Send us your 1940 stories
What are your memories of the Second World War? Did you experience life with rations? What food do you remember eating? We would love to hear from you about your experiences.
Send your memories in any format by email and we'll pick the best ones to post on this page and could even be published in a Yesterday book on the subject.
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Here's a selection of some of the amazing and inspiring stories we've received so far. Please keep sending them in.
From: Rod Fennings
During the WW2 blitz my grandfather and grandmother lived in Parkfield Road Liverpool.
Of their 15 grown-up children (9 girls and 6 boys) the sisters all remained at home, and all the brothers were Sergeants in the Military police stationed at different locations overseas. The procedure for the family when there was an air raid was all to go into the very large reinforced cellar of the house.
On one particular night, when Sid, one of the younger brothers was home on his first day’s leave, there was an enormous air raid when the Germans were dropping land mines.
Sid, who was only used to the normal bombing and fighting that occurred in the Egyptian Desert, ran in from outside the house shouting ‘what the bloody hell is that?’, and he shoved himself under a table in the kitchen. Quickly realising that there was no-one else to be seen, he promptly went running down into the cellar with a large pan covering his head. My mother, who was used to these severe air raids before, looked up and said to Sid, ‘what in heavens name is the matter, it’s only an air raid?’ To which Sid replied, ‘it’s safer in the desert’. At this comment the whole family broke into fits of laughter and then quietly continued with what they had been doing, until the raid ended. As they came out of the cellar that evening after the raid had ended my mother went up to Sid, who was clearly still shaken-up by the events, and pinned a life size cardboard copy of a Victoria Cross that she had made during the air raid, onto Sid’s chest. The wording on the copy of the Victoria Cross said, ‘Awarded for Valour in the face of a puny German bomb’.
Sid kept that award right up to 1946 when he handed it back to my mother, his sister.
My mother retained that little emblem right through to 1970 when she passed away, when it was buried with her.
Now that’s history
From: Joe Somerville
I was 6 years old in 1940 and our family lived in Hornchurch Essex. Our dear old dad was home on leave at the time and the air raid siren went off, dad had took us all down in the shelter then said "Where's your Gran?" He looked round and she was not in the shelter. He called out. "Come down here Ma, there are German planes up there." She called back." I can't come yet son, I’m looking for my teeth!" Dad went up to get her and shouted. "Get down in the shelter and stop looking for your teeth, they’re dropping bombs, not bloody pork pies" and looking back, he sure was right!
This memory comes from 92-year-old, Joan Bennett
It was the night the Houses of Parliament were fire bombed in May 1940 and I was on fire watch duty at my office in Holborn. We were struggling to cope with our share of bombs, but Parliament had priority.
I remember a colleague standing on some office papers on a desk and saying "I didn't know how to deal with this, so I've let it burn”.
A passing soldier dashed in to help us and by the time the "all clear" sounded we had doused the lot. He left without a word before we could thank him.
From: Harry J Doyle
I was due to be born in November 1940, but Hitler decided to drop a bomb outside our house in Forest Gate. It didn’t go off, but shattered all the window. One thing that did go off was my mum as I decided to make an early appearance, and she was rushed to Forest Gate Maternity Hospital. Hitler must have got wind of this because he now sent his planes to bomb the hospital. The windows were being blown in and the only safe place to be was under the bed, where I was born on October 3rd 1940. I think that explains why I was always a little potty!
From: Ivan Spate
“My name is Ivan Spate, born January 12, 1921.
I well remember the year 1940. At the time I had joined the Home Guard and my girlfriend had joined the ARP, so we were both busy at night due to German bombers on route with bomb payloads.
The one memory that will always be with me is of my grandmother, she was always dressed in a black long dress and we had a Anderson Air Shelter in our garden which was a standard Government issue. We had made our shelter quite comfortable with bunk beds for 4 people, myself, my brother, mother and uncle with grandma's rocking chair positioned between the beds.
