Mary Laurence

Recollections of childhood memories of life in wartime Sidcup.


When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Mary lived in Sidcup with her family. She was not frightened and recalls feeling more worried about passing her eleven plus exam, which she unfortunately later failed. She attended a local school for a gas mask fitting. In the early part of the war, Mary was evacuated for a short period. Nevertheless, she did not realise that she had been evacuated until forty years later when she was told by her older sister. Rather than being evacuated, Mary believed that she had been away on holiday with her father. Her evacuation was cut short by her mother who wanted Mary to come home almost immediately after she had left.   

Air raids

Mary recalls that despite air raids and falling bombs, she continued to go to school and stayed in the Anderson shelter during evenings. One weekend, numerous daylight raids occurred and her mother became fed up with going to the shelter – after one raid Mary recalls returning to the house to find her mother sitting under the kitchen table shelling peas for the family dinner! Despite being covered in debris from incidents which happened close by Mary did not experience any serious incidents – she was more frightened by the noise of the guns and the eerie silence of the doodlebugs.


Mary’s schooling was largely unaffected and she attended lessons daily. She recalls standing on the back doorstep after an explosion, seeing the smoke travelling from the direction of the High Street and hoping that a bomb had landed on her school – she was disappointed to find that it had not.


Mary recalls the queues which formed outside shops as people attempted to obtain food which was in short supply due to rationing. Neighbours swapped home grown produce – those who cultivated apples traded them for vegetables. Fruit was always available in the summer and vegetables were preserved for use during the winter. Mary recalls that rations provided for families were sufficient but as her siblings went into the forces, and her grandfather was killed in Plumstead supplies became smaller, although the family managed.

Girls Training Corps

Mary recalls being in the Girls Training Corps – by the time she joined the war was almost over although parades were frequently held in Sidcup. She recalls members of the Home Guard, the Scouts and the Guides formation marching. Her father was a member of the Home Guard, which her mother referred to as the ‘glorious pub crawl!’ Mary recalls that initially, the men were not assigned any weapons or equipment to use.

When the war ended in 1945 Mary was sixteen years old and took part in the VE Day celebrations.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 23/04/2012.