Joyce Russell

Recollections of air raids at home and evacuation to Devon.

The outbreak of war

When the war broke out Joyce was almost seven years old. On Sunday 3 September, Joyce and her two sisters had called into the local sweet shop when they were told to return home immediately as war had broken out. They were not fully aware what ‘war’ was and anyhow were told that it would not last long.


There were many air raids around the surrounding area as the nearby Hornchurch Aerodrome was the target for many bombs. Shortly after bombing commenced, the family received an Anderson shelter. Joyce recalls:

'It wasn’t long before we saw a lorry delivering straight and curved galvanised metal panels to each house, this was to be our air raid shelter built underground to protect us from the raids. We children used them as a slide until Dad and Uncle Reg were digging a large hole and soon had the panels bolted together and had our shelter made, this was then covered in earth...The floor was wooden and raised about six inches from the earth to prevent it being water logged in the winter. Wooden bunks were at each side'.

As Joyce's mother suffered chest problems she was unable to sleep in the shelter due to the cold winter weather and constant condensation. As a result the family slept inside the house on a mattress under the table.

Evacuation to Devon

Not long after, partly due to her mother’s poor health, the girls travelled to Devon to stay with Joyce’s Aunty in the hope of safety and quiet. This was achieved as the family got good sleep with no guns to wake them in the night, although they were a little worried that there was no air raid shelter in the garden. Joyce had a good time living in Devon attending a school and making friends with the local children.

Returning home

Joyce was sad to leave Devon but as her father had said most of the bombings had stopped they moved back home. She moved in with her sister Florence as her husband Bill was still abroad.

Not long after returning home the bombing recommenced with V1 and V2 rockets. One Saturday morning a rocket fell near the family's home. Joyce recalls:

'there was a terrific bang and all the windows blew in, the dressing table was across our bed and the bed was covered in glass...My brother was cut and had to get bandaged up, every window in the house was blown out with the blast. Our ration books which were on the window sill were blown across the garden. Miraculously no one was killed. Had it been a weekday it would have been a different story. Our house alone would have had the older ones getting ready for work at that time of day and the blast alone would have injured or killed them'.

When the war ended Joyce and her family began to visit Devon in the holidays and she has kept remarkable contact with her evacuee home. She has visited her ‘second home’ every year since she first arrived at the age of seven.


Joyce Read
Joyce Read (217k)
To read more about Joyce's wartime experiences in her own words please press the above link.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 07/06/2012.