped off and took cover. Fortunately, we were all right.
As well as sewing, I did a lot of knitting in the war. I didn’t have to pay coupons for the wool because I used rabbits’ wool. Most people now wouldn’t know about it, but when you had to make use of everything, it was useful. The butcher had it spun from the pelts of the rabbits. It was a bit tickly but kept you warm.
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