Wartime memories from Kate Stevenson (née Kathleen Trimmer)


Like Hazel, I was only 3 when war broke out so memories until the early 40s escape me.   We lived in Camelsdale, surrounded by woodland and common land and to a 4 – 5 year old any worries about the war were non-existent.   The first impact was the arrival of evacuees from London.   Having seen film of them over the years and the way they were separated from their families and sent to the far corners of the country, I can now appreciate the fear and home sickness they must have felt.   At the time it was exciting for me as I was an only child and to have surrogate brothers and sisters was a bonus.   I remember the names of the first two, Lily and Ronnie, a brother and sister.   I don’t think they stayed long as quite a few of the first wave went back to London.   Next came Adelaide and Doreen, sisters.   They stayed quite a while and my mother nursed them through Scarlet Fever which I avoided, and impetigo, which I didn’t.   I have a photo of one of my birthday parties with them and my local cousins.

Eventually they were replaced by workers from a nearby Radar Research Station, all hush, hush.

My father was working locally.   He was in the Home Guard and I remember polishing his cap badge and buttons.   Also one Christmas as he went out on night patrol, I gave him an almond which remained in his pocket and I have still got.

The air-raid shelter had been dug at the top of our garden by my father and a visiting uncle.   It was sunk into the ground with corrugated iron lining to the walls.    I remember being taken from my bed at least once and carried to the shelter and can still recall the slight, earthy smell and also picture the candle in its blue enamel holder.

School at Camelsdale C of E was very old fashioned with girls and boys segregated at playtime.   We had a blast shelter or two, only ever used for practice and when the doodlebugs were around we were told to dive under our desks.   Not much protection.   Gasmasks were something always slung over your shoulder enclosed in a cardboard box.   They had a distinct rubber smell but thankfully only worn for practice.   I did see one “dog fight”.   I was coming home from school with my mother and she pulled us against a garage door.   I wonder what she thought of the poor young men involved.   Age protected me from such thoughts at the time.

I can’t remember much of VE day except rushing to pull up the blackout but we did have a party in our road at a later date.   No bonfire as I can recall.

I think I was one of the very lucky ones, a secure home, too young to know fear and, not remembering much before the war, any deprivations passed me by.

One thought on “Wartime memories from Kate Stevenson (née Kathleen Trimmer)

  1. Hi Kate! I cannot recollect if we ever met during wartime in Camelsdale, even though we lived fairly close- I was then Audrey Mann from the family who owned the timber yard- we had seven children spread over three houses there and I also had an Uncle and Aunty & cousin, Colin who lived in Springfarm Road.
    My Dad was in the ARP and the group met in one of our sheds , snug round a ‘turtle’ stove continually burning wood from the mill. Perhaps your dad was there sometimes!. The timber yard was very susceptible as it had burnt down once in the 1920s.
    We had a Spitfire stationed in another of our sheds during the war,like a huge locust , its wings folded up separate from the body. I suppose it was a hidden ‘spare ‘ , but as we children were not banned from its ‘hangar’ and all played endless games with it I don’t think it would have been fit to defend the nation!
    My brother Dennis, also an OG and five years my senior, once accompanied my Dad to a local plane crash , thinking , I suppose to scavange mementos, he returned silent and whey faced. Do you remember that a plane crashed through the outer wall of the Rex cinema and even though it was repaired, a ghostly crack line could be seen through the paint ever after.
    It may have been the same dog fight that you mentioned when my Mum & I got caught underneath when picking hurts,(Bilberries) on Marley. The gunfire crackled above us and Mum dragged me to the Old Hollow to shelter. We had abandoned the hurts , I had a brand new little basket, nearly full. Undaunted we went up again the next day but I never found my basket!
    We had no VE day celebrations in our family as my Grandma , who had been ill & staying with us, died on May 8th in the bed that I usually shared with my sister!

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