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Kate's story

Bombers over Bristol

When the war began I was eight years old, attending Charborough Road Junior School, and my sister Elaine was two-and-a-half.

We lived at the bottom of a hill; at the end of the road were the playing-fields of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, with the factory only a mile away. Not the safest place during the blitz.
It's odd - when I look back I remember what you might call the furniture of the war; the people, my surroundings, the incidents of domestic life and school, the rationing and, early on, the noise of the night raids. I don't remember following the progress of the fighting in the world, or Dunkirk, or the Normandy landings, or V.E. Day. My husband says he used to put flags on a big wall map to chart battles.

I remember the barrage balloons silver above the roofs, the sound of the mobile guns passing up and down the street at night, and the criss-cross of searchlights in the sky. The daylight raid of September 25th 1940 was memorable - I was playing shops in a friend's garden, with little glass jars filled with dolly mixtures, all lined up on a wall. There was a sound like a vast vacuum cleaner, getting louder all the time - and the little jars began to shake gently. Then the sirens went, and we ran to the shelter at the side of the garden.

The shelters at school were long musty corridors cut into the hillside, but we didn't often use them. At home, our garden was clay, and as it was at the very bottom of the hill, the hole my father dug for an Anderson shelter quickly filled with water, so we had to have the Morrison shelter, which took up all the space in the living-room. It had steel netting all round the sides to protect against shrapnel. My father was a Customs officer at Avonmouth, and he used to stand at the back door and give a running commentary on the progress of the bombing and which warehouses were hit; my mother would shout at him to come in and mind the blackout.

We often stayed with my Grandma at Alveston - there, the war meant concrete anti-parachutist posts in the pastures, Italian prisoners-of-war quartered in the outhouses, feeding hens and digging for victory. I went to the Grammar School in Thombury, and went potato-picking for local farmers. I don't remember food being difficult - my mother managed well, and I still have some of her Woolton recipes for eggless this and fatless that.Once we got an oxtail (offal was off-the-ration) and I made soup at school, the star turn that week.

The bombing in Bristol was not significant to me. I saw the results in Wine Street and Castle Street, and remember looking down into the bottom of a crater and seeing the tiles in the entrance hall of what had been a big store - Maggs' or Brights perhaps - still in their lovely patterns. It bothers me sometimes to see bomb-sites in Bristol still in ruins and over-grown, more than fifty years after the end of the War.

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