A Season for Marbles
page 17

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Shining Sheila

I left school when I was 14, just before war began. I don’t know why I didn’t do my matriculation, but for some reason I didn’t. I remember September the 3rd - everybody was nervous, waiting for 11.00 o’clock for the Prime Minister to speak to us. When he said “We are now at war with Germany,” I felt very frightened. And of course in Eastbourne it all started at once.

I stayed in Eastbourne and worked for 2 years until it became a frontline town and then the whole family went to Stroud in Gloucestershire. First of all I worked in the Bus Office then later, when the Air Ministry evacuated to Stroud, I got taken on as a temporary civil servant – working as a bookkeeper. I had to balance the RAF’s goods every month. When the ministry went back to London a couple of years later they took me with them. They had a temporary office above Harvey Nichols and all the workers lived in a hostel in South Kensington – opposite the V& A. It was just as the Buzz bombs started, and it was very hectic, but you just got on with it - mucked in. I had to leave the Ministry the moment war ended as I had no qualifications. I was out, just like that. I went back to Eastbourne and got a job.

Although the war was over it didn’t end immediately. It took time for everybody to be demobbed and there were lots of dances at the Winter Garden. I loved dancing – Glenn Miller, in the Mood, We’ll meet again, If you Don’t use it You’ll Lose it – wonderful tunes. We were up there every night, dancing our socks off!

As a teenager I found the war to be rather exciting. There was such a different attitude to life - so much friendliness and comradliness and you could walk anywhere – day or night. It didn’t matter who you were, you just helped one another and there was always someone who needed help. We were all one. Everybody - rich or poor - everybody was just one person. I believe it strengthened us. It has made me very tolerant. I never take anything for granted. And I’m a very good listener!

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