The Wartime Memories of Rosemary and Norman Bartlett

Okay. So this is an interview with Rosemary Bartlett and Norman Bartlett on the 2nd of April 2017. 

So when and where were you born? 

Pardon? 

When and where were you born? 

I was born in Whipton the 30th of the first 27. 

1927. 

Yep. Making me 90. 

And where did you go to school? 

I went to Ladysmith School. Or through the different stages and that’s… left school at 14 which was normal in those days. We left school at 14. I was 12 years old when the war started. In 1939… I remember it very well. Where we lived we had a radio and we kids sat and listened to the then prime minister announce about the war and we sort of like… water of a ducks back. We didn’t understand, you know being children. 

Do you remember anything else about your reaction when it was announced was it just you just weren’t sure what was was going on? 

But we sort of oh my goodness and then expected bombs like already but nothing happened… not for ages, but I had brothers in the services, one in the Navy and one in the Army and they were regular ones like… joined up before the war. We were worried about them. If you know what I mean, my mother was a widow with six kids. So my father died when I was three months old and he was a veteran of the First World War. 

That’s a long time ago. 

What else you want to know? 

Just going back to about school. What can you remember about your school life during the war? 

Well, we taught sort of to like form put your form all in order like you do went to walk in the school and we were allotted houses near that school for when the air raid siren went and which was Ladysmith… I can’t remember the name of the road, but it was immediately further back from the school and we’ve all had to walk tidily and neatly to our allotted places and the people were lovely and  kind… looked after us kids. We loved it because we, we stopped the lessons like kids do but you know it sort of went quickly by, we got used to having Air Raids. I remember when I lived at Whipton there was an air raid and there was bombs up on Sidwell Street which was my end of the town and it was awful scary finding… but I’m lost for words now. 

What a change! 

Oh, dear you want to know more about it? Well, it’s sort of was like that till really bad in 1941 my mother married again, which we had to move from one end of the town to St. Thomas and my stepfather was a policeman. So, when we had an air raid, we used to go under the stairs. Until they built shelters further down the road, you know just like that, you know… when the siren went we all or the people that lived in the two sides of the street used to go in the air raid shelter. 

Stupid really… let’s kill all the people one go if a bomb dropped on her.  Whereas individuals stayed in individual houses stand more chance. 

So who lived in your house? 

That was my my older brother will be 92 this year, my stepfather, Mum, and I had two stepsisters, but they were in the Air Force… at a certain age women, men and women were called up and they had to go in the forces or if they did war work you were excluded from joining the services but some… I went to work at 14 and when I left school, I went into printing works, it’s called Townsend’s and they used to do… we didn’t already but they used to print things for the Navy and we worked on it, it used to be covered up so that nobody else could see it, quite interesting we um, young kids like like me like we made tea for him the elder people, but we had to do sort of that. But we were slaves really you used to have to clean the toilets you know at 14 didn’t… and at 14 in those days I went to work and I had on ankle socks and a bow of ribbon in my hair and my school uniform because there was nothing. It was all, all the clothes were rationed. If anything we were very poor actually but we survived, rations everything was rationed, but I don’t eat very rare, eat meat nowadays because when it was rationed you were only allowed a certain amount, I can’t remember the amount but my stepfather was the big policeman and he was in those days father as I would call him would always have first pick he had all the meat right so there’s nothing left for us kids, you know, but we got used to it but I don’t very rare I eat meat. 

Is there anything in particular that stands out in your mind when you think rationing? 

Frightening really scary awful the air raids were terrible. Used to make us cry…

All the air raids? 

Oh, yeah, my stepfather had friends who had a farm that went out too Whitestone from Woodah Road  because I lived near Redhills then and we used to walk when their was an air raid. We all Mum and everything with the family used to walk out too Whitestone and if there’s raids we used to hide in the hedges and duck down, you know, and I actually saw Exeter burning from the top of Redhills. But we had to go back to our house because they have certain height of the Blitz in our day. If you had to go to work which you know you get into trouble if you didn’t whether you is air raided or not and I remember the next morning walking along Okehampton Road, there had been some bombs dropped there and we had to walk all the way because there was no buses and I couldn’t believe… it’s all flat. Everything was all flattened bombs dropped everywhere and my friend and I we got to work. Got into work and everything was all flat where we actually worked with stood but the other part of the building was flattened and we would be nosy kids, walked up through and and it was an unexploded bomb and that’s it. Oh, I could’ve touched that one stupid… girl… and we both touched it and to say that we touched a bomb what idiots!!  But I will never forget that. But as for another memory we got lots of a lot of memories like that and the day of the daylight really bad daylight  raid we were in work and the siren went and the building I was in, was in sort of like the… one… two… we were the third story up and it’s all sort of stairs to go down and we had formed to get down to go down the stairs to go to a shelter and my friend tripped in front of me and they both went flying down the stairs and she broke a wrist. So that was another contrast you know, that they are shouldn’t have forget. But can I pass you to Norm for a minute? 

