“I was speaking to my granddaughter Sarah and she was worried about the current situation caused by the Coronavirus. I likened it to the situation our parents found themselves in during the second world war, when the UK was at war with Germany. She suggested that Jeffrey and I wrote down our wartime memories as she was unaware of the hardships and restrictions that were imposed on the British people during the war and she would be very interested to read what we remembered. I thought that as our generation is the last one that will have memories of life during the war, it would be a good idea to ask friends to write their memories, and to give us all something to do to help pass the time. I intended to collate all our memories but I have decided that the best way was to keep them all separate, as we all had different memories. For the readers of these memories, please bear in mind that they depict life during the second world war as seen by young children, it must have been much worse for the adults living through those times."
“I thank all contributors for their memories and for taking the time to put them into words.”
- Ruth Glassman
Adrian and Maureen
"I remember an Anderson shelter that took up half the garden that was submerged below the lawn. We were carried out to the shelter during air raids and air raid sirens woke us up in the middle of the night. It was a relief when you heard the all clear. We swapped shrapnel of different shapes with other children."
"I was born in 1936 so when the war ended I was only 8 and a half. During the war, my family lived in the Queen’s home town of Windsor and surprisingly we had almost no bombing. In about 1944, a V2 rocket hit a local high chimney and the shrapnel scattering into our garden but no one was injured.
About that time my father came home from Army duties and we used to plot on a big map the progress of the Allied forces into Europe. On VE Day and the days after we had street parties almost every day."
"My first memories of the war was when I was about 2 or 3 and I was sent to a nursery in Surrey to be safe. I remember the nurse there was very kind and used to take me home to her family, my mother and sister came once a week to visit. I don’t remember being unhappy.
We lived in Clapton E5 at the time which was only a few miles from the docks and there was a lot to bombing round there.
When I came home if there was an air raid my mother took us to the shelter at either Liverpool Street station or Hyde Park Corner station, she thought there was a better class of people there!
We then went to Norfolk on a farm where they didn’t know what a Jew was like, I don’t remember much of that time. We came home because my father was working in a a clothing factory and couldn’t join us.
Next, we spent the rest of the war in Leeds because my father got a job there working for Burtons making uniforms. We shared a home with two other families and I went to infant school there. I can't remember being unhappy because I was with my family.
We came back towards the end of the war and found that our home had been bombed. We stayed with relatives until we eventually moved into a prefab which was specially built quickly for families who were homeless. I remember going with my mother to a church hall where the Salvation Army was distributing clothing, bedding and utensils for cooking as we had lost everything. My parents managed to go to the ruins of our house and managed to save a few mementoes, some of my dollhouse furniture and a lovely tortoiseshell dressing table set that was undamaged. All the rest had been looted.
My clearest memory at the end of the war was standing in my aunts garden and seeing a V2 bomber flying past, when the engine cut out you knew it had dropped a bomb nearby.
After the war there was rationing and I remember going to the corner shop to get sugar which was measured into a blue bag and a few ounces of butter for the week. Of course there was no chocolate or sweets and I remember seeing my first orange and banana."
"I was very close to my fourth birthday when war was declared and lived with my parents in a few rooms behind a shop in Ley St , Ilford.
My father was not in a reserved occupation so it was not too long before he found himself in the army and eventually he was to spend the rest of the war in India and Burma and, of course, a total stranger to me, returned after the war ended in the Far East.
My mother, my six year old sister and I left London as the Blitz began. We were taken from an evacuee centre in Oxford by two elderly spinsters who had a very large house on the Woodstock Road. We stayed there for a couple of years. Then we went to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. Later we moved again to Luton.
Of course I have many memories of all these places, some horrible, others less so. Everyone will remember air raids and queueing and rationing and dried egg and no bananas but here is my strange ,daily experience during the period we lived in Luton.
Cutenhoe Road was an ordinary street on the very edge of Luton. It stretched from the lower, older part of the town in a long climb to the main road that led to London. The Vauxhall Works was producing tanks and every day a tank, sometimes two, would pass the house we lived in on its way to The Luton Hoo estate for testing , before being sent to the Front.
At the time I simply saw it as normal and it is only in retrospect that I realise what a strange thing it was for a child to see armoured tanks move between semi - detached houses on an otherwise quiet suburban street."
"I was born 17.4.37. Two years before the war started. At the age of 3, I had double pneumonia, and gave mum and dad a big fright when they were told that in the morning, I would either be alive or dead. There were no antibiotics in those days. My grandfather Israel Stroh, died age 27 years with pneumonia in 1899.
