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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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War Time Shopping in Orpington

by Bromley Museum

Contributed by 
Bromley Museum
People in story: 
Stephen Chaplin
Location of story: 
Orpington
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3320335
Contributed on: 
24 November 2004

This is an edited extract of a recorded interview conducted by Adrian Green of Bromley Museum with Stephen Chaplin. It has been submitted to the People’s War website with his permission.

'Our life was Orpington High Street, we used to go there every afternoon at about half past two. Mother was a talker and I was an only child and she would recite where she was going… life was there. … They used to put their baskets down and start talking and that’s how I knew about the war, because nothing that we were interested in got into the press. So you would hear about what had happened last night, where something had fallen, what had happened, whether the war was going to be over soon. … It was mainly women meeting when she shopped.

The older people that I knew were born in the Victorian era about 1870, they, a lot of the people remembered the First World War, and the talk was of the Second World War not being half as bad as the first. You never, in a way we felt we were front line, but in peoples mind we were having a reasonable time.

My father became a warden. My main remembrance of him being warden were his gas attack warning notes about the various kinds of gas that would, could be used, they expected it. There was a clearing station by the fire station for gas victims and he had this notebook about the various gasses and what to do in the case of problems. By the war memorial they had a closed wagon like an old ambulance thing that was to test people’s gas masks out. I had this new gas mask and was told to go up the steps into this closed wagon with no windows and try my gas mask out. I refused to go, and there was a very big scene because I then dug my heels in because I thought that if it didn’t work, I would die and so I suddenly thought I might not survive this and I wouldn’t go in.

Lord Haw-Haw was extremely disturbing to a child. I remember him saying ‘we know where you are Orpington we come via the Tip-Top bakery’. That as propaganda was infinitely successful as it shattered a population with intimate knowledge.'

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