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A Wartime Childhood

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:14 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

I was born in Epsom, Surrey in 1935 and lived in the same house until the end of the war. My father was in a reserved occupation but was an ARP Officer. My mother was a housewife looking after three children. At the start of the war we had a pole at our front gate with a board on it that would change colour if there was a gas attack which there never was. During the Blitz my brothers and I slept in a cupboard under the stairs; two on the floor and the youngest on a shelf. My parents slept in deck chairs in the kitchen. One night I wanted to use the toilet upstairs and my father took me to look out of the back window at a red glow in the sky and told me that it was London burning. When he was out we were afraid a German parachutist may try to get in. One night there was a tap at the door but we told my mother not to open it. It was a neighbour asking if we were OK. Our nearest neighbour was a Jehovah Witness and came running one day to my mother just after Dunkirk to say her son had come home from France and was threatening to shoot two of her fellow Witnesses who claimed to be conscientious objectors. My mother told her to get rid of the men quick. We boys collected shell fragments etc. from the streets as we walked to school. One day we had to wait in the shelter till we were collected for lunch, no school dinners then, and I can still see my father popping his head round the door wearing his ARP helmet. One day we sent out of school at just before 3.30pm as the siren went. The ARP were pushing small children into houses for safety as the Germans were shooting up the streets. My brother and I ran home throwing ourselves on the ground every few yards.

When the V1s came we were sent home from school and I recall seeing a long line of the doodlebugs flying towards London. One day, one came over between our house and next door at about two hundred feet with flames shooting from its rocket motors. Another time there was a Hurricane shooting at a doodlebug right over our house. You could see the tracer bullets. We ran inside, fell on the floor in the hall, by the stairs, said to be the safest place in a house. The V1 came down in a disused brickyard and blew my father off his bike - he was not amused!

Just before D-Day we went for a bus ride near Dorking and saw hundreds of trucks and tanks parked by the side of the road. The next Sunday, which was after D-Day, there was not a single one left there. I did see fleets of Green Line Buses bringing wounded soldiers to a hospital in town, they had come straight from the front. I can remember my mother telling me on the morning of 6 June "Well, its started."

When the war ended and we had a bonfire in the garden I felt confused because this had never been allowed before. I had grown up in the war and really knew no other way of life.

These are just a few of my memories.

History

Person the story/items relate to

My parents, brothers, neighbours and friends

Person who shared the story/items

Brian Wright

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

They were mainly my family.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

90982