Living in the heart of London during World War II and the Blitz, I came so near to “kicking the bucket” (or as we say, “falling off me perch”) more times than I can count.
When the war started, I was an 18-year-old civil servant working at a big government building in Kensington. We “carried on” — even though they bombed us day and night for months.
Every Friday was payday and a bunch of us workers would go to a special restaurant for lunch. One particularly memorable Friday our pay was late and so, being low on funds, my friend Jean and I decided to go in the opposite direction to a cheaper place.
When we got back, we learned that our favorite restaurant that we usually went to had been bombed to the ground and our friends had been killed! Jean and I had been saved by a late paycheck!
Another time, while I was at home I decided to go upstairs to bed early. Mum warned me, “At least wait until you hear the ‘All Clear’ siren.” But off I went anyway.
Then, just as I was falling asleep, I heard someone yelling on the street below, “It’s coming for Bowmore Rd!” And I thought: Hey, I live on Bowm —
WHAM! That V-1 rocket hit a block of apartments about 150 yards away. The blast took out my bedroom window — glass, frame and all — part of the ceiling fell on me, furniture skidded across the room. It was a mess! I managed to crawl out of my bed and get downstairs even though everything was completely blacked out.
Mum shone a light on me. “You’re covered in blood,” she said. “Let’s get you to a first aid station.”
So off we went, through all the debris and in total darkness (except for the fires that were burning).
After we got to the aid station, a nurse came by with a tetanus shot for me and … I fainted! What the V-1 couldn’t achieve, the needle did!
During the war I dodged shrapnel from our own anti-aircraft guns. One time I even avoided bullets from a low-flying enemy airplane.
I still shudder when I hear an air raid siren in World War II movies, or even low flying airplanes.
Our home was bombed three more times while Mum and I were in it.
Eventually, I began to wonder if I was destined for great things. Fame? Fortune? Marriage to royalty? But, alas, no. Although I did marry a prince of a fellow — one of General Patton’s Third Army guys!
To this day I so admire the bravery of our military and their sacrifices. In my own small way I kind of know what they go through.
I once read a bumper sticker. It said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If it’s in English, thank a soldier.” I do — every time I see a soldier, sailor, or airman I walk up to them and thank them. We all should thank them.
Oh, by the way, one last thing: I happen to share my birthday with the United States Marine Corps. So … OORAH!
This is an encore edition of an article from my dear Aunt Doris, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 94. This article was originally published on 24 May 2012.
Photo Credit: (top) public domain