Sonia Vanstone

Photo:Photograph of Sonia Vanstone taken on a cruise on the Danube.

Photograph of Sonia Vanstone taken on a cruise on the Danube.

Sonia Vanstone

Recollections of life on the Home Front and memories of being bombed out.

The outbreak of war

At the outbreak of war, Sonia Vanstone was 10 years old and lived with her family in Heston. A year earlier Sonia had, on her way back from the library, by chance seen Neville Chamberlain on his return from Germany, promising ‘peace in our time’. On the day war broke out, Sonia’s father had emptied the coal cellar to create a shelter for his family. When the siren sounded ‘an air raid warden rode past on his bike...and shouted at us to take cover. My parents and I climbed in [the coal cellar] and we waited for the bombs to fall. Nothing happened. The all clear sounded and we emerged unscratched’. The family eventually received an Anderson shelter.

School

Sonia attended school in South Ealing and travelled there by train. If an air raid warning was in force, the children were not allowed to arrive at school but as Sonia travelled far she would sometimes arrive in South Ealing after the siren had gone. Rather than be reprimanded at school, Sonia waited on the platform at South Ealing Station until the all clear had sounded. Sonia wonders, ‘which, for a child, was worse? To walk to school and get a strong telling off, or to sit on a railway platform where train movements could be a target for bombs?’

'We had heard nothing and felt nothing'

On the night of 23 February 1944, Sonia was asleep in her bed upstairs when her father came rushing in quickly taking her down to the Morrison shelter in the dining room. Sonia’s father had hurried home from a late shift in the midst of a raid to ensure his wife and daughter were in the shelter. Only a few minutes later, a bomb landed in front of the house. Sonia recalls:

‘Our Morrison had been blown completely from our house into my aunt’s next door. We were in her dining room. Evidently nothing of our house existed at all anymore. It was just a huge pile of rubble...We had heard nothing and felt nothing’.    

The family were rescued by the Home Guard and taken to a neighbour’s house for a cup of tea and then to Heston Village Hall to spend the night. After a number of weeks the family were given a requisitioned house, where they remained for the next five years. A few bits and pieces were rescued from the rubble of their home. ‘But everything smelt with the pungent smell of blast-dust. It clung to everything. Whenever I smell thick, old, brick dust today, it brings back those terrible times’. The house was rebuilt in 1949 and remains Sonia’s home to this day.  

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To read more about Sonia's wartime experiences in her own words please press the above link.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 13/06/2012.

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