Noel Streatfeild
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Adults' Fiction

First Children's Books

In the early months of the war, Noel took a refresher of her Air Raid Warden training, but was not able to use the knowledge as the expected air raids did not happen. However, as fears of invasion grew, she became involved in organizing Civil Defence, and helping evacuation preparations in South London.

When the air raids did start, Noel proved to be a very efficient Warden. "To go immediately to their post when the warning sirens blared was a Warden's first duty. Grabbing her gas mask and tin hat, Noel would set off, perhaps through darkeness shot with flames, not knowing what appalling tasks lay ahead. ... Day after day, and night after night, the checking of bombed houses, summoning of ambulances, and tiresome but necessary paperwork had to go on" (Bull, 1984:161-2).

Vast numbers of people spent every night in the underground shelters, which did not have facilites to provide food or drink. Invited out to lunch one day, Noel told a fellow guest about this, and said that she would like to see mobile canteens set up, and the guest offered to buy her a canteen!

"That was the beginning of what was to be Noel's most important war work. From then on, as well as keeping up her Warden's duties in Mayfair, she ran a regular canteen service for the people in the Deptford shelters. ... The work grew, for besides visiting the shelters, the canteen served rescue parties, fire brigades, and demolition squads at many terrible incidents, as well as shocked relatives called to identify mangled bodies." (Bull, 1984:163).

Noel's mobile canteen was linked with the Women's Voluntary Service (the WVS) and, as a result of this connection, Noel began giving talks and writing articles to encourage women to join the Housewives' Service.

On 10 May 1941, Noel's own flat was virtually demolished. She lost nearly all her possessions, and spent the rest of the war in a series of transient accommodations.

In spite of all this, Noel continued to write. All of her war work was voluntary, but she still needed to support herself, her maid and her secretary. Paper rationing reduced the number of books printed, and so the income from sales. As a result of this, she left her existing publishers (Heinemann for her novels and Dent for her childrens' books) and went over to Collins, who could give her larger print runs. In spite of the appalling working conditions - "When we heard a doodlebug coming we would crawl under the desk, and then come out with Noel saying 'Where was I?"" (Noel's secretary, quoted in Bull, 1984:173) - Noel's wartime output included four adult novels and five children's books. She also wrote nine romances under the pen-name of Susan Scarlett, innumerable articles and short stories, and maintained a diary (London Under Fire) intended for publication, but in which, unfortunately, she had lost interest by the time the war finished. "Writing was a necessity and a joy, the stimulant by which Noel survived her many horrifying ordeals. Wearying though it might sometimes be, the escape it offered enabled her to endure the war" (Bull, 1984:185).


Noel Streatfeild's Life

Childhood

World War One

Actress

First Novels

First Children's Books

World War Two

After the War

A National Monument

   
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