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Wartime Memories of Joan Thomas

by agecon4dor

Contributed by 
Location of story: 
Langton Matravers, near Swanage Dorset
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 November 2004

This story was submitted to the People's War web site by a volunteer from Age Concern Dorchester on behalf of Mrs Thomas and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Thomas fully understands the site's terms and conditions

Joan lived in Langton Matravers, near Swanage throughout the war years. She started school during the war, at the age of 41/2. She remembers having to wear to school, a Mickey Mouse shaped gas mask, in a box around her neck.

In front of the school were three round shelters, where the pupils had to go each time the siren went.

The children had to practice a drill at school in case of attack.

At home, when the siren sounded, the family went under the stairs or out to the garden, where there was a dugout made of corrugated iron and covered with grass.

Joan used to watch the soldiers with their searchlights; they were housed in wooden billets behind her house.

The RAF took over Durnford School in Langton Matravers. Joan remembers that they used to hold lovely parties for the local children at Christmas time. The air force men used to go carol singing around the village with a small, portable organ.

A Messerschmitt aeroplane came down in a field at Corfe Castle. The family went by bus to see it. Joan's father worked in the cordite factory at Holton Heath, Wareham, for the latter part of the war.

Two evacuees, Mr & Mrs Hinckley, came from London and stayed with the family. Joan's mother gave up her front bedroom for them. There were also evacuee children in Garfield House (a part of the old Malt House). These children attended St George's school in the village. Anyone with empty houses or spare rooms took evacuees.

Swanage was bombed, but not Langton Matravers. On the sea front at Swanage there were large boulders, barbed wire and scaffolding to stop any invasion.

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Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Dorset Category
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