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Remembrance Sunday - Your Stories

As we enter November, we have Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day. This year we wanted to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women by asking our members for their stories.


We asked:

  • Do you have family members that grew up or took part in WW1?
  • Did you grow up around WW2?
  • Have you been affected by other wars and conflicts?


Below you will find the stories that were shared with us. Please note that these are people’s own experiences surrounding war time. We thank all that took the time to share their stories with all of us at Open Age.




My father happened to be working in Java. Considered to be an 'important' civilian, he was interned for 3 1/2 years. With 2 young children my mother survived by selling her jewellery and giving English lessons. One day a Japanese officer went to her asking her to teach him English. When she asked why he wanted to learn English he said  that it was because they were going to Australia. 'She made an excuse and declined'. Of course, they never got there.

In the camp, my father was caught trying to smuggle a note to my mother for her birthday. Everyone in his hut were lined up in 2 lines facing each other, given a club and told to hit the person in front of them. My father had made a pact with the man opposite that they shouldn't take it too seriously. A guard walked up and down behind the two lines.  The man facing my father didn't see that the guard was behind him and the guard seeing what he was doing gave him a big whack with his club. The man was so shocked that he laid into my father and fainted.

On release after 3 1/2 years, my father was skin and bones and had to be fed water with a spoon.


Jean Maby:


I was born in Alexandria:  my father was a naval officer based in the Mediterranean.

In 1941 he was captain of a ship which hit a mine, and my father was wounded (his knee was smashed). We were repatriated by a very long route home as the Med was too dangerous to cross:  Aden, Cape Town, Trinidad, Halifax in Nova Scotia (not as the crow flies!); change ship and convoy across the North Atlantic - I had my first birthday in mid-ocean. We made it safely to Southampton, but the convoy behind us was attacked by a U-boat wolf pack, and our ship was sunk on its journey back, so I guess I’m lucky to be here.

The really extraordinary thing is this: when my father was blown up he had his camera round his neck, with his name on a metal ring round the strap. About ten years later his cousin who was Hydrographer to the Navy was mapping the ocean around the shores of the Mediterranean when one of his divers surfaced crying “Sir, sir, I’ve found a camera on the sea floor, and it has your name on it!” (My father and his cousin had the same surname).

I think it’s the coincidence to outdo any other!  What ARE the odds?


John Lawrence:


I was born on 8th December 1941. My father was active in New Guinea and mortally wounded in September 1942 at the hands of the Japanese. I was adopted by my father's sister and her husband at age 6 and led a wonderful life thereafter. I was highly successful at school and university in Brisbane and came to London in September 1965 to complete a career in chemical engineering and management consultancy. I now live in Hammersmith and have participated actively in Open Age activities.


Anne Perez

My father was at school until he was 18. He was then and asked why he hadn’t signed up. He said he didn’t want to. It wasn’t for religious reasons . He was supposed to go to University. He went to prison for 2 years as a conscientious objector. He then dug ditches for several months and of course this stayed on his record during the 50’s, it reappeared, under McCarthyism.

There were thousands of men in prison but during my teaching career it was never taught . WE have been to a pacifist Remembrance Day service once where ex-soldiers also spoke .I always wear a white poppy.


Trudy Callegari:

I have many memories of WWII as I was born in 1938. My infancy and early education were blighted by the war and we were never got any help to finish our primary school education let alone secondary. I left school at 15 and had to pay for evening classes to get some qualifications although I was employed as soon as I left school and worked for 50 years plus.

My primary school education started in 1943 and the only subject I learned during that time was reading. I can still remember my first teacher who was obviously a very good teacher because all the other class teachers never had the skills or the time to teach us anything so when I moved on to secondary education I could only do basic adding & subtraction and mental arithmetic, which was needed in my parent's shop. I learnt  it from them. During the last primary year (1948/49) we got a male teacher who came back from the war but he was supposed to be a math teacher but didn't have the patience to teach any of us how to do long multiplication & subtraction, etc. which he was keen on teaching. Perhaps he was a new teacher or someone who had reskilled. but when I moved to secondary school I was disadvantaged as all the other children had been evacuated out of London and had the normal maths education. 

My family stayed in London throughout the Blitz and my twin &and I had to go to school ourselves during the day-time air raids, etc. I can remember on the way to school we often had to take shelter in Liptons or the Post Office. We had to go down to the basement with the staff and we would hide ourselves until the all clear was sounded. Consequently, when we were in school we spent half the time going to & from the hall in the middle of the building and having to sleep on the little camp beds.  My parents had a delicatessen shop so couldn't take us to school as they were essential workers. One day when my twin and I were playing on the shop doorstep we decided to go and visit an aunt and forgot to tell our parents. We got on a bus and went from Camden Town, where we lived, to Tottenham Court Road and managed to find our way to our aunt who also had a shop. She kept asking where our mother was and was shocked to find we had gone to visit her on our own. 

