- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Doreen Hayes (nee Ray)
- Location of story:
- Brockley, South East London
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 October 2004
The first I heard that war was imminent was when our family were sitting down listening to the news on the B.B.C. one day and an announcement was made to the effect that the Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain was to speak to the nation. My father asked for us to be very quiet so that we could hear the speech. I do not recall all that Mr Chamberlain said, but the main part of the speech was as follows, he said, "We are now at war with Germany", the date of this speech was the 30`h September 1939.
My father had tears in his eyes after the speech and we wondered why. My mother said that she would explain why later. My father had served in the First World War and had been given the Military Medal. He had served twenty-two years altogether in the army. The reason for my father being so upset was that he, having been in the dreadful First World War, could not believe that it was all happening again and what it would bring to folks and the world in general. He volunteered for the Home Guard and was a LT. His Home Guard headquarters was in a local school. We then lived in Brockley in South East London.
We were a family of eight when the war began. Two of my brothers volunteered straight away to go into the R.A.F. and immediately they were sent to Canada for training. The training was short and they were soon in flight. My eldest brother of the two was a navigator, bomb aimer and my younger brother was a pilot, they both flew in Lancaster planes. My eldest brother came through the war safely, thank God and was awarded the D.F.C. I will tell you later what happened to my younger brother.
I was eighteen years old when the war began. My father sent my mother and the youngest of our family to stay up north in Cheadle Hume so that they were safe and out of London. He asked me to go with them to keep them company. My two older sisters volunteered for the Fire Service and they stayed there until the end of the war. At the age of twenty-one I was conscripted to either work in a munitions factory or go into the A.T.S. My father did not want me to go to work in the munitions factory so I had to go to join the A.T.S. Being conscripted meant that you had to obey the summons. I felt very sad at first because I had never left home before.
I was sent to Honiton in Devon and given a uniform. Whilst there we had many injections, which were very painful. This was in case we were sent abroad. I missed my mother so much and I shed some tears. However, I was lucky enough to be sent back to Woolwich in South East London and not too far from my home. This really pleased me. I was billeted in a large house on Woolwich Common and was attached to the Royal Artillery in Woolwich. I worked in the Officers' Mess, actually in the Hall Porter's desk. Each day I had to call out the names of the officers who were to go abroad. It was a sad time seeing all those men go.
At the age of twenty-two I was married to Bill my boyfriend and at that time I was asked to see the Commanding Officer and she offered me the chance to go for officer training. It was called O.C.TU. However, I found out that I was pregnant and I left the service and on my A.B.64 it said, "For Family reasons." I have still got this book in my possession.
Soon after leaving the service we found that all expectant mothers were sent out of London. When I was almost due I was sent to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. I gave birth to the baby on the 6th June, "D Day". It was a little boy weighing five and half pounds, but sadly he died at birth. It had been a difficult birth, but I had been unconscious during it and when I came to, they just said, when I asked where the baby was, "Oh it is dead. Didn't you know?" Would that happen today?
However, more unhappiness was to come. Bill and I returned home after the birth to our flat in Ladywell, South East London. On arriving home from Oxford ten days after the birth, I was greeted by the owner of the house to tell me that my father had been killed in the Home Guard at the school in Brockley. Apparently, he had just gone over there to speak to his company and he and five men had been killed by a flying bomb, also called a Doodle Bug. I was devastated, but my husband and I went straight away to my poor mother. What a terrible thing to have happened. What would happen next?
We arranged a funeral two weeks after and on the day of the funeral my mother repeatedly said "Your father is not in the coffin." We of course tried to comfort her and reason with her, but she was adamant. I must tell you that some of the Home Guard killed with my Dad were blown to pieces. My brother was asked to identify part of a face and he thought it was part of my dad, so that was put in the coffin, but what with we never knew.
Two weeks after this funeral we, my husband and I went over to my mother's house to see if all was alright after she had gone away to Hove after Dad's funeral. Whilst we were there a knock came to the door, we answered it to find two policemen there. They asked if my mother was in. I said no she wasn't but could I be of help. They then said, "We have just found your father's body at the bottom of the stairs in the school which was bombed." I replied, "No we buried him four weeks ago." They said, "We have identified the body and it is that of Mr Ray." I almost fainted. What were we going to hear next? So we had another funeral, my mother returned to London for it and now we knew she was right in saying that he wasn't there in the first coffin. It was horrible for all the family.
Nine months after this dreadful incident we had notice that my younger brother the pilot I mentioned earlier was "missing believed killed." We knew in our heart that he was dead and it was confirmed later. He was on his way home from France and he and all his crew in the Lancaster were killed. He was killed three weeks before the end of the war. My brother was buried first in a war grave in France and two years later his body was taken with others for burial in a war grave in Belgium. No one knows why.
Others I know have had tragedies happen to them but I can only know my own family's misery. My father was fifty-eight years old and my brother was twenty-one. Even my friends did not go unscathed, in my wedding picture there among the guest were three friends of mine. One I have kept in touch with, but the other two were killed when the billet in which we lived in Woolwich was hit by a flying bomb.
I am now nearly eighty-three years old and have had a happy life with a lovely family. I still have three sisters alive and we hope that the world we live in will stay peaceful and happy. I still miss my other family members and say a prayer for them and all the people who died in the war and especially on D Day.
6th June 2004
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