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15 October 2014
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My Yorkshire Grandmother

by cambsaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Mary Ann O’Farrell (as told by Shannon Vavich — Granddaughter)
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7943015
Contributed on: 
21 December 2005

A ‘glamourous’ shot of Mary Ann O’Farrell

Mary Ann O’Farrell was from Rawdon, Yorkshire (near Leeds). She went to London to work as a nurse. She felt that living in London at the time was exhilarating ‘…because you never knew whether you were going to live or die, it was the best time of my life …’. She worked on the ward where the survivors from Dunkirk were recovering. My grandfather, Major William Riley Johnson (P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot) was on Liberty in London. He came to the hospital to pick her up for a date. They went out to a Chinese restaurant that night. The hospital where she worked had an 11pm curfew for the nurses’ quarters; if you were even one minute late, the doors were locked and you were out in the cold for the night. They were on the tube returning to the hospital, they knew she was going to be late, and she was very upset. When they emerged from the underground station, they discovered that moments before, her wing of the hospital had been hit by a buzz bomb. All of her patients and all of her friends were dead.

Mary Ann and Major William Riley Johnson were married in 1946 in Leeds. My father, Michael, was born in 1947 in the US. Later they had two daughters (Sheila and Moira).

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