Friends

25 September 2016

MEMORIES OF WAR YEARS


Someone asked me recently how I had coped with the war years. My reply was that I didn’t, I was too young - at least at the beginning. 

1939! I was five so the outbreak of World War Two didn’t mean much to me. I remember my Dad picking me up and telling me we were going to spend some time in another place, the other place being an air raid shelter. It was very exciting but I worried about my dolls, thinking they would be lonely without me there to play with them. My Dad reassured me, though, saying I could take the dolls with me.

typical Anderson Shelter
The shelter was in our own garden, I still remember the name Anderson Shelters but other than that I don’t recall much else. Well, I was only five. I remember the alarming sirens and my Dad carrying me on his shoulders as if we were playing a game, but what made the adults cheer was what they called the ‘all-clear’. That was nice; it meant I got to sleep in my own bedroom back at the house. 

Dad used to go out fire watching which I thought was very strange. I mean, he didn’t watch our fire at home, he just sat there and read newspapers. We did have a man come round yelling ‘Put that light out’ which I thought was a bit silly when I didn’t have a light on. I didn’t understand but realisation came in later years when we had to change our pretty curtains for blackout material.

I forget how old I was when I was evacuated, short term. It really meant that when Mom and Dad were working I had to go and stay with a pseudo aunt. She was a friend really, but kids always called other adults aunt or uncle. Mom was a bus conductress simply because all the men were doing war work and women had to take over their jobs. Dad didn’t go to war, but the firm he worked for was commissioned to make parts for the fighter planes... did I say my father was a carpenter and joiner? Making plane parts was very much war work so my Dad did his bit for the country even though it often meant working late into the night.
piece of shrapnel

Since Mom didn’t want to go in a factory she opted to go on the buses which meant early starts. Often she would start out for work while an air raid was still on ... I still have a souvenir of those days, a piece of shrapnel that fell at her feet when she was walking to work. She was lucky it fell at her feet, imagine the harm it could have done flying down from a great height. 

1940. I was six. By this time I was at school and eligible to be shipped off to Canada. I would have been in the next batch but something terrible happened to stop the whole thing. The ship (City of Benares) was torpedoed and 77 children lost their lives. The tragedy ended that particular evacuation programme. Disappointing to the youngsters who were geared-up to go, but it gave me something to brag about, as kids do. My young mind couldn’t absorb such horrifying news.  Childlike logic made me brag that not everyone could say they missed being killed on a boat to Canada. 

The house where I spent most of the war years belonged to ‘Auntie’ Carrie and ‘Uncle’ Fred. They had a son, Gordon, who was a few years older than me. His age gave him the right to boss me about and play nasty tricks and blame me for them. I remember one thing he did and that was to fill the toilet with toilet paper (the whole roll) and tell his mother I did it. Another hiding! I got more there than I did at my real home, and that’s saying something!

Gordon was fun when there was an air-raid and we had to shoot off to the air-raid shelter. He would look after me then because he was older and in charge. I think initially he had resented my presence in his home. Unlike my Dad’s garden shelter, this one was a large enough to accommodate several families. As the years went by we had parties in the shelter. Gordon and I became friends and would spent hours planning and arranging in advance so that the shelter would be ready for us and neighbours to have a whale of a time singing and laughing and making the best of the upheavals of war.

These days people ask me about the war years and I tell them it was fun. For me, it was, sadly not for others. But then, I was young; five when the whole thing started, eleven when it finished. I still remember Churchill’s announcement that we were at war and never want to hear those words again. If there is a next time it won’t be fun even for kids, of that I am quite, quite certain.

23 comments:

Ron said...

OMG, what a beautifully and oh so fascinating post, Valerie! I was literally glued to your every word! For some reason, I have such an affinity for the 30's and 40's. I realize it was a time of war and I'm sure very scary and uncertain for many people. However, when I look back to that time as far as it comes to the fashion, style, music, movies, and the overall way that people were back then, I see it as glamorous and very classy. I'm sure I'm over-romanticizing it, but even with it being wartime, it seemed like a better time to live.

