WE have received lots of letters and memories about the outbreak of the Second World War 70 years ago, many of them too long to use in full in the paper. But many thanks for each one.

This moving reminiscence came from Mary Bell who grew up in Easington Colliery and now lives in Horden in east Durham. ============================

I was 8 years old. I heard my mam and dad talk about the Great War – the last war which lasted "four long years", they said, back in 1914 to 1918. They said they were "civilians", whatever "civilians" were.

Food, they said, had been scarce, it had to be queued for, black bread, no treacle, no sweets. Fortunately they had lived in a country place then, so there was a limited amount of dairy produce and fresh vegetables but in this pit place at the coast, they said, the fish out of the coal-spoiled dirty black sea would not be worth eating if there were to be another war.

My dad had had a medical during the First World War and was "grade two", so he was never called up to fight for king and country. Two of his brothers were "grade one" and went. Guns were fired, men killed, zeppelins came flying in the air, shores were bombarded.

On September 3, 1939, I went to my friend’s house to play. He lived across the street. It was a sunny Sunday morning. We were playing catchy with a bat and ball.

The buzzer from the pit blew – wailing through the apprehensively calm atmosphere. We stood to attention, immobile as if we were statues. Everything seemed motionless. Even the midgies seemed to freeze and dangle in mid air.

My friend’s mam hurried out of the house: “You had better go home, Mary," she said. "The war has started."

War had been declared.

I rushed home across the back street, questions rushing through my mind. Would we have food? Would I hear the guns? Would my dad be called up for the army?

My dad was too old to fight I decided. My dad had always been old. Would the Germans bomb the pit? They knew where it was. They had sunk it in nineteen hundred and something-or-other, I had heard somebody say. I remembered a new word I heard last week: "munitions". I thought it had something to do with bombs.

My mind raced, we might be bombed – naively I thought: "How exciting!"

It was Sunday. Would I be able to go to Sunday School today now that war had started and as we were at war, they might bomb the pit today.

I reached the gate and went in to what had been my lovely safe home – was it safe now? What about the bombs?

I looked forward to my Sunday dinner – we always had a great big roast of meat, usually beef, or it could be pork today as there is an R in the month.

But we couldn’t have this today, could we? For war had been declared.

I ran into the house. There was my beautiful mam I loved so much. She hadn’t changed for all we were at war. “Dinner won’t be long Mary”. The beef was there, the Yorkshire pudding, every vegetable under the sun. I hate vegetables. I have a lovely skin because vegetables are good for your skin, my mam said as she made me eat them.

I hoped there would be no vegetables during the war but there they were on my plate. Funny, nothing had changed when they said war had been declared. We even had cream cakes for tea. Mam had said you don’t have jelly and custard during the war. But we had it for tea that day.

I didn't think wars change life . . . everything was just the same that day. I even went to Sunday school.

Nothing happened. The sky was as blue, the grass as green as me! I felt disappointed.

But I was to learn dramatically that wars change lives.

The people of Easington became air raid wardens, and firewatchers. They were issued with arm bands and tin helmets. Everyone was given an identity card with a special number on.

A Home Guard was formed. Mr Mullany and Mr Hardman were killed in an air raid. They were members of the Home Guard.

Young men were recruited into the Navy, Army and Air Force. Miss Wardell, head teacher of the Girls’ Junior School, organised the Women’s Voluntary Service to knit for the troops and send parcels and ten shillings to all who had enlisted whenever she enough funds. Young women worked in munitions factories. Gas masks were issued to everyone. Identity cards, ration books, petrol coupons and the blackout became a way of life.

Air raid shelters were built. Every street was issued with a stirrup pump.

By 1940, every week during the 6pm news bulletin an announcement was made about the amount of rations to be allowed per person. My mother and nine-year-old me listened fanatically. One night the newsreader was broadcasting - on radio, no TVs then – that it would be 4oz bacon, 2oz tea, 2oz butter, 1s 10d (8p) worth of meat, 8oz sugar, 1oz cheese (my favourite food). Miners were allowed 4oz cheese (thank goodness, I always got my father’s share). Then a voice interrupted the broadcast: “Germany calling, Germany calling. Lord Haw Haw speaking. The people of Easington Colliery will soon be eating greyhounds instead of racing them."

My mother was horrified and dramatically said: “The Germans know there is an Easington. They even know about the greyhound track. It’s because they sunk the pit."

The voice was that of William Joyce, who was known as Lord Haw Haw. He frequently butted in on the news. That is mainly why I listened. It was a type of propaganda aimed at lowering the morale of ordinary people by specifically naming places. He was hanged for treason after the war.