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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #1
In three months time it will be the 80th anniversary of Britain's declaration of war against Hitlers Germany on the 3rd of September 1939.
A long time ago and beyond the living memories of the majority of people alive today but there are many of we Octogenarians on this site that were born before this event and still have recollections about those times.
These memories might be wide ranging, about many aspects of those childhood years to us and I am sure that we collectively have a lot to tell.
Be it about air raids, bombs falling , dog fights in the sky, being evacuated to a foster home for safety, the rigours of food rationing or a simple little story about pets, mischief or wartime life style.
Let's have them before it is too late

Bob
 

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Bit before my time Bob. But plenty evidence of WW2 remaining around East End of London (& other dockland areas of UK) when first I was at sea.
Think I might have asked a question re Charlie Browns (Railway Tavern) in Limehouse before. I only ever used the taproom in there. But in later years I remember being told that on VE night, the landlord declared that the celebration bunting would never ever be taken down. Supposedly the decorations remained hanging in the back room until the pub was closed down. Maybe myth, but perhaps someone could verify or otherwise?
 

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Before deploying to Norway with the KOYLI, my Dad built an Anderson shelter for my grandparents. It was still in pretty good nick in the early 60s.
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
We were pretty safe and tucked away down under but there were quite a few actions that kept Australia and NZ on their toes.
A German Raider captured and sank the NZ shipping co passenger ship Rangitane off our East Coast, a German mine sank the passenger ship Niagara off Whangarei Heads , a German mine slipped its mooring and rolled ashore on Northland's Ninety Mile Beach and a Japanese super submarine carrying a float plane flew , unnoticed , over Auckland one sunny Sunday morning while the same sub cheacked out Australian cities and was responsible for dropping a few bombs on the US West coast before being sunk by a US Destroyer.
Meanwhile Darwin has some punishing air raids by Japanese aircraft , Newcastle NSW was strafed from the sea and midget Japanese subs penetrated the defences of Sydney harbour.
All pretty exciting stuff to young boys but stressing to adults who were bereft of real defences as many of our men were overseas in Middle East and other theatres . The fact that the US were recruiting young men then shipping them immediately to NZ for basic training gave us some feeling of protection but it was a year or two of anxious moments.
For young people like me that cruelest was the rationing and the loss off all those things that used to come from Britain.
Black balls and other sweets, bicycle tyres and tubes were perhaps the extremes of our denial but we made do.

Bob
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #6
The trainee American troops on our shores were dotted around the countryside in various camps and I had a few associations with them.
One came while we were living at a country Electrical Substation near Kaitaia in The far north and a whole company carrying packs and rifles were being marched from their base in Okaihau up to Ninety Mile Beach , a possible beaching point for any Japanese invasion attempt. It was just an exercise and they looked pretty tired a they marched along the loose metal road . Several platoons past then the last arrived lagging the main group by half a mile . Mum , Dad and four kids waved as they passed and one trooper pulled a tin of spam from his pack and tossed it toward us calling out "Build up an Army score Mam "
Dad responded with "Would you like a cup of tea" which caused the young Lieutenant to call a halt and within minutes there were 30 men spreadeagled across out front lawn, the kettle plus pots were boiling water and tea was soon to hand. Americans were said to be not fond of tea but there were many takers that day.
Mum, a consummate home baker that made her own bread daily and kept her cake tins full in spite of the rationing saw all her fare disappear before her eyes but was overjoyed with the appreciation and finished up with so many tins of Spam and other military rations than she knew what to do with.
For my part I was able to pull a bayonet out of its scabbard , hold a rifle , and wear a tin hat , magic!

Bob
 

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We had a brick shelter at bottom of garden but dining room was nearer! There was a Barrage balloon station in the park and they gave first warning with shots at planes.

Geoff
 

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Preparing to cycle down to the ferry/work, but should be free to contribute the day after tomorrow if the thread is still up front.
 

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Have very vague memories of being in the Anderson shelter and I can still smell being inside a gas mask.
Watching the glow in the sky when Clydebank and Greenock were bombed.
Posted about the Fairy Swordfish landing close to house on another thread.
Going to the co-op with grandparents with ration books to get weekly allowance of food.
Butter came in barrels and after emptying collecting them for kindling for the fire.
Uncle brought first banana and got upset when I refused to eat it.
Bound to be more but was very happy when it was over, do not remember seeing many obese folk.
Davie
 

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remember standing in the garden at night with my parents on the night the invasion started, and the sky was just black with aircraft, and the noise was tremendous.also listening when the doodle bugs were crossing over, and if the engines cut out, diving under the stairs. The doodle bug engine was very distinctive .
 

