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Caring on the Home Front - Volunteer memories from World War Two

Stories » Youth and Cadets

Youth and Cadets

Young members of both organisations played their part in the war effort. Their skills and willingness to help others were needed more than ever. Many volunteered for Civil Defence work and saw action in the midst of the worst bombing raids of the War.

The war affected the training that young members underwent. Like the adults, they had Air Raid Precautions (ARP) and anti-gas training, and trained members of the public themselves once they were qualified.

Young people supported the Joint War Organisation’s efforts in ways less dramatic but no less important. They worked in hospitals and wartime nurseries, collected herbs and scrap metal, worked on the land and in canteens, and went shopping for elderly and disabled people.

16Anne Wisla

London, St John, cadet
For her new country
Anne Wisla escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and found shelter in London. She became fluent in English and a dedicated St. John Ambulance cadet. A refugee knew better than anyone what England was fighting for. With the cadets, Anne learnt ARP and anti-gas, willing victory for her new country. Read Anne’s story

56Audrey Lewis

Rotherham, Red Cross, youth/fundraising
‘Never stopped singing’ 
Audrey Lewis and her young friends put on quite a show. With all the optimism of youth, they sang and danced to raise funds for the British Red Cross. Concerts in the garden led to 14-shilling profits. And though life was hard, Audrey never stopped singing her signature song, ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs in the Spring Again’. Read Audrey’s story

26John Smith

Surrey, St John, cadet
In the band
John Smith’s friends convinced him to join St. John Ambulance. They promised a bugle band and parades. To his dismay, cadets meant not only learning about the bugle, but first aid as well. But after a shaky start, John’s participation in the band grew into a lifelong performance for St. John. Read John’s story

65Patrick Dickinson

Hove, Red Cross, volunteer
‘Fetching and carrying’
Patrick Dickinson knew how to keep himself busy during school holidays. With his neighbour’s husband imprisoned in Germany, he signed up to help pack POW parcels near Brighton. With a trolley and lift, Patrick fetched and carried, seeing the parcels from empty box to much-welcome POW feast. Read Patrick’s story

46Ron Davis

London, St John, cadet

Ron Davis’ cadet uniform gave him a sense of bravery. It also gave him a duty. On a summer day, he walked home in uniform. A Flying Bomb spoilt the peace, its force destroying nearby homes. Childhood curiosity almost overtook Ron, until his uniform reminded him that duty must come first. Read Ron’s story

36Yvonne Albon

Ipswich, St John, cadet
The Library Service
Yvonne Albon’s fingers put the books back together. As an Ipswich cadet, she volunteered for the hospital library service, repairing books that entertained Allied troops. The service provided normalcy for soldiers. Mysteries proved especially popular, as Yvonne’s hands came to know well. Read Yvonne’s story