The Second World War was declared 64 years ago, on September 3, 1939. LUCYA SZACHNOWSKI looks at what it was like to be young during the war ...

Bromley resident Derek Allen was a teenager during the Second World War.

He said: “On September 3, 1940, I attended my cousin’s wedding and in the afternoon we had a good view of the dogfights from my uncle’s garden, high on a hill in Lewisham. As young teenagers we found this most exciting and cheered each time a plane came down, not realising some of them were our own.

“My grandfather called us in. ‘You will see enough of this,’ he said. In the early hours of the morning there was a brief lull and my father drove his parents home.

“I stayed the night with some other cousins and next morning walked two miles home, passing bombed houses on the way.

“Arriving home there was a terrible atmosphere. ‘My two best friends have been killed,’ my father said.

“I thought he meant two Army friends but sadly he meant his parents, whose house had taken a direct hit shortly after they arrived home. It was several days before they found my grandfather’s head, in a garden two roads away.

“This event devastated my father and, at the age of 16, I was taken away from Siemens where I worked to run the family business, Allen of Lee Ltd, in Lee High Road, Lewisham.

“Although I was still too young to drive, we carried out removals, mostly from bombed houses into store.

“We had to negotiate rubble and craters, often going into houses where there were unexploded bombs.

“Our own house, in Lee Park, Blackheath, was badly damaged when a landmine fell on a church in our road.

“My father and I continued to live in our four-storey house but the rest of the family were evacuated to Northampton.” Mr Allen was a keen Scout. He said: “As Scouts we collected wastepaper, acted as firewatchers and Air Raid Patrol (ARP) messengers. We erected indoor air raid shelters and frequently entertained in shelters with our mini gang shows.

“We formed the Lewisham Rovers Football Club and the Lewisham & District Sunday League. Lloyds Bank Sports Ground, in Beckenham, was our home ground and, in 1944, Millwall FC let us use their ground for our cup final.

“When I was 17, I joined the Stretcher Party— (later to become the Light Rescue Party).

“The minimum age was 18 but, when they heard I was a driver, they turned a blind eye.

“In 1943, I joined the Royal Marines at the Commando Training Unit, Lympstone, Devon, so I missed the doodlebugs and most of the V2 rockets.” “The strange thing is, in spite of the horror, the meagre rations, the loss of sleep and the sudden death of good friends, we still managed to enjoy our teenage years.” Leaving Parents Doreen Pyne was 13 when war was declared. She recalls being evacuated two days earlier, on September 1, 1939.

She said: “My brothers Rick, 11, George, eight, Ronald, four, and I all walked with our mother and grandmother. There were other groups coming from all directions, clutching belongings and gas masks, heading towards the school. Double-decker buses were lined up outside the gates and only the children were allowed on and seated on a bus.

“It was quiet except for muffled sobs from both sides of the fence. Tears were streaming down every face as the children drove away and left parents, wondering if they would ever see them again. “Most were in shock but some did cry out and banged on the windows at seeing their mothers going further away as we drove to Hither Green station to file onto trains to go on into the Kent countryside.”