Ron's Story - an English child in WWII

Ron was eight years old when World War Two began. He was one of seven children living with their mother in the seaside town of Ramsgate on England's south-east coast. Ron's father was a merchant seaman in the Royal Navy and served on a mine-sweeper. Below are his memories of life during the war years. These are his words. You will find links to secondary sources in bold.

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The Day War was Declared
That day, they turned the air raid sirens on and everyone had to go down into the shelters. Big tunnels had been cut in the chalk cliffs and we all crowded in. It was quite exciting at first – like a game.

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Air Raid Sirens
There were three different types of sirens: the warning siren; the tugboat siren and the 'all clear'. When you heard the warning siren you ran for the shelters. Then came the tugboat. I hated that noise. It meant 'planes overhead' or 'bombing in progress'. That sound still gives me a sick feeling in the stomach.

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Gas Masks
I remember all the windows had stickytape on them and we had blankets to hang at doorways to keep out any gas. We had to carry gas masks with us everywhere we went. There were Mickey Mouse style masks for the younger children and special capsule respirators operated by bellows for babies. Luckily we never needed them.

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Buzz Bombs
We would sit in the shelters and listen to the whistling of the bombs as they were dropped. Later our home was in 'Buzz Bomb Alley'. Buzz bombs looked like stubby winged planes with flames shooting out the back. They sounded like a very noisy mower, but all the time you could hear them you knew you were safe. When the noise stopped it meant they were dropping. Then you felt panic.

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Dog Fights

Bombs weren't the only danger. I remember watching the dog fights when patrols of Nazi fighters were chased back by our planes and watching as they crashed. 


Evacuation to the Countryside
The train ride seemed to last forever. I remember there were no seats. The morning we left, the kitchen was full of women making egg sandwiches for us to take. I loved egg sandwiches – they were a treat. Anyway, we got to the station at tea time and were dumped in a big market. There were kids everywhere with labels and tickets on and lots of Red Cross workers and women. Then suddenly, it was nearly empty with just a few of us left. Mrs. Brown took us.

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Foster Families - the good
Our sister, Joan and younger brother, Roy were living on a farm not far from us and they were treated wonderfully. We would go and visit and they'd feed us up. Roy stayed best friends with the son long after the war finished.


Foster Families - the bad
I think some people took kids in as their part of the war effort but soon got sick of having extra kids around. In the 'Smith' household, Sid and I had to get up at dawn to light the fires and make breakfast for them. We had to stand and eat in the kitchen, not in the dining room with the family. They were given extra rations for us but they gave most of it to their daughter.


Foster Families - the ugly

I used to be scared of this one woman we stayed with - I thought she was a witch! She had a huge mole on her chin with hairs growing out of it!




Worst Moment

I think the lowest point of the war for me was with the Smith family. It was night time and Sid and I were in our bedroom. It was Christmas and I suppose I was thinking of home. Anyway, I looked out the window and thought I saw Mum walking towards us in the snow. I jumped up and yelled to Sid, but of course it wasn't Mum.

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Canterbury

We were allowed to go home for four weeks one Christmas and Mum had moved to Canterbury. We lived in a house in front of Dane John Park. The park had an anti-aircraft battery which had barrage balloons, search lights and guns. The cathedral was one of the main targets in the area. We watched one night as flames were coming up around the Cathedral.


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