I continued to be a worry to my parents, as I developed asthma. I remember, as a young boy, aged 5 and onwards (1942) having dreadful asthma attacks. The worst time was at night when I just could not breathe and my mum would sit with me on the edge of the bed, most of the night. Remember, there was no magic Ventolin, or steroid inhalers.
In Lingwood Road, we also had a Morrisons shelter, where the family would shelter from bombing raids. I particularly remember my mum, saying " Oy Vey " every time we heard a bomb explode. Of course as children we were not worried.
As a young boy, I clambered over bombed houses and collected shrapnel which I would show off in school (Craven Park) where all the upper crust were tutored. I remember one day at school that the headmaster of Craven Park School, called an assembly of all the pupils.He told us that his son had just been killed in a Kami Kasi attack on his ship, and that he was donating his sons boxing gloves to the school.
Some time during the war, my mum, my sister Shirley and I were evacuated to Harrogate. We were in an old house adjacent to a farm, and it was here that I saw a real live chicken (my first). We had a coal fire in the kitchen, and we would toast thick slices of bread on this fire using a long toasting fork. This toast, was the best toast, I have ever tasted, after a liberal coating of real butter!
At home in Clapton, during the war, my dad came home with one banana. I had never seen one before this, and he gave me a half and Shirley a half.
In Harrogate, I also remember a crashed Lancaster bomber, which had made a crash landing near to where we were staying, and members of the public were allowed to go inside the plane, and look it over."
"I was 18 months old when the war started. My mother and I were sent to Northampton I think for a few weeks but the little boy who lived in the house hated me, so we went back to Clapton. My pushchair outside the shelter on Hackney Downs was destroyed by bomb blast.
I loved being in the shelter where I swapped comics with Anita, next door. When my father was demobbed early (he was deaf and had flat feet), he made an Anderson shelter in our back garden. We had a Morrison shelter in the house later, when Barry was born, and we all slept there, children one end and parents the other.
I can remember going with my mother to see my father while he was still in uniform. They went to a tea dance and I remember watching my parents dancing while I sat at a table with an unknown lady.
Before my brother was born, my mother's father lived with us. He was my best friend and would take me to the Downs to play.
I can remember my father being on leave and he put his rifle in the corner of the 'front room', telling me I mustn't touch it. I think I was a bit scared of it anyway.
When I hear sirens now, I'm taken back to that awful time."
"I was born in December 1936, so was not 3 years old when war was declared in September 1939. I have seen a photograph of me on a small tricycle, which I was told was taken when we lived in Staines. I have no memory of living in Staines, which is where the cinema was, where my Dad worked.
Dad was called up to serve in the army shortly after war broke out, and the story is that my sister, Linda, was conceived on his embarkation leave, before he went overseas.
I have no memories of Dad until he returned after the war, and Mum said he returned as a changed man, in many ways. He used to be a fussy eater, but when he returned, he ate anything he was given without complaint. Dad never spoke about his war experiences, but I did learn that he was in the 8th army under General Montgomery and that he served on the big anti-aircraft guns. He was wounded during the war and spent some time in hospital.
I can remember standing in the playground of my primary school, Craven Park School, wearing an overcoat, with a name and address label attached, and with a gas mask on a string, over my shoulder. I must have been about 4 years old, and we were then living at 32 Moundfield Road. Stamford Hill was where most of the Glassman family lived.
Because of the Blitz, we had to be evacuated away from London. We travelled around quite a bit. Linda was born in November 1940 in Worcester, where we lived in a road called Tunnel Hill, with a lady named Mrs Potter. The house had a large garden, and I can remember Mrs Potter showed me how to skin a rabbit. We also moved to Stevenage, and Warrington, near to Stoke on Trent, where I can remember there was a coal mine.
Mum had a younger sister, Aunty Freda. She had contracted Rheumatic Fever and was very sickly. She came with us some of the time when we were evacuated. I did hear that Grandfather Glassman, "Zeider", had obtained a large house somewhere near Reading for all the Glassman family to move to into, to avoid the Blitz, but heard that Mum would not go there as Zeider would not take Aunty Freda. Linda and I only had one set of grandparents, as Mum's parents both died before she was married.
