Ida Pressley came to Southampton from Canada in 1937 and during the war wrote letters to her old local paper, The Indian Head News in Saskatchewan, telling them about the Blitz.

Ida, who spent her final years in Milford-on-Sea, managed to get some of the letters through the censors and published in the Indian Head. The following are some extracts from those letters:

We found the blackout an additional expense when furnishing our flat, because of the lightproof curtains. No light whatsoever must show through the windows.

When it is foggy, along with the blackout, it is just about impossible to get about at night. There have been several drownings in the docks when seamen have walked over the edge of the pier in the dark and fog, and blackout accidents have ceased to be news any more.

But in spite of everything I still maintain that this England is a great country to live in. The summers are beautiful and we are looking forward to spring this year with more anticipation than ever because it means longer days and less blackout nights. Of course, we may experience war trouble with spring, but that remains to be seen.

Daily Echo: Southampton during the Blitz.

No sooner had the letter published a short time ago been posted than air raids in all their ferocity broke out over the city of Southampton. The terrifying effect of screaming bombs and, hurtling dive bombers, all to the accompaniment of rattling machine-gun fire, as the south coast city was raked again and again by the invaders on the two days following the mailing of the first letter.

Damage near the docks included public hotels and a cold storage plant, in the demolition of which four people were killed and scores injured. One public house had all the walls blown out but the next day a sign bearing the words ‘Business as Usual’ was displayed and citizens drank their beverage in the open air.

Air raids can be and are very much of a nuisance when they come at the most inopportune times. We had three air raid alarms today, one at 9.30am just as I was getting on with the family wash, another at noon, a most awkward time because of cooking a meal, and a third at 1.15pm in the middle of the washing dishes process.

When the siren sounds, I grab a box containing all our papers, certificates, cash on hand, jewellery etc. my gas mask and a rug, and dash down into the Anderson shelter in the garden.

The lady in the flat downstairs is 73 years of age, and she has a bad foot. It really is a trial for her each time. But we know that we have to go to the shelter if we are to be safe.

We had one bad raid on the night of June 18, 1940, but since then (touch wood) nothing has happened in Southampton.

Daily Echo: Ida Pressley in her younger years.

The rationing of butter, bacon, and sugar seemed hard at first but we are managing quite well.

The margarine of today is very unlike that of the 1914-18 war, and we use it for cooking and even on toast and in sandwiches. It is tasteless.

In tonight’s paper our bacon ration has been doubled, so that is a great help. These Englishmen must have their bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Those fearsome mines that send shipping tonnage to the bottom are in a way a mixed blessing for fisherfolk of Great Britain, who get £5 (about 25 dollars) for each mine washed ashore and retrieved by them, provided the mine and finder are not blown sky-high!

We’ve had terrifying experiences as the city has been set ablaze by incendiary bombs and homes mutilated by the concussions of land mines – we are having our fair share of this mad war.

Southampton is a wounded soldier, who, though mortally stricken, is convalescing nicely and who will soon be on his feet.

A fine co-operation among the peoples of the great seaport has sprung up and with only the future concerning the populace, plans have already been made to build a far better city with better streets and communication systems. In spite of the severe raids on Southampton’s main shopping centre, the parks, which are in the High Street itself, have never ceased to be a beautiful picture of well-kept flower beds and lawns and the heavy foliage of the trees hides the surrounding desolation. Many firms have cleaned away the wreckage and built one-storey shops, pubs and even a cinema.

Daily Echo: Ida Pressley in her later years.

But business in Southampton has moved out into the suburbs, most of the larger firms having taken over the small suburban shops. Some businesses, too, have amalgamated, such as our two jewellery shops. I think what Sotonians miss most is their morning coffee and afternoon cup of tea. Our cafes were practically wiped out and only one or two new ones have sprung up.

However, communal feeding centres are operating successfully.

The people of Southampton are the same as in every blitzed town in England. They are gay and lively, and you very seldom hear them mention their experiences in recent raids – the novelty has worn off. The main topic of conversation is ‘the future’. The town leaders are already planning a wonderful new road straight through the town to the docks. ‘Blitzed towns’ provide an opportunity to improve communications.

Let us hope that soon the great liners will again be sailing up the river to Southampton, carrying famous people from every corner of the globe, bringing romance and excitement to this port once more.

There is always a funny side to every situation. The lady who lived in the flat below us was a Titanic widow. When she learned of her husband’s death she lost her sense of hearing, through shock. One day the siren went and I was hurrying to get her downstairs and get us both to the shelter, when the dear old lady called up the stairs that she thought there was someone at the door. It was only the bombs dropping all around us!

One night I was visiting some friends when the siren sounded. I wanted to get round home to take the old lady into the Anderson shelter. As I ran down the street I was passing a surface shelter.

The bombs were dropping and a man told me to come inside but I said I was just going round the corner and I carried on.

A few minutes later that street shelter had a direct hit and all were killed – my number wasn’t up!