For Olive Sansom ‘war just a part of life’

Olive Sansom Interview 004 (640x640)

Olive Sansom may be an octogenarian, but still remembers vivid details of her birthplace, her childhood and her early years in Canada. And she remembers growing up during the Second World War, and how she and her friends were not afraid.

Born in the UK during the mid-1930s, Sansom rattles off the address of the hospital where she was born: “102 City Road.”

“I was born in London, which is a real rarity. I’m a Londoner. I’m a real Cockney”, she says proudly.

She was born and raised in London and lived there until the last year of the war, when children were sent outside of London to avoid the air raids. As a result, Sansom got a real feel for what it was like to be a child living in a war-affected region.

“We weren’t really affected by it,” she says. To the children, the war wasn’t a big deal. She says adults may have been a little more afraid, but to the children it wasn’t scary.

“It was just a part of life,” Sansom says when she talks about the war, air raids and bunkers.

If they were ever walking home and the alarm sounded to warn of the approach of an air raid and the threat of bombing, a nearby adult would direct them to a bunker and they would wait it out. Sansom describes that nonchalantly, unlike scenes from the action-packed, fear-invoking films and documentaries about war-torn countries.

She remembers that she and the other children could identify approaching airplanes by the sound of their engines. She remembers one time, though, when there was an airplane she and her friends did not know the sound of. “That was the only time we were ever really frightened,” she says. The aircraft turned out to be a helicopter, something they had never seen before.

During the last year or so of war, at around the age of nine, Sansom was sent to live with extended family in the county shire of Devon, in southern England. Her family stayed with her mother’s sister’s family near Harrow in Middlesex, where they had moved after being bombed out of their home. Sansom says that those houses are still standing today.

Fearlessness has been a key factor and driving force in Sansom’s life. Her fearlessness started at a young age as she loved to climb. It appeared during the times she overcame kidney failure and a host of other illnesses while growing up. And it was present when she travelled across the Atlantic with her cousin at the young age of 18, moving to Canada to start a new life. It was there when she started her own businesses and when she finally went to a doctor who gave her the right medicine to help her with her illnesses. She has been healthy for the last 15 years.


Very often we get stories about the young and the fabulous, the rich and the famous. Human interest stories about the middle-aged, children and young adults and animal stories . Rarely do we get stories about senior citizens. The've lived the longest and have the most memories and experience. They have learned the most, have the most insights into life and the most advice. They were once young too, they were and are funny, they were daring, good-looking, adventurous and sometimes brilliant. I want to tell their stories. They are humourous, saucy, and plain hilarious if you give them a chance. And I want to show that side of them: to lift the dull grey, drab sheet that shrouds everything we know and associate old people with.


  • Torin Slik
    Reply October 26, 2014

    Torin Slik

    A really interesting story. I know some of my older relatives lived through the war, and it’s amazing how “just normal” their attitude toward it is. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if war came here. People like Sansom are a testament to strong will.

  • Avatar
    Reply October 28, 2014


    I really liked the human angle in this story. I liked how simple and down to earth she was when describing her experience. This is the side of war that isn’t documented very often. The account of her own personal experiences really give you a perspective of how her life was.

  • Avatar
    Reply October 31, 2014


    I found this story really interesting. My dad also grew up in England during WWII. Sadly he passed away almost 20 years ago now and I didn’t ask him much about his childhood. This story gave me a small insight to what it may have been like for him as a child. This makes me miss my dad.

  • Andrea Ross
    Reply November 5, 2014

    Andrea Ross

    Pricilla I really enjoy reading your stories. For years now if I find myself sitting next to an elderly person with a few minutes on my hand, I always try to strike up a conversation. I think they have a breadth of amazing life experiences and from worlds that exists no longer and In a decade or two could be lost forever. Our society does not always value our elderly the way we should, but I think they are remarkable. Your story made me want to sit with Olive and ask her more questions about her fascinating life.

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