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The 'Baedeker raid'----

----on York, (29.4.42), is a memory which I remember more clearly than the other raids on York.

We lived in the village of New Earswick a couple of miles from Rowntree's chocolate factory which was making munitions rather than chocolate.

On the night of that raid the wailing air raid siren had Mum get my brother and I out of bed and sheltering under the stairs, (our air-raid shelter 'til we got a steel Morrison shelter erected in the kitchen), with her reading nursery rimes to us.

We could hear the German bombers overhead as they lined-up to drop their bombs on York.

Then we heard the whistling-sound of bombs being dropped getting louder and louder 'til, with huge explosions, they detonated in a field about quarter-of-a-mile from us. I remember feeling a sort of vibration in the floor we were laying on.

Despite the noise of the bombs dropping Mum's voice never faltered as she read to us which, I'm sure, helped keep us from being terrified by the noise of those (3) bombs falling. (In the World-of-today she'd have to get 'counselled' to expunge the dreadful memories of that night!!!).

After the 'All Clear' had wailed-out Mum took us upstairs to look-out of 'our' bedroom-window, which faced toward York, so we could see all the fires.

The following day all we lads went to the empty field the bombs had fallen-in looking for 'shrapnel'. I found a small piece of steel with blue paint on it. I kept it in my box of 'treasures' for many years! No idea what happened to those 'treasures'! Probably Mum dumped them when I got wed and moved-out of her house.

Incidentally and MANY years later I was taking Mum to see her sister and we were approaching a street called 'Lavender Grove'. Mum asked if I'd turn into it as she'd like to tell me something.

When we got into the Grove she pointed to No.18 and said, "Your Dad and I nearly bought this house before the War but we couldn't afford it so that's how we finished-up in New Earswick. A good job we couldn't afford it as it was bombed during-the-war and everybody was killed!". Phil
 

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When war broke out, I was too young at five to fully understand or even pay much heed to what was happening. I was aware of the blackout, the absence of family members, and grave news on the wireless. A general all around seriousness made me realise that things were different. Our house [my maternal Grandpa's] began to fill up in 1940 when Mum's sister and her daughter, came from Coventry to live with us when her husband joined the RAF. She had a son in June 1941.

Food rationing started in 1940, and lasted well into the 1950's. The last items to be derationed were cheese, butter and meat in 1954, sweets having been derationed the year before. I suppose it's what you grow up with, but as I never had a big appetite anyway, I didn't realise the implications of food rationing for several years.

Everyone was issued with a gas mask, and in an attempt to make them more acceptable to children, their masks were supposed to represent Mickey Mouse. The idea had a mixed reception, and fortunately we never had to wear them other than in practice.

My father was not allowed to join the services because his job on the docks was deemed to be too important to the war effort, and was declared a "reserved occupation".
He joined the Home Guard instead, my Grandpa became the local head of the Civil Defence, and Mum did voluntary work in a NAFFI canteen.

Sometimes, Mum and Dad would invite a soldier or two to our home for the evening. I used to implore to be allowed to stay up late to meet them.
And I remember "knitting bees" and "sewing bees", where ladies would gather at each other's homes of an evening, to sew or knit garments for the servicemen. All in aid of the war effort.

As already mentioned, households were issued with air raid shelters. Either a Morrison shelter for indoors (a steel table); or an Anderson shelter for outdoors, made from sheets of corrugated steel in the form of an inverted "U", which was erected and half-sunk into the ground to a depth of about one metre.

Probably because there were so many of us then at home, we had one of each type. The Morrison table was put up in the dining room and made a good base for Grandpa's three-quarter size billiard table, while Dad and Grandpa erected the Anderson shelter at the bottom of the back garden.
I helped to pile earth over it and plant flowers to disguise it from the air. We built a concealed entrance, and fitted it out with home-made bunk beds, none of which overcame the damp.

Of course there was no heating so Mum made me a warm boilersuit style garment that she called a "siren suit" for our times in the shelter. I later learned that this was a garment of choice of one Winston Churchill.
It was quite frightening to hear the planes droning overhead, and we were always very relieved to hear the siren sound the "all clear".
 

