- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Dr Eva Roman
- Location of story:
- London NW6
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 24 December 2003
Dr Eva Roman Ph.D
20 Sylvan Way, West Wickham, Kent BR4 9HB
Telephone: 020 8462 5030 e-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: 020 8462 5590 Mobile: 07939 065 545
THE PEOPLE’S WAR
In March 1939 I travelled to the United Kingdom on one of the last of the Children’s Transports from a country which no longer gave my family permission to live there in peace. Luckily we had close family who had settled in England many years before and they offered us a home. I resumed my school career which was again interrupted at the end of August that year and was evacuated to Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire with many other children and billeted with an unknown family who became my foster parents for the next two years.
I soon settled in and grew very fond of my new family who made me very welcome. The next two years were spent growing up and becoming an ‘English girl’. Those two years were very happy ones for me and after I returned to my relation’s home in London in 1941, I missed my adopted family sorely.
However, life had to go on and after finishing my school exams, I finally managed to start my nursing training. Bombs still dropped with persistent regularity over the city of London and other places but the British spirit persisted and people became more and more united wherever they took shelter.
My mother decided it was time to look for our own home and we finally moved into an apartment in West Hampstead where Mum continued her school for dress designing and I joined the local hospital as a trainee nurse.
Bombs continued to drop on the capital and we descended into the Air Raid Shelters almost every night when the wailing of the sirens drove us out of our warm beds and forced us to the safety of the shelters which often happened several times during the night.
Soon after the invasion of Europe began, news of a new pilot-less plane which could fly long distances and finally, at no pre-destined points its engine would cut out and the plane would fall out of the sky, landing on whatever was beneath in its path. We grew used to plane engines cutting out at all times of the day and night and, so long as the plane carried on flying past, we continued with whatever we were doing at the time, breathing a little sigh of relief that it had missed us. Air raid sirens sounded when it became apparent that these devices were well on the way but very little could be done to shoot them down once they got past the protective area.
On this particular night I had just come off duty from the day shift and, since I lived quite near my home, I made my way there, hoping for an undisturbed night. During this time my mother and I shared a bedroom which was the only protected and relatively safe place in the apartment. Her bed was in the corner with no windows on that side but mine, due to the lack of space was opposite the window. However, this bedroom faced the back the block instead of the street which gave a certain amount of protection.
I was woken up at approximately two am and became aware of the increasing noise of a plane flying in our direction. My mother who had also woken up and heard the engine which always sounded very much like that of a motor boat in comparison to a normal plane sat bolt upright in bed.
Time seemed to stop and I felt sure that the rest of the residents also held their breath. Would this device carry on its flight and miss our home? but at that moment the dread which we had hoped to miss became reality. The engine stopped and, to my horror my mother started to swing her legs out of her bed, ready to escape the impending disaster which was about to strike. I on the other hand pulled my blankets over my head and prayed.
The explosion which then took place shook the whole building and I could hear parts of the outer wall landing two floors below.
After a few seconds of deadly silence, pandemonium broke loose and I could hear people screaming. I have never left my bed so quickly. No need to get dressed since I suspect that the majority of people hardly ever undressed at night, just in case.....
I am sure I must have been one of the first people to arrive on the street, having climbed over rubble on the way down from our second floor apartment. I was greeted by sights which I will see in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life. Next to our entrance the outer wall had collapsed, taking with it the front rooms of the three floors. People were frantically digging with their hands to try and free those who had slipped down with the walls and were buried under the rubble.
I have never been so grateful that I had taken up the nursing profession, which also included knowledge of First Aid. This turned out to be invaluable that night as I was able to be of assistance to those who had been injured. The rest of the night was spent helping the emergency services and giving support to some of the casualties who were on stretchers, waiting to be transported to nearby hospitals Most of these were unaware of some of the serious injuries they had sustained and were just glad that another human being stayed to give them comfort.
And with the coming of daylight came the realisation that once again the enemy had caused tragedy to innocent people but the spirit of the British people was not broken. The street was cleared up, the damage repaired and we went on with our lives
The horror continued, the enemy developed even more lethal weapons but we coped and — eventually we won the war!
Dr Eva Roman Ph.D
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