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Lest It Be Forgotten After I Am Gone: Recollections Of Relocations - 7

...The following morning my father and I were with Sarah and Lou when the Prime Minister of the day, Neville Chamberlain, announced over the radio at 11.00 am that, “because the Germans had not withdrawn their troops from Poland, England must consider itself at war with Germany.”

My father and I immediately left for home and, on the way, the air raid warnings sounded...

Raymon Benedyk continues his life story.

1932 - 1940 at 35 Knights Hill, West Norwood, SE 27 (continued)

In the early part of 1939, my father and Charlie started a small factory repairing suitable clothing salvaged from the waste materials that came through their warehouse, and which they sold to market traders for them to sell in markets. Although at first it was really only a sideline for both of them, when clothing became rationed at the beginning of the war, it suddenly became a winner as the wearing of good secondhand clothing became fashionable and patriotic.

In the summer of 1939, the week before war was declared on September 3rd, my mother and I were on holiday in Cliftonville, near Margate in Kent. On Saturday September 2nd my father arrived in the car to take us home. On the way he had me read from the several newspapers he had bought all the accounts of the German advances in Poland. I did not realise until later that I was telling him of what was happening where he was born, and of course he was worried as to what was happening to his mother and family members in that area.

The following morning my father and I were with Sarah and Lou when the Prime Minister of the day, Neville Chamberlain, announced over the radio at 11.00 am that, “because the Germans had not withdrawn their troops from Poland, England must consider itself at war with Germany.”

My father and I immediately left for home and, on the way, the air raid warnings sounded. We were stopped by the police and instructed to go into an air raid shelter. But father insisted that “he had to get home to his wife” and we continued. The ‘all clear’ had sounded by the time we arrived. During the night the warnings sounded again, twice in fact, and we got up and got together in one of the rooms where we draped blankets over the doors to minimise the effects of any gas bombs that might be dropped by the enemy planes. Fortunately nothing happened, and in any case our efforts would have had little use.

Next morning I went off to school where I found everyone in the midst of being evacuated. I jumped on a bus with everyone else and found myself being transported to the country. I ended up in Haywards Heath, a small town near the south coast about thirty miles from home, billeted with a nice family with the name of Burtonshaw. They had a little boy about a couple of years younger than me and we got on quite well. I also found that an aunt with two daughters from London had also evacuated themselves to the town and I spent a lot of time with them when not at school. My parents would come to visit every couple of weeks or so, bringing some food supplies with them for the Burtonshaw house, which was always most welcome since food rationing and other shortages were beginning to bite. Because of homesickness, the visits were often quite emotional when I was refused a return to London. However, before the end of the year, when there was no bombing of London as had been anticipated, the whole school returned and I was home again.

All places of entertainment were closed, and all street lighting was turned off. All transport vehicles had especially made hoods made for their lighting and driving at night was somewhat hazardous. Pedestrians were allowed to use small torches to light their way, but nevertheless there were still small accidents between vehicles when drivers could not see each other, and when pedestrians walked into lamp posts and the like because of the darkness.

Soon after, my parents closed their shops in Knights Hill and we moved to 60 Cheviot Road, to a very nice house in a pleasant neighbourhood not far from where we had lived previously over the shop.

**
If you wish to make a donation to the Elsa Benedyk Memorial Fund, set up by her friends and colleagues entirely without Raymon’s knowledge to provide funds to support the children's ward of the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem to commemorate her life of work with children in her nursery schools, it would be most gratefully received. The amount that you give will not be revealed to Raymon. He is not a trustee of the fund. Your cheque, payable to the Fund, should be sent to the fund's Treasurer Mrs I Dokelman, 14 Charville Court, 30/32 Gayton Road, Harrow, Middx HA1 2HT.

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