Saturday, 5 September 2009

Memories

With many news items this week mentioning the long ago start of the second world war, it reminded me of something I'd written for my family's younger generation, to whom war is simply a word, not a memory. I was not yet born when the hostilities began, but by 1941 they were still going strong. My young niece asked me some questions about that time, and I've decided to share some of my answers with Blogland at large. Here goes...

The German planes only flew over to drop their bombs at night , and only when the weather was right. They liked a bit of cloud cover, so if the night sky was very clear and starry, they tended not to come in such large numbers, and we would get a quieter night. Also, they waited for darkness, so during long summer evenings, life seemed almost normal still.

There was an Anderson shelter in Gran's garden, and when the sirens went in the middle of the night, we had to get up quickly and leave the house. The shelter was simply a few sheets of corrugated iron covered with turf, so they made a mound over the tiny space that had been excavated in the garden earth. I can't remember a lot about how it looked inside. There were a couple of bunks I think, and lots of old chairs - even the one with the woven seat that Mum used to put the skewers through (that's another story!) and I spent a lot of the time sitting on Mum's lap while she either read Mary Mouse books to me, or told me stories. I do remember the whining sound of doodlebugs, and the bang and thump of bombs exploding fairly close by. They seemed to make the air all round push and squeeze you, but I don't remember any of it as frightening, because I was too small to understand what was really going on. I still have pictures in my mind, of standing up in my cot, looking out of Gran's bedroom window and seeing flames rising into the sky from burning houses in nearby streets. Somehow, despite all this, I still remember childhood as having been a happy time, when I was surrounded by a loving, extended family.

Because I was born after the start of the war, Dad was already away on his ship, and I didn't know who he was when I first saw him. So, I couldn't miss him, as I'd never known him to be around. Sad, isn't it? It wasn't until he left the Navy, when I was about 7 or 8, that I have any proper memories of him.

Other memories I have of those days, are of everything being 'make do and mend'. Sometimes I used to help Auntie Nell and Betty wind wool from unpicked, knitted jumpers, so they could re-knit it into other clothes - often for me, and later on, for my brother. Everything was in short supply, and clothes would be altered, made over and worn till they were on the point of falling apart. No popping to a supermarket for a cheap alternative! But we had lots of laughs, and all people were friendlier than they are now, as the hard times were universal, and brought everyone together in a common bond.

29 comments:

  1. Hello Jinksy,

    It is difficult for those of us who didn't experience any part of the war to understand just what life must have been like. But the cameraderie is a constant theme.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It must have been a difficult situation for everyone. I guess the young people are so lucky not to experience it.

    Thanks for making me more grateful Jinksy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That old Dunkirk spirit kept us all going Jinksy - I do think as a nation we do tend to rise to the occasion. Sad that it takes a war to make us all pull together though, isn't it. Have a nice weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. hi jinksy, thanks so much for posting this piece. my mum was evacuated out of manchester during the war and my dad was in the north of yorkshire countryside and so had little direct experiencing of what you're describing. i didn't know to ask my grandparents what it was all like for them and of course they have all flown away. have a peaceful day. steven

    ReplyDelete
  5. My parents talked to us about the war even though no bombs fell here! Thanks Jinksy for the history stored in your memories!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good Morning Jinsky, I have never known a war zone area except through books and movies. Mmembers of my family who were active in military service throughout the war never spoke of it as if it were something we were not to know of. My uncle who passed last year in his later years did tell me some of what happened but I knew he was uncomfortable sharing his experiences with me. I think all were ashambed that they had taken a life or lives even though if they didn't they would of died.....a sad time in our history but one that should be remembered so as not to repeat.
    Great post my friend.......:-) Hugs

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jinsky I can not relate to the war you went through but I can relate to the unity, as I've been i nmany a war-zone, myself. Too, one of me shipmates got a surprise upon returning to home port, once...a new son. He was never alerted to this fact...

    ReplyDelete
  8. The BBC did broadcast a series about 'modern' children sort of re-enacting that they were sent to a farm during the war. So they had to carry a gasmask around with them all day long, work on the farm, go to school and eat what would have been available to people during the war years.

    My father was sent to Germany to work in a factory during the war. He was about 17 and I think he escaped after about a year. He lost a lot of his friends during the war, saw the most horrifying things and still doesn't talk about it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I small born during the same war, in Italy. I have few memories of my childhood. Yours are most precious.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for visiting. I was born in 1950 but still got the reknitted cardigans... we didn't know any different.

