Joan Zilva

Text Box: An  account of a 14 year old’s WW2 overseas evacuation based on her letters home

AT AN AWKWARD AGE

A TEENAGER’S TRANSATLANTIC WARTIME SAGA

CHAPTER 13—BRITAIN AGAIN-In War and Peace

Text Box: Not so much bewildered as apprehensive at readapting yet again.  
Text Box: ie I started school again on Wednesday June 16th, 1943.  She must have meant “after the short half term”.  This was her copy, so it may have been correct on the one sent.  In those days British half-term holidays were usually just the Monday added onto the weekend.
Text Box: The school was unreasonably rigid about uniform.  I remember one girl, who had been evacuated to a school with another uniform, getting into trouble because she  had a maroon, not navy, white and green, cardigan.  Leaving aside cost, what did they expect with rationing?
Text Box: I had returned to the Promised Land - home.  All Promised Lands have snags.  The Israelites learnt this only too well after returning from Egypt  to the original Promised Land, and continue to learn it to this day.  Only stories ending when  the goal is reached leave the reader to imagine a perfect future.
To begin with, the war still had many dangerous years and discomforts in store. The eventual peace was, if less dangerous, still very difficult. 
Secondly, as I had foreseen, readjustment to school and life in England was difficult and relations with my father did not improve.
However, I have never regretted returning when I did.  I was old enough to have foreseen that life would not be easy and yet young enough to take each day as normal, even if, by today’s standards, life was unimaginably difficult and hazardous.  Our parents were those most deserving of sympathy: they had experienced two major wars in their adult lives. I’m now used to creature comforts and grumble with the best of them over minor inconveniences.
I used to cycle to the butcher’s with our ration books to collect our meagre allocation each week.  Once our allowance was full of maggots, but there was no chance of returning it.  We just had to scrounge around for something else to eat - not easy in those days: probably we resorted to dried eggs.  I’m still cynical about food scares and I ignore “sell by dates”.  The best one could do was to make friends with the butcher, who would have small amounts of unrationed offal “under the counter” for his favourite customers.  Horse meat “for human consumption” was on sale.  A treat for us was to find whale meat: cut up thin enough and fried well in fat that had been jealously hoarded in the larder (no domestic refrigerators), the fishy taste was minimized. Once one of our three eggs (one each a week) was bad, so we scrambled the other two and divided the result into three.  Fish, too, was unrationed, but in very short supply.  We queued for hours in all weathers for it, but it often ran out just as we reached the shop: pregnant women got the chance to jump the queue, so that my mother threatened jokingly to stuff a pillow up her front.  Fruit and vegetables were mostly our own produce. We were allowed to buy one box of matches each at a time: my young cousin Bryan was always been good for a try on and his mother used to send him in twice with his school cap at different angles.  Soap, too, was among the rationed goods. We were allowed two ounces of sweets a week - which, in fact, led to me eating more than before or since to get our ration’s worth. Clothes shopping involved counting one’s coupons as well as one’s money; only “utility” clothing was available: this was, in fact, of excellent quality.  Parachute silk and curtain materials were unrationed: American boyfriends were definite bonuses because they could get nylon stockings: mostly we went bare-legged in all weathers, staining our legs with permanganate and painting seams (then in fashion) up the back  This is a mere short list of rationed goods.  You name it and it was rationed. We never went hungry - we were just bored by the diet.  I took it all for granted, but I cannot now imagine how my mother adapted to all the difficulties of feeding us in her middle age.  It was much easier out of London, especially in the country, where there was more local produce. I also quickly got used to ruined buildings, gaps where others had been and to seeing people of all ages with limbs missing. Air raids were rare at first, but I do remember waking up with a start as a German plane swooped low over my bedroom firing away.  I wasn’t scared then.  However, what we didn’t know, but the Government already guessed from aerial surveys of Peenemunde, Hitler still had something much more frightening up his sleeve which was to affect all those living in or near London.  To be thoroughly selfish, it came at the worst time for me and my schoolmates (see below). 
It was more difficult to adapt to school.  I returned in the middle of the summer term of 1943.  The others had been in the class since the September of 1942 and had followed the British curriculum up to then, even if evacuated.  I had a lot of catching up to do - studying in one year what should have taken two.  Although I took up past friendships easily, I felt a foreigner in my own land and struggled to regain my English accent.  It was not easy, but had to be got through.
I have a memory of lying on my back on the lawn in hot summer weather and seeing the sky black for hour after hour with our planes going to Germany.  Even then I felt sorry for them.  It must have been the raid on Hamburg on July 31st.
