The wartime memories of Barbara Shram.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Little Heath, Hertfordshire in 1927.
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
I’ve got 2 sisters and no brothers, my eldest sister she is 97 now…
So you were the youngest of 3 sisters.
I was yes, I was 12 when war broke out.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I had a very happy childhood, I had a Dad who was a wonderful man and gave us everything that he could, he worked hard and he was a greengrocer actually before the war and he had to give up his van, vegetable van for an ambulance. We lost our van which used to go back and forward to Southend or Clacton, so we missed that now.
So they needed it for an ambulance in the war then?
Well they wanted everything for ambulances, carts or, even farmland and stuff you know.
And what did your Dad do during the war?
He was getting on, he just helped everybody he was a billeting officer, bringing children down from London and finding homes for them, round the country and Hertfordshire. Their mums and dads had to stay behind and the people who lived in Hertfordshire looked after their children. He did all right, he enjoyed it as well. He didnt get paid for it I don’t think.
Did you have any evacuees?
We did we had a 2 bedroom house, Mum and Dad had one bedroom and us 3 girls and 3 more girls slept on the floor in the room, they wanted all the room they could to house these children from London. Chelsea it was, Chelsea and Fulham and I remember that very well. I was in the Roman Catholic Church when the siren went off to say the war had started so they had to stop the service. We had to walk home from Potters Bar.
What happened to you on one of your birthday parties?
We had a party, no boys mind you because there wasn’t any because they all went to war, they couldn’t wait to go. So we decided to have a party, Mum and Dad didnt know about it but we got all the girls together and my sister she was the manageress in a grocer shop and she bought as much money as she could… not money… food and we had this party but all girls no boys and about 9 o’clock the siren went off but we never took any notice of it but that night….
Was it a Doodlebug?
Yes, it knocked the outside of our house down so that was it, and we stayed at another house until we were found somewhere… quite funny really. I was left there with Margaret and they just went…
How did you get the food for the party?
My sister Margaret worked for a grocer.
Did you have coupons?
Oh yes we had coupons but we didn’t do it with coupons because Margaret pinched them. So anyway they went back home and left us there, well what do we do now. Half a house down, and the ambulances by that time were coming up with Cybil on the back.
Did you grow any food?
Oh yeah my Dad had a right big garden, everything we could, everything and my Mother she worked so hard in that, what she could do with flour and that she knew what to do. We didn’t starve we all worked at it. But as for food each person had 2 ounces of butter, 4 ounces of margarine and lard I think. That’s all you could have, and you got them together. You used to eat the same thing every day
Did you know anybody who joined the services?
Everybody, everybody did, at the age of 17 Austin he was 17 he couldn’t wait to go. Everyone, all around even if they were going to University , they had jobs they had to give up… just to go and all the girls took over. I came to work for a firm that delivers vegetables.
Did you lose anyone close to you?
Yes, my cousin, I think he was the same age as me by about a month or so, Rob his name was. Can’t remember his surname. But he was lovely he lived in Edmonton and he went into the Navy, he volunteered, he wanted to go in the Navy and he was only in there for a few years and he fell of the ship and got killed. My other cousin Alan he had a very good job and he wanted to be an architect but they took him to war and we didnt see him for 5 years something like that. 4 or 5 years. We didnt starve or anything like that. We had some good times with our… Americans and Canadians living in around us and they used to organise… (Americans) organised dancing and so that was good, they really helped out, marvellously, that is where I met Auston and we got married in March…
Tell me about the dances?
Over Potters Bar Police Station, it was the British Legion we used to borrow people’s clothes and yeah we used to jive waltzes and we had fun, all the guys going for the girls you know, you had to queue up I think and they brought their own band and then the Canadians came and they had a hall where they went, Mount Grace. Every Friday and every Saturday, all the girls were there.