We had an Anderson shelter in the garden of Moundfield Road and I can remember sitting in the shelter with Mum and Linda. Mum used to make sandwiches for us as to take in the shelter, as we often spent hours in the shelter. We must have moved back to London at some time. I can also remember us sitting under the staircase at home during an air raid, and also sleeping in underground tube stations with many other families on the platform.
While we were evacuated I attended several schools in different places. All I can remember is that I sat in an empty classroom with a teacher, during religious assembly, as I was the only Jewish boy in the school.
A V-1 rocket, called a Buzz Bomb or Doodlebug fell on Moundfield Road and caused extensive damage. They were so called as you could hear the droning noise as it flew overhead, and you knew you were safe as long as you could hear the buzzing noise. The time to worry was when it stopped buzzing, as that was when it fell to the ground. Fortunately we were away from London at the time. Many houses were completely flattened by the rocket, and our house had all the windows blown out, the roof blown off, and the bath from the upstairs bathroom was found in the kitchen. I think we went to stay with Mum's sisters, Aunty Ada and Aunty Polly, in Wellesley Street, in the East End for a time.
I was told that a lady in the house next door ours died in the blast from the rocket. I also had two young cousins Anita and Betty, who were killed from a bomb blast. They were at the doorway to an air raid shelter. Their house was in the next street to ours, Castlewood Road. Aunty Bertha and Uncle Hymie moved to Reading after this tragedy.
My Grandmother Glassman, "Booba", had a brother Marcus, who with his family lived in Berlin. The whole family perished in the Holocaust. I saw a picture of Marcus with Booba and Zeider.
Our house was repaired under the War Damage scheme of 1941, where the Government made compensation for damage to houses and land. Mum had to find a builder to do the work and this was difficult because most men were in the armed services. The house was patched up after a style, but was never the same as before he war. The roof always leaked when it rained and the windows never fitted properly.
We had severe rationing during the war, and had ration books with coupons for everything, from food to clothes and furniture. We had dried and powdered eggs, no fresh eggs were available, and we got so used to the taste of the omelettes, that when fresh eggs were available we did not like the taste. I can remember seeing my first ever banana at the end of the war.
At the bottom of Moundfield Road there was a small parade of shops, a Dairy, a Sweetshop called Chat's and also a Haberdashers. I remember that we heard that Chat's had some sweets to sell, and we went down the road with our ration book and some money, and joined the queue to get a bag of sweets. Food was very short and parents went without , to make sure that children had to eat.
We had no TV's in those dark days. We had a radio in the kitchen, but reception was poor, you had to fiddle with the dial for a station and jiggle the aerial. We sat around the kitchen coal fire and listened to the news and broadcasts from Winston Churchill. We had a daily newspaper, which also doubled as toilet paper when it was cut up into squares and hung on a hook in the "Lav" Aunty Ada had an outside "Lav" and it was cold and miserable to use in the winter nights.
We used to play cards in the evenings, often going over the road to Aunty Esta and Uncle Lou who was Dad's youngest brother. We played Casino, Rummy and Newmarket, and six penny pieces ( half of a shilling) changed hands at the end of each game.
Mum would take Linda and me to the cinemas on Stamford Hill, often twice a week, The Regent and The Super Cinemas, both are now supermarkets. Mum would make sandwiches for us all, and we often arrived in the middle of a film, so we would see it one and a half times. There was always an A film and a B film, and also Pathe or some other news programme, which kept us up to date with the progress of the war, although they were always several days behind with the actual news.
The Gordon Family lived in 30 Moundfield Road. Alan Gordon was my age and we were good friends, and he was in my class at Craven Park school. He had very bad asthma. We played games such as hopscotch in the street with local boys and girls. There were very few cars in those days, so it was quite safe to play in the streets.
The Gordon's emigrated to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia, just after the war, and I can remember going to the London Railway station to see them off. I must mention that the Gordon's had a big black cat with a white face called Mickey, that my mother hated. She once spent all morning frying Haddock, and she left the fried fish on a plate on the kitchen window sill to cool, and when she went to take the fish in, she saw Mickey Gordon sitting on the fence licking his mouth. He had stolen and eaten all the fried fish..
I have a Craven Park school picture dated 1943, I was 7 years old. I remember many of my classmates, some lived in my street, and some went onto secondary school with me. The classrooms at Craven Park school had gas lights, and when it was getting dark teachers used a long pole with a hook on the end to pull the chain which increased the gas flow and made a mantle glow to give light.
