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15 October 2014
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lights out at 7.00

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Maureen Middlemiss
Location of story: 
Peterborough and Woolwich
Article ID: 
A4685196
Contributed on: 
03 August 2005

I was evacuated to Peterborough. I must have been about two and a half to three years old so the memories of it are rather slim, but strangely enough the address has stayed in my mind: 153 Mares Walk. And the two ladies that we were evacuated with, because my mother actually came as well, were the Misses Thompson, two spinster ladies.

We had been living in Woolwich and I think this is the reason we were evacuated because Woolwich arsenal was very close to us and I do remember my mother almost… well, I don’t think she ever got over it — she lost her best friend in a raid which I think was just a street away from us — the houses were just flattened.

I suppose my most vivid memories of being with these other people was, they were very good to me but they were quite strict and I think my mother probably found it harder because we had lights out at 7.00 or something extremely early. I can always remember one of them, one of my favourite toys was my little teddy bear, like most children, and he got wounded and one of the Miss Thompsons bandaged him up, sewed him up for me, so he was OK.

I don’t know if we had a raid one day, but I remember we had to go under the dining room table for some reason and I can only think there must have been a raid and they hadn’t got a shelter, so we all just dived under the dining room table. But they were an extremely nice couple of ladies — obviously no children, I think they made a fuss of me because of that. But I think my mother missed home, and my father, and we came back, basically to probably worse than what we’d left. My father was in a reserved occupation, he was an electrical cable engineer, so he had to stay behind and my mother was obviously very worried about him.

I have no idea how we got to the Misses Thompson, I can only think it must have been arranged by my mother and father, mainly because of the area that we were living in I think it was more for my mother’s benefit almost than me because she practically had a nervous breakdown and having a small child, she just couldn’t cope. I think our house did get hit actually. We didn’t find out until… actually I don’t know that he ever told my mother, I know he told me not long before he died, they were on trucks going to various places that had been bombed, I suppose to try to reconnect the… they were all being fired on and he could remember turning round and seeing the truck behind them actually hit and on fire and I don’t think he ever told my mother that.

When we came back to Woolwich, we had our own shelter which my father had built in the garden and we seemed to spend an awful lot of time there. I started school at 4, I can remember mum taking me up to kindergarten and bringing me back and I know I had a little bedroom on the side and it’s always stayed in my mind the line in that Vera Lynn song “Jimmy will sleep in his own little room again” and I can remember connecting that being able to sleep in my little room.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by volunteer Sue Craig on behalf of Maureen Middlemiss, and has been added to the site with her permission. Maureen fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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