What you want to know? I was born on the 21st November 1927 in Okehampton Street, which is just over yours by the bridge and then we moved just before the war. We moved up to Victoria Street, St Sidwells and I went to school at the mid school or the just the first school I went too was Montgomery, which is down in St Thomas’s.  And then I went to the Mint School which is up the top of Fore Street is no longer there, the church, churches there but school when oh, just after the war then I went to Episcopal School. In (?) I left there and then went to Sydney Lees when I was 14 for an apprenticeship told him his apprentice and stayed there for a, well right through the war mostly. While I was there of course, we had the air raids and the one time I remember I was washing my hands at the big sink beside double doors for the old roller towel on the door and I was waving my hands and I saw this plane fly across and they dropped the bomb, it meant to hit the Gas Works, which is there in the end of the road from where we were in Saint Thomas, where I work and went to hit the gas works but apparently he was so low that instead of hitting anything it bounced off the ground and hit a house in School Road the end house and when when the explosion went the doors went wide open and I went out with the doors would have thought that was a bit scary like you know… apart from that nothing much. 

What are your memories of school during the war? 

Mucking about mostly. No, see I cant remember a lot really. I know we used to, had to go to them shelters or anything like that when the air raids went we just stayed in the school and teachers gathered us all together and we went down to the lower part of the building and that was it. I don’t think there was any soldiers around here. Cant think of anything else that happened then. Nope, cant think of nothing? Nothing out of the ordinary that happens when I was at school. 

So who lived in your house during the war? 

Yeah.

Who lived in your house? 

Yeah father mother and two brothers. One brother joined the territorials and when the war started obviously he was called up and in the army, myself, my sister. Later on in the year in about 1943 we had soldiers billeted on us from the barracks the Higher barracks which is  off New North Road way, and after that we had evacuees billeted with us the last couple of evacuees because by that time the other brother joined up and my sister had joined the Air Force they both joined the Air Force. And then I say we had these two evacuees mother and daughter from London staying with us for till the end of the war. Soldiers they came in… we had American soldiers stationed with relatives of us as well one time. 

You lost a brother in the blitz. 

Oh, yeah. Well when the blitz came I mean we had, we had what they called an Anderson shelter… a Morrison shelter. Sorry Morrison shelter, which was a big steel…. like a big table. All members of the family underneath the wire grills to put up around it. So there was my mother, myself the dog, father and sister when she was there and then I said she joined up and was gone. Oh and the brother so there was several of those underneath there waiting for the all clear. And then when the all clear came they all climbed out and, my father and I went out. I borrowed his tin hat to put on, but only because he was an ARP warden, air raid precaution warden they called it. And we went out to look for my brother.  Im sorry. I remember walking… trying to walk up to you know, do you know Exeter at all, you know Exeter, St James road where the house has been bombed and the church had been bombed and razed up that way and we couldnt get through and then we came back and walked along Well Street to try to get by and when we came to York Road, it could turn up York Road to come into the town, the pub on the corner was all bombed, burning and all there’s a high wall the other side of the road and on yeah on the high wall, but barrels of beer and firemen and ARP Wardens drinking and the fire was raging all the way around well they can do nothing about it really, but you could hear when we walked we tried to get up Sidwell Street but couldnt get that way. In Sidwell Street itself there was a lot of little alleyways and and the back of the business premises those little cottages. I had a cousin I lived in one of them and you could hear screams. Because it was all burning up there. We tried to get to them from High Street, but we couldn’t then we went back and went down through the bottom of York Road and tried to get up Longbrook Street as far as only place you could get up there was the road halfway up because all that was bombed the Plaza Cinema and everything was in flames all the way up through there High Street had gone. And I say brother was killed in the Singer sewing machine factory. 