I attended Hebrew Classes at Egerton Road school on Sunday mornings. I seem to remember spending most of my time there playing football in the playground, which probably resulted in my inability to read Hebrew quickly.
I cannot remember when we got our telephone, whether it was during or after the war. Our number was Stamford Hill 7111. It was a party line, which meant we shared the line with several other homes, and you could lift the hand set and hear other peoples conversations, and had to wait for them to disconnect before you could make your call. Prior to getting our own phone, we had to go to the nearest telephone box, armed with lots of 2p pieces, or if a long call was to be made, armed with shilling coins (12p) or Florins (24p).
From time to time we had American soldiers knock on our front door, announcing that they were cousins of Dad. They usually came bearing gifts such as Hershey chocolate bars and chewing gum. Aunty Esta and Uncle Lou kept in touch with these American cousins, and visited them in America several times after the war.
Zeider Glassman was a kosher butcher, born in Russia, and had brothers and sisters who left Russia and went to America. When Zeider left Russia, he got on a ship which he thought was going to America, but when it docked he found he was in Britain. At that time our grandparents spoke only Yiddish and perhaps a little Russian or Polish, so it must have been very difficult for them when they needed to leave their homes.
The story that I heard was that Zeider wanted to marry a girl named Golda, but as she was the younger sister, he had to marry the older sister, Rebecca, my Booba. Zeider went into the property business and was responsible for building a number of cinemas, which was where Dad and some of his brothers worked.
At the end of the war we had a street party, with people bringing tables from their houses and putting them in the middle of the road. There was not much food around due to the war, but we all had a great time celebrating the end to the war and no more bombing raids.
Some time later I remember we all went up to one of the London train stations, where all the soldiers who had been abroad were coming home. I did not recognise my Dad, but of course Mum was delighted to have him home again. He had not seen Linda who was 5 years old.
He used to send us parcels from various places where he was serving. He was in Italy, North Africa, Palestine and Egypt that I know. There is a story that in Palestine, he was the best man at the wedding of his cousin Montague Cohen, who had met a girl Lilly working in a local Pharmacy, and that he went on honeymoon with them. Monty and Lilly settled in North London, and Monty had a solicitors practice in the West End. We have lots of pictures of Dad in service uniform.
The war was a terrible time to live through, particularly difficult for the women folk who had no support from husbands serving abroad. They had to make the best of things with very little food or money, raising children, being evacuated and moving around the country to anywhere they could stay. Bombing raids every night, nights spent in cold dark air raid shelters, houses destroyed, loved ones killed.
Let us hope we never have to endure such times again, but we should not forget what happened, and should remember all those who died at the hands of the German war machine."
"I was five years old on September 3rd 1939 and we were living in a flat at 15 Ritson Road E8. It is a cul de sac and at the bottom of the road is the German Hospital. The nurses lived next door. I can remember that on the evening of the 2nd there was a huge bonfire in the back garden. They must have burnt all their spy documents.
The next memory is waiting in line at Euston station with a luggage label and a gas mask. We ended up at Northampton where we were selected by residents to stay with. All the pretty girls went first and I and another boy were last but we were lucky as many of the others were mistreated. At school there must have been a hundred of us in the classroom.
I was soon back home they said it was a phoney war. But then the Blitz started and one night a policeman knocked on the door and said we had to leave immediately as there was a time bomb in the hospital. The sky was alight with fires and the smoke acrid as we walked to a local school. We went allowed in back home and walked the streets in pyjamas.
Next I was evacuated to Amersham but dad took me home when he heard that I had read the lesson in church on Sunday and ate with the maid.
I was also evacuated to Reading, Wilton and Leighton Buzzard, stayed with my Booba and Zeider in Cable Street as mum was pregnant with sister Suzanne where I went to the Christian Street School and the Talmud Torah opposite, in the evening we slept in the Tilbury or in a tube station.
We ended up in Forest Gate and had our windows blown out several times by bombs, doodlebugs and V2s."
"I was one year old when the war broke out. I was not aware of much until I started school in 1942. Every morning the whole school stood in the playground and we had to try on our Gas Masks which were in the shape of Mickey Mouse. We all thought it was great fun and were sorry when we had to go into school.
I was aware of tensions at home, we were a household of females. My mother, my sister, my grandma and my Auntie and me. My father and uncle were called up early on in the war. We were very lucky that we had a big garden and we kept chickens, so we had plenty of eggs.
