“We are at war with Germany.” Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s declaration, broadcast 80 years ago, shook Herefordshire.

One newly qualified teacher from Hereford Training College heard the news while waiting to board the Birmingham train for her first teaching job.

“Our hearts sank.” Schoolgirl Jeanette Reed found her mother in tears at the family’s Stonebow Road home: Arthur, her father, already a First World War veteran, would have to return to war.

Bill Laws is the author of Herefordshire’s Home Front in the Second World War. “At first, people thought the war would last less than six months. Then France fell and suddenly everyone was expecting a German invasion.”

Air raid sirens sounded; windows, including all 428 at the Training College on College Hill, were blacked out, and the armed civilian militia, the Home Guard, was set up.

Secret woodland bunkers were built on Credenhill (codename Adam), Dinedor (Caleb), Bromyard (Jacob), Coppet Hill (Shadrach), Ledbury (Meshach) and Dinmore (Abednego).

“The idea was to disrupt Jerry and, if possible, kill an officer,” explained a west Herefordshire landowner who volunteered for the Guard.

Meanwhile hundreds of homesick evacuees were arriving by train.

“It wasn’t a

happy time for me,” recalled evacuee Eileen Carpenter. “Everyone thought war would be over by Christmas, but my parents, concerned that Birmingham would be bombed, left me with an aunt in Hereford.

"I was always writing to my mother to let me come home.”

The Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) Rotherwas had been preparing for war since 1938.

Supervisor Wilf Bowen said: “They knew what was coming and were busy re-arming.”

The Germans targeted Rotherwas, taking aerial photographs in 1940 and bombing it the following year.

The attack was Herefordshire’s worst wartime disaster. Most of the casualties were women.

On the home front it was the women who volunteered for munitions, the Land Army, Timber Corps, Royal Naval Service, Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and the Auxiliary Air Force.

Joan Lloyd quit her hairdressing job at Hammond’s to work the telephones at RAF Binbrook’s Bomber Command.

“At night you counted the planes going out," she said.

"You knew who hadn’t made it when we counted them back in later.”

Colonel Andy Taylor is curator of the Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum.

He said: “Herefordshire became part of the secure home base, with training units (RAF Madley, Credenhill and Shobdon), factories and depots at Rotherwas, Pontrilas, Moreton-on-Lugg and troop concentrations at Foxley, Barons Cross, Hereford Racecourse, Berrington Hall and Eastnor Park, to name a few.”

The county hosted Canadian, American and Indian troops preparing for D Day, and looked after the wounded afterwards.

Louisiana GI Leon Standifer was injured during D Day before recuperating at Foxley.

He said: “I remember ATS girls persuading me to try the cider and crying over Vera Lynn’s There'll Always Be An England.”

Italian and German prisoners of war (POWs) were held in camps at Ledbury, Tupsley, Hunderton, Wormelow and Peterchurch, or billeted on farms. Peterchurch’s Eva Morgan remembered two Italians POWs making hazel baskets at Penlan farm when the day’s work was done.

Forty years later her mother was still using the basket the Italians gave her.

Colonel Taylor added: “The war touched everyone. But there was a determination and camaraderie born from shared hardships and a common purpose.”