That was some up in High Street. So before you get to Bedford Circus. 

That’s right. I remember that. He wouldn’t stop when I said about the daylight raid my friend fell down the steps of where we were working. It was a German. German machine gun in all the way down through South Street. Yeah and the morning of the Blitz the night before we had to called into work and then I simply touched this unexploded bomb and we he tried to get up through but there is wardens and soldiers that prevented us because it’s so dangerous all these buildings all been bombed it was horrible like… I remember it as if it was yesterday, maybe sorry. 

Like I said when we tried to get around to different places but couldn’t get nowhere near where my brother was with… eventually when everything had died down a bit we managed to walk through and so far but they wouldn’t allow us any further because of probably unexploded bombs and what not isn’t it dangerous when they did clear it there was nothing left of me, brother.  The only identification they had was they found a shoe. And father always used to mend our shoes in those days was really the only way they could identify. And the remains of his bicycle. That was the blitz then afterwards we used to have what they called Hit and Run Raiders come up through the estuary drop a bomb and then disappear. Yeah before anybody could catch him. Several bombs dropped in different parts of the city, behind us when we lived in Victoria Street with one in Colvery Road. 

There used to be a barrage balloons with soldiers with the guns and things and these big balloons.

There used to be this antiaircraft gun up at the top of the hill, behind the lane up the top there. Very high up over there and look out over and all around the city up there? 

Where we’d take the dog for a walk. 

And the anti-aircraft gun up there remember… us kids used to go up there.

Yeah. 

I remember we used to go down the tallest warren when you could walk couldn’t get onto the beach because it was all barbed wire and scaffolding poles and God knows what.  The end of (?) towards Exmouth there was a lot of old holiday bungalows. When we were kids we used to cycle down there and the RAF used to use it as a target practice used to machine gun all these little Bungalow down there that was right on the end of the spit and we used to go down and pick up the old cannon shells and though they’ve been ejected from the plane. Yeah had a load of them on the mantelpiece. Towards the end of the war. I did join up up joined the RAF. Tippy training and then was in the air sea rescue. Launches, sailed from various places. Malta. This was after the war. I was only at Malta. I remember we had there was air sea rescue launched down at Torquay another one Exmouth. There was one at Lyme Regis as well. If we did go down there when I was younger I would cycle different places. Regards the rationing didn’t really notice to tell you the truth. It was because we had an Auntie called Auntie Bertha. She had a small holding up the top of Whitstone top of Red Hills and father used to go up there we had the occasional chicken and vegetables from the garden and eggs. So really we were… obviously some stuff we didnt have but most most of the time we weren’t too bad off for food wise.

Same actually the Stepfathers friend at the farm used to give us eggs. I mean because everything was rationed but will be admitted days to let us have milk and chicken and whatever was all we we did or I’d like that, you know, but the rations that mother used to get get you used to have to cue up. Be long long queues honestly, even for one onion. 

Yeah, never saw a banana.

Never thought of fruit at all know might have been an occasional apple. 

Id go scrumping for apples, they called it.

When I was in the girl guides and their used to be an apple orchard near where our little hut was and I used to be the girl guide who put the apples in but you weren’t supposed to but the farmer didn’t know that people were pinching his apples. I remember that well, fortunately I didn’t climb the tree. So I was all right. I was a coward. I was quite tiny actually… little girl but we never had sweets we had rations but there’s nothing or was it….

You used to be able to go up to the shop and ask for a pan of broken biscuits remember that? 

Yeah. Yeah, but you couldn’t get sweets unless it was in your rationing and even then it’s not very often, you know, so we when we sort of grew up and older we’ve never been be bothered with sweets and things because you never had them.

Until the Americans came! 

Oh I had chewing gum from the Americans. 

Yeah. What do you remember about the experience with the Americans and food? Did they give you gum and… 

Yeah, I remember top of Victoria Street on Union Road one.. couple of days running there was convoys of American troops and tanks going through from (?) Road out to St Davids Station. Throwing stuff from chocolate and chewing gum? Soon as you heard them you’d run like hell up the street to catch up and they used to throw chewing gum and everything, chocolate and all sorts, you know. 