    And yes, I love to sing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post, jinksy!

    How odd, though, that many news items this week mentioned the long-ago start of the second world war. Wait, let me remove my American blinders (Dec. 7, 1941) and remember for once that Hitler invaded Poland on Sep. 1, 1939. What I remembered this week, and what some American news items on this side of the pond mentioned, was the long-ago END of the second world war on Sep. 2, 1945.

    Keep giving us your memories...they're true treasures.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi jinksy...Daddy was in the Navy in WWII...and relays stories to me...not often. Those times were hard times for those that were at home...and those that were in the war.
    Thank you for your post. It stirs something within me that none of us should ever forget: freedom is not really 'free'...someone paid a price.
    Love,
    Jackie

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fascinating memories. This is the stuff that too often goes unshared, but it is part of who we are and your experiences altered your perspective and how you interacted with the people around you, so it must be shared in order to understand who we are and how we got here. I could read ten of these!

    ReplyDelete
  14. More, more, more! Thank you SO much for telling about this time. The memory you describe is fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  15. my parents were from that generation. my dad fought in the war, my mom was home, keeping things together... thereafter they emigrated to south africa, 'the furthest point away from the memories' as they said.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I can't imagine what it might be like to live through that and be cognizant of the danger. And yet, people live(d) like that all the time. One of the beauties of blogging is reading experiences as if they were handed directly to us as these were to your niece. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anyone who was there will have a different account of wartime experiences. My own family are no exception. I never get tired of getting another perspective and this post proves the point.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I am a child of the fifties and I regularly used to hear stories about the war when I was a child but probably the most interesting of we shall never know as my father was in SOE.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I was born in the early fifties, so I didn't experience the war myself, but my mother told me lots of stories of her own experiences while I was quite young and they made quite an impression. My Dad hardly spoke of it at all, but that doesn't surprise me. It must have been hell, and he was in an intelligence unit too, so sworn to secrecy - and he took those secrets with him to the grave. We had only a few funny stories, and the one where he leaned his elbow on a scorpion.

    Mum lived in London and worked as a nurse through it all though, so she experienced the bombs and doodlebugs and the tube station shelters and the wounded soldiers and all the rest of it. We should not forget.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Oddly enough, they sound like good times in a way. I hope I can say that without seeming irreverent.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am fascinated by this post. Inquiring minds want to know about the skewers.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Like you, I was born during the war so cannot remember too much. I did have a fear of low flying planes for a long time afterwards though.
    I remember the *make do & mend* years that went on & on afterwards.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I can't fathom living like that. Yet, I am intrigud by the kindness still there in those days. Make do and mend may become a motto here. The economy has been tough on nearly every famly we know. Jobs gone, work cut, employment not available..

    ReplyDelete
  24. amazing life stories and the difference in the experience of each mind in the same situation intriguing; what a blessing for you to be blissfully unaware in a trying time. Your story shows the strength in family and love, endearing. Thank you for sharing...would love to hear more of your lovely stories! :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. War does bring people together. It reminds them of how important they are to each other.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Super post Jinksy. My parents stayed in London during the war and they told us a lot about it. I was born in 1948 so have no direct memories. My father was in the Home Guards as he only had one eye and told us some funny stories about that. Being the 3rd of 3 children I had all the hand me downs and 'make do and mend' clothes, but they always seemed new to me. A really lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ah, so you're nowt but a spring chicken, eh? Wasn't even born at the start of it? But the memories have been coming thick and fast of late. My most vivid one is of my fifth birthday, watching a dog fight from the branches of our plum tree (the first raid - on Croydon Aerodrome - my oh so unreliable memory says, but that may be quite wrong).
    Thanks for another chance to get nostalgic.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Lovely, Jinksy....another time, in every way, wasn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love this post. I grew up in this era in US and remember rationing, blackouts (Army base near my town with German prisoners)

    But your memories remind me of an English neighbor we had when we first moved here. She and husband immigrated, became citizens and were lovely productive persons before old age set in.

    She would not wait in a line for anything and it had something to do with her WWII experiences.
    Being an inquisitive, nosey person, I asked her why she was so adamant. I stood in lines at military commissary checkouts, etc.

    She said, you have never have stood in line two hours for two tomatoes.

    Nope. She was so right.

    ReplyDelete

Curiosity Cats can leave a whisker here...but not before noting, please, that I choose to have an award free, tag free, meme free blog. But by all means, talk to me by email - I love to 'chat'...