One night the Sirens went and we had to run quickly to the Air Raid shelter in our street. My mother had collected a few precious eggs and quickly put them in a bowl under her bed. When the All-clear was heard we went home to discover quite a bit of shock damage, bits of ceiling etc, but NOT ONE EGG WAS BROKEN. That really cheered us up!! We couldn’t keep the hens for long though as we couldn’t feed them and our food was rationed and everyone had the minimum to eat. The Siren that told us all that bombs were coming was a horrific sound that I shall never forget. Many many years later I heard that siren in South Africa and was frozen with horror. That siren was to keep the Native Africans off the streets from 10pm. That horrified me as much as the war siren had.
Another horrible thing during the war was THE TELEGRAM BOY. You dreaded seeing him because you knew immediately that it was to inform the family who received it that their loved one was dead. Everyone thanked G-d when he passed our doors. Young boys who were not old enough to go into the war took on many jobs and Telegraph and post was an important job.
One thing I do remember THE SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE. Everyone helped to keep up the morale of the people. Meagre food was shared, the old and infirm were cared for. People who lived on their own were taken into homes by relatives and friends. Everything was shared. In the shelters we laughed ,sang and prayed while the bombs fell around us. Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of colour were all brothers and sisters in the shelters.
I pray to G-d that the people of this country, and others will revive that wonderful spirit and that this horrible time that we are going through now will soon be over."
"I was born in Vienna June 11 1936. On March 30 1938, came the Anschluss, and the Germans marched into Vienna. My dad, Stefek, saw the great danger, and decided to leave. The whole family. me (aged 2) and y mum and dad escaped by plane, via Italy to London. We told no one that they were leaving.
My dad had sewn some gold coins in my pram, which we took with us. He just closed his tailors shop, on the bank of the Danube and left.
Risa, my mum was heavily pregnant, and my baby brother was born 2 days after landing in London. They named him George after the king ( George 6th). We came to live in Golders Green.
Our first house was destroyed by a bomb, and we moved into another house also in Golders Green. We had a "Morrisons Shelter", an iron table in the kitchen, and George would not get in until the family cat was safely inside. The house had an outside toilet, and strips of newspaper, hanging on a nail, were use to toochus wipe.
I have now resided in Golders Green for 83 years where I have two cousins (both kindertransport).
Most of Renee's relatives were murdered by the Nazis.
"I was about 3½ years old when the war started so I don’t have many memories of those days. I do know that my parents had a sweet shop in Barking before the war and I have an abiding memory of standing on a chair and looking into the tub of a freezer cabinet as my father scooped out an ice cream.
In the early days of the war we had go and live with my grandparents in Hackney. My father walked with a slight limp from an accident in his youth and was not fit enough to be enlisted into the army but was instead drafted into the police force and served as a London Bobby for the duration of the war.
I do recall the night time air raids and the sirens and being taken from my bed in the middle of the night and going with the whole family into a shelter that had been constructed in the back garden. I suppose the noise of the sirens and the anti-aircraft guns and the planes flying overhead and the searchlights and the sounds of bombs exploding must have been very frightening for the adults. I still vaguely remember the noise but it was just part of normal everyday life to a child of 4 or 5 years old.
My grandparents moved to Leicester to get away from the daily bombing and I was sent to stay with them. My grandparents ran a tailoring business in Leicester in a shop in Hinckley Road. They spoke Yiddish most of the time and I picked it up very quickly and as a young child I could also get by in Yiddish.
My mother and younger brother remained London most of the time with my father. I started primary school in Leicester and in the course of the time that I was there I went to two separate primary schools. I suppose the first was for infants and the second for the older children. I was also taken back to London for a period on at least a couple of occasions and my mother and brother also spent some time in Leicester. This resulted in me attending three different primary schools in London in between my 5th and 11th birthdays. So for my early education I attended 5 different schools and shuttled back and forth between them!
On one occasion when in London my school was hit by a V1 flying bomb during the night. I thought “no more school” but sadly I was sent to another school instead. I remember there were about 50 or 60 children in the classes there.
In London we lived in a council flat in Clapton. One night a barrage balloon caught fire and descended into the quadrangle between the blocks and all the neighbours were rushing about with buckets of water trying to put out the flames. Often during the day one could hear the V1 flying bombs coming over. You knew that when the sound of the engine stopped it would fall and explode. I always wanted to go outside when I heard one as I wanted to see what it looked like, but my mother would grab me and my brother and shove us under the kitchen table."