The Wartime Memories of Patricia Honor Shepeard

Wartime Memories of Patricia Honor Shepeard

Born on 12th May 1930 at Ferndale Court Brixton (apparently first baby born  there!). Ferndale Court was an area of modern apartments for Police Officers and their families.


Mother Lilian.   Father Leonard – City of London Police Officer – believe my mother was a seamstress in her youth .


My father served in the First World War as a Private in the Royal Fusilier. Drafted to France fought at Ypres, the Somme, Arras and Cambrai where he was wounded.  After treatment in hospital rejoined his regiment and served in various engagements.  Demobbed in February 1919 and held the 1934-15 Star and the General Service and Victory medals.


One brother – Leonard –  5 years older than me


Yes in three stages really – at home until evacuated to Hook, Chessington in Surrey with relatives but all times well cared for but was brought up very strictly by an elderly aunt (my father’s sister-in-law.) but at all times well cared for. On return to Brixton in last two or three years of the war can only remember good times  and with no TV or any other form of communication other than newspapers and radio usually blissfully unaware of the rest of the world.  Except in latter years when visiting cinemas was made aware in Pathe news of some of the atrocities.around the world


Unaware of any particular interests as a child although I did enjoy sport, rounders and netball and was good at them all!


Unaware of future hostilities but do remember the actual announcement that England was at war with Germany – which at the time sounded scary but ignorant of what it all meant.


Yes remember seeing the “dog fights” overhead when in Chessington which at the time were of course very exciting but unaware of what was really happening and don’t recall any shooting down.


My brother in the Royal Air Force – unaware of most of his activities but he ended up in India.   An uncle – who was in the army stationed in Scotland who I understood was involved in major building works, work for which he was later awarded a medal.


No – although my father, when off duty, was out frequently with the Home Guard and I think my brother sometimes accompanied him.


At most children of young age rather took everything in their stride as did not realise the horrors which were happening in the world.


Can’t recall thinking about being scared of what might happen.  Obviously when seeing the horrendous bomb damage around did make you realise what could happen.  Remember the night the City of London was so badly hit my father was on duty and my mother and I were dreadfully worried about his safety.


When evacuated spent most nights in air raid shelter at bottom of the garden – I slept on bunk bed – and back home at the earlier stages of the war when nights were spent in a ground floor flat in the centre of Ferndale Court which had been bricked up and used as the air raid shelter – don’t remember anything but happy times.  After hearing the sirens and the bombers going over head and then hearing the loud explosions everyone would look at each other and say “wonder who has caught it tonight”.  After my Aunt and Uncle’s bungalow was destroyed by one of the first doodlebugs and I was back with my Mother and Father,  apparently the bunk bed I had slept on for many nights was split down the middle!


Fortunately, living, so far as I recall, was just a case of having to “get on with it” Rationing was of course a major problem but everyone just accepted the situation and continued as best they could including joining the endless queues and grateful at the end for what they were able to get!  Never remember ever being hungry or thirsty.  Clothes rationing made life difficult at times but most women undid jumpers and re-knitted them, attended jumble sales and remade clothes, turned shirt collars and cuffs and at times made top coats with blankets.  Many women worked in factories doing war work,  or joined the Land Army, one of the women’s forces or did voluntary work where required.


When back at Brixton our flat had my mother’s sister and one young son, and one of my mother’s nieces, who worked at the American Embassy, living with us and the latter had an American boy friend (whom she later married and went to livc in America) – and as the Americans did not suffer our rationing we were fortunate to have small food parcels now and again, (including nylon stockings)!


We often had a houseful with any friends of my brother – in the navy – visiting us when on leave who brought their rationcards as did my brother – so the family was  able to cater pretty well, particularly as both my mother and aunt were excellent in the kitchen.  Don’t honestly remember what meals we had but always remember them as tasty and sufficient.


After the war ended remember that several of us children used to go down into Ferndale Road and wait by the railway bridge to wave to the troops returning home.


After returning home in the latter years of the war I went to the Greycoat Hospital  school in Westminster (where I had been awarded a special free place.) the school had returned from evacuation themselves.  During evacuation I had attended the Tiffin Girls school in Kingston which I loved and was upset at having to leave to return to Greycoat Hospital as I had so enjoyed my schooling there and progressed well. – and don’t think I really ever enjoyed school after that.


I don’t recall any particularly amusing moments but a particularly tragic moment occurred when my mother was injured by bomb damage and eventually had to have her right breast removed -which gave her many years of distress.  Not sure if it was by a bomb in Ferndale Court or by a land mine which destroyed an organ factory in Ferndale Road.


Probably the worst thing that happened to me- apart from being away from home – was having to re-start schooling at Greycoat Hospital!  Which by comparison to Tiffins was archaic.


Probably the most fearful thing was the arrival of the doodlebugs which were scary for you never knew where they were going when their engines stopped.  I was also scared when I actually saw a V2 bomb decending and which devastated parts of Clapham just a few miles from Brixton seconds later.  I remember my mother, who was a gentle mild tempered lady, actually swearing at the doodlebugs.  Which in retrospect was quite amusing – although thoroughly endorsed at the time!


Fortunately we did not lose any one in our family or friends so did not have to cope such a tragic event.


At Brixton but whether I was there or it was imagination I seem to remember VE day celebrations at Buckingham Palace thought I was with my brother but he didn’t recall it!  Certainly that was a wonderful time thousands of people everywhere just deliriously happy, street parties everywhere and Ferndale Court had a great one in their sports ground.


Unfortunately no photographs.


To be honest no – only when referred to on TV


After thoughts!


Well remember the blackout and lack of signposts, barrage balloons, sirens, search lights, ack-ack fire and the horrendous noise of enemy aircraft overhead night after night and the sight of the resultant bomb damage  – and latterly the noise of the doodlebugs and the deafening silence when their engines stopped!  The horrible gas masks (which thankfully we didn’t have to use) – but had to have them with us at all times.


In latter years when living and working in the city the bomb damage to street after street was still there – so it was many years before the war could be really be forgotten.


Also initially only went to infant school about three mornings a week and remember passing almshouses next to Ferndale Court with two or three barrage balloons on the way.


Remember too that metal gates at Ferndale Court and pretty well every where else (where appropriate) had to be taken down for “the war effort” and wherever possible land was taken for the “Dig for Victory” campaign and gardeners grew vegetables not flowers.


Sweets were a thing of the past and we never saw fruit like oranges, bananas etc nor nuts.  It was a good job that we didn’t know then of everything available now – so we didn’t really miss it, just had to accept it!


Remember the games we used to play – whip and top, rolling wooden hoops with sticks, skipping, hop-scotch, tennis bats and balls (where we used to spend hours  hitting balls against the many available walls) and the boys used to play a rough game called something like jumpjimmyknacker!   Scooters and bikes  – games and equipment we were fortunate to be able use and play at Ferndale due to the lovely roads through the estate – and of course no cars!  No staying indoors those day unless we had to,

Shane Greer

Author: Shane Greer

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