Thank you so much for sharing this post today, my friend. I LOVED IT! And I could so see this being written as a memoir book!

Have a lovely Sunday!

S. J. Qualls said...

What an interesting post! It's not often a person hears about childhood during the war years. The only other one I heard of first hand, was from my friend from Germany, and she tells a whole different story about poverty and going to live with an aunt because first she lost her father and then her mother.

No, we will never see a war like that again, doubtful we will see it coming.

Katie Eggeman said...

What an interesting post, Valerie. How interesting that in a time of war your can still have good memories of growing up during times of turmoil. I enjoyed this story.

joeh said...

What an interesting perspective that you just do not see. More please if you can.

Denise inVA said...

I had a friend who was a child in WWII Valerie, she said the same thing. Sheltered from the horror of War by her age, she also said she only remembers how fun it was. My mum's job was to go around the neighborhood and knock on doors if she saw any light showing through the windows. I enjoyed your memories of your childhood. You told it well as you always do.

Valerie said...

Good morning, Ron. I did once write my life story, the early part, but the writing caught up with present times and I found that too difficult. Real opinions of things and people were likely to be upsetting for some people so I didn't write any more. Unfortunately I lost the lot on a computer that ate things. Pity, I could have done many more posts with that material!

I agree with your about past times, I always think there was an elegance that is sadly missing today.

Valerie said...

SJQ, losing parents like that must have been terrible for your friend. There were sad times for all of us, whatever nationality.

Valerie said...

Katie, thank you. I suppose if I think back a bit more I could come up with more tales about those times.

Valerie said...

Denise, I bet your Mom could tell some tales, too.

kden said...

I worked for a woman for many years who lived through the same time. They had a large family and all of the kids worked together covering the windows with newspaper to block out the light. They also had to do without items such as nylon stockings during the war. I'm glad you didn't see it as a scary time. Children shouldn't have to be afraid at that young age.

Valerie said...

Kden, I don't think we had nylons until 1940's and much later in my area. Rationing put paid to that. Can you imagine only being allowed so much food per week?

Susan Kane said...

Every word written was a story in itself. Children have this gift of viewing life with joy. Write more.

Valerie said...

Joeh, I will try to write more, but it might take a long time!

Valerie said...

Thank you, Susan.

Jenny Woolf said...

We can be so happy when we don't know what the bigger picture is. Maybe there's a lesson there somewhere. I mean, considering that actually we STILL don't know the bigger picture, but just think we do! :)

Valerie said...

Sometimes, Jenny, I wish I didn't know the bigger picture now.

troutbirder said...

This is the kind of stuff that brings reality to history.... personal recollections. Being born in 41 I have no real memories of the war though I read avidly about it. Well done, Valerie !

A Cuban In London said...

Please, tell me that you go to schools and talk to children about these years. What you just wrote here on this post was fascinating. What a wealth of experience and knowledge. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Valerie said...

CiL I'm sorry to admit that I don't do talks about those years. I could if the children came to me but getting to schools isn't easy these days. Thanks for your kind words.

Valerie said...

Thanks, Troutbirder. I didn't realise this post would be as interesting as it apparently is.

Mr. Shife said...

One day man will learn that war is a horrible thing. I'm glad you survived the war years and can look back on it with some good memories. I'm hopeful my kiddos never have to hear the words that the U.S. is at war. Take care, Val.

baili said...

just because of few selfish minds in this world common people had to suffer and it is still going on until the day when these common people will realize the strength of unity and stand against the wrong wills of their so called head officials

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello Valerie, greetings and good wishes.

Very interesting to read about world war II from a childs point of view. It is fantastic to read how men and women combined their might in times of need. England always had a great fighting tradition. It was once said that the SUN NEVER SET OVER THE EMPIRE. Very brave people.

Best wishes