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I was a very young lad being born on April 1938 and during the May blitz on Liverpool my mum took my sister and I to my dads family in Ruthin but later we visited Whitby and during the visit we were in Woolworths in the morning and it was bombed in the afternoon I have vague memories of a German prison camp in a place called Clocanoge and prisoners working on the local farms some had a diamond patch on their jacket and some had a circle,there was also a land army accomodation house nearby there were also American troops billeted local White and black troops they both left one or two babies local.When I went to sea in 1954 there were many seamen I was privileged to sail with but I was saddened to see many of them without families to go home to after a trip unlike me and all they had was the sailors home Canning placebetween trips,ordinary but brave men forgotten by most and the governments then and now this nation would not be enjoying what we have now if it wasn't for them and it must never be forgotten that among those who never came home Five hundred boys never reached their sixteenth birthday ,my memories of rationing and shortages and watching my mum struggle to rear us due to the pittance paid during and after my dad came home from a Japanese prison camp the Burma Road and was dead at 42yrs of age,yes it was a struggle but my life and its hardships pale to the way our seamen suffered during and after the horrors of that war.
 

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My father served throughout the war without leaving Europe. He was wounded in action in Norway, but returned to active service after recovering. But a good number of his friends, who he’d been at school with, served in the Far East and of those who survived, many returned home in a very poor way. (Much same as your own father I guess Tom). I don’t think my Dad ever got over the shock and anger he felt after seeing many of his friends coming home in such a state of distress, which hadn’t arisen out of direct engagement with the enemy.
 

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I was born after the war and it was mentioned very little when I was growing up. When Dad died my Mum one day produced a big box of letters from her to my Dad and from him to her. He was just qualifying as a doctor and the letters start from the very first time they really met to a time shortly after the war finished when he was hospitalised with mental problems, PTSD I suppose now but something to keep quiet. They really bring home the simple day to day bits and also things like writing from a basha in Burma. The comments about the family and friends, many of whom I knew as a child are very interesting. More than anything else I see just how ordinary things were, with occasional bits of anguish, married 6 months and only spent a honeymoon together, then sent to Burma at very short notice.
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #16
Norm's post #12 mention of knitting clubs and groups brings to mind family friends, un identical twins , Beryl and Joan who were approaching middle age and were totally devoted to knitting for the war effort.
Wool and needles accompanied them everywhere they went and one weekend while staying with us that were flat out on socks.
Beryl , the plump one , was knitting fine wool khaki socks for officers uniforms with a nicely formed toe and fitting heel using five or six steel needles and mum used to say that she could turn the heel corner without glancing down at the job .
Joan, the thinner one was knitting coarser wool into socks for 'other.ranks' and it was then I made the decision to be an officer if I had to join the army.

Reminds me of the old First World War musical hall song "Sister Suzy's sewing shirts for soldiers", one time sung by Jimmy Durante and others and a real tongue twister

Bob
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #17
I think that I have posted this story before long ago but it's on topic so why not repeat.
My best mate and I , ten year olds and full of ourselves travelled from our country homes to the big city for the 1944 August school holidays and to stay with an Aunt in the city edge suburb of Parnell. She lived in a one time Fencible cottage built to accomodate British army officers in the mid 1800's when the British garrison was part of the town of Auckland's defence again the Maori tribes . A sparse little building on town gas only, no electricity , and a tiny attic provided our candle lit room.
The big plus was its northern views , looking down onto the main rail station and out to the inner harbour and we looked out on our first morning to see an amazing sight of a fleet of all dull grey ships that were obviously troop transports.
Looking closer at the rail station there was something going on , masses of carriages , army trucks and soldiers marshalling .
There was next to no public news about such operations in those times but according to my uncle it looked like the US forces were being brought in from the host of training camps to be assembled in Auckland and shipped out to a Pacific War theatre .
We couldn't get dressed fast enough and were soon off down to Beach Road adjoining the station and leading to the waterfront wharfs. We were in time to see masses of men marching around to Quay street where they were stood down inside the gated enclosures to await their turn to board a troop ship .
We found a key position at the junction of Quay street and Princes wharf and were witness to a small group of Marines who found a scaffold plank to bridge a high railed corner and escape back on to the street. There were screams of delight which indicated they. Had found their local girlfriends to say their last goodbye but I was disgusted when a Kiwi policeman who had witnessed the escape went over and used his boot to kick the plank into the drink.
We enjoyed the thrill of the action for a while longer but the. Hunger set in and we were off to find a meat pie.
The Attic window view the next morning was without any activity those troops had been boarded and the ship's slipped out to sea before the next day break.
I bet that there was a fair flotilla of escort destroyers awaiting out in the Hauraki Gulf plus a few US Submarines to ensure the GI's arrived at their next battle.

Bob
 

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"City edge suburb of Parnell" Bob, today that's almost the city centre. I arrived in Auckland in Nov/December 1962 and me and my mate spent a couple of nights down town in the Sailors' Home before finding a room in a boarding house in Rota Place close to the Parnell Rose Gardens and the Parnell Baths. We were hoping to ship out on the coast but all the ships were laid up for Christmas and New Year so we seagulled on the wharf until we sorted ourselves out. NZ, the land of milk and honey and Godzone was a great country of 2 and a half million people in those days. My mate lives in a settlement near Kerikeri and I live a 3 hr flight away in Tonga. Proud to be Kiwis.
 

