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Childhood Memories of the War - Joan Thomas

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posted on 2024-06-05, 16:09 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

To find out more about the Second World War, I went to my Great Nana's house to speak to her about what she remembered.

She was only two when WWII started and eight when it ended. She told me some interesting things about her and others' experiences.

Her first memory was when she moved to Bournemouth. She wasn't evacuated there; it was because her father (my Great Great Grandad) was enlisted there as a chef. His job was to cook for the soldiers which involved working very long hours.

After some time she moved back to Sale (the place of her birth) and rationing was introduced, with monthly trips to the shops where you could only buy around a quarter of your essential items.

Many people used their gardens to grow their own fruit and vegetables (as these were hard to get hold of) or had allotments. There was little waste during the war as all the peelings from the vegetables along with other food scraps were placed in bins which were on each street. These were then used to feed the pigs on nearby farms. Many people made their own clothes and any damaged clothes were either mended or recycled to make another garment.

When my Great Great Grandad was still in Bournemouth a friend built him a wooden doll's house for my Great Nana. He filled this up with boiled [?], sweets, lard, sugar and butter before he brought it home. These things were almost impossible to obtain during the war, so this was technically illegal, but thankfully he didn't get caught!

At the back of her house, my Great Nana had an air raid shelter in case the sirens went off and they needed somewhere to hide. However, some people had their shelter built in a different place, for example, my Great Grandad had his in his basement. His dad built bunk beds in there for the whole family so they could sleep in it safely. My Great Nana's cousin Tommy had his shelter in the middle of his living room; they used it during the day for a dining table (!) and at night to sleep in as a safe place to go when they heard the sirens.

At night people wore siren suits to bed which were like onesies. This was so that if the air raid siren went off during the night people could get out of bed as they were, and go down to the shelter without having to get changed.

One day when my Great Nana was at home, she heard the sirens go off, and along with the people that lived near her ran into the air raid shelter nearby. Thankfully everyone survived but it transpired that the incident had involved a pilot dropping an air missile on the hospital for wounded soldiers, less than a mile away from her house.

When it was time for her to go to school everyone had to take gas masks with them. This was in case the sirens went off and you couldn't breathe. However, my Nana refused to wear hers!


Person the story/items relate to

Joan Thomas

Person who shared the story/items


Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Great Grandmother

Type of submission

Shared online as part of the SOS: Save Our Stories campaign.


Greenmount Primary School, Bury, Lancashire

Record ID

98827 | SOS