There used to be roads full of tanks and soldiers most untidy not a bit smart were they… (laughing) he hates marching and but when we came down when I used to walk… what buses were few and far so we used to walk home from work come down before you got to Exe bridge there was a little shop on the corner, but it was converted into Military Police, American Military Police and when we used to go by it, they used to say ‘Want some gum honey?’, and they used to give us chewing gum and then when you walked over the bridge there was stationed…

The county ground was used to be for the greyhound tracking and a cricket pitch and sports players and the American half of the Americans were stationed there during the war and they weren’t allowed to cross the bridge. No, they weren’t allowed to come up into the town.  Had to stay that side of the bridge. 

I remember even my friend one night because we weren’t allowed out half past eight was the latest and I remember because it was black out. There was no lights. No nothing. Leaving my friend at the bridge and I was running home and I bumped into somebody and screamed and it was a coloured gentleman and it frightened me out of my wit and he said oh, all right, honey, you’ll be alright. I’m so scared because you never saw, you know like that and I ran all the way home and Mums sat with me and I cried because I ran into a black man and I was frightened to go out again but… because the white military men used to say you be careful they’re dangerous, you know, they treated those terrible terrible. The colored men. Am I allowed to take a little moment? Is that naughty is it politically incorrect. 

Darkies we used to call them. 

Yeah, you can’t say anything like that now. 

But they were very gentle you know. Used to give us whistles when we went past and I was quite pleased. No, not a nice time to be but as for the rations we sort of ate what we could you know, if there was none you didn’t have.

Father had an allotment. Most people did in those days. Yeah and allotments. Yeah. Yeah, it popped it and what it actually and one up turn to top of Victoria Street and Union Road before they built all modern houses other and one in Okehampton Road near that Redhills Hospital.

Should take away all the parks as well. 

Places grow food because really we were we ourselves weren’t too bad off and the other people obviously worse than we were.

Nope, it’s connections, you know people. 

Father was a foreman on the railway. So We have any money wise we were pretty well over well or you know, its days 10 pound a week was well off when I started my apprenticeship. I had one and sixpence a week. Then it went up to half a crown. Oh now I’m rich but what I hear 12 months half a crown. 

My first weeks wages 1 and 9… a shilling , one and nine pence. So your mum to two Shillings and keep sixpence for myself. 

That’s why we used to walk everywhere because you could get a tuppence return on the bus, but we didn’t have tuppence to spare. It was awful. 

Used to go fire watching in the factory, you know, only youngsters 15 16 or 14 fire watching. 

Yeah, a big big big print works and there were a couple of 15 year olds come from the night tonight on going down and down the steps checking to see if everything it. And we had the keys to the place, you know, and I bet you if I’d been an air raid we’d have left and run home to mother, but fortunately it was more used to be used to get half a crown if I were ever invited that Saturday afternoon so half a crown was a lot of money that was two lots three lots of pictures then. It’s going to the pictures, but that’s the thing. So films was our outlet … a lovely film or nothing. 

Tom Mix up at the plaza.

That was Saturday morning… 

Sunday morning pictures. 

We kids used to queue up and go to the pictures. I used to go evening classes after I left school to try and improve my education, but it stopped because of the Air Raids.  Sorry carry on. 

Do you remember how your family reacted when the news of that we were at war. Do you remember how your family reacted? 

Not really? There’s a whole oh my God. We’re at War I remember listening to Neville Chamberlain. Saying that over the radio and we’ll gather during the radio. Yeah, that’s how to announce that we are now cant remember his exact words. We are now at war with Germany state of war with Germany been declared. That’s true. 

But what Mum always did was shout to the kids and not tell them anything so we didn’t really know what was going on. You know in our little world. And we always did as we were told no taste the kids have got no that was that doesn’t know if your mother said no, you didn’t do it. You didn’t tell it. I remember once when I was 16, I swore one word. She didnt half wallop me? I forgot that. I’m sorry. I apologize. But they did it kept everything from us really didn’t they Norm parents or my mother did. My mum’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. 

When Big Brother’s came home from the war on leave and that big celebration. Because I lost one brother in The Blitz and another brother was killed during the War. I think he was on a vessel called the Arandor Star which was taking German prisoners of war and Italian prisoners of War to Canada and they got torpedoed. Remember mother having the telegraph. 

I had a brother who was 21 and he was in the Navy and must have been 42 or 43 that he… some random German submarine and lost and he was 21. Oh, I used… he was at home on I leave used to come and pick me up from school. I’d be so proud to walk along with my big sailor my big brother. Yeah. Yep. My mother was devastated actually but had to carry on due to all these things. 