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Preparing to cycle down to the ferry/work, but should be free to contribute the day after tomorrow if the thread is still up front.
A few very early memories such as being got out of bed after hours and into the Morrison shelter until the all clear was sounded, but the Summer of 1944, when I was four years old produced events that were magic to my child's eyes.

Dad was away trying to deal with Germans and Italians and I was in Sussex with my mother. One day I heard exciting music approaching in the lane and ran across the field to see what is was. I got to the flint wall and couldn't see over, but moving to the right I reached higher ground. Able now to see over the wall I saw and heard a Scottish regimental band in full cry, pipes and drums going. Magic.

The soldiers camped around us for some time (weeks?) and we kids had rides in bren gun carriers, aimed the bofors gun and were given sweets beyond our ration-conditioned imagination. Unable to eat my tea I was placed under orders whereby I could accept sweets and pocket them to eat after tea. When I came home one hot Summer day with a pocket of molten chocolate I got off. Nurenburg hadn't happened and following orders was still a safe defence. The sequence of history saved me from being a war criminal, albeit at a most petty level.

One night the soldiers all moved out and next day D-Day was in the news. Hindsight informs me that they must have been the Highland Light Infantry and many of them got no further than Sword Beach.

I'm grateful for the chance to share these memories with a wider audience than usual. Sussex may have been nearer to the main theatre of war than North London, where we had been. But most of the activity passed overhead. One exception was a practice round from British Army artillery. It hit a haystack near where my mother was pushing me in my 'p'ram' and I gathered that this was somewhat moderate news in her estimation. I also remember the wreck of a Super Fortress aircraft that crashed on the Downs near to Furlongs where my cousins lived. Other minor memories crop up from time to time, all in random sequence and without dates.
 

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Robert's mention of a Scottish band prompted yet another memory - listening to the radio one day a male voice choir singing a beautiful song in a language I didn't know. Dad told me it was the Red Army choir.
Where do we drag these memories from?

Being an important seaport, Barry got lots of air-raid warnings, but fortunately didn't suffer too many actual attacks.
Once the house lights were turned on, all windows had to be blacked out to prevent being seen from the sky in the event of an air raid. Of course there was no street lighting for obvious reasons. If a raid was expected or due, the air raid warning siren would wail, and the air raid wardens and police would patrol the streets looking for glimpses of light at peoples windows. If they saw even a ***** of light, you would hear "put that [bluddy] light out", bellowed at the top of their voices.

At the beginning of the war, parents had an opportunity to send their children to the safety of Canada. My teacher in the Infant's School was from Vancouver and was very enthusiastic that some of her pupils might go to live there. My parents did consider this for me, but decided against it.
Just as well because one of the vessels I could have been on, the City of Benares, was torpedoed with the loss of 77 children and this led to the scheme being abandoned.
I remember after the war we received a postcard from my teacher showing the Indian Totem Poles in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

There have been a number of ships wrecked on the Barry beaches over the years, but the one I recollect was the Jamaica Planta, carrying a cargo of oranges, a commodity that was scarce to the point of non-existence during the war, and this cargo was washed up on the beach just 5 minutes walk from home.
We arrived at the beach to find most of the townspeople already there, scavenging for oranges. Unfortunately, a lot of the fruit was contaminated with fuel oil, but if you searched long and hard enough, you got lucky. The search went on for several days.

We had other finds on the beach too. Packages of US Army rations sealed in plastic, containing chewing gum, chocolate, hard biscuits and other edible items. Mum and Dad were adamant I shouldn't eat any of it. Then we found boxes of live small-bore ammunition. For days we could be seen wandering around with a hammer stuck in our belts, which we used to hit the bullets that we had in our trouser pockets. Needless to say we didn't say anything about this find at home, and it's not something I would recommend to anyone today.

The South Wales ports of Barry, Cardiff, Newport, and Swansea, must have presented a tempting target for our foes.
Barry's deliberately obvious defence was a dummy "fort", built on the Point just down the road from home, the idea being to pretend we were better defended than we actually were.
It was nothing more than a collection of lookalike buildings made of plaster on timber frames consisting of a control tower, outbuildings, and two large guns pointing down the Bristol Channel.
Access to the Point from the beach promenade was protected by barbed wire, but access from the rocks around the Point was less of a problem, and for us boys it was too much of a temptation. Consequently we spent many happy hours vigorously doing our bit to defend Barry, manning the guns and generally making things difficult for any would be invaders.
 
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