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I remember very clearly the day war was declared, by Mrs Phyllis Want

I remember very clearly the day war was declared. We heard it on the wireless and silence followed. There was nothing you could do but your imagination ran away with you as to what might be going to happen. We were dumbfounded but it didn't come as a complete shock. We were scared for the country as a whole rather than just for ourselves.

Although we were not in a danger zone many aeroplanes passed overhead and one learned to recognise which were which. We watched our planes going out and stood wondering how many would come back safely. When war broke out we were living with a family friend Mrs Overall (who later on was our children's nanny), because my husband Wal had been sacked from his job and we had had to leave the house that went with it. Mrs Overall had a son called Arthur. He was great friends with myself and Wal and another one of our friends called Robert. We used to go out together on Sunday evenings after church. Arthur decided to join the Air Force. He became a pilot and was one of those who went out to bomb on enemy sightings. One night in 1941 several planes were circling round ready to land back home when they collided and he was killed. Robert was a conscientious objector - he was the only person we knew who was. We didn't feel any differently towards him because of it. His involvement in the Church may have helped his relations with the community (Robert was a Priest).

Fortunately for us Wal got a new job quite quickly and a house went with the job. He worked as a lorry driver. This involved him going to the London docks to collect wheat that had arrived from North America. Often he had to wait a long time at the docks and then on the way home the air raid warnings would go. While they were going the Thames river crossings were closed and he would have to wait until the All Clear sounded when the tunnels were re-opened, so he would be very late home, which was very nerve-wracking. In those days there was just no way of knowing what had happened. Wal just got on with it though, and never showed any signs of distress!

Wal's job as a lorry driver was a reserved occupation - meaning it was considered vital to the war effort. He joined the local Home Guard. I don't remember him telling me much about it. They had a weekly meeting and later on if the air raid sirens went he would go out and meet with the other members. On one occasion he was out when a bomb fell in BlackNotley damaging the church. They presumed it was a German wanting to get rid of his bombs so he could return home.

Part of what was originally a hospital for TB in BlackNotley and was in very large grounds was taken over by the army so we had soldiers living locally. I never knew what they did there! But Wal used to meet them in the pub. Often he would bring some home with him so we made some real friends. One of them, Jimmy, remained a friend all his life. It was an enjoyable time - we enjoyed their company. We never really discussed the war with them.

The main hospital remained very busy. One of the doctors was a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia. His wife Gertrude was working there also but was not allowed to stay and sleep there, so when Wal was at the pub with her husband, he suggested that she came and stay with us. So I met Gertie who is still my friend today in our old age even though we are on either side of the Atlantic (she moved to the U.S.A. after the war). She told us much about how the war was affecting her home country of Czechoslovakia. Sadly at the end of the war she found out that her mother, sister and nephew had all died in the Holocaust. This still haunts her to this day - she has never got over it and thinks about it all the time - more so as she's reaching the end of her life. She still feels guilty for escaping. Gertie stayed with us until our first daughter Gill was about to be born in 1943. Gertie thought we would need her room and so she found a little house to rent.

BlackNotley was not a target for bombers but the church was hit and the stained glass window damaged and so were some other places in the village. I was going to Braintree by car with a friend one day when a bomb fell just by the roadside - it was the only one I ever saw. I was still shaking when I got out of the car in Braintree.

Listening to the news every day we realised how fortunate we were. Every day there were deaths in London and other big cities. I remember especially Coventry where tremendous damage was done and many lives lost. It has been rebuilt but parts of the damaged areas were left to remind us.

When the war started at first there was little trouble that affected us but as time went on and the danger of bombing increased so we were issued with shelters. In London many sheltered in the underground train tunnels. Some people had outside shelters but we had an indoor metal shelter that was kept ready at all times - under the dining room table. When the air raid warnings went we both went in - there was just room to lie down. Sometimes we spent the night there to be on the safe side.

Children from London were evacuated to safer places. On one occasion I and two other people were all set to welcome children from London. We had spent time visiting local people to encourage them to take in these children. It wasn't easy, as they didn't like the idea of disruption. The day came when they were due to arrive. We waited in the village hall but no one turned up - we didn't find out why.

In many ways life for me didn't change during the war. I continued to teach in the village school, although even that was affected by war. Older village children who were too nervous to go to Braintree came and joined me for a while and I was expected to take pre-school children so that parents could go to work in the factories. Supplies such as paper and exercise books were in very short supply. I even remember trying to use old newspapers for children to paint on. I can't remember exactly when school meals were organised but it was towards the end of the war. As time went on and bombing was likely anywhere a brick school shelter was built. This wasn't entirely a blessing as when the sirens went I had to take the children to this shelter. It had just one entrance, no windows and no lights. At first we would just go and talk - standing - until the all clear went. We couldn't hear the sirens when we were right inside so one boy had to stand near the door (and risk his life!) to let us know when the all clear went. It was farcical really. As time went on we got better organised with benches to sit on and we practised our tables and other oral lessons.

Life in the village went on as usual except that the village hall had been taken over by the army so all meetings had to be held in the old church hall. Food being rationed made life difficult but as most people in the village had gardens in which they grew food life was much easier than for town people. There was a kind of community spirit - if you had a good crop of vegetables then you shared with neighbours and then later perhaps they would share their strawberries with you. Everything was slightly different in that we pulled together more and were more co-operative. We country people were so much better off than Londoners, although of course no one saw a banana in the shops for years!

At first, when I was married, I didn't want to start a family. Then when the war came, it seemed to me the wrong time to start. Many husbands were going abroad in the army and many children were born during war time with the possibility of not seeing their fathers for a number of years. However, as the war continued, the desire for a child continued, so our first daughter Gill was born during the war. The government tried to make bottle food available and again, living in the country, one could concoct food from home grown vegetables and eggs. Wal was very good in trying to make places for Gill to play - having children during the war in London must have been a nightmare. Wal was also very good while he was out on his rounds looking for anything available that would be useful, and I was very pleased when he brought home a doll's pram for Gill.

Once the war was over, although a fantastic feeling, it was almost an anti-climax. The sociable side just wilted out and life returned to normal.