Every night at 9pm, on the dot, the German bombers would start droning overhead. Grandma would rock in her chair and say "There come those bloody bombers again". Eventually I joined the British Army which is quite a long story but Grandma Baker, she was someone I was very proud to remember.”
From: Ron Panter
This story is a story that my stepfather has told in the past and no one really believed him. He was evacuated out to Bedford early in the war and was billeted with an "old gent" he called him. He went to a local school and was good at cricket.
One day he was playing in a school match at a playing field called Fairfields which is now under a Sainsbury's superstore, when a Blenheim bomber came over obviously in trouble. The plane tried to make an emergency landing in the playing field but because of the children playing there it swerved away and crashed in the adjoining allotments.
The players, who were about ten or eleven, rushed over to the aircraft and pulled out the pilot who was the only man aboard but had broken his legs. The airman was rushed to hospital and lived.
The next day a Wing Commander came to the school and addressed the assemble, he thanked the cricket team, who had saved the pilot, and congratulated them on their actions. But then asked if everyone would put back the parts of the plane they had stolen, as it was needed to fight the War and no questions would be asked!
My dad had to give back a big piece of Perspex which he has intended to use as a cloche for the vegetables. He duly did for the war effort.
Last year I went to Twinwoods airfield where Glen Miller took off on his last flight and there I came across a log of a Blenheim crashing on the outskirts of Bedford - so the story was true.
My dad was a war hero at ten.
From: Jeanne Clayton
I was born in 1940 so do not know anything about the war really, I can remember going down the air raid shelters with my auntie and my mother, they would be carrying lights with paraffin in and candles. Sometimes we stayed down the shelters what seemed like hours, I think I must have been about three years old then. People often ask me if I remember the war, I always say “I was not born till 1940.” My mother told me I was born in a little two up two down cottage, right next door to an old library over Margate in Kent. She told me she heard a bomb coming down, which probably sounded as if it was right overhead, anyway she told me she got out of bed and went underneath it for safety!
My father was fighting during the war and got captured by the Japanese and was kept a prisoner of war in a concentration camp, and was shot, so I never knew him which is very sad. He is buried in Singapore cemetery, which I have promised myself I will visit one day.
Things were a lot different in those days as we all know. Front doors were always open to any one that wanted a cup of tea and a chat; everybody knew everyone then and had lots of friends.
My mother took in visitors to Margate; she had a boarding house after the war. She worked really hard as well, kept every one happy. How on earth she managed to get a big house then I do not know.
From: Jacqui Nelson
My mother grew up in Rusholme, Manchester, during the war. She remembered the bombs. She once told me about a young mother from the neighbourhood who went to the shelters pushing a pram; when she looked in at the end of her journey her baby was dead: killed by shrapnel from our own Ak Ak guns. She also remembers that some of her cousins were due to be evacuated to the States when, at the last moment, their mother decided that she could not bear to loose them; a decision that saved their lives because the ship was sunk.
Unfortunately my mum is no longer around to verify the details and you may find the story of limited interest but my point is to remind you that the war did not just happen in the south of England; it affected the north as well, and my mother in law wishes to say that she remembers the bombs falling on Glasgow too! She was bombed out.
From: Brian Dunning
I was born in 1937, but war makes a child grow up very quickly. Even at the age of 3 years, when I lived on the Kent/Surrey border in the suburbs of Croydon, I remember watching the air battles taking place from our kitchen back door. I also remember my father and uncle digging up our front garden and erecting an Anderson shelter. When it was half erected my swimming mad young uncle (11 years my senior) climbed onto the curved roof, jumped up and down on it like a springboard and dived headfirst into a loose pile of freshly dug earth - it still knocked him unconscious.
Once the shelter was completed it had a concrete floor which quickly filled with water to a depth of about 3 inches and went stagnant. The entrance door was an old blanket and there were a couple of crude bunks inside. I have never forgotten the stink inside that shelter and blessed the day when we had a Morrison indoor shelter to replace it.
