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15 October 2014
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WARTIME CHILDHOOD IN BATTERSEA, LONDON

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Margaret Smith, Andrew Hemphill
Location of story: 
Battersea, Edinburgh Castle
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4477098
Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ted Newcomen from the Hastings Community Learning Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Margaret Smith with her permission and she fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.

My name is Margaret Smith and although I was only one year old in 1939 and living in Scotland with my parents, I have strong early memories from the war years.
We moved to London when I was about 4, probably because there was plenty of work in munitions factories for both my parents. I was a very late child, with much older siblings, my parents must have already been in their 40’s when I was born.
We lived at 18 Broughton Street in Battersea. In the back yard we had a brick air-raid shelter and behind that ran the big viaduct which carried the railway tracks to Clapham Junction station. Frequently trains would stop on the viaduct and we kids would climb up on the roof of the shelter and wave and talk to the troops in the carriages and they would throw sweets and chocolates down to us. By the time the American troops arrived we were quite bold and would ask ‘any gum, chum?’
Although there was regular bombing they never dropped too close to us — usually they hit on the far side of the viaduct where much of the area was devastated. Although blast damage broke our windows the high brick sides of the viaduct generally protected us.
My mother often worked in the factory at night & so slept during the day. I can remember big explosions one day and going upstairs to her bedroom with my brothers & sisters to pick broken glass off her bedspread — luckily nobody was hurt.
On another occasion, a Doodle-bug landed nearby and the eggs and bacon being cooked on the stove (a rare treat that we were all looking forward too) ended up splattered across the kitchen wall — but I think we still scraped it off and ate it all!
Immediately after the war, my parents turned the air-raid shelter into a chicken coop. There was still a dire shortage of meat and my father would sell to the local butchers. We had quite a production line — my brother would do the killing, I would pluck them, and my sister would clean the carcasses.
I had two older brothers in the armed forces, one of whom was a parachutist. Another brother was also in the army and was killed in Germany right at the end of the war where he was buried. His name, Andrew Hemphill, appears in the book of memory at Edinburgh Castle.

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