Generations remember wartime together

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Wartime memories brightened up Water Mill House Care Home on Tuesday, as residents looked back on the 1940s.

Youngsters from Nash Mills Primary School joined them for a day of reminisces, as Water Mill’s ladies and gentlemen talked about their experiences during the conflict.

Care home VE Day

Care home VE Day

And when the children left it was party time, with a special VE Day event featuring vocal duo Claire Ritchie and Jasmin Alice singing a selection of wartime favourites before a showing of VE films in the home’s cinema.

Water Mill manager Anna Marrah said: “The upcoming celebrations have really galvanised our residents and there has been so much interesting talk about their experiences of the war.

“Our staff have found it quite fascinating and often very moving.”

Reminiscences from the residents:

Mary Blewit, 84

Mary lived in a 1930s house with her family in a London suburb during the Blitz, and some neighbouring houses got bombed.

Her father worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in Soho Square, and her mother was a seamstress. They had an Anderson shelter in the garden, with bunk beds to sleep on but no main light.

Mary remembers sleeping in the shelter. On one occasion it flooded. Her parents decided after that to sleep in the front room and Mary slept under the stairs on make shift cushions as a bed for the rest of the war.

She also remembers seeing the German Spitfire bombers and later the American bombers clearly overhead from her garden.

“There was a distinct throbbing sound all around” she said.

“It is a sound you will never forget!”

In spite of daylight raids and air raid practice, school days were never interrupted and went on as usual and Mary felt safe.

Tony Kemp, 89

Tony lived in Kingswood, Watford, during the war.

He remembers three houses next door to where he lived with his parents being bombed. The next door neighbour’s house was hit and the kitchen stove ended being deposited in his kitchen. The force slammed all the doors shut.

On checking over the house a gruesome discovery was made; his neighbour’s wrist and arm were discovered on the roof. Tony has never forgotten that discovery.

His family had to move to his Uncle Tom’s house after the blast and never returned. The house was subsequently demolished along with others in the street.

Later in the war, when Tony was old enough, he was unable to sign up for health reasons as he was deaf in one ear.

“I was so disappointed with all my friends going off and not me” said Tony.

“I went on to do an electrical apprenticeship instead which I thoroughly enjoyed.”

Jean Kidger, 79

“I was nine years old at the start of the War and lived in Sheffield, “ Jean told the Express.

“I remember going to school as usual. We had to wear a gas mask when outside at all times.

“Shelter practise was a regular occurrence. We all formed a queue and walked in a crocodile across the school yard – the atmosphere was very ‘dark’ and there were always lots of sirens going off.

“I remember getting my leg slapped by a teacher, as she thought I was standing out of line. I have never forgotten that, as I did not think I was in the wrong. It seemed so unfair to be singled out like that.

“We would sit in the Anderson shelters for a short time before returning to our classrooms for daily lessons.”

Janet Swann, 83

Janet in Greenock when the Blitz was on. The town lost half of its population in the trenches, some of them good friends of hers.

On the second night of the Blitz her family decided to walk five miles to a field - and lay down next to a stone wall as they felt it was safer than staying at home.

Whilst they were walking there, they saw two German airmen standing next to a wall laughing their heads off. They could not understand what they were laughing at. When they looked ahead they realised exactly what it was - it was the town that had been bombed, burning brightly.

They decided to turn back and walk towards home to see what was left. When they finally arrived home they had a house standing with a door collapsed in, windows blown out and no gas or electricity or water supply.

They felt very grateful to be alive.