06 February 2008

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page 4

of the family was himself killed whilst fighting fires during a raid.

In the mornings we would look across towards Southampton and see a long line of barrage balloons in the sky. These were tethered with wires and sometimes connected to each other as a barrier to aeroplanes. Raiders would necessarily fly in below cloud in order to see their target and the object of the balloons was to make them climb ‑ hopefully above cloud.

By early evening on most days there would be columns of smoke where the balloons had been. Fighter aircraft would come over in advance of the night-time bombers in order to clear the way. We commonly heard the distant wailing of Southampton's sirens and would watch the sky glow red from the bombing.

It was a serious offence to allow light to show at night. It was called the black-out. This was so that raiding aircraft would not know what was below them. There were no street lights, vehicle head lights had to be painted out or screened so that only the barest minimum of light went down onto the road immediately in front of it ‑and only essential vehicles were in any case on the road. All buildings had to have shutters or heavy curtains which completely prevented light from escaping outside. We had two sets of curtains to start with and later used boards as well. If the least chink of light was visible from outside a warning shout or knock at the door would soon come from the constantly patrolling wardens. Boards were more sensible in regard of possibly flying glass. Some people stuck tape in strips across their windows as a precaution. We did not do this. Kerb edges were painted white and sometimes had a slope added because walking at night without the benefit of a moon could be very, very dark.

Rationing was probably the greatest imposition placed upon our domestic lives although as children we suffered minimally. I was aware that my mother was very often worried about things although we never went hungry. I would be upset in sympathy with her. We each had our own pound pot of jam which, I now assume, would have been our monthly ration. On reflection, that seems quite a substantial amount, so perhaps it was for a longer period. Nowadays I wouldn't get through a pound in a month but in those days of course, there wasn't much else to have. Anyway, we had our personal jar and woe betide anybody who dared touch that which wasn't theirs. One of my brothers would not eat green jam, so his twin often chose that colour on purpose! It was during the war that we all gave up having sugar in our tea. Eggs were scarce to come by but powdered egg was available. 1 loved this stuff when it was turned into scrambled egg. I well remember the Saturday when Mr. Unsworth, our greengrocer with a horse‑drawn cart, actually had some bananas and allowed my mother four of them. By then we would have been at least three years into the war during which I had not seen a banana. Sweets were understandably in very short supply although not initially rationed. They just weren't to be had. A short distance from my junior school there was a little shop that we had to pass and known as The Blindman's ‑ because the proprietor was. Every so often he would have some sweets in and a queue of children would form instantly, almost as if we had crystal ball insight. He would restrict us to no more than two-penneth (less than one penny of today's money ‑ but who had more than tuppence anyway then?) During the final stages of the war I recall being on the Isle of Wight with my mother and brothers. We were at the end of an aunt's garden which terminated against the cliff top path at St. Lawrence and we had a packet of puffed


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