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Madeleine Sturgen (nee Cox), 2005
Madeleine Sturgen (nee Cox)
A Schoolgirl's Wartime Memories

September 3rd 1939

We congregated in Aunt Net's sitting room. Aunt Net, Pop, Kathleen, Bernard, my parents, brothers' sisters and me. I was eight years old and we all listened to Mr Chamberlain's speech. I had to be very quiet. He said "and now I have to tell you, we are at war with Germany. God save the King", and the National Anthem was played and we all stood to attention.

We were issued with gas masks. A man came to our house and fitted and adjusted the straps. My gas mask steamed up and I couldn't see. My sister brought some ear plugs; she said "the noise of the bombs dropping would break her ear drums”. I also had a disc with my name and address on it to hang around my neck. Little did I know that it was an identity disk in case I was killed. These became fashion items. Gas masks were carried in leather or Rexine cases. Identify bracelets were made of gold or silver and you might get them as Christmas presents.

Alfred Street School after the bomb fell
A picture of the devastation at the School

October 3rd 1940

Alfred Street School was bombed at about 10.30am. Suddenly the ceiling just cracked and dropped down upon us. We ran out of the building, into the air raid shelter and sat on benches which lined the shelter. Mrs Levy (teacher) was walking up and down singing "Roll out the barrel". Children were crying and screaming. My friend Norma clung to me and said "what are we going to do?" I could only say "I don't know". My Auntie came into the shelter looking for her son. As she walked by me I was so numb with shock I couldn't put out my hand to reach her or call her name. Another Aunt came and fetched me and took me home. We didn't get any "counselling" it was unheard of then.

Rushden was raided again one night; my mother, brother and I sat under the kitchen table, listening to the bombs whistling and whining followed by a thunderous crash. My teeth rattled uncontrollably; I was terrified. Later we were issued with a Morrison Shelter an iron table/cage - used as a table to sit or lie inside the cage during an air raid. We had a mattress in ours.

Sweets were rationed to 12oz per month. I had a "sweet tooth" - they were a rare treat.

We used to have "holidays at home" during August at the Hall Park with games, exhibitions, parades and dancing. The radio and cinema played an important part in our lives; we children would boo and hiss at Hitler when he came on the screen.

We used to take money to school for National Savings. So many things were rationed, food, clothes. We all wore "hand me downs" from relatives or friends. To me all this was normal life, we didn't know anything different.

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