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106-year-old shares memories of Great War on birthday

Alice Black was visited by pupils from Hawley Place School as she celebrated her birthday

Alice Black, from Blackwater, who turned 106 on

Jellied eels, tin bath tubs and piercing air raid sirens were some of the memories 106-year-old Alice Black has of growing up during the Great War.

Alice, who celebrated her birthday on Wednesday May 21 at Randell House in Blackwater, experienced both the First and Second World Wars.

At her party she looked back on her early memories in north west London before she moved to Blackwater 12 years ago.

“When I was about four-years-old the first war broke out and my father was sent to war,” Alice said.

“My father caught a fever and had to be taken out of the trenches and was not allowed to come home as he was being looked after there.

“When the war was over he did not come home straight away, he went to Yorkshire Military Hospital and six months later he came home.

“My grandmother was very good to me but she used to take me to Bedfordshire to see my auntie where she gave me cod liver oil - which was horrible.”

The eldest daughter in a family of six children, she recalled her early food experiences.

“When I was very young, my mum used to like jellied eels but I would not eat them,” she said. “We had bread and I remember my mum sometimes cooked lamb and pork chops. My mum was a good cook.

“We only had water, fizzy drinks were not in fashion then.

“As I got older my mum taught me how to cook and I remember cooking beef stews.

“They were very hard times during the war but all us children were good. I was the eldest and had to look after my brothers and sisters.

“It was hard but we were very happy. We never played in the garden as it was too wet, so we played out in the street.

“I remember a man would hold a skipping rope and we would jump over it, that was how we had our fun.”

Alice lived in a council house in Kilburn with her family The Oakleys, who used to bathe in a tine bath in the front room.

“At home we had a coal fire and I can remember the dense fog we always had in London,” she added.

One of her earliest childhood recollections was waiting outside her school with her teacher when Queen Mary passed close by her on the way to the opening of the new Empire Stadium in Wembley.

Alice left school at 14 nd worked for McVities biscuit factory and then on to Colgates.

She married Walter Black, known as Bill, in June 1931. They had no children but she looked after many nephews and nieces and cared for her mother in her final years.

She also lived in Edgware, Middlesex.

During the Blitz in 1940 the back of her flat was blown out, but fortunately she spent that night in the air-raid shelter so escaped injury.

The council found temporary accommodation for her and when her home was repaired she moved back in. Then came the unexpected, another raid and the back of her fat was blown out again.

Luckily Alice was safe in the shelter again.

She said: “The Second World War was worse. We could not do anything about it and we had to go where we were told to go.

“When the siren went off, we grabbed deck chairs and blankets, went down to the shelter and that’s when the bomb dropped.

“All my windows came out, the gas stove was broken as were pots and pans, everything went.

“I lost all my clothes and had to buy new. My clean washing on the line went as well. God knows what would have happened if I was there.

“In the shelter, which was underneath the school opposite my flat, we sat and talked to each other, they were my neighbours.

“We sat there until the sirens turned off. We thought why was it happening to us but we just had to get through it.

“Another time when the siren went off I got under my table. I was frightened.”

Alice’s husband died in 1973 and she had lived on her own until she moved to Randell House where she is very happy.

This week she celebrated her birthday with friends at the care home. Pupils from Hawley Place School in Blackwater visited the house to sing songs to her.

Alice said the secret to a long life was to “not let go”.

“You cannot give up,” she said. “I never thought I would live this long when I was young. You just have to carry on.”

 

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