- Contributed by
- Bournemouth Libraries
- People in story:
- Mrs.Kathleen Ross
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 December 2004
I married in 1939, aged 23 years, and had just finished training as a nurse when war was declared. My husband, 15 years my senior, was history master at Wimbledon College. Being in a reserved occupation, he joined the Home Guard during the war. We both agreed to look after the boys there who couldn't travel because of the air raids. The Jesuits, who ran the college, rented a large house opposite.
With the Battle of Britain raging overhead, my first daughter was born on 4th July 1940 - American Independence Day. She was placed into an old leaded safe. Bullets splattered onto the leaded roof as some watched the battle overhead. I was below, alone, in the cellar. It all seemed like a horrid dream; even now it remains a blur.
A year later we moved our little family to a small home in Wimbledon. Here my second daughter was born. I had to queue for the small rations; we were always hungry. Fish and chips were a godsend, if we could get them. The Canadian Red Cross sent baby clothes which helped too.
I remember the first doodlebug on Wimbledon Common, putting my two children down into a ditch for safety. Also the loud roar of the guns and the eternal blackout. We had an small unexploded bomb at the bottom of the garden. When the air raids were in force, we all slept down in the coal cellar until the all clear sounded.
I was very run down and pregnant with my third child. To be, as I thought safer, I travelled in the guards van on a train down to Swansea where my sister in law lived. This was a mistake as Swansea had been badly bombed and my mother in law killed. I lived in a tiny isolated cottage with no running water. The water came from a well which had snakes in it.
The billeting officer for Wales paid my fare back to London where at least I felt I could get help with the birth. The rockets had begun to fly over and I couldn't get a hospital bed for three days.
Billeted with us at times were priests, soldiers and children from Germany who had walked over the Pyrennes to escape. I remember how traumatised the children were. They wet the beds and had nightmares.
The years seemed dark, long and dreary. No make-up, no social life and no real warmth. Coal was very scarce and we also had broken windows so it was hard to keep warm. The constant bad news, ships being sunk, casualties mounting.
Being a mother with small children I felt pretty helpless. I felt I could only watch and pray