Ruth's War Experience Page 2

England was not prepared for war in any way, and to be able to make the armaments, it was decided that all the metal railings, which every house had on their front walls, would be taken for what I think they termed the war effort. It completely changed the look of the streets. The railings were very decorative and usually painted either black or green. Although a few people grumbled, no-one seemed to mind very much.

Dornier 17Z

Mum and Dad used to listen every evening to the nine-a-clock news, I don't think they ever missed. As the bombing started, every house had to have an air raid shelter, there were three main types. If you lived on a main through road, and we did, you had either had an Anderson or a Morrison shelter. Now I can never remember which was which, but one was dug into the garden and covered with earth and sand bags, the other was a large metal table, with wire mesh that could be fitted onto the sides when a raid was on. We had one of these, and when the raids were at their height, Mum, Mary, the dog, the cat and I slept under it night after night. Dad refused to, and he always slept in his bed saying, "If Hitler is going to get me I'm going to die dignified in my bed"

The Blitz in London started in earnest on September 7th 1940, but I understand that some bombing occurred in the Aldershot Area from July of that year. The Anderson shelter was constructed from corrugated iron panels, held six people, was partially buried and was named after Sir John Anderson. The Morrison shelter which consisted of a steel top and frame with wire mesh sides came as a kit for home assembly and was named after Herbert Morrison the minister for Inland Security. - Editor

Once the air raids started, it became compulsory to have black-out curtains or shutters at the windows so no lights could be seen. Even large ponds had to be drained so they didn't reflect the moon on a clear night; there were no street lights of course, and during the summer months, we had double summer time, which gave us extra light hours in the evening.

I remember the night we bombed Dresden; it was a massive raid and everyone was out counting the planes out, and a few hours later counting them back. Some were limping in very low and it was possible to see holes in the sides of the planes and pieces out of the wings and tails - some on one engine, God knows how some of them got home at all.

The bombing raid on Dresden was an Anglo-American operation on 13th 15th February 1945 leading to severe damage to the city. Any participation would have been stationed at Blackbushe. Blackbushe, which opened in 1942, mostly stationed Spitfires, Mosquitos, and Bostons. – Editor.

As soon as the siren sounded at night, the sky would be lit with crisscross search lights, it actually looked very pretty. I only once saw an enemy plane caught in a search light beam. As I said Don was on search lights in London, he never used to get any sleep and he was sent home on either twenty four or forty eight hours leave, and sometimes he was so exhausted he would be asleep before mum could even make a cup of tea.

Gas Mask

We were all fitted with gas masks and everyone had to carry one wherever you went; I really hated them. We used to have practices at school, it was a really horrible feeling, this tight rubber mask with straps over your head and filter disc which the air came through to breath, the piece to see through always misted up, and the smell of the rubber was awful.

Once the rationing got under way a lot of things got very short, and it was against the law to sell or exchange your rations, so it was left to all the local kids to get together and swap goods, perhaps mum would want extra margarine for a cake or something, so I would be dispatched with a quarter pound of tea or a pound of sugar and try to swap for the margarine, we all got quite good at it and drove hard bargains In our own way. We had one period when everything became very short, even bread had to be cut into half a loaf for a family of four, and although we had our own fruit in season, for oranges we had to queue, sometimes for two to three hours and then only one orange for each child's ration book, the children's ration books were green and the adult's buff. To begin with the shops just put a cross with a pencil on the fruit section of the ration book, but they soon realized that everyone was rubbing it out and joining the queue again for another orange, so then they had a little rubber stamp which we were unable to rub off.

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