An extract from
'It Kept Getting Better: The Legacy of William K. Joseph'
a tribute by his wife, Anne Joseph, © 2002
When World War Two began on 3 September 1939, we were living in Drayton. It ended almost six years later on 8 May 1945, by which time we were living in Southsea. As a family, we had what is laughingly called "a good war". My parents, sister and I survived the blitz without personal injury, although twice our possessions got clobbered. Our furniture was in a warehouse in North End when it was bombed, and our more moveable household effects just happened to be on Bristol Railway Station when it, too, was bombed.
I do remember watching dogfights during the Battle of Britain in the late summer of 1940, but as a five-year-old I did not have any accurate understanding of what it was all about. We moved many times during the war, which became a way of life for me but was obviously an ongoing challenge for my parents. As luck would have it, we managed to be in Portsmouth for just about all the worst of the blitz, but truth to tell I suffered much less than almost anyone else.
In those difficult times, my parents did everything they could to protect me from knowledge of the far-reaching implications of the war, while at the same time making sure that I understood unbreakable ground rules which peace-time children never need to contemplate. In the early years of the blitz, I was scared during air raids from the moment we heard the sirens wailing. I was absolutely terrified when we heard a bomb or a stick of bombs falling, guns firing (either ours at enemy planes or theirs at us), or planes crashing around us. But as soon as the all clear had sounded, I was O.K. It wasn't much fun seeing bomb damage, but many children enjoyed challenging one another to see who could collect the most shrapnel after a raid. Picking up any other object, however, was strictly forbidden because of the risk that any such item could be booby-trapped.
Our first move was probably early in 1940, a quick visit to Wales, where the families of both my parents lived. We took our cat there for safety. Many decades later, my husband and I were in London visiting a cousin who had spent the war years in Canada. She asked me whether we had stayed in Wales throughout the war, and I told her "no", that except for a few months we were in Portsmouth. She just looked at my husband and said: "her parents evacuated the cat, and kept the kids in the blitz!"
When the Battle of Britain started in the summer of 1940, we were still in our house in Drayton. Our maids had gone: called up for active duty. We were still in Drayton throughout the first three months of the blitz on Portsmouth throughout October, November and December. We did not have an air raid shelter, so whenever there was a raid we assembled in the strongest part of the building. Daddy allowed each of us one item to take with us, and I chose my teddy bear, whose fuzzy tummy got denuded very early on as I pulled out the fuzz whenever I got scared. As the war went on, poor old teddy got to be more and more abused by me as I cuddled him so tightly and shredded yet more fuzz off his tummy. Today he sits in pride of place on my dressing table. He is in terrible shape, but is probably just about the most precious possession I own....
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