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Childhood Memories of Bombings and Evacuation from London

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:56 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

The contributor shared stories from her youth during the Second World War. In 1939, when she and her sister were 8 and 10 years old respectively, they were evacuated from London to Gwinear. The contributor recalled that the children were gathered in a school hall and were "picked out" by those who would care for them. The contributor's mother had told her and her sister to stay together, and they were taken in by Mr and Mrs Francis (Wall School [sic]), whom the contributor remembered growing tomatoes. The contributor explained that the children did not receive any schooling and, instead, spent most of their time knitting socks for the airmen. She added that her family had 9 children in total (7 girls and 2 boys) and that the older 7 children all stayed in London to work. The contributor remembered crying on the train when leaving her family as well as receiving a pair of boots from her father, who was in the Navy, for Christmas.

The contributor described a bombing in which her family lost their home in London in 1940. The contributor lived at 13 Brunswick Court, and she noted that the row of houses still exists with her old home missing. The contributor stated that, before bombings, sirens would alert and people would take shelter in the park near London Bridge. The contributor recalled the shelter being full of people and waiting for the bombings to stop. She was with her entire family, and she was 8 years old. The contributor also recalled that every Sunday her family would go for a walk to watch the buses over Tower Bridge, and she remembered seeing canons outside. The contributor also shared that during school holidays she had sheltered in Chislehurst caves for safety, often sleeping in bunks in the caves overnight, and she now suffers from claustrophobia due to this. The contributor explained that she would pick hops and remembered her fingers smelling from the hops. She would also sleep on straw in cow sheds.

The contributor shared that she was walking home from school on 20 January 1943 with her sister when bombs started dropping in Catford, Bromley, Kent, and Sandhurst. This included the bombing of Sandhurst Road School. There was no warning or siren, and the sisters sheltered in bushes. The contributor explained that the girls suffered injuries and were hospitalised in Danford. She added that their mother was too far away and was unable to visit them in the hospital. After these bombings, the contributor explained that she moved to Downham, Kent.

The contributor brought in a ration book for digitisation, which was her own possession from 1953 and 1954, as rationing continued after the war. The contributor highlighted that there were sweet rations at the back, and she remembered going to the cinema with the sweet coupons. She recalled receiving powdered egg and that they had to be inventive when cooking. The contributor also shared that she remembered practicing wearing gas masks, although she never needed to use them. She also recalled babies being given red, self pumping, gas masks.

The contributor added that her paternal uncle, Charlie, was a prisoner of war who was held at Stelag VIII-B. The contributor's uncle survived the war; however, when he returned home he found that his pre-war girlfriend had married someone else. The contributor also shared that her husband, Bob James, recalled seeing Plymouth being bombed and playing with the shrapnel. The contributor's husband shared vivid memories of the war with her, including seeing the sky lit up by bombs. The two met in Bromley.


Item list and details

Ration book from 1953 to 1954, which was given to Winifred Elizabeth James.

Person the story/items relate to

Winifred Elizabeth James (née Miller)

Person who shared the story/items

Winifred Elizabeth James

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

The contributor primarily shared her own personal recollections of the Second Word War.

Type of submission

Shared at Fitzharrys School, Oxfordshire on 16 September 2023.

Record ID

117911 | FIZ009