When World War 2 was declared I was 6 years old and living in South East London. I had been to a nursey school but was moved to a local school quite a distance from my home. There had been much public debate about moving children to a safer place to live as there were many rumours about London going to be bombed by German aircraft, especially London Docks. So my mother made the brave decision that I should go to the safety of Scotland with a local family. As it happened we went to Glasgow, a very industrial city with docks, so I did not stay there too long!
I returned to London for a while as the bombing had not yet begun. However, it soon became obvious that the bombing was like to begin very soon so arrangements were made for my mother to take me to Thrapston, a small town in Northamptonshire. The Evacuation Officer arranged a place with a factory owner, whose home was next door to the foundry, and my mother helped with the cleaning whilst I went to school.
After a few months we were moved to Newnham-on-Severn (a village in west Gloucestershire) where there was accommodation for myself, my mother and my elderly grandparents and I went to a nearby school. I loved the farm animals; all the cows were named and all the heavy work on the farm was done with Shire horses.
During this time the Blitz had started (September 1940 – May 1941) and my father, who worked at Woolwich, had been sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs for 18 months. All the windows had been blown out and the roof was blown off twice as 4 houses opposite had been bombed.
Eventually my mother returned to London to be with my father and I was placed with a dentist and his family in Westbury-on-Severn (still in Gloucestershire) and went to another school.
By the time I was 8 years old I had moved again, to another farm in Keinton Mandeville, a village in Somerset where I had to walk to a nearby village to go to my 5th school. On the farm I was allowed to help with milking the cows and collecting windfalls of cider apples.
I eventually returned to London in late 1941 / 1942 when the bombing had abated a bit. We had a barrage balloon (a large kite balloon used to defend against aircraft attack by raising cables which pose a collision risk, making the attacker’s approach more difficult) at the bottom of our garden in a sports field and we slept in a Morrison Shelter (an indoor steel ‘table‘ shelter) in the dining room. I went back to a local school nearer to home and rushed into public shelters when the sirens sounded.
By 1943 my parents decided that I should go to a larger school and the Ursuline Convent at Greenwich was chosen because my mother thought the nuns would teach me to sew! When I was interviewed by the Reverend Mother she asked me how much History and Geography I knew, but I said that I did not know which was which.
It was at this time that the Germans started using the flying bombs; these were really frightening because you heard them coming and then the engines died and you knew the bomb would fall to the ground – but where? We held our breath and prayed, “Not us tonight.” And the explosion was always horrible, since you knew someone else was suffering.
We all prayed for the end of war and the relief when it ended was intense, with many celebrations and street parties.