We were scared because we knew we had done wrong and our parents were eventually called.  We were taken back home and we never did that again! Most evenings were spent going behind the black-out curtains watching the City of London burning. That was our TV! The sky was always red with the fires. We also were bombed a few times and landed outside of our house in the street still in bed, as I recall. All around us was a bomb site and that's where we played until the war finished.  Our toilet was an outside one just down the road, so living was quite tough in those days.

Although I had little schooling I was never unemployed. I would pay to train in a new skill and, compared with today's youth, I was very independent at a young age as our parents were not able to help us.


Brenda Meadows

My parents met just after WW1, when my father was on Army leave, after service in France (Ypres) and my mother was a Land Army member. His friend and her friend also got together, and remained friends for most of their lives. I was 7 years old when WW2 began - in hospital after surgery and was sent to a hospital in Surrey. With three other siblings at home, money was short so one parent only visited me ONCE a month. I did not make good progress and was brought back to London to be at home because prognosis was not good for me. However, we all survived the blitz, with just one brother old enough to serve in the Armed Forces (Fleet Air Arm). After the Armistice, the family gradually dispersed around the world - to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I am still in touch with their families, although my immediate relatives have passed away.  Now 88 years old, I feel proud to be still functioning , and thank Open Age for most of my good health.



During WW2 I was evacuated to North Wales from Liverpool. A Chinese girl in my school in Liverpool was picked out by the Vicar in the small village we were taken to. She was asked to pick someone else and she picked me .We grew up like sisters loved each other Dearly. After the war

her mother wanted her back home.

My Mother was Mentally ill, so I remained in the Vicarage till 1949. Then my Elder Brother wanted me back home to look after my mother. I was very, very, sad as I loved where I was living. So back I came to Liverpool, then I was terribly ill and spent the next 3 years in a Sanitorium in Liverpool.

I went to REHAB as one did in those far off days. The rehab which was near Englefield Green jn Surrey then they decided we all need to learn something so we could earn a LIVING, so I was given the option of Training to be a secretary or a Comptometer Operator. All the Secretary Training classes were full, they were in Somerset .So I was sent to EXETER to learn how to be a Comptometer Operator.

Many adventures ensued and I still have some.

To be continued


Penelope Goddard:

My mother, Irene Richmond, was in E.N.S.A. between 1940 and 1944. She went around England, Scotland and Wales with a group of actors entertaining the troops. They travelled with props and costumes from base to base, often enduring hard conditions and long hours. The troops loved them, and were entertained with comedies and sketches which lifted their spirits for a while.

She had a successful career for many years and was a respected actress having worked with many well-known directors. In later life, when my mother was physically unable to carry on acting, she gave talks to Literary luncheons, Rotary and Women’s groups etc. She entitled it “An Actress Looks Back.” They heard  many a funny story of things that happened  through her live on stage, film and television. Starting with her father owning a picture house showing silent films, and her days in E.N.S.A. Her love of entertaining and connecting with the audience never waived. I just wish I had recorded one of her talks to listen to now and again. That’s my story of wartime


Isabelle Phillips:

I was born in 1942 and my parents and I lived on the outskirts of Glasgow near a town called paisley, a mill town. My father’s siblings lived in the Clydebank area on the other side of the Clyde. My father was one of a big family of ten. In 1940/41 there were German bombing raids over Glasgow and Clydebank mainly aiming for all the shipyard along the Clyde etc. Three of the older married brothers and sisters were bombed out of their homes in Clydebank and were evacuated eventually to outlying areas in the countryside. A lot of other families were not so lucky, there were thousands of casualties.

The younger members of the family lived near John Browns shipyard near the docks where a ship was berthed on the night of the attack a polish crew defended the docks. The worst attacks took place on the weekend of march 13th/14th 1941. After the blitz of a town of a population of 50,000 people 8 houses were all that remained and the survivors were evacuated with the clothes on their backs and little else.

The fires, could be seen from where we lived near paisley and my father and many others set out to help and find news of family and relatives. It was the worst raid in the whole of Scotland!!! There were lots of other deaths in the following years as a result of this raid and people's lives were affected forever. I will be remembering all the casualties on Remembrance Day as I've done for all these years since. (These events were conveyed to me as I grew up)


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