During the summer holidays I continued my war work by picking hops in deepest Hampshire (after all, how could our boys fight without beer?).  We were on a farm near the village of Bentley, not far from Alton.  Nowadays it would be an easy afternoon’s drive and back from Sanderstead, with a walk and a meal thrown in, but then might it as well have been abroad.  We worked hard, were taken around an oast house and met gypsies and East Enders for whom it was a traditional summer pastime.  It is a tedious job, and very hard on the hands. The most important war event during our stay in Bentley was Italy’s surrender.

Text Box: The V (as in V1 and V2) stood for Vergeltungswaffe - Revenge Weapon. 
Text Box: I went back to school in September and from then on concentrated on trying to get up to British university standard in physics, chemistry and biology.  I had interviews at both Oxford and Cambridge, but they, reluctantly they said, turned me down.  I did, however, get accepted at the London Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine - then an all-woman institution. 
One further  important war event sticks in my mind.  On June 5th, 1944 the long awaited “second front” (second to the Russian front) started on D-day, with landings of Allied troops in Normandy.  We did not know the full cost in lives and suffering, nor the bungles perpetrated.  All we saw was that the tide had definitely turned in our favour.  This was about six weeks before we were due to sit the all important Higher School Certificate and cheered me up despite my well-founded academic  fears.  
And then the balloon went up!  On June 13th, a couple of weeks before the exams, the flying bomb (V1, doodlebug or buzz bomb) attacks started.  The Germans, especially von Braun (who later worked on the American space programme) had achieved a great success at Peenemunde. It was a brilliant engineering feat, but it caused us all a lot of suffering and posed the poor headmistress and our parents another logistical problem.
The flying bomb attacks were the most frightening experiences that I’ve ever been through.  For the first few nights the sirens sounded and we went to our makeshift shelter, thinking at first that it was an “ordinary” raid. The ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) was continuous in vain attempts to hit the missiles.  Soon both the sirens and ack-ack stopped and we routinely spent every night in the shelter.  The missiles passed over every few minutes.  They were programmed to cut out over London, but the barrage balloons, clearly visible from our back garden, so damaged many that they fell short of their target, on us.  I believe that Croydon suffered  worse than most places from these attacks.  After the engine cut out there was silence for the 15 seconds that it took for the missile to fall and hit the earth with a massive explosion - the longest 15 seconds that many of us have ever experienced. There was selfish relief when we heard the blast: it had landed elsewhere and we were still alive, even if the house was damaged and even if someone else was dead.  One route was directly over our house and another over the end of our road.
One fell at the end of the road on the first night, dislodging some of our tiles.  In the wall of our makeshift shelter there was an airbrick (common in British houses then to ensure ventilation -  in our climate!)  and, because of the blackout, we had fitted a solid wooden cover over it.  The cat was with us and this cover blew out and fell on him.  He wasn’t visibly hurt, but it so scared him that, from then on, he refused to enter the shelter again.  The following night was so farcical that, even then, it seemed funny.  The ack-ack was constant and loud; the explosion of the previous night had blown soot down the chimney of the coke boiler in the kitchen (used to heat water)  so that the room filled with smoke, and the cat was yowling in protest.  We had no time to be frightened then - that came later.  In another amusing incident my stone hot-water bottle broke under me: I wasn’t cut but the “bed” (a mattress on the floor) was sodden.  All this time I was vainly trying to concentrate on last minute revision - there was little hope of sleeping.  In the mornings Stella Davies and I would walk to school as normal.  
Soon the headmistress, Miss Adams, who had had much to cope with since her appointment (chapter 1), called a meeting for parents and those of us due to take important exams.  We were given the option of going to Llandilo in South Wales to sit the papers, or to sit them in the shelters under close supervision.  We chose Wales but Stella stayed in Croydon.  I was evacuated once more, under very worrying circumstances since I knew at first hand the dangers to my parents.  At least letters arrived more quickly than they did to Canada. The new uprooting added to my previous hurdles before these important exams.
I was billeted with Mr and Mrs Reeve.  He was English and the local  hairdresser; she was Welsh, lively and deaf.  They lived in a small, two up and two down, cottage overlooking the graveyard called Mount (rather than Cemetery) View.  
Text Box: This is not a complete collection of my letters from Wales, which contained  a lot of talk of disastrous exams and worry about the safety of my parents (both anxieties were justified).  I have chosen to reproduce only those with something interesting in them.  We had hoped to return home after the papers, but there was no let up in the bombing so we stayed for the practical exams too.
