Ted hurried us to the shelter but it was full. Even the air raid warden was in there. Ted was furious. He shouted at them all to get out. “I built this place for my family and all you did was smirk and laugh. Not once did anyone offer any help so now get out and make your own place.”
Everyone left and we settled down for the night. Ted went into the house for food and a blessed cup of tea. My Ted was wonderful.
Now the war really started. In a daylight raid Filton aerodrome was the target. It was a massacre. All were caught running for the shelters. The plane snuck in under the warning sounds and caught them.
The next day a group of planes came over but our planes were waiting. They came up from the south, in from the west, and over from the east. So many German planes were shot down but one landed on the downs. In no time all the women rushed them with anything they could lay their hands on. The army had to be called out to rescue the two airmen up a tree dodging the irate women. Served them right.
One day I decided to cross the little river and pick blackberries for jam. I left Kaye with my neighbour and Bryan and I hopped over and started picking. I was just laughing at Bryan’s juicy face when a dark shadow swept over us. It was a plane and I just stood looking at it as it turned and swept over us firing bullets zzh zzh zzh all the time. I dived for the hedge with Bryan under me. I didn’t even feel the brambles. That blighter turned and machine gunned the hedge full length. Those bullets came so close it was like bees around my head. My God I was scared. When I could no longer hear the plane I ventured out and picking up Bryan ran for home. Never did get my bucket back.
Food was severely rationed and I blessed the garden that kept us in fruit and vegies. The fruit made jams, cough syrups, jellies, pickles with the vegies and bottled for the winter. I even made clover wine. That was a hoot. It had to be stored in the cool so I put it in the summer house. This I left open for the tramps to have a shelter. I didn’t think of them drinking the wine. They must have had a headache.
My second attempt at wine I stored in the bottom of our wardrobe. Cool and not disturbed. During the night the bottles exploded. We thought the Germans had come for us. Talk about a fright and what a mess. However my third try was great.
Except bottles being scarce I put vinegar in a port bottle and a stupid young lad with no taste drank the lot. I had made the vinegar from some chemical, real vinegar was hard to get, and we had to rush him to hospital. Never could understand how he swallowed it without tasting it.
Dresses were still just below the knee but I wore my overalls. Much better for work.
The local nursery came down to see if I had any tomato plants to spare as his had been ruined by the frost. Having the large greenhouse I could give him a tray of young plants. He said “Thank you” and I never saw him again. People are funny. My own tomatoes grew well and there were so many Ted asked the greengrocer in town if he would buy some. I was shocked when Ted told me what he would pay. The price in the shops was 2 shillings to 2 and sixpence a pound. He offered 4 pence a pound if we picked them. Like heck! I filled a box with them and put it outside the house with a notice “Free. Please take some”. Believe me they went like lightening.
A day or two later the siren went and I hastily picked up baby wrapped warmly in a blanket and gathered Bryan beside me to the front door. As I put my hand on the door knob there was a boom and the door flew open, I flew the length of the house and out to the back lawn. Seeing the baby was alright I dashed back into the house shouting for my Bryan. There he was. The door opening back had protected him. I gathered him into my other arm and struggled to and down into the air raid shelter. I sat there in a huddle with my two babies and then realised tears were pouring down my face. I quickly pulled myself together and calmed Bryan making a game of our special hideaway. The good thing was we were safe. I can still hear that noisy quiet. The boom still sounded and yet I was outside it. Just for seconds time stood still. People were injured along the road. We were so lucky.
About now Ted was called to go on a patrol one night but didn’t come home in the morning. I was worried sick and it was two days later that he came home. The patrol had been deployed on a cliff overlooking the sea and were warned that a landing was imminent. They lay there all night but it wasn’t until the following night that boats were creeping in to shore. Then all hell broke loose. Oil was flooded onto the sea and the landing craft were in a sea of flames. Ted took a long time before he told me of the horror of screaming men and the smell of burnt flesh. Little did those poor souls know what awaited them. Bodies were recovered but too burnt to identify. That’s the horror of war.
One night at home guard headquarters a bomb was heard to whistle down but it didn’t explode. The commanding officer, a small self-important man, decided to look outside against the advice of his officers. He took one step out of the porch and disappeared. The men rushed out to hear a small voice saying “Help! Help! I’m standing on a bomb.” When they hauled him up he was indeed standing on an unexploded bomb and did he smell. He hastily left for home and clean underwear. Who could blame him.
The next day I decided to go into town for my shopping. This meant catching a bus to the top of a steep hill and walking down to the shops. As I stepped off the bus the air raid siren started. There was no shelter on the downs so I ran downhill to the shops. As I looked up that dreaded shadow swept over me and the zzz zzz zzz of bullets came around me. A man came out of the first shop and waved me away crying “My windows ! My windows!” I ran on and more bullets came at me. I felt a tug at my shoulder and a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me into a shop doorway. The shop was Woolworths and the manager had gathered people to the back of the store. He saved my life that day. A bullet through the shoulder of my coat was a might too close. I wonder if he was ever thanked properly. I know I was too upset to think properly. Just a thank you was all I could manage.
Ted’s boss, before petrol rationing started, decided to be smart and buried drums of fuel in his front garden. He was ready for rationing but a stray bomb dropped on it and caused a terrible explosion. The house was blown apart and left a big hole. Fortunately the family were staying at her mother’s so there was no loss of life. His boss decided to join the air force which left Ted jobless. The powers that be decided with his abilities he was needed in a factory making planes and transferred him to London.
Ted found a house to rent in Wembley. And he and I and the two children, with the third on the way, moved with him. It was a nice house and a good area with shops at the bottom of the road which suited me. The house was a three bedroom detached and had a large suburban garden, mostly lawn. I soon changed that putting lettuce, carrots and onions in on the corners. I bought the kids a tortoise. What a mistake. It ate all the lettuce and hoed into the carrots but then it disappeared.
I was feeling pretty worn out with moving and air raids and a baby on the way. To top everything off one morning Ted's mother appeared and started preaching about how I had ruined ‘her Teddy’s’ life. She then offered me 100 pounds to leave and not come back. She told me Ted went to her every day and said I was a weight on his shoulders and he hated me but didn’t know how to get rid of me. I was stunned. I knew nothing about his going to his mother’s. How could he hate me. When I asked his mother that very question, she said he felt guilty about the accident and stayed with me out of pity. That he didn’t want another child and I was a disgrace for having it. She then offered me 200 pounds, all her savings, if I would pack up and leave. She said she would take the two children and bring them up. When I didn’t say “yes” she left and I collapsed. My brain was in a whirl and idiot that I was I believed her. My world fell apart. There was only one thing…