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15 October 2014
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My First Taste of Alcohol at Age 7

by cambsaction

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Vera Jackson
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Contributed on: 
30 October 2005

[This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of Vera Jackson and has been added to the site with her permission. She understands the site’s terms and conditions.]

In the beginning, was a little girl named Vera Shone, who was born in 1933 in Greenwich, on the meridian. We went from the country, where we lived, to Peckham in London, in 1940, to stay with my Grandma, who was my mother’s mother. It was to do with only one person being able to stay home, so we moved in with my grandmother. My mother worked in a munitions factory every day and came home crying every night because she did not like the rough people.

She was also an air-raid warden and had to go to a post to watch for German aeroplanes and raise the siren (also known as Moaning Minnie) before and after the attacks. She did not mind doing this.

At this time, I was seven years old, and I was stood in a bowl and washed in front of the cooking range each evening at 5 p.m. I was dressed in a siren suit, which was an all-in-one suit, covering my light flannel pajamas.

One night, my father was able to be with us in the Anderson shelter; normally, he was the manager of the Woolwich Arsenal (not where my mother worked). Also in the shelter this particular evening were my mother, Grandma, Auntie Jane [who was pregnant] and my little Uncle Bill [who was eleven years old]. By the way, the Anderson shelter was at the bottom of the garden and was covered with earth, where we grew vegetables. This night, we heard a “shooshing” sound and a loud bang—it was a bomb that hit a lemonade factory on the other side of the garden. [It was a delayed-action bomb, so the Army had to come and deactivate it.] We had taken our gas masks with us, but did not need to use them. However, the dust and earth came up because of the blast, and we could hardly see nor breathe because of the dusty atmosphere. On the outside of the shelter, everyone called out, “Are you all right? Are you all right”? That was the ARP wardens calling. We were shocked and unable to speak. My father took his shoe off and tapped out “SOS” with Morse Code on the corrugated iron. The wardens dug us out and we ran to the brick shelter in the next road and while we were running, there was a big ack-ack gun firing at the German aircraft and the searchlights and the barrage balloon (a big silver ball with ears and wires) to catch the aircraft that were there.

In the brick shelter, I got my first taste of alcohol—they put a teaspoon of brandy in milk.

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