Thin wartime paper and dodgy pens make for difficult scanning. 
Text Box: What on earth was piglet?  I’ve never gone in for lucky mascots.
Text Box: This really did make us laugh, used as we were to explosions every few minutes.
Text Box: By “Gaelic” I meant Welsh.
Text Box: This reads “The food is super!!”.  It was always my obsession.  As I said before, catering was much easier out of London. 
Text Box: Blasted but not destroyed.  Stella’s descriptions were probably very amusing.
Text Box: Rabbit and strawberries.  What luxury!
Text Box: This was the view from the terrace over the River Tywi, where we often sat in the evenings.
Text Box: “Hedla” (written up the left side if the card), known as Teddy, was a friend I made in the sixth form.  We later studied medicine together and shared a variety of scruffy digs. When we both retired and had more time we were in constant contact, often by email, and have holidayed together. 
Text Box: We were encouraged to reuse envelopes to save paper.
Text Box: Harry = Miss Harrison the dopey chemistry teacher referred to in Canadian letters.
Text Box: Fairwach = Ffair-fach and Llandilo = Llandeilo. 
Text Box: I went to considerable trouble, but when they arrived all my father could do was grumble.  However, they had been through a very rough time and had had a long journey 
Text Box: The third round of evacuation from London.  First the “phoney war”, then the Blitz and now the V1s.
Text Box: I seem to have taken it very calmly when it came.  Exams seemed more important!  If the bomb had not been so damaged by the barrage balloons that it didn’t explode completely they would have both been dead.  It fell in our garden and a full explosion would have destroyed everything.  My father was, foolishly, looking out of the window with his back to a glass cupboard; he had called my reluctant and more sensible mother to come and look at the “pretty” sight of the flames emerging from the rear of the missile.  At that point it cut out and exploded: glass from either the window or the cupboard passed right through a tin of food standing on the cupboard shelf.  Luckily my father was blown into a doorway with the door on top of him and both parents escaped with cuts and bruises.  It was not much fun living in the house during the next few winters.
Text Box: My last letter from Llandilo (not reproduced here) was written on July 20th - the day of the attempted  assassination of Hitler.  I don’t mention it, so can’t have heard before I wrote.  My parents arrived on the 23rd.
We had a relaxing time in Llandilo (now Llandeilo), walking and lying by the river. Professor Hirst joined us for a few days and, as he was a great walker, he and I walked up to the romantic ruined castle, Carreg Cennan, then entirely deserted apart from sheep in the surrounding fields.  It was a long walk and we talked a lot, so that my father either thought that Prof Hirst had abducted me or that we had had an accident.  Prof H was much more laid back and couldn’t understand the fuss.
The Eisteddfod was being held nearby.  The Chief Bard was staying in the same hotel as my parents and we became quite friendly.  He even let me try on the Bardic Crown and his robes.  We went to some of the ceremony, but I have no clear memory of the proceedings or of the exact location.  It must have been a watered down affair in wartime.  It did provide a diversion. 
We must have returned to Sanderstead at the end of July or early in August.  The journey was terrible.  We not only stood all the way, packed in like sardines, but we got separated from our luggage and each other when changing trains - and that was all before we reached London.  However, we finally made it, reunited with our luggage.
At home the former lawn was a wilderness of long grass (loved by the cat).  The house was liveable in but boarded up and draughty.  It was then summer, but in the winter it was very uncomfortable, especially as fuel and hot water were strictly rationed and there was no central heating.  We used to crouch over the one small fire, almost scorching our fronts but very cold at the back: it took real courage to move away from the hearth.  Baths were taken with our feet outside the rear wall of the boarded-up house.
Text Box: I don’t know about a “picnic”, but Avignon and Grenoble had fallen and the Maquis (French underground resistance movement)  was very active in helping our advance.   
My three maiden great aunts had lived in “The Nook” - hence the nickname.  They had helped to look after my grandfather until his death before the war at Duchy Grange (Duchy)in Harrogate.  He had servants who, when I was small, I found more amusing than the “upstairs”.  They taught me popular songs of the time, such as “The daring young man on the flying trapeze”.
Text Box: This was known as “digging for victory”.
Text Box: Woodheath, just off the Stray, was the bungalow where my great aunts then lived.

Text Box: As ever during the war, the food was better out of London.
