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Memories of the Blitz: Your stories

On Tuesday 7 September a service at St Paul's in London marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the German air raids across the UK.

Here, BBC News website readers who lived through the Blitz share their memories of the terrifying period of bombing during WWII.

The Blitz 70 years on

Ronald Allen, Leytonstone, London

Image caption Ronald Allen was 10 when the Blitz began

I was caught up in the first air raid in London on 7 September. I was 10 at the time and visiting my grandparents who lived in Plumstead near the Woolwich Arsenal. Up until then, most of the raids had been on air fields. We'd had lots of warnings but no actual raids so we just thought it was another scare.

We went down into the Anderson shelter in the back garden and then the ack-ack guns started firing so we knew this time it was different. The drone of the aircraft could be heard and then the first bombs started falling. I hadn't heard a bomb before so when I heard this rushing whooshing sound I thought it was a crowd cheering like in a football match, not the whistling sound depicted in films.

The noise of the guns and falling bombs was deafening - the ground shook and we all hung on to each other for courage. Eventually the all-clear siren sounded and we came out of the shelter to a sky that had been bright blue to one that was clouded with smoke from the fires started by incendiary bombs. The main target had been the Royal Arsenal about a mile down the road which was a munitions factory.

My mother, sister and I tried to get home, but had to get off the tram at New Cross Gate because only dock workers were allowed to cross the river. I'll never forget the sight of the Surrey docks all ablaze as we tried to get back on that tram. We had to spend the night in a public shelter in New Cross Gate as the night bombing started.

It was Sunday morning before we got home to Leytonstone and my dad was waiting outside the house. I'll never forget the sight of him standing there. He had probably been there for hours, wondering whether we were alive or dead.

Emily Shepherd, Bethnal Green, London

Image caption Emily Shepherd grew up in East London during the Blitz

I was 11 when war was declared. I lived in Bethnal Green throughout the Blitz. Our area was badly hit by bombs.

I lived in a small house and we only had a tiny back yard but the people that backed onto us had an Anderson shelter, so we used to climb over the wall to use theirs. After a while though, it was too cramped (we were a family of five). So we started using a brick shelter on the street.

The brick shelter probably wasn't much safer than staying in the house, but I think it was comforting because you shared it with other people. The air raids were absolutely terrifying - bombs dropping all around - you never knew whether you were going to see the next day. The V2 bombs were the worst, you'd hear them coming and then when the engine stopped you'd know it was coming down. You just waited, petrified, for it to explode.

After a while, my family and I ended up staying in the house. We had a passage with a gas metre in it - I don't know why, but we were always told that was the safest place to be because it was in the middle of the house.

Night after night we'd go to bed and the warning would go and we'd get up. You never knew what you were going to find outside. The other side of our street was bombed and some of my neighbours died. We were very lucky.

At 14 I went to work as a machinist repairing bullet holes in military uniforms so that the clothes could go back to the troops. It was harrowing but at that time you weren't allowed to change jobs - you had to stay there. All the time I was at work, the sirens would start and we'd go down to the basement. Then as soon as the raid stopped, we'd go back up and get back on the machines. I look back now and wonder how we got through it.

Shirley Stead, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Image caption Shirley was six when the Blitz began

I lived with my family in Hitchin, Hertfordshire at the time of the Blitz - I was six when it started.

My father was an engine driver on the railway who was regularly caught in air raids over London and marooned in the tunnels as he spent most of his time transporting the armed forces to and from London.

At the beginning of the blitz, we used to go to the air raid shelter, but after a while we stayed in the house, because the bombs never fell in our area.

However, I do remember seeing the red glow like a pudding basin on the horizon when a bomb fell nearby and I remember the noises of the aeroplanes coming over.

Watching the celebrations today is very emotive - it's wonderful. The Blitz is something that should never be forgotten.

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