Dorothy Lee

Photo:Dorothy Lee in her ARP uniform.

Dorothy Lee in her ARP uniform.

Dorothy Lee

Photo:The female ARP wardens for St Pancras. Dorothy is pictured on the front row, second from the left.

The female ARP wardens for St Pancras. Dorothy is pictured on the front row, second from the left.

Dorothy Lee

Photo:The male ARP wardens for St Pancras. Dorothy's father is pictured centre front row.

The male ARP wardens for St Pancras. Dorothy's father is pictured centre front row.

Dorothy Lee

'A terrific bang'

Dorothy Lee tells of a time when a bomb fell on her father's ARP station.

Sheltering

Dorothy Lee talks about her fear of sheltering.

'You had to keep calm'

Dorothy Lee talks about the importance of keeping calm.

Recollections of wartime in London as female ARP warden.

The outbreak of war

In 1939 Dorothy Lee was fourteen years old and lived with her family near Tottenham Court Road. Her siblings were evacuated but as the oldest she stayed at home. When the sirens sounded on September 3rd, Dorothy’s father, an ARP warden, assisted with the evacuation of residents to the Paramount Cinema. Initially Dorothy played with the other children in the street and saw tracer bullets fired. She assisted with putting out fires using sand and water. When raids began in earnest the severity of the situation became clear to Dorothy when a local bank was bombed and the fire spread to the shops.

Joining the ARP

She left school at fourteen and worked at Foyle’s Library, Charing Cross Road. Dorothy applied to be a Land Army Girl but was not old enough. Aged sixteen, she joined the ARP as she got on very well with her father who looked after her. She later moved from Foyle’s to a local factory as she wanted to feel as though she was contributing to the war effort. The ARP did not pay well and the majority of wardens had to supplement their incomes with day-time work.

Life during air raids

Dorothy hated using shelters but did so when her mother was pregnant. She was not frightened during raids and thinks that this was because she was young. Although her duties could be distressing (i.e. collecting identification from those killed, going to the underground to report bad news) Dorothy found that her job as a warden brought a sense of order during chaos. When the docks were bombed she worried for the safety of others, but was unable to help them.

Whilst working at Foyle’s she visited music shops, momentarily allowing her to regain a sense of normality. When she heard that people had been hurt whilst undertaking everyday activities, it reinforced the severity of the situation. Although largely she was not frightened there were odd occasions when on reflection she feels that she should have been. Despite reports of violence and crime during the blackout she did not feel unsafe.

A changing community

When the war broke out Dorothy lived in an area where people were very friendly.  Many of her neighbours were foreign and she feels sad that they were interned. Shops closed and traditions disappeared. People remained friendly during the war but this was also due to fear. Overall Dorothy does not recall being frightened and she dealt with her feelings through keeping a sense of humour – when she was sent for training by the Home Guard she found it funny that she had to run through Regent’s Park in camouflage! Dorothy accepted the situation and did the best she could.

Downloads

Interview with Dorothy Lee
Interview with Dorothy Lee (234k)
To read the full transcript of Dorothy's interview please press the above link.

'A terrific bang'
'A terrific bang' (77k)
Transcript of audio clip with Dorothy Lee.

Sheltering
Sheltering (84k)
Transcript of audio clip with Dorothy Lee.

'You had to keep calm'
'You had to keep calm' (73k)
Transcript of audio clip with Dorothy Lee.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 20/02/2012.

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