Text Box: My exam results were, as I had predicted, not good.  However, the powers that be realized that all candidates living around London had undergone major difficulties during the examinations.  I was lucky: Professor Hirst took it upon himself to write and stress my particular problems of readjustment and he, I presume, said that I did show some promise.  Perhaps he had been assessing me on our walk   I don’t think that I let him down. In any case, the Royal Free Hospital Medical School eventually accepted me.
On September 8th, 1944 Hitler launched his next revenge weapon on London, the V2 or rocket - another brilliant engineering feat.  We knew nothing of it until, when I was when I was digging in the front garden, there was the most tremendous explosion although no flying bomb had been heard.  I ran into the street to try to see what had happened, but without success since it had  exploded about three miles away.  A tall front hedge hid me from view of the house.  My mother rushed out.  In such circumstances one doesn’t always think rationally.  Although there was no visible damage, there was also no sign of me; she thought that I’d been blown to pieces.  When I reappeared she greeted me with relief.
These weapons were not nearly as frightening as the flying bombs.  There was not the dreadful 15 second wait as with the V1s.   Once the explosion was over you knew you that you were still alive.  So we just got on with life without using the shelters.
I started medical school in October.  From then on I did not feel the educational gap and did quite well.  
The rockets affected the Medical School very soon.  One afternoon, when I should have been in the dissecting room, I decided to play hooky.  The School was near King’s Cross Station.  On my return, as I left the tube at Russell Square, someone said “There’s been a rocket in Hunter Street”.  As I turned the corner I saw that it had hit the School and had sliced off the end of the dissecting room where I should have been.  Virtue does not, after all, pay.  Luckily for  us it was at teatime and no one was at the actual spot, but there were several minor casualties and one that was more major.  A friend  had been having a chemistry tutorial.  Both she and the tutor were knocked out and both were taken to the casualty department. The tutor seemed in the more serious state and  was dealt with first.  It was only when they examined my friend that they found that they burnt their hands on her hair: she had fallen with the back of her head in the contents of a smashed bottle of concentrated sulphuric acid.  By this time she was badly burnt and spent years in and out of hospital having skin grafts.  
Although none of us died, the church hall behind took the full blast.  A Methodist conference was in progress and all the delegates were killed.  One of the jobs we volunteered for at nights was “looter watching” - people used to thieve from damaged buildings.  It was eerie doing the rounds armed only with a torch.  In the anatomy theatre were pickled bodies laid out for dissection: through the nonexistent rear wall the digging for more recent bodies was clearly visible.
Somewhere else had to be found for us to continue our studies.  At first we dissected in the top room of the then Examination’s Hall in Queen’s Square: this had a glass roof and the rocket attacks continued!  Surprisingly, I don’t remember feeling frightened - I think we were slightly amused by the inappropriate choice and inured to danger after the flying bombs. I don’t suppose that the authorities had much other option other than to send us all home.  Anyway, life was never dull.
Meanwhile negotiations were going on with the other nine London medical schools to give us house room.  Our year was accepted by Guys.  At that time there were only two mixed-sex London medical schools - King’s and University College - and one to give women a chance - the Royal Free.  The other seven, including Guys, were for men only and tended to be anti-feminist: a  woman should know her place and not study a man’s subject such as medicine.  At first our welcome  was far from warm.  A great fuss was made because one of the toilets, urinals and all, had to be allocated for our use; as for the students in classes, never the twain should meet.  Of course, extramural fraternisation was not unknown.  The breakthrough came when Guys held a student “rag” raid on their traditional enemy, Kings, and captured their mascot, Reggie.  A friendly battle ensued, under the benign eyes of the police and Kings’ students climbed the gates of Guys, being repulsed by hosepipes. We marched alongside the Guys’ students and were accepted from then on.
Soon we were back at the Royal Free.  VE (Victory in Europe) Day came with the surrender of the Germans on May 7th, 1945.  Jubilation was intense and, standing in the Mall, we saw  King George VI, the Queen  and Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.  We cheered ourselves hoarse at Churchill’s words and marched to Parliament Square and St Paul’s.  
Although we were euphoric, many were still suffering in the war against Japan, especially in prisoner-of-war camps.  The full horror of the Nazi concentration camps remained to be revealed. But all we thought of then was that there would be no more bombs on us and  that we would see lights again.  There was, however, much hardship (by today’s standards)  to come.
