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Sidcup - A Child's War

by Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Action Desk, BBC Radio Suffolk
People in story: 
Brian Hennessey, Lily Hennesey and Cissie Helps
Location of story: 
Sidcup, Kent
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4438596
Contributed on: 
12 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Suffolk Action Desk on behalf of Brian Hennessey and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr. Hennessey fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was 11 when the war commenced and lived in Sidcup, Kent on the south-east borders of London. Children living 2 miles away in London were evacuated to the country, but we stayed home although the two main roads from Ramsgate and Dover came together nearby and the River Thames was only 3 miles away. These were three of the most commonly followed routes by German bombers raiding London and later were under the flight path of many V1 and V2 rockets. There were lots of barrage balloons around our area and mobile searchlights and Ack Ack guns were moved around the parks, open spaces and golf courses. This meant there was extra danger from shrapnel and German bombers releasing their bombs early, so that they could escape the shelling our night fighters.

I lived with my widowed mother taking refuges in our Andersen Shelter. This was corrugated iron and was half buried in the garden and cemented up to ground level with soil over the top and sides. It had two bunks at ground level and two on the floor with a 2ft. square opening to get in and out, plus a curtain to stop the candlelight showing.

My mother cycled to work at 7 a.m. and I did a morning paper round before cycling 4 miles to school. I wore a metal helmet and sheltered in doorways if there was a lot of shrapnel falling. The papers often arrived late due to bombing, fires, so I’d have to go straight to school. I’d sometimes put papers for adjoining houses in one door, but people preferred to take the paper back to the shop rather than give it to their neighbour.

Half the school went in mornings and the other half in the afternoons as there was a great shortage of teachers. We had large communal shelters at school, which we visited for practice mainly as there were not many day time raids. Later there were V1s and V2s but they came without any warning from the air raid sirens. Our grammar school was 3 miles outside Sidcup, in what was then more countryside than suburbia, so our main worries were travelling to and from school. No school or direct route buses available.

The most frightening times were when sticks of bombs fell getting nearer and louder with each one. Houses nearby were hit and my mother had to take turns as a firewatcher during the night even though she had to cycle 5 miles to work to open up and clean the co-op department store in Eltham.

In 1942 or 1943 a disabled relative moved in with us after being bombed out and we were given a Morrison shelter, which allowed us to stay indoors throughout the night. This was like a metal dining room table with a metal grille round the sides to keep rubble out, if the house collapsed.

I worked in the newsagents at weekends and in their sweet shop until caught eating a sweet. I then helped deliver the milk at weekends.

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