We were subject to nightly bombing and I always remember my mother crouching over me on all fours when the bombs were dropping, two houses two doors away took a direct hit and were completely demolished and we had a bomb in the road at the front of the house which blew all our front windows in, the front door off and the ceilings down - luckily we were at the back of the house. When the all clear went I used to meet up with the other kids and we used to go shrapnel hunting to see who could find the biggest piece and many a time burned my hand on hot shrapnel.
If I return to my old road Ash Tree Way, Shirley, Croydon and look at the roofs adjacent to number 49 the tiles of different shades indicate where the incendiary bombs went through. Those with entirely different coloured tiles were where the entire house was set on fire and the top floor at least burned out.
From: Ivor Rees
We thought that little would happen in our area. I recall the first air-raid. My mother was out and I was 9 years old. I ran in my bedroom slippers through the rain to the house behind ours on the hillside - there had been an open area (in lieu of basement) under the house, which would have been useless in a raid. The owner had bricked it up and I sheltered there for a false alarm. When my mother returned home, she was quite unconcerned about any danger from the air but I had a row for not wearing my shoes.
A mountain separated us from the village of Cwmparc, just about a mile away as the crow flies. I slept heavily until my bed was lifted into the air and dropped again - I followed it down and woke. Everyone else in the street seemed to be standing on their doorsteps watching Cwmparc being bombed. What woke me was the exploding of one of two landmines. Later in the week we all went to see the damage. 113 people were killed, proportionately a large number. Among them were a couple of London evacuees.
When France fell, the Rhondda mines lost their main customer and were closed down for some time. My father was drafted to London to work at the Stratford Gas, Coke and Light Company, throughout the time of the blitz. Within a year or so the mines reopened and my father came home, as did a few other relatives from the Redditch area. Two of my mother's brothers were in the army. Gran said they would not have the last one, still at Redditch. She decreed that he should return to the mines to be safe. He was killed in a mining accident in 1942. His brothers returned home safely.
We local kids were nonplussed at the arrival of evacuees from the East End. They were excited to see "cows on the mountain" - these were sheep on the coal tip. The day shift from the mines came home (no pithead baths) - the evacuees ran to their host houses shouting that the coalman was coming but were baffled to see crowds of coalmen come up the hill without any coal. Evacuated ladies caused a stir - one in particular, who went shopping in an artificial fur coat and bedroom slippers. These newcomers went into pubs - male preserves! Then munitions factories opened and women worked for the first time, earning often more than their collier husbands and soon they followed the trail of the evacuee women.
From: Eddie Gardner
It was about 5.20PM on Friday 16th August 1940 and I was one of about 22 young people (15-20 years of age) in an air raid shelter outside our place of work and beside the Kingston By Pass (A3). The usual chatter in the shelter stopped as the anti aircraft guns opened up and suddenly a series of explosions took place, the young shelter warden called out "Its alright it is only our guns opening up" and this settled many of the people in the shelter but I knew that the sudden suction of dust from the shelter indicated a bomb explosion.
Inwardly I was shaking like a jelly but I tried hard not to show my fear and to look relaxed and uncaring because I did not want any of the young women to think that I was afraid, I do not think that I could have cared less what the men thought of my feelings but concerning the girls was a different matter. The bomb nearest to the shelter was just across the road outside the ‘The Duke of Cambridge’ pub, fortunately it was not a big one and not too much damage was done, but a friend pointed to a damaged bicycle which had flesh hanging from the chain.
A bomb was dropped on Malden Station and passengers were machine gunned, it seems that 2 waves of bombers approached the area, one following the railway line to London and one wave followed the Kingston By Pass (A3) which deposited the bomb near the public house. The air raid was reported in local newspaper the ‘Surrey Comet’ on Wednesday 24th August 1940 with the headline ‘NAZI FRIGHTFULNESS IN SURREY’. About 1300 homes were damaged and about 57 people killed, over 150 bombs were dropped and 500 people rendered homeless. This being the first air raid on London probably brought about the reprisal air raid on Berlin and later the Blitz on London.