The early days of the war are sometimes referred to as ‘The Phoney War’. For quite a few months nothing seemed to be happening to really effect us in the British Isles. Russia joined in on the side of Germany and helped to ‘carve up’ Poland to their own advantage. The fact that the Communist ‘Bear’ had joined up with the Fascist ‘Eagle’, had many people puzzled. It seemed to be a very ‘unholy’ alliance. Italy had also thrown in its ‘lot’ with its fascist ally. This was more easily understood, Hitler didn’t think that the Italian soldier was a very reliable ally, but he needed the powerful Italian Navy and Airforce to take control of the Mediterranean for him. This meant that Hitler had now got what he needed for his launching pad, the Mediterranean was somewhere he didn’t have to worry about and his pact with Joseph Stalin meant that he could face Europe and his ambitions in that direction without having to worry about his back (not that he had any great respect for the Russian peoples or the Red Army). Now if you think that this seven year old kid had worked all of this out in his tiny mind you are dreaming! War, by and large passed me by, with the occasional inconvenience. The first of these inconveniences occurred fairly early on in the war. One night the air raid sirens sounded. Needless to say I didn’t hear it and the first I new was mum trying to drag me out of bed and to put some warm clothes on me so that we could go downstairs and shelter under the table. I think that mum was ready to give up in exasperation when, having finally got some clothes on me, I then asked if I could now go back to bed. As you can see I wasn’t really into wartime mode at this stage. Fortunately my parents were.
Very early on we had criss-crossed all of our windows with thick brown sticky paper strips (this was supposed to reduced the amount of flying glass from a ‘near miss’). Dad’s next venture was to organise some form of air raid shelter. In this I decided to take a hand and proceeded to dig a deep hole in the back vegetable garden. It was more than a little fortunate for me that there were no vegetables growing at the time. Dad had different ideas for a shelter but graciously informed me that my efforts would not be wasted, ‘as the back garden really needed a good deep turning over and he felt sure that the weeds wouldn’t stand a chance’. Dad’s air raid shelter was ‘different’! He cut a hole about a yard square between the floor joists in the corner of the dining room. He then dug out some of the dirt under the floor, until we had about four feet of head room. He then stocked up with ‘night-light’ candles, matches and put some old linoleum down there to cover the bare earth. It was not luxurious, but the public air raid shelters tended to be pretty disgusting places anyway. The Government were busy trying to talk householders into building ‘Anderson’ shelters in their back (or front) gardens. These were curved pieces of corrugated iron that fitted into a trench (that you dug into your garden to a depth of about four feet deep) and then the outside of the iron was covered with the soil and turf that you had removed for the trench. These had a nasty habit of filling with water when it rained and if you had neglected to bail them out and the siren sounded it was very tempting to take your chances and stay in bed anyway!! The other Government offer was the ‘Morrison’ shelter. This was a substantial steel table with heavy mesh around the four sides to prevent flying debris hitting the occupants. These shelters did not appear until later in the war. To start with all available iron and steel and other metals were being collected for the ‘war effort’.