Remember used to have an attic  you look over the back of the city and water planes taking off from Exeter airport fighters and planes coming over. I used to keep a keep a little notebook at the mall. Yeah. Oh pretty it. Spitfires and hurricanes the idea whirlwinds they were called, we had the polish (?). 

Oh, yeah, my stepsister used to go out with a Polish airman. But my stepfather never knew he would have gone up the wall. I remember what I did know during the war like and we’ve been out in the garden and I couldn’t believe it the sky was full of planes. And it’s like glad gliders on the backside and and I said, I’ll always remember this day. I’ve never seen anything like it. You couldn’t see the sky at all. It’s beginning to D-Day and we didn’t help but notice… 

Dakotas and gliders of what the name of the other one flying out for D-Day and after D-Day flying over. 

Yeah, and then we heard that I like on the news eventually that is D-day for Invasion of France. But I never forgot the sight! 

Where did you get your main source of news from like the papers the radio? 

Radio mostly especially when it was published? Yeah. We used to have the Daily Mail. I have a picture of me when I was 15 do you want to see it?

I used to make model aircraft, play with them up the bedroom jump over the windows see them … crash not very nice. When we were youngsters there was never any teenagers we went from 14 from school to grown up. It was me trying to look and I was 15. I was working it. That was my brother that was killed in the war. That was my mum. And that was me at 14. You see nobody nobody had cameras and things like that, or telephones did they Norm. 

Some people must have they were taking pictures. 

Oh, yeah. Yeah, but I think that was when my mom got married. That was me wedding dress if you know what I mean new dress with coupons I dont know what else to say?

Do you remember the mood or the morale of your family and friends at the time? 

I do yeah, a few tears when news of bereavements apart from that… 

We just had to keep on. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah that be optimistic all the time and when the news came about different places like with family in the forces and you more or less knew where they were it’s the one of my brother’s was in the Eighth Army and would put in the news of their victories and you’d be really really pleased… general chat about it and sort of keeping confidential, but they couldn’t tell you where they were but we used to send little codes say oh, it’s hot at the oh something like that, but no good to be optimistic and keep going. But when when when when it was ummm? Over over that it’s a street party in our road and all the kids were sat either side in the road and it may…. 

Did you enjoy those parties at the end?

Yeah a big party. Yeah, we’ve been rejoicing. Yeah dancing in the street in London is where all the gas. They have music going up there and people were dancing and servicemen and service women there. Dancing in the ruins… especially outside by the Savoy 

One side was all right and the other side bombed, Plaza Cinema gone the corner of Longbeer Street gone, Sidwell Street and where  Boots is all that way down all the way down to the guild hall or whenever. 

How did they miss the Cathedral it stands out most of all in Exeter , you could see the Cathedral from anywhere. 

There was a little damage…

The east wing of that was bombed and there was a bit of damage on Church’s Roof. Oh, yeah. St Sidwells Church, Mary Arches Church.

Was there a point where your opinion of the war changed at all?

Oviously a lot more optimistic towards the end of the war when we find we was in France and Germany, you know God soon be over and I know morale was pretty good I think all in all. 

Oh, you used to listen to the radio, no TV in those days. So different isnt it. It’s right back. 

Was there anything you did or thought to keep your spirits up in hard times or stress but particular hard times of stress?

Try to joke about it. Really. A fun or not – trying to look on the bright side of you know. 

You used to laugh at anything silly on the radio? 

It’s that man again towards the end. Yeah. Yeah, I think so. 

Did you have a main source of comfort at all? 

Only my mother or when I  say only my mother. Source of comfort.  

Yeah, as long as everybody was all right in the main.

Didnt have a teddy bear or anything like that. 

No cats or dogs.

First dog I had was when ‘we’ had a dog.

No, I never had any. Think I had a cat when I was a kid. 

What did you do to pass the time while you’re in the shelters during the Air Raids? 

Just chatting amongst each other and to another one showed up the block. You don’t look very good and don’t come in here and bust it coming down. But we’ve never been in only the the Anderson shelter what was in the kitchen the dining room or using the table in case of air raids. If the bombs started dropping just got all the family underneath there. 

We didn’t say much we were all petrified scared scared everybody to go underneath her dog and all. 

Yeah, but that’s boys wouldn’t but little girls and girls were scared. Not nice at all.

