I was watching something on the television recently which made me recall my brief experience of war time. I was born ten days before the war started and was six when it ended but even though I was so young some things I will never forget.
I suppose it was one of the first disappointments of my life. I thought it was a special present. Opening boxes was supposed to be fun, even if they were brown cardboard ones. Daddy had bought me a red and blue Mickey Mouse version; nothing was ever too good for Baby Ann. Everybody else’s was black. But I hated it nevertheless.
I don’t know if it was once a week or once a month we had to do the gas mask drill in school and I dreaded it. The smell of the mask made me sick. It was so hot and stuffy that I felt I was suffocating. The feel of the rubber against my skin made me itch. My breathing was not that great then as it was a few years later that I had to have my adenoids and tonsils removed so I constantly thought that every breath inside that mask was my last.
The boys in the class seemed to like the drill because they found a way of blowing out through the rubber to make rude noises. Looking around at my classmates was frightening too. We all looked like aliens.
I learned years later that it was an unnecessary exercise anyway because the enemy never used gas warfare. They just bombed the place.
I could have been scarred for life. In fact I never thought about it for years until I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Now every night I have to wear a mask and whilst it doesn’t make me look like Mickey Mouse and it isn’t black or rubbery I still can’t warm to it.
Thinking about gas masks reminded me of the air raid shelter. My father, like many other people in East London, had an Anderson air raid shelter constructed in the garden. It was dug into the ground and was made of corrugated iron which was then covered in clay. It felt like going into a grave. Earwigs were all over it and the smell of the damp earth all pervasive.
I can’t remember using it that much because my mother tried to get away from London as much as she could to visit my Great Aunt in Devon where she lived at the time.
We were in Torquay where Great Aunt Em lived and on my birthday I was asked to carry a piece of the cake to a neighbour and being me nibbled a bit of the icing on the way. Unfortunately, it was the same piece of icing on which a bee had just alighted.
But that’s another story …….