WWII Childhood Memories: Sheltering in Air Raids

When I was small and living in South Street, my mum decided I should go for a holiday to stay for a week at the Toll Gate at the end of Yarmouth Common with my Great Uncle, Granny Hunt and Aunt Alice. I caught bronchitis and Dr. Drummond decided I would be better staying at my Great Uncle George’s bungalow ‘Downs View’ at the beginning of Thorley Road, because the air was better there. We had a horse, pigs and chicken on Great Uncle George’s small holding. The bungalow had a big garden with fruit trees and a lot of grass and a greenhouse attached to the front porch.

Delia Whitehead's childhood home.

Downs View, Thorley Road 1940s where Delia Whitehead grew up with Granny Hunt, Aunt Alice and Great Uncle George who had a small holding there.
Photo: Delia Whitehead

When the gun at Bouldnor Battery was fired at the enemy planes flying in the Solent, all our glass used to vibrate. It became a worry in case it smashed and cut us so my Great Uncle made a dug-out affair in the garden. All I can remember is a tin roof with earth over the top and the floor had shingle on it and there were four chairs. On bad nights, we all sat in there while the air raids were on, except my Great Uncle who stood outside to keep watch.

One night we were sitting there by torch light when suddenly my Aunt screamed and dived out of the door. No, we had not been hit by a bomb, but a little frog had suddenly appeared and jumped onto my Aunt’s leg. We never went down the dug-out again!

We spent the rest of the war in the passage in the middle of the house, or on the sitting room floor. I always had to have my head under the keyboard of the piano. I’ve often wondered since how that was supposed to protect me!

On one occasion during the day time, I was taken into Yarmouth Marsh and we saw a crater that had been made by a small bomb. It had rained a lot and the crater was half full of water with a duck swimming on it!

One morning the people of Yarmouth woke up to find the streets covered in strips of silver metal stuff. No one knew what it was until later in the day, when we were told that it was to jam the Radar Stations. But we had all been told not to touch it, even with our feet. After we knew that it was safe, lots of children collected it to play with.

Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

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