Back to the Bombings – and a Home Full of Love

It was 1945, and as a 15-year-old I had only just started working in a London office. Upon hearing the war was over I couldn’t wait to get home. That was easier said than done, though!

I had to get through the crowds in Trafalgar Square in order to make my way to Waterloo station. People were jumping up and down and kissing everyone within grasp! On the threshold of growing up, I’d never been kissed by so many soldiers, sailors and airmen and was very late home. There was no way I could let my mother know why I’d been held up as we didn’t have a telephone in those days.

I’m now living in Australia and finding out how much I didn’t learn in those war years, because I have two grand-daughters aged seven and nine and they ask so many questions, many of which I find difficult to answer. Little do they realise it’s a wonder their grandma learned anything in those days of sirens and all-clears going day and night, which took over my childhood. It seemed I was always being herded underground into the air-raid shelter at school or being marshalled up again on the all-clear before the next siren wailed out again.

I remember so plainly all of us singing There’s a Hole in my Bucket many times over as we children sat in lines down below. I suppose this was the teachers’ way of keeping us occupied!

When it came time for the children in the area to be evacuated I was given specific instructions to look after my sister, who was four years younger, and I took this very seriously.

We were all in line, with our gas masks hanging over our shoulders and waving to our parents for as long as we could keep them in view, not knowing where we were going. In those days you didn’t ask questions!

Our destination turned out to be Wales. We were ushered into the village hall and made to stand in line to be picked out by the villagers. Obviously they wanted only one per household because at the end the only ones left were my sister and me, standing alone in bewilderment. It was left to the headmaster of the village school, to whom everyone looked up, to come forward and claim the two of us.

We felt from the start that we’d been taken in begrudgingly and were considered a nuisance. We
spent most of our time helping with any chores they could find, and we were never allowed to have our meals with the family. We were also kept out of sight when they had visitors. We never felt wanted, and this must have come through in the unhappy letters I wrote home, because within three months our mother had come to take us back home to the bombings and to a home full of love.

We were very glad to leave, although I know many of the other children were having a good time and in some cases weren’t all that keen for their stay to come to an end.

From then on, though, I don’t remember learning anything because the teachers and children were still evacuated.

I received more education from a crash course at Pitman’s Commercial College, Wimbledon, which set me off on my career in offices around London just as the war was ending, and this led on to my wonderful life as a London secretary. Even Buckingham Palace came into it – but that’s another story.

Audrey Martin