Fringe Box



Letter: My Wartime Memories of Ardmore Avenue

Published on: 24 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 24 Apr, 2022

From: Peter Chilvers

In response to: Young Film-makers Want To Record People’s Memories Of The Second World War

Peter Chilvers at the VE Day party, Ardmore Avenue, Guildford.

I am in the Ardmore Avenue [off Manor Road] photo, the blond toddler perched on the knee of Big John Sheffield. “Big John” had been evacuated from his London home to live with his aunt and uncle and younger cousin John Sheffield, who were our neighbours.

Whilst the photo shows I was there, I do not remember the event. But I do remember much of the war as a baby and young child.

I recall being lifted to the ceiling by my dad on his visits home from the RAF; having a Micky Mouse gas mask and a cramped bomb shelter under the dining table (both fortunately only ever used for practising); an older aunt and uncle living with us who were deployed from their normal life as part of the war effort to work in Dennis’s; and on or about D-Day being stood by my mother in our bay window to watch a sky that was continuously black with an endless succession of planes, all flying south.

There must have been fear, anxiety and disruption around for everyone but I was shielded from all of that.

Upon my dad’s demob we all went on holiday to my mum’s favourite sister, who at that time lived at Aboyne on Deeside. A very happy adventure, warmly remembered, that instilled my love of Scotland, still continuing despite the worst efforts of Nicola.

The so-called post-war period of austerity seemed blissfully OK, unimpeded and defining to me, but perhaps that was because I did not know of anything else and was protected by careful and loving parents.

I can recall evolving childhood thoughts triggered by the war, of being grateful and proud for being born British and being on the winning side. Conversely how terrible it must have been to be German and to live in such a dark place. Which of course led to an ultimate questioning and realisation, of different cultures.

At that time everything American was brashly promoted and to a growing child seemed a bright route to the future. We had a direct North American input as a branch of our family had prosperously settled in British Columbia. It was exciting to receive parcels from them containing fruit, cookies, sweets, magazines, toys, etc. But it should never be forgotten that they also sent a son who was killed in action as a fighter pilot in our defence.

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