These memories are some of my oldest and may be a little twisted by the passing of time but memories they are none the less.
I was going through some old photos my brother sent me of the town where I spent the first 21 years of my life and came across a few pictures of submarines in our harbour.
That started me thinking of my very early war time memories and realizing that we must have had it pretty tough back then although, knowing nothing else, I never noticed.
My first memory, when I must have been about 4 years old, is the night the house moved.
My mother, older brother and I lived in a small flat close to the harbour. We had a small back yard with an Anderson shelter in it which we shared with our downstairs neighbours during air raids. I remember the shelter as being rather like camping out except the tent was corrugated iron with turf on top of it and we slept on very narrow bunks.
We were in the north of England away from the worst of the bombing but the air raid sirens sounded often enough in the middle of the night.
This particular night was a couple of years before my memory of the shelter etc. but it stands out because there was no siren that night. I woke up to an ear splitting bang and the feeling that the house had moved. My mother was there immediately making sure we were alright and then she went into the living room to peek past the blackout curtains but could see nothing. On her way across the room she was stepping on things and asked my brother if he had left his toys in the middle of the floor. You have to remember that there was absolutely no light in the room or she would not have been allowed to take a peek through the window.
Off we were bundled down the pitch black staircase and out into the shelter as the air raid siren sounded, better late than never, but that was the end of it.
Next morning we found the living room light fixture shattered all over the floor and ornaments broken but unbelievably only 2 cracked windows. All windows were criss crossed with tape for just this eventuality and it must have worked.
The bomb had fallen in the harbour and looking back it must have been a mistake because the Germans did not know the worst kept secret in our town. They had probably been looking for Acklington air base about 10 miles inland from us and gone off target.
At 4 years old I knew that we had submarine pens in our harbour and I also knew not to tell anyone as it was a secret. A couple of years later when I could play outside with friends we all knew never to help a stranger because he could be a spy. Outsiders had a lot of trouble negotiating all the winding roads in our part of the world because all the street signs had been taken down or turned around just to confuse strangers.
A current photo of the harbour showing where the subs were located
In retrospect I do realise how lucky we were to come through such a terrible time in relatively good shape. It is an unfortunate fact that everyone in England lost people in that war and I was probably under average only losing one family member and 2 neighbours. Years later we found out that the Germans did in fact know that there was a submarine base in our area but they were about 40 miles out on their maps. Had communications been what they are today we would not have stood a chance. Since we lived so close to the submarine pens and the Germans certainly didn't have smart bombs our house would have been one of the first to go.
I had written down this memory but not done anything about putting it on a web page so imagine my surprise when a 3 hour show came on TV called the 1940's house. In it a family lives in a house for 9 weeks with everything exactly as it was in war time England.
Memories came flooding back as we watched this modern family cope with what to us had been everyday things.
Memories of lining up with my mother in the early morning at a butcher because he was going to have sausage meat that morning, a treat we seldom saw.
In the show they put up their Anderson shelter showing what a huge job it must have been for everyone and they had to cope with the blackout and rationing.
I just don't know how my mother managed with 2 small children but I suppose in those days you just did.
The family on the show managed the 9 weeks with difficulty but in watching we realised that they were lacking one thing that everyone in Britain possessed at that time.
They lacked that fierce determination not to give in that must come to all peoples under attack.
I suppose the only humorous thing about this memory is the fact that my brother had to be woken up after the bomb dropped. My mother always said he slept like a log.