Interview with Margaret Irene Maxwell


Interview with Margaret Irene Maxwell


Margaret was almost twelve years old at the outbreak of World War Two and living in Romford, Essex. She remembers the announcement made by Neville Chamberlain on the radio on September 3rd 1939. Margaret recounts being issued with a gas mask and how cafes, restaurants and cinemas were initially closed. Her local church, St Andrew’s, remained open and provided daily social events such as table tennis. Her school, Romford Intermediate, made some preparations for the war including a trench dug in a field. Later, brick air raid shelters were built on a playground which could house up to thirty children. She also recalls rationing, but never felt hungry and feels that rationing made people be more inventive with cooking. They kept hens for eggs and also had an allotment.

She experienced the Blitz shortly after it started as one Saturday she was in Romford market when the air raid sirens sounded. She recalls how frightening it was, and how she cycled home as fast as possible, as the aircraft batteries began firing. Her friend Joyce was bombed out of her house three times. Her family did not qualify for an Andersen shelter, but the neighbours invited them to sleep in theirs. Later, her father built a brick shelter in their own garden. She travelled by train to visit family in Warwick during the Blitz. That night Coventry was heavily bombed, and Margaret witnessed the damage the next day, including walking through the ruins of Coventry cathedral. Margaret recalls landmines, a V-2 rocket in the neighbour’s garden and unexploded bombs, as well as details such as a bomb crater outside the Parkside Hotel which a bus fell into. Just before she was seventeen, travelled to London every day on the train and could see the bomb damage. Margaret worked as a secretary in the cargo industry and due to the nature of the work had to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Her father had served in the Army at Ypres in World War One. He became an Air Raid Warden during World War Two. Her future husband Jim served on a balloon battery at Primrose Hill, and survived been impaled on iron railings by the blast of a bomb.Margaret’s brother Ken was in the Royal Navy and his ship HMS Lawford was sunk in the English Channel, by a new aerial weapon. After helping other crew members, he was rescued and spent the next six months recovering at Milford Haven.



IBCC Digital Archive





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00:16:09 audio recording




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Denise Boneham, “Interview with Margaret Irene Maxwell,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 3, 2021,

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