- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Beryl Daphne Tingley and Beryl Maud Gibaut
- Location of story:
- Underground Hospital Meadow Bank
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 December 2005
My family lived at Meadow Bank, alongside the Underground Hospital (now known as the Tunnels)- Mum, Dad, myself and two brothers. I was 5 years old when the occupation started, my eldest brother was born in 1939, the other in 1941.
My memories are of the rock blasting and the railway line which ran passes the gate of our house and of trucks piled high with stones which went through the meadow and dumped into a large pond in Cape Verde. My mother told me that sometimes the trucks carrying the stones overturned and had to be put back on the tracks again.
I can recall that one day, coming back from school along the road to home, a man ran out in front of me, waving his arms and shouting. I wasn't sure of what to do being alarmed on hearing the blasting dynamite close by. I eventually realised that he wanted me to shelter in the building nearby. They always came to the house to warn us whenever they were about to blast, as pieces of rock and stone would fall on the roof of our house. When they were working in the tunnel we didn't hear them so much. A lot of the workers got badly injured and some died and were left there.
We used to see the workers washing at the pump which had a small trough close to our kitchen window. This happened in all weathers. Some were billeted at the big house, just up the road from us, which belonged to a millionaire named Mr Williams, us kids and Mum named it 'the Williamses'. There were also huts built there by the German. My brothers used to wander up there sometimes and were given some German bread I remember them bringing back half a loaf which tasted lovely.
One of the soldiers, who Mum said wasn't more than sixteen, often used to stop at our gate, lean over and smile or do things with his hands to make us laugh if we were in the garden and we got quite used to seeing him. We nicknamed him 'Georgie'. The soldiers were friendly enough towards us and they often went by the house towards the tunnel. Whenever the SS came to inspect, they were quite frightening, riding in their carriage with the big horses. We used to watch them hurry by looking fierce - they never looked at us.
On some nights we were woken up with the sound of the big guns firing and flashes of light. My brother often woke up screaming with fright. The first time I heard them, I thought it was a thunderstorm.
Towards the end of the occupation we noticed a difference - none of them stopped and smiled anymore - no more bread, they were finding things hard too. On one occasion my father brought a dog home, although Mum hadn't much to feed him on. One day the dog went missing and someone told my father it had been seen going up the hill with some Germans. It was well known that they were desperate for food.
Sometimes I used to walk along part of the avenue which led to the big house and on this occasion on my way to school I saw a big gate closed with an armed sentry. He saw me and started shouting and waving his rifle. I soon disappeared and needless to say I didn't go that way again. My mother told us that when the Germans first took over the big house, they just commandeered the avenue which ran up to my Uncle's house and started on the tunnel. Nobody had any idea what was going on until the end of the war, when we got into the hospital through the escape ladder which was in the grounds of the William's. I remember seeing all the operating and medical items, beds, linen, etc. My brothers and I often used to go in there although it was forbidden by our parents.
Mum has told that the Germans also took over the house next to us which they used to house some of the workers and later they moved up the hill. The house was then used to house some French women who were bought over to do the laundry for the German officers.
When the Germans brought the workers down for their wash outside our window, the soldiers used our outside toilet, for which they had priority use - our family had to wait until they marched off.
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