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Mary Terry's World War II - Part 2

by Gloscat Home Front

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Archive List > Family Life

Contributed by 
Gloscat Home Front
People in story: 
Mary Terry
Location of story: 
Switzerland, Belgium
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 July 2005

Fri 1st September Germany has invaded Poland and has bombed many cities. We are on the point of declaring war. All our thoughts are with Oswald (in Tunisia)
Sat 2nd September We still haven’t declared war and we wonder we have delayed in fulfilling our obligations. Doc is full of hopeful ideas but they are discounted by the news.
Sun 3rd September A state of war now exists between us and Germany as from 11.00 today. France sent an ultimatum similar to ours which didn’t expire till 5 o’clock. Now France is also at war with Germany and what the bloody hell we’re going to do about it, I don’t know, perhaps they do. I do hope that my two brothers will stay in England, I cannot contemplate life without them or even one of them. They are far too precious. No news of Cowee and Biddy (her friend).
Mon 4th September Lovely day. Did my washing. Apparently all we did was to fly all over Germany dropping pamphlets, a lot of food that’ll do. Anyway none of our planes was intercepted. Cowee came back. Went to a St Johns meeting.
Wed 6th September Cowee got up about 5.30am and went on point duty, was back at 2pm. I got up at 7, dusted and hoovered all morning, made curtains all afternoon (black-out curtains). Went to a St Johns meeting and I am to go to a Hospital, was very frightened, but luckily am fixed up with rooms for £1 per week bed and breakfast.
On 10th September Cowee took Mary to Chester with her bike on the roof and settled her into her room.
Mon 11th September Got to the Infirmary in good time. A porter took me to the kitchen, then a maid took me to a room where I got ready. Then I was shown into a room and waited. I was told to go to Ward 1. At 9am I went to see Matron. She took my name and address. I tidied beds and did some dusting. Went round with a highly coloured nurse doing dressings. I was quite amazed by their filth. I held a man while an injection was given. Later he died. Was off from 2-4. Went back to my room and wrote to Mumpey. At choc for tea.
On 14th September the Clarkes ‘went’. The next day she saw an operation for an appendix. I didn’t like it much and my hearty beat wildly. It quietened down but I was told to do quite a lot of things like tucking the lad’s hands in etc. Helped to lift him back onto his bed. Was off at 6. And the next day, Saturday ‘Off at 1. Tender farewell from all my men. Nurse Overland allowed me to do 2 dressings’.
That seems to be the extent of Mary’s experiences in a hospital. Apparently a gipsy lady foretold Hitler’s death within 3 weeks. Mrs Paterson wanted her to sign on to go anywhere at Home or Abroad. She talked to Doc about it and the decision must have been not to sign on. The next day she and some chums went to see a George Formby film, simply priceless. When Mary told Dr Arthur about her nursing experiences he said she ought to volunteer for Military Nursing. Mrs Paterson rang to say she was pleased Mary had given nursing a try and sorry she hadn’t volunteered for Military Nursing. On 21st September there was a letter from Peter and after that he wrote quite often until he joined up in 1940. He gave addresses to which she could write but she never heard from him again. He was killed on active service in 1944 aged 32.
Mrs Paterson hadn’t quite given up on Mary and asked if she would like to be an ambulance driver at £3 a week in Runcorn. After playing tennis one day Dr Arthur said to Mary that Hitler wont let the girls in Germany wear knickers, so that he can tell the Aryans from the non-Aryans. Eric’s wife Dorothy didn’t like the idea of Eric going into the RAF. He sounded very unhappy himself about it and Mary couldn’t say it made her happy either. Alec Breeze offered to teach Mary to drive his tractor. This started a long friendship with him and his wife Peabody, son John and daughter Rosie. It needed a prod though from Eric for Mary to actually start driving a tractor under Alec’s tuition. Most evenings too there were lectures starting off with Gas and whilst rehearsing for the Gas exam over tea, Mary said than incendiary bomb was full of steel filings and magnesia — this brought howls of laughter. At the actual exam Mary couldn’t answer a single question on the paper and later Dr Arthur suggested she ought to go on the Land. So that is what she did. She was fairly hopeless to start with, but in the course of time she became a very good driver, both of tractors and cars.
Mary joined the Land Army and was posted to a farm at The Oldfields, Pulford, between Wrexham and Chester. It was a mixed farm with arable crops, dairy cows, pigs and poultry employing 27 people during the war years.

The eldest son of the family Ralph Eckford, was unmarried and available. Mary worked hard on the farm and joined in the life of the family, even taking the children of Ralph’s younger brother Edward, to school and bringing them home. She loved it there and it wasn’t long before she and Ralph fell in love and decided to get married. Edward and his little family had a house of their own and he was farming in partnership with Ralph. Ralph had his own rooms at The Oldfields and shared the house with his parents William and Jane Eckford. Mary and Ralph were married at her parent’s home at Bunbury in July 1942 and went to the Isle of Man for their honeymoon. Ralph had TB, which he probably got from the dairy cattle on the farm. He also smoked heavily. They continued to live in the Oldfields with Ralph’s parents who were beginning to ail. Mary assumed that they would have their own house but they didn’t. She had to take on more of the housework and cooking, continually being sniped at by both her in-laws for not doing things exactly as they wanted, while she continued with her farming duties outside. When she fell pregnant she became more and more unhappy about living at the farmhouse. She was constantly ill and was probably depressed as well and hoped she would die when the baby was born. After a difficult birth she got an infection and had to stay in hospital for 3 months with her daughter.
Back at the farm her only solace was her baby and occasional visits to her parents home. It wasn’t long before another baby was on the way. Edward’s wife’s brother was killed in London on air raid warden duty. His family lived out in the country and his wife was expecting a third baby, which she lost. Mary wrote in her diary that the two older children were just at the age when they needed a father most. Little did she know that Ralph was to die in October 1945 from TB and throat ulcers associated with heavy smoking. They had been married only 3½ years. He was buried in the churchyard at Pulford.
Grandfather Eckford was shattered and became much kinder to Mary now 34. He bought her a little house on the outskirts of Chester just after the war ended — but what good was that without her man.

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