Betty Jarvis

Memories of air raids on the Home Front and thoughts on remembering the war.

When war was declared, Betty Jarvis lived in Finchley, London. She recalls the first time she heard the air raid sirens sound – as she was only twelve years old she rushed to put her gas mask on as she thought that she had to wear it all of the time during raids, even if there were no gas attacks occurring at that moment!  

Air Raids

Betty’s father built an Anderson shelter at the bottom of the family garden, which their neighbours also shared during the night raids. Her father managed to connect the shelter to the electricity supply so that they were able to keep warm by the fire and make toast. Betty recalls the sense of unease which they felt after the raids – if there had been numerous explosions they feared that their homes would not be standing when they emerged from the shelter, as they walked along the road and saw the extent of the damage. Betty remembers feeling that the doodle-bugs were the most frightening – their sudden silence meant that they were close by. Although supplies were restricted by rationing, Betty feels that is certain that all had enough to eat and were healthy – her family kept chickens and rabbits to supplement their rations.  


Betty and her partner Leslie have visited France in order to remember those killed during the fighting. Betty recalls that during one visit to a small village on one occasion, Leslie and another veteran had been presented with a commemorative plaque, and had laid a wreath for the victims of the village. They returned to France one week later in order to commemorate D-Day – she recalls that whilst Leslie had initially not wanted to attend, he changed his mind when he saw his friends on the television at Dunkirk. She explains that she had spent a busy day gardening and was surprised when Leslie asked her how she would feel about going to France. She recalls that she was preparing dinner at the time and joked ‘before the meal or after?’ By 12.30pm the following day, Betty and Leslie were on the beach at Dunkirk. Although they did not have tickets to board the train, they avoided the crowds when staff realised their intended destination and allowed them to go to the front of the queue.

Whilst in France, Betty and Leslie took a trip on a motor torpedo boat made by Vosper Thorneycroft, the company for which Leslie had worked for close to Vauxhall Bridge before the outbreak of war. Betty recalls how she sat on the deck in the rain holding an ‘umbrella in one hand and a pint mug of tea in the other while Les explored’.

Betty’s father and Leslie were both at Ypres during the war years. Leslie was at the Menin Gate when his battalion was destroyed and Betty’s father was shot and injured there. She explains that she has recorded Leslie’s stories in Shorthand, and has plans to make a booklet of his memories for the family.


Written by Betty Jarvis
Written by Betty Jarvis (23k)
To read more about Betty's wartime experiences please press the above link.

This page was added by Rosie Hart on 22/11/2011.