Sunday 3rd September 1939

Where were you?

By Esther Gill

Sunday 3rd September 1939

I was 13 years old and I was sitting on the stairs at the bottom of 59 New Street and the wireless came on and within a matter of minutes the sirens rang. We all thought that the German's were coming, that they were going to bomb us, they were going to invade us. But it was an unidentified aircraft.

I was only a boy then, out with the milkman. The sirens went and we took the horse out of the shafts and tied it to a tree on the grass.

I can remember this very well as I said. I had joined the ARP before and I knew exactly what to do. I had left home with my sandwiches to go to this school, saw this policeman with a sign on his back and his front saying 'take cover' and I said 'excuse me, is this the real thing or an exercise?' 'Exercise! This is the real thing'. So I turned my bike round and went home. My father was out in the garden with all the neighbours peering into the air and eventually he said to me 'Where's your mother and your aunts?' And I said 'I've no idea'. And then he passed where the coal was kept under the stairs and he head this noise - 'brrr, brrr' - and he opened the door and there was my mother and my aunts sitting on the coal with their gas masks on.

I was working in a big private house in Chislehurst on the print side of things. We printed on a table that had jelly - covered with jelly - then you took a blueprint and put it on the jelly and then you could reproduce from that. And that was the stuff [instructions] that was going out to the factories that were making munitions...Then we were on seven days a week.

I was five years old. We heard it on the radio at home. I had older brothers in the army, so it really meant something.

I was playing in the streets - football mostly. I was 10 at the time. I remember when the sirens went off and on the nightime there was the searchlights and nothing was happening.

I did six weeks - evacuated - in Bishop Auckland - about 40 minutes on the train. It seemed like a lifetime travelling, forty minutes. I'd never been outside my own town before.

I remember it vividly.  I went out for a walk with my father. The idea being to have a drink eventually. But we got to a small park and at the side of the park was one of these Territorial Units and as we got there they were just announcing over the tannoy about Chamberlain's speech. We stood there and listened to it and Dad said 'we'd better get back to Mum because she's on her own' and as soon as he said that the air raid sirens went.

I was in the back garden at the time - in Brixton. I will always remember the first air raid sirens going. I was in the garden at the time and the sirens went. There was a woman walking along the street and she's screaming, so scared of the sirens she was, she was screaming , rushing here, there and everywhere.

This page was added by Gina Da Cunha on 27/03/2008.

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