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.
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.
lived in St. Albans, in what I suppose would have been called an
upper class road in those days, in a modern detached house.
brother Peter had been born three years before me, just after my
parents moved from their terraced cottage.
father, Major Bill Moon
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.
me, George seemed grown-up. They were refugees from Austria, and
Mrs. Blumenfelds 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 didnt know his true identity.
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!
first went to Watford Tech and then worked in a local factory, EAC,
which was in New Barnes Avenue.
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.
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.
would say "You are warming Georges 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 didnt want to alarm us. Even though
we were very young, we could see the fear on her face.
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.
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 didnt seem strange to us.
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.
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 didnt really know why.
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!
the German prisoners of war in their enclosure in a large field
behind my Grandmothers house in Batford, and I couldnt
believe it when Mum told us that they were the ones with whom we
were at war.
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.
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.
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.
the engine would cut out, and everyones faces would register
the most terrible fear for the five or six seconds before the terrible
bang, which shook everything around us.
evening that the bomb fell in Beaumont Avenue, my mother and Mrs.
Blumenfeld had gone to the cinema, leaving George babysitting.
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.
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.
and Wendy ready for school
going to school for the first time, in 1944, dressed in my smart
purple uniform, with my Mickey Mouse gas mask over my shoulder.
my mother came to meet us, she had blued all our sweet ration on
a huge bar of chocolate for us.
had to make it last all the week, and we couldnt have any
icing on our teatime buns. But it was worth it!
was quite a while after the end of the war that my father came home.
From then on, our lifestyle changed dramatically.
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.
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.
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.
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
can find more stories like this and add your own on the People's
10-May-2005 14:41:58 BST
really touched me