- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Muriel Bolitho/ Leslie Bolitho/ Eunice Portsmouth (nee Bolitho)/ Colin Bolitho
- Location of story:
- Penryn, Cornwall
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 May 2005
This story was submitted to the People's War website by Claire Shaw on behalf of Mildred Jean Winnan, the author and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was aged between 10 and 11 years when war broke out. I lived in Penryn with Mum and Dad, my sister Eunice and young brother Colin. We lived in a Council house and one of my first vivid memories was a group of men armed with acetalyne? Cutters proceeded to remove all the lovely iron-work railings that surrounded our gardens. "For the war effort me dear", they said as mother and the neighbours looked on in horror.
Dad was a carpenter and not of "calling up" age, so his contribution was to become a part time volunteer fireman. Soon a loud and powerful bell was installed in our staircase to call Dad when incendiary bombs had been dropped in the area. In the opposite house a Mr Pellow was also a "fireman" and with the "Bells" being in short supply a bicycle bell was fitted in his bedroom window sill with a wire fixed to it and stretched across the street with a similar bell in our bedroom window sill so that when the call-out bell went one of us would ring sharply- (just like a bicycle bell) until he (Mr Pellow) awoke. Then both my father and Mr Pellow would run to the firetation. Each of us at home had our special task when awoken by the "Bell". Whilst Mum helped Dad to get his uniform on (over his pyjamas)!! Us children would hand him his helmet, his belt, complete with axe, and his heavy black boots- all of which was laid out every night at the foot of the bed. It would be next day usually when Dad arrived back at home again- face blackened by smoke.
In our kitchen/living room we had a scrubbed wood table but this had to be sacrificed for a large metal monstocity which was an "air raid shelter". It looked more like an animal cage with a sheet metal top and wire mesh sides. Mum put a mattress on the floor in this and we would crawl in during the "air raids" mainly at night. We did not like it much, so Dad re-inforced the cupboard under the stair-case with heavy timbers, Mum laid a single mattress on the floor here and then turned a galvanized bath on its side and laid pillow in it. The three of us children would lay in there, with our heads on the pillow-extra support in there should a bomb fall. Fortunately for us this never happened and as soon as the "All clean" sounded we would return to our beds and continue our sleep.
At school we had an underground shelter this being dug out, at what used to be the school's alotment garden. When the siren went during school hours we would grab our gas masks that hung on our chair and run to the shelter. There we would line up on either side and stay quietly until the "all clear" went then we return to school to resume our lessons. Gas masks had to be carried "at all times". One could buy covers for these, they were made of a "mock leather" in various colours and with a long strap, so could be carried over the shoulder. "I had a bottle green case".
Rationing soon took place-"ration books " (I still have one)! Contained coupons for many things. Butter, margarine, lard, eggs, bread, meat, sugar, jam, milk and clothes. A top coat for instance would take a whole years coupon allowance and things such as, matches, soap. Wash-up bowls, buckets, combs and hair grips or any other like commodity one would queue for. If one saw a queue shall we say at Woolworths one would join it not knowing "for what" but to be able to get "whatever".
The meat allocation was some fresh steak- (about half lb for our family allowance) on a Tuesday then on Thursday about the same quantity of "Corned Beef". At weekends the remainder of the family allowance in a small joint, but we survived were never hungry and when I think back to those days, life in the community was great everyone was kind , generous, with little they had- aneighbour with a big family would always help out someone who had run out of butter or the like. There was such a great feeling of cameradery. We are all in this together feeling.
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