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Blue, white and red VE day bunting

Tales of WW2: Iris' story

"I remember my dad going off to war. Mum didn’t know she was pregnant when he left, so she had me (Iris, 4) and John (2) with another baby on the way. I then didn’t see my father for six years."


"I went to school in Brentwood. I had to walk up a big hill - there were no buses in those days! You never knew if you were going to be at your desk, under your desk or in the bomb shelter at school."

Home life

"The bomb shelter was made of corrugated iron and the one in our garden had water up to your knees in it. You never knew when you were going to be dragged out of bed in the night to go into the shelter because the sirens were going.

My brother and I moved in with our grandmother who lived right near the Royal Albert Docks in London. There was no TV or radio, Grandma taught us all to knit." 

Iris is very creative and a fantastic knitter. She has made wedding cakes, she knits, crochets, has done flower arranging for weddings, as well as making wedding and bridesmaid dresses.

"When you went down to the shop, if there were planes about, you would have to be ducking in and out all the way". 

Iris remembers hearing that there were oranges in Romford, so for two miles she had to run along the pram to get there. When they arrived, they got in any queue they could and took whatever they could get.

"When you saw planes being shot down, you would see the pilot in his parachute and would watch them get taken out. The kids would argue with each other that it was their dad who shot the plane down."

Iris remembers her dad sending them a chocolate bar. They didn’t know what it was as they hadn’t had them before. She still doesn’t eat much chocolate now, it just wasn’t part of her life for such a long time.


At approx. six years of age, Iris was evacuated with her brother. She was evacuated from Romford Station on steam trains. The kids were put in the back of the train and the mothers were in the front. They were told they were all going to the same place, but her mother was sent to Leicester and her and her brother ended up in Suffolk. 

They stayed with a lady who didn’t like boys. She said ‘boys wet the bed’ and made Iris' little brother sleep on the floor. Iris remembers a boy next door having to sleep outside because he had the measles. 

They were taken in ambulances for the evacuation transport. Iris got in trouble for having food - her mum always made sure that they had sandwiches. Her mum made all her clothes; straw hat, gloves, little handbag, and then during time in evacuation she would be dressed in whatever. When the lady had visitors, the kids were not allowed in the house, they had to be in the garden. 

Reuniting the family

A quote from Iris's story

Iris doesn’t remember how long it was until her mum found her and they were able to move to Leicester to be with her. Her mum had been sent to stay with a Doctor. 

"When the soldiers came home, There was banners everywhere and the children would run up to the soldiers saying, Are you my dad? Are you my dad?"

Iris doesn’t remember her dad coming back different. He was a very tall man and a regimented sergeant. He was good. Once they were allowed, they returned to the house. Some of their neighbours and friends had no home to go back to. Friends behind them were bombed out.

After the war 

Iris can remember her mother making meals out of nothing, using Oxtail Soup Squares and adding something like a potato to try to make it a meal. The worst thing was whale meat sausages, she said. "The smell was awful and you could smell it up and down the street because it was all there was to eat." 

"There weren’t any benefits or help at that time. The nice thing is, you all lived close together; aunt, grandma, whole family only a few streets apart usually."

"I had an Uncle Ray who was lovely and was 11 years older than me. He was a ‘Bevin Boy’ named after Ernest Bevin. 18-25-year olds were sent down the mines. I think this was because they were considered not to be in the best of health. He sadly passed away."

Iris told us that her mum and her grandma looked exactly like the Queen, she has lots of pictures.

VE Day memories

"I was eight or nine and I remember being lifted so I was able to see everything that was happening. I remember it being very busy, very loud, very happy. 

"I can’t believe I saw such amazing parts of history. I was watching VE Day on the telly and it makes me cry. I’m looking out for me on the screen!"

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Red Kite Community Housing is the trading name of Red Kite Community Housing Limited, a charitable registered society which operates for the benefit of the community under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registered in England with the Financial Conduct Authority (registration number 31322R) and the Regulator of Social Housing (registration number 4682). VAT number 290 7410 06.