Sheila Runacre

Recollections of wartime in Peckham.

Staying in London

Born in 1927, Sheila was twelve years old at the outbreak of war and living with her mother and brother in Peckham. When in 1940, Sheila’s brother volunteered for the Navy it was only Sheila and her mother left. Sheila remained in London for the duration of the war as her mother decided against evacuation, ‘we were not going to be evacuated because if we were going to die we were going to all die together and that wasn’t brave it was just an attitude’.

A narrow escape

At the age of fourteen, Sheila began work for the Co-op, at offices in the New Kent Road. The premises had suffered bomb damage and remained dusty and dirty despite having been repaired. On one occasion a V1 rocket had landed behind the store, in the seconds before the rocket came down the staff had rushed to find shelter:

‘When it landed all the dust and muck came down out of the ceiling so...all you could see was a grey murk. Our manager was coming towards us and...I said to him, ‘Where did you go?’ So he said, ‘I shut myself in the fridge’...If there’d been any sort of rubble behind the door he would have frozen to death because he wouldn’t have got out. And he looked at me and I was still sitting on the floor...and he went, ‘and that wasn’t very clever was it?’ So I looked at him and said why and I looked above me and there was a great big pane of glass. I’d actually sat down under the worst possible place I could go’.  

Sheila recalls the sense of uncertainty which she experienced on a daily basis – ‘you just assumed that everything would be okay but for many it wasn’t.’

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 22/05/2012.