More Canvey Island war time memories:

118 The Parkway

Either we didn’t know about them or perhaps there were no regulations as to what age kids could be left to fend for themselves during W.W.11. My sister and I were both under the age of 13 during the war. Due to financial difficulties  with the Army pay system, (my father was overseas with the army) my mother had started working at the shipyard in Benfleet and would leave home before we had to go to school each morning. Our breakfast often consisted of Porridge, or a mixture of powdered egg yolks and dried milk. (from Canada I believe) mixed with water and fried, to produce an awful but tasty “omelette”!!!

We had to wash and get dressed and walk the 2 miles or so to school on Long Road. Sometimes there were air raids and as long as we were more than halfway to school we were to run and get to the air raid shelters there.

On “truant” days, or holidays our little gang of friends from the Parkway and The Driveway area would mostly meet at our house where there was no adult to worry about!!  We would lark around, jumping on the furniture and doing all kinds of “kid stuff” which often included trying to cook up things to eat. Then we discovered the Loft!! and it soon became a type of gang hide-out. By scrounging some rough boards to place over the ceiling joists we could sit up there and somehow it felt “safe”. I remember we managed to poke a hole through the front wall and could look out on the Parkway as well as getting some natural light in our little den.

All of the fun and games had to end well before it was time for our mother to come home from work as my sister and I had to have a good coal fire going in the living room and try to have something ready to eat when she arrived. Kindling for the fire often included pieces of the fence between the houses!!! but that’s the way things were in those difficult times.

Comments about this page

  • Do you know what the air-raid shelters were like/where they were on the Island, I suppose that’s something I’ve overlooked but could be interesting!

    By Liam Heatherson (04/03/2012)
  • Hi Liam, Quite a few of the houses and bungalows on Canvey would have had Anderson shelters (see Wikipedia) and I believe a good few of these were of the half-buried variety, not a great idea on the Island due to the high water table(they must have flooded frequently). A number still existed in the 60s and I seem to remember they were set in a concrete surround, probably as a protection against the latter as bomb blast. No doubt Gerry can give you more details of the school shelters. By coincidence the first 5 yrs of my life, until 1947, were spent at 21 The Driveway, and one of my earliest memories was sitting under the kitchen table, with the cat, whilst Dad went outside to listen if the Doodlebug engine stopped, I don’t remember an outside shelter there.

    By Graham Stevens (04/03/2012)
  • Hi Liam: Strictly from the memory of a wartime school boy on Canvey there were just two types of air raid shelters that would have concerned my sister and I. One would be the Anderson shelter which sat right outside the back door at 118 The Parkway, and the ones at Long road school and which were built around the playing field as, I remember. The Anderson shelters were in many back gardens I’m sure, however, as they were half below ground and half above and, due to the high water table on canvey at all times, they had to have a small automatic pump which was supposed to start up when it’s switch detected water.!!!! Ours never did work properly.!! I cannot re-call having been able to use it too often, if ever. The shelters at school were above ground, concrete and brick, and always smelled awful. They were set up as rough classrooms, there were desks and chairs and a blackboard on one of the walls. The lighting was very poor and some air raids were very long between siren and all-clear, a tough place to try to learn anything what with the anti aircraft guns and many other scary sounds. I believe they were left up for a while after the war and we played games in them. Somehow, the wartime Canvey kids got through it o.k. Thanks for your comment. Gerald (Rad) Hudson

    By Gerald Hudson (04/03/2012)
  • Graham, don’t we have a picture on the site of a shelter? I seem to remember one with a lady standing at the doorway. But where is it emmmm!

    By Janet Penn (05/03/2012)
  • Found the picture which you might find interesting Liam It shows a lady at the entrance to a shelter in their garden. There is also a cartoon picture of an Anderson shelter on one of Geralds pages.

    By Janet Penn (05/03/2012)
  • I’ve always wondered why people felt safer in those shelters, with the tin roofs, rather than inside their house. If a bomb was to hit the shelter or the house you wouldn’t stand a chance. Also, those gas masks everyone had to use including children, the filter you breathed through was made of asbestos, apparently.

    By George Smith (05/03/2012)
  • I suppose. Thanks for all the information – an interesting part of Canvey revealed. I’ve been interested in the pillboxes and army camps for a while, but never thought about the air raid shelters!

    By Liam Heatherson (06/03/2012)

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