The next international event that stands out in my memory is the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.  I, like many others, was appalled, and even more so by the second such bombing of Nagasaki three days later.  I remember standing in a train corridor on the way to Cornwall for a holiday and thinking that, apart from humane considerations and although at that time we did not know of the long-term effects of radiation, this would change the world for all of us for ever. It is still debatable if even the first, and certainly the second attack, really shortened the war. Whatever the ethical and tactical truth, the Japanese surrendered on August 14th (VJ - Victory in Japan - Day).  By this time I was back  from holiday, but could not join the celebrations because I was laid low with a very sore throat and high temperature. 
Somewhere else had to be found for us to continue our studies.  At first we dissected in the top room of the then Examination’s Hall in Queen’s Square: this had a glass roof and the rocket attacks continued!  Surprisingly, I don’t remember feeling frightened - I think we were slightly amused by the inappropriate choice and inured to danger after the flying bombs. I don’t suppose that the authorities had much other option other than to send us all home.  Anyway, life was never dull.
Meanwhile negotiations were going on with the other nine London medical schools to give us house room.  Our year was accepted by Guys.  At that time there were only two mixed-sex London medical schools - King’s and University College - and one to give women a chance - the Royal Free.  The other seven, including Guys, were for men only and tended to be anti-feminist: a  woman should know her place and not study a man’s subject such as medicine.  At first our welcome  was far from warm.  A great fuss was made because one of the toilets, urinals and all, had to be allocated for our use; as for the students in classes, never the twain should meet.  Of course, extramural fraternisation was not unknown.  The breakthrough came when Guys held a student “rag” raid on their traditional enemy, Kings, and captured their mascot, Reggie.  A friendly battle ensued, under the benign eyes of the police and Kings’ students climbed the gates of Guys, being repulsed by hosepipes. We marched alongside the Guys’ students and were accepted from then on.
Text Box: Soon we were back at the Royal Free.  VE (Victory in Europe) Day came with the surrender of the Germans on May 7th, 1945.  Jubilation was intense and, standing in the Mall, we saw  King George VI, the Queen  and Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.  We cheered ourselves hoarse at Churchill’s words and marched to Parliament Square and St Paul’s.  
Although we were euphoric, many were still suffering in the war against Japan, especially in prisoner-of-war camps.  The full horror of the Nazi concentration camps remained to be revealed. But all we thought of then was that there would be no more bombs on us and  that we would see lights again.  There was, however, much hardship (by today’s standards)  to come.
The next international event that stands out in my memory is the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.  I, like many others, was appalled, and even more so by the second such bombing of Nagasaki three days later.  I remember standing in a train corridor on the way to Cornwall for a holiday and thinking that, apart from humane considerations and although at that time we did not know of the long-term effects of radiation, this would change the world for all of us for ever. It is still debatable if even the first, and certainly the second attack, really shortened the war. Whatever the ethical and tactical truth, the Japanese surrendered on August 14th (VJ - Victory in Japan - Day).  By this time I was back  from holiday, but could not join the celebrations because I was laid low with a very sore throat and high temperature. 
Peace had come but rationing got worse and our house was still a shambles.     
On June 8th, 1946 a huge Victory Parade was held in London.  Several of us got up very early and took up our places on the top of the statue opposite the Duke of Wellington Steps in the Mall.  We had an excellent view of the Parade.  This lasted many hours as the Allied and Empire troops marched by, accompanied by tanks and armoured cars; it did not seem a moment too long for us.  Peace - we thought - had really arrived.
At about the same time I passed the 2nd MB (the last preclinical exam) with enough credit to be the only student from our medical school to be accepted to take an intercollegiate BSc course in physiology, a year intercalated between 2nd MB and the clinical course.  I’d  wanted to specialize in biochemistry, but this was not available as a separate subject then. It was only now that I became a fully registered student of London University: they’d been very reluctant to accept my Toronto qualifications and my certificate had got lost in the post between Toronto and London.  Frosty John’s airgraph finally did the trick - after I had been studying at the University for two years!
At the end of January 1947, just as we thought spring was nearly due, a very cold period started.  The temperature did not rise above freezing, day or night, until March 5th and the snow was deep.  Fuel and hot water were rationed.  Moreover, although repairs to damaged houses started soon after the end of the war, ours was not considered to be a high priority.  We therefore spent a miserable winter in a draughty house, having what baths we were allowed with our feet effectively outside.  Power cuts were common.  As my Intercollegiate BSc course involved a lot of travelling from college to college, I spent much of the year in cold, dark underground carriages waiting for the power to come on again.  The lab was so cold that I wore gloves when possible.  I commuted to London by train and spent hours standing in cold corridors during hold ups due to points freezing.  Earlier in my student career trains were often cancelled because of bombs on the line, of which we could not be forewarned for security reasons: the journey could be very involved. Students then were not allowed any excuse for being late, however valid.  Now late arrival for classes because the car needs to go to the garage for servicing seems a valid reason!  Perhaps my age is making me cynical about youth. 
