Margaret Abbs

Photo:Margaret Abbs in her ATS uniform.

Margaret Abbs in her ATS uniform.

Margaret Abbs

Recollections of evacuation, air raids and service in the ATS.


On 3rd September 1939, aged thirteen, Margaret Abbs was evacuated. She cannot recall the journey, other than travelling to the railway station with a neighbour as her mother was too emotional to accompany her. When she arrived at the village hall, Margaret was not chosen by any of the locals. She and three other remaining children were accompanied to Beaver Road by a billeting officer – eventually local residents Mr and Mrs Tyrell agreed to accept Margaret.

Margaret has many memories of the time which she spent evacuated. She accompanied the milkman on his horse-drawn cart and milked a cow at a local farm. She attended the local school during mornings or afternoons. On one occasion she recalls putting curlers in Mr Tyrell’s hair! Whilst the couple were kind they had no parental experience – Margaret regularly wrote letters to her mother and recalls one which read ‘these teardrops on my letter are because we had suet pudding last night, I didn’t eat it so I was given it for breakfast.’ Margaret returned home to Lee Green in October 1939. When she was collected by her mother Mrs Tyrell was very upset to see her leave.

Air raids

Margaret recalls the first year of the war in London as fairly uneventful. During raids the family sheltered in the semi-basement or ground floor, rather than the air raid shelter. Her father was a special constable and she recalls him helping those who lived in the house opposite when it was damaged during a raid. Her neighbour was injured when he returned to the house to rescue his false teeth. Margaret’s own home was damaged when an incendiary bomb fell through the ceiling and a Lloyd Loom chair caught fire – she remembers her father rushing outside into the garden carrying it to prevent the fire from spreading. Margaret recalls hearing the shrapnel falling and was able to differentiate between German and British aircraft, due to the sound which they made whilst in flight.

The school which Margaret attended was bombed. Subsequently she attended another at Hither Green, where she had lessons alternate mornings and afternoons. War undoubtedly disrupted her education and she left school aged thirteen.


Margaret joined the ATS as a tele-printer operator, which involved using Morse code. She undertook six weeks of training in Scotland, before being billeted to work underground in Mount Street, situated behind Buckingham Palace. When flying bombs targeted the area the staff took turns to keep watch from the roof. On one occasion Margaret attempted to blow the whistle and alert her colleagues, but it would not work. She had to run downstairs and take cover. During this time Margaret was eighteen. She served for two years, before leaving to care for her mother who had been injured in an accident. Whilst she was working at a hairdressing salon in Rushey Green, Margaret vividly remembers hearing about the day time raid which happened, injuring and killing school children in Catford.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 30/04/2012.