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    People's War
    Memories of a war baby
    Wendy and Peter Moon
    Wendy and her brother Peter in war time St Albans

    There were no Tweenies or Fimbles for Wendy, only a Mickey Mouse gas mask and an absent father. Find out what it was like in war time St Albans for a toddler - and how you can contribute to the BBC's People's War project.


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    The WW2 People's War Website aims to capture and preserve for future generations the personal and family stories of the people who lived and fought in World War Two. This is an opportunity to leave a legacy so that the sacrifices of the war can be better understood.

    The Website enables you to write about World War Two, discuss the stories that you read, reunite with others and research the war generation.

    The WW2 People's War Team rely on you, the online community, to provide authentic stories and constructive feedback.

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    Wendy Lewis Wendy Lewis
    Apart from a year in the States, Wendy Lewis (nee Moon) has lived in St Albans all her life. Here she recalls her memories as a small child in war time Hertfordshire.

    I was born in 1939, and my birth was registered on the day war was declared, 3 September, so although I have no memory of the first years of the war, my very earliest memories are all associated with it in some way or other.

    We lived in St. Albans, in what I suppose would have been called an upper class road in those days, in a modern detached house.

    My brother Peter had been born three years before me, just after my parents moved from their terraced cottage.

    Major Bill Moon
    Wendy's father, Major Bill Moon

    I can remember that to me it seemed that our family consisted of my mother and brother, and a Mrs. Blumenfeld, and her 15-year-old son, George. His mother and my mother shared the housework and cooking.

    To me, George seemed grown-up. They were refugees from Austria, and Mrs. Blumenfeld’s sister had been killed in a concentration camp. I loved George, he always had time to play with us, and at Christmastime he would dress up as Santa Claus, and we would pretend that we didn’t know his true identity.

    When they arrived George didn't speak English and I think in our childish way we helped him to learn the language, although he developed a bit of a Cockney accent. I don't know where that came from!

    He first went to Watford Tech and then worked in a local factory, EAC, which was in New Barnes Avenue.

    My mother thought that she was very clever, hiding her fear of the bombs from us, telling us all kinds of stories to disguise the truth, but although we were very young, I can remember feeling that something was very wrong.

    There would be times when my mother would put us to bed, and I would wake up later in the night to find that my brother and I had been moved to the bed downstairs.

    Mum would say "You are warming George’s bed up for him" and I would think "Why do we have to do that!" but of course I realise now that she was hiding the truth – there was an air-raid but she didn’t want to alarm us. Even though we were very young, we could see the fear on her face.

    My father had volunteered to join the Army quite early on in the war, although he had been exempted by his company. He went in as an officer after passing an exam, and quickly rose to be Staff Major, no mean feat for someone from the East End of London, who had lost his mother at 11 years’ old and his father at 14 years’ old.

    My earliest memories of him were when he came home on leave, and I looked upon him as an occasional visitor. All us kids in the road had occasional fathers, so it didn’t seem strange to us.

    When he was posted to Italy, we did not see him for nearly two years, and when he came home he was sporting a black moustache, so I thought he was someone completely different.

    I can still hear the sound of the sirens, which would go off at any time of the day or night, mostly at night, and can still feel the terror which filled us, although we didn’t really know why.

    All we knew was that germs were things which caused us to be ill, and this is what we were at war with. I must have been about five years’ old before I could distinguish between germs and Germans, and that the Germans were not responsible for my Chicken Pox!

    I saw the German prisoners of war in their enclosure in a large field behind my Grandmother’s house in Batford, and I couldn’t believe it when Mum told us that they were the ones with whom we were at war.

    One afternoon I can remember us all sitting in the garden watching two aircraft high up in the clear blue sky twisting and turning, with the sun glinting on them.

    Then suddenly we saw a parachute descending, and we found out later that the German pilot of the other aircraft had shot him while he was descending, and he was found dead in a field in Wheathampstead.

    The most scary thing I can remember were the doodlebugs. They sounded like a motor bike engine coming nearer and nearer in the sky, and you knew you were safe while you could hear them.

    Then the engine would cut out, and everyone’s faces would register the most terrible fear for the five or six seconds before the terrible bang, which shook everything around us.

    The evening that the bomb fell in Beaumont Avenue, my mother and Mrs. Blumenfeld had gone to the cinema, leaving George babysitting.

    They were walking home over the Jennings Road Railway Bridge when there was the most terrible explosion, and they both threw themselves flat on the ground for quite a while afterwards.

    We went down next day to survey the damage and could not believe that there was nothing there but a huge hole in the ground. The fact that a whole family had been killed went right over my head, such is the insensitivity of children.

    Peter and Wendy Moon
    Peter and Wendy ready for school

    I remember going to school for the first time, in 1944, dressed in my smart purple uniform, with my Mickey Mouse gas mask over my shoulder.

    When my mother came to meet us, she had blued all our sweet ration on a huge bar of chocolate for us.

    We had to make it last all the week, and we couldn’t have any icing on our teatime buns. But it was worth it!

    It was quite a while after the end of the war that my father came home. From then on, our lifestyle changed dramatically.

    Suddenly we were being told off by a virtual stranger. No longer could we jump on the furniture, and we had to be very quiet once he came home from work in the evening.

    Mrs. Blumenfeld and George got what mum called "A Passage to Australia" and they left very quickly. I was bereft. I can still remember crying myself to sleep every night because I missed George so much. I have never seen nor heard from them since.

    I can see now that in my mind George had become my father, but of course my parents would not have understood this. I definitely think that this had a profound effect on the rest of my childhood.

    But there were compensations – I tasted my first banana at six years’ old, my first ice-cream at about the same time, and I first saw the seaside at the age of eight. All these experiences were so exciting, and I can still feel the pleasure which each one gave me.

    You can find more stories like this and add your own on the People's War Website.

    your comments

    connor, st albans Tuesday, 10-May-2005 14:41:58 BST
    it really touched me
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