Ed chose this year to fulfil a long cherished dream of visiting Britain, assuming that, in a country reputed to have mild winters, now the war was over all would be well.  I walked to the local station to meet her (no petrol) and we struggled for the two miles home through deep snow drifts.  She, of course, was used to central heating and spent most of the time crouched over our tiny fire. 
I’m not sure exactly when our house was eventually repaired, but think that it must have been later in 1947.  After the bitterly cold winter the summer was very wet and much of the country was flooded.  The workmen chose to remove our roof tiles when the rain was lashing down and, for several days, we had to put buckets on the staircase to catch the water leaking through.   
After the war rationing became stricter before it improved.  It  was only totally abolished in July 1954, nine years after the war ended.  Catering became more and more difficult.  Dave came to London as a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics (LSE) in late 1950, bringing his new bride, Betty.  The poor girl started her married life in a very cold flat in Belsize Park with enormous catering problems, especially for one who was new to serious rationing.  She, always resourceful, managed very well, even entertaining me to dinner, but often reminds me of the living conditions “typical of Britain”!  The three of us went Youth Hostelling in England (see photo above) and Italy and became firm and lifelong friends.  I hope that their more recent visits have been less Spartan - though Betty continues to insist that, many years later, I lived in a flat with water running down the walls.  My rooms when I was resident in hospital  as a junior doctor were not above reproach.  After release I did  rent rather insalubrious quarters in Pimlico for a short period. Both these were long before her visits, and even there the walls never ran with water: when she came I was living in relative luxury in Kensington.  As I tell her, I’m sure it’s a figment of her imagination - but she doesn’t believe me.
Other visitors followed.  Mr Bartlett married again and visited us in Sanderstead with his new wife, Dorothy.  Rosemary and then Lu came later, when living conditions were more stable.  
So ended an eventful period of my life.  During a very busy career I all but forgot about it.  Now that I have retired I’ve time to remember, reflect and be  amazed at my sometimes dangerous adventures.  
Text Box: I don’t know why she had this thing about my grades and the superiority of the Canadian educational system (last page). This undated, but much later airgraph from Frosty John suggests quite otherwise. I had to work hard to catch up with British requirements for University entrance, cramming two year’s work into one.
Text Box: Italy surrendered unconditionally on September 8th and the Allies landed at Salerno on the 9th.
Text Box: The storming of Guy’s Hospital gates by King’s College Medical students during a “rag” in 1944 or 1945
Text Box: Dave and Betty walking through Devon circa 1951.
Text Box: Arrival in Llandilo
Text Box: More about the school bomb.
Text Box: Adams = Miss Adams, the poor headmistress.  More problems to deal with.
Text Box: “Our” bomb
Text Box: The flying bomb attacks continued, but less intensively than before. I don’t remember much about them during this time.
It must have been at about this time that I got a personal shock.  A letter arrived for  me from Rosemary.  I assumed that it was just normal social news, but read with horror that Mrs Bartlett had died after short spell in hospital on July 4th, 1944 at the age of 44.  I sat down, aghast, before I could tell my parents.
At the end of August I visited my relations in Leeds for a short time.  One letter home records another event that affected us indirectly.  Teddy’s (Hedla’s) house was hit by a flying bomb and completely destroyed; luckily they were all on holiday in Cornwall. They had to be rehoused by the Government and a replacement was built on the original site after the war.  The letter about this, reproduced  next, also shows how Harrogate, where my great aunts lived, was affected - not by bombs, but by the need for the country to be self-sufficient.  
Text Box: They must have heard on the grapevine that a bomb had fallen in Hayling Park Road and they knew that Hedla’s family lived there.
Text Box: This must have been taken by my Mother in September 1944. I was posed in a tin helmet, with stirrup pump, although fire bombs had finished by then. My clothes were designed by Government Utility. Note boarded up windows and absent boarding under the eaves. The next door house (Paddy Reeves’ family) seems undamaged, perhaps because it was at an angle—the blast must have been unidirectional. The bomb had certainly not exploded fully or the house would have been completely destroyed. I keep this on display to remind myself not to grumble if the central heating fails. 
Text Box: Teddy's (Hedla’s) bomb