I was looking for souvenirs.  Bits of bone, splinters and what not. 

Yeah, didn’t you used to pick up bits of the airplanes and that… 

Nothing around here. 

Well, if you lived in the countryside, maybe… there are no idea. 

I don’t know what else to say. 

What did you or your family think the outcome of the war would be?

Win, didnt think we would lose. Winston Churchill was wonderful. He was a wonderful prime minister and we put all our trust in him. 

Do you think he helped boost morale? 

Yeah. Wonderful. Yeah. Yeah and and and sort of radio they used a radio entertainment and going to the pictures with the coin boost you you know, like they used to have like musical, pathe news and and things like that and in-between shows they used to have a stage show. 

The Savoy had an organist… Harold Stringer he used to come up from the floor. Play tunes in between the intervals and everybody used to sing a singsong. 

If a siren went we never used to leave the cinema, stay in the cinema. Put on the screen if you wish to leave and we just sat there.

Do you remember the first time you heard the air raid siren? 

Horrible noise we didnt rush for the shelter or anything like that we just sort of stood around looking for planes. 

Just wait to you hear bump bump bump. 

No no fear when we was kids.

The siren was horrible noise wasnt it Norm seemed to go on for hours.

Machine gunning used to go on. 

The all clear was lovely. Everybody yes it’s all right get on but when you had to get on what you would do it, you know, you couldn’t stop because of an air raid everybody was busy. Down behind the printing machines when you hear the bomb going off. Hope none to close closest I got to a bomb was the end of (?) Road about hundred yards I suppose. 

Yeah ours was just on Okehampton Road just a few doors down from Woodah Road. Felt like your house was coming in and we’re going to get out the window. 

What stands out in your mind when you think about the aftermath of the war? 

The aftermath… thank God it was over.  Sorry for all the people when you used to see the scenes at the concentration camps oh dear. 

Yeah, they were wicked weren’t they.  I don’t know if you ever… you like history don’t you. We always watch. That’s things like history on on the television and I think all youngsters should see that. I never knew, you know when you see the people. I remember when after they invaded France and everything and not all the soldiers coming back here and I remember I lived at (?) and trains used to stop filled up with soldiers or servicemen and we used to come but they used to make tea and we used to go up the the back of the railway and take tea to all the servicemen. It was all nationalities there and they were really pleased that you know… to be back. Wasn’t very nice train loads of them. They must have suffered terribly. 

We had German prisoners of War working for us on our RAF stations? Quite rare and you know what, they used to say about the Germans, but really they were quite nice. They were nothing like the SS and all that lot. Just ordinary people like we were. Troops, we had to go and collect them from the Concentration Camp down the road and bring them back and they used to do all sorts odds and bits, picking weeds and sweeping the floors and God knows what in the Barrack Billets. 

Yeah, there used to be Italian ones round here. Yeah in the farms. 

They wanted the war no more than we did, the average German. There was fanatical ones wasnt there.

I have a German friend who lives up the road and she was over there. Obviously. She didn’t know anything about the Nazis. Just ordinary people. But they had to do what they were told. Like most people, you know mean we can’t we got freedom like this restrictions what you can do and hat you cant do, you know. 

Upon reflection what other changes can you remember when comparing before and after the war? 

Wow, it was things weren’t clothing and that was a bit sparse the rationing didnt finish until 1952. Last of the rationing and uh keep your coupons for clothes. I wore my brothers left overs carried on brothers shoes or clothes. 

I was always good at sewing and my school shorts were red, but I remembered to turn it into it like a collar and wearing it under something so people all day clothes on we didn’t have anything and I even wore my mother’s clothes because there’s nothing around and when you know nowadays perhaps that’s why I’m always wanted to buy clothes. 

No charity shops in those days.

I remember doing it for mum. It’s what they call sides to Middle sheets. They got thin and the side, I remember doing that for my mother doing the stitching and sides to middle. And if there’s any material pillowcases or anything gosh somebody gave me a nylon parachute and I made a nightie out of it. It was lovely beautiful white if anything like that now I used to if anybody anything I remember turning colts and making it into pinafores for people. I wasn’t  trained to be a dress maker but I wanted to be a dressmaker or a hairdresser. But in my day, my mother would have had to pay for me to be an apprentice and she just couldn’t afford it. So I had to take the job my one and nine job so frustrated hairdresser dressmaker.  But now Im a bit restricted as Im blind in one eye but I still have a go.

Is there any thing that you thought about the war at the time that you think differently about now on reflection? 

It was an awful time. And I would never like anybody else to go through all that. It was really especially like growing up. Like like all the freedom that you got now we was restricted all the time werent we Norm no couldnt do this and couldnt you need even like wanted to go to the beach you couldn’t like barbed wire everywhere. You couldn’t walk on sand because they’re testing the bombs there. 

They used to to leave a little gap for people to go through you still could get into the sea didn’t want to stop it actually swimming or anything like that. It was barbed wire but there was gaps in between it. 

No, as far as thinking, we always used to think that the Germans were right swines from what they said on the radio the atrocities they used to commit different times when they invaded Poland and all that. Once you got to know the prisoners of War a lot of those a lot over very decent looks it was the SS were the right swines. 

Yeah, they were actual Nazis weren’t they. The action of the SS than all these top note on it take a note from faded at it as you know, but interesting if you like me watching now and think what evil people they were and I would never never like to ever see that that but they got things like Isis that I see. I mean to each its own for their pray how you want, but not the people to dictate that you you know, you know what I mean? Don’t approve of anything like that. wicked wicked and evil but we came through and are still here. Albeit… got all of me own teeth got there like the only young teeth. Can’t see very much. Cant hear a lot. Still all right up here. Yeah. My brother was 90 will be 92 in July. He’s been very very ill but he is sparkly in his brain Norman, he would have told you a lot because he it was during the war when my Mum married the policemen. They had a neighbor called Pams just simply sees a messenger service that young boys used to ride bikes and go to if the police wanted to you know, go anywhere and my brother was one of those he used to do that. Because he was two years older than me. So he would have been 14 and always out on his bike. Quite well, but still very close, but he went in the Navy eventually. And so did… I don’t know what else to say. 

You mentioned earlier about the evacuees. What are your memories of the evacuees? 

Actually quite a lot of evacuees from London and that area Bristol with evacuees from and as I say we had a mother and daughter evacuee with us they came in about 1942 I think. Something like that and stayed till the end of the war, then a lot of evacuees in school, I think especially from London in that area. Cockneys, he’s dangerous because the East End of London was blown to smithereens, they were all right the cockney kids. 

One of  my best friend’s was a cockney she taught me how to do ballroom dancing properly. I used to cook the classes, but she taught me and she was lovely but she went back eventually and then we lost contact but she was. We had a lot in in the school, I used to come back talking in a Cockney accent. I used to make out I was cockney but they were… I enjoyed it.

Yeah lot of them hadnt seen a wide open space or cows or anything like that. 

Did they ever actually say how they felt about being evacuated or was it….

Scared when they came first took a while to get used to us.

And the way we speak you know what I mean? Broad Devon. Ya know what I means mate. 

Different sorts of disciplines as well from what we had. 

They loved it. Actually they loved it up. You could get chips fish and chips. Yeah,fish werent very much but but you always had chips and dribbles. If you knew what gribbles were when they fried the fish and the bits of batter they used to scoop it up. Little crispy bits of fat really and batter. And you could afford it not as much as chips. Yeah.

Is there anything else you’d like to say or discuss?

I hope I have done well if there is any query about anything you come back and see the old dear. 

Service life was quite nice I enjoyed being in the forces best time in my life comradeship, I played on boats that was lovely. 

Funny in the Air Force, but he was on the boats. 

Yeah, when I was 18, I wanted to fence mine wanted to join up but my mother wouldn’t sign any forms. So I never went Jessabelle. Really? I was a mummies girl.  I was 17 and a half when I joined up, yeah, lied about your age. 

That was you won’t get 15. Is that young sailor? Oh, yeah, boy sailor yeah. 80 Air Training Command or Corps as they used to call it. Train the youngsters in the Air Force, air Cadets, Sea Cadets we had. He probably went Malta it took me the place values pick up its girls. They said about her Rhode Island. It’s now a Marks and Spencers. It was called the gut. There’s a well-known place in Malta you ask a sailor about the Gut used to lead from one of the main streets of Valletta down to the harbor, but at the harbor the gut. Brothels and all sorts.  You dont want to know about that. Scrub that. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I think I was having enough don’t you.

Thank you very much for talking to me and this concludes the interview.

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Author: shane

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