Stella Harms

Childhood memories of air raids and evacuation.

Overseas evacuation and the start of the Blitz

The day war was declared, Stella Harms was on holiday in Sidmouth, Devon with her family. When the family arrived back at their home in Sanderstead outside Croydon it was decided that Stella was to be evacuated to America, along with many of her school friends. In July 1940, all was prepared for the journey across the Atlantic. However, when the ship ‘The City of Benares’, carrying evacuees, was sunk a few weeks later, the overseas evacuation scheme was discontinued.  Shortly after, the daylight raids on London began. Stella recalls one of the first raids she experienced:

‘My father made me sit on the boiler and put a pencil in my mouth so that I wouldn’t bite my tongue and he and I sat on the boiler and my mum and aunt sat under the kitchen table. We were just about to have Sunday lunch and then came all these Messerschmitt or Dorniers, or whatever the planes were, attacking Kenley Aerodrome and all I could see out of the window were...the wheels of the planes. They came swooping down over our garden and over the next hill to drop the bombs and that to me was the most terrifying experience of my war years’.

Evacuation and Rockets

Following the start of the Blitz, Stella left Sanderstead with her mother to go and stay with friends in Reading and later her aunt and uncle in Guildford. Towards the end of December 1940, Stella’s father, who worked for the Ministry of Works, was relocated to Southport in Lancashire. Stella and her mother followed her father and the family remained in Southport for three years. The family returned to their home in Sanderstead in 1943 when the bombing of London had eased. However, Stella had not been back for long before the V1 and V2 raids began. Despite the bombing of the area, Stella continued to attend school and did not miss a day of schooling. During the raids all classes were held in the cellars. ‘Somehow we survived and the rockets, they were terrifying’.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 18/04/2012.