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We felt safe in Kenley caves

June Plaice was eight when she lived in the caves situated off Godstone Road for a year with her mother and brother. It was 1943 and her father had been killed by a bomb. The family had to leave their house in Shirley and set up home in the caves.

June, from Purley Knoll, says living in the caves, which are now the site of a scientific optics company, was an adventure for many of the children. She said: "The entrance to the caves is opposite the road leading to Kenley railway station. Over the years it has been hidden by undergrowth but it provided a large playground for children at the time, along with the downs to the sides.

"My memories are of the damp chalk walls at night, the small canteen, making friends with an older girl who taught me terms I had not heard before, and my mother making friends with Sibyl Sheppard who worked in Surrey Street Market. "My mother would go to my granny's to cook a meal for us. Once she told us how frightened she was as a doodle bug came along the road towards them and went over the top of the bus.

"One thing I've never forgotten is there was a large shed like affair where we could wash or bathe. "Once, I couldn't get my clothes on quickly enough and when I emerged, wearing only my vest and knickers, the people waiting outside for their turn laughed.

"While in the caves I felt absolutely safe as we were told that a ventilation shaft leading to the top of the downs had a kink in it which would prevent a bomb coming into the caves."

When June was nine, the family was evacuated to Kilsby, near Rugby, returning to Croydon for the VE Day celebrations.

Another reader, Maureen Bunn, says her family sheltered in the caves after a bomb landed on their house in Godstone Road. She said: "We were in the cellar when the doodle bug landed on our house. "My parents decided not to chance another night there. We would walk up Godstone Road every night and sleep in the caves.

"My memories are quite hazy but like Valerie, I do remember the musty, damp smell. Everyone was very jolly and one of the areas was called Sinlight Alley as they never turned off their lights. "The caves are still visible, opposite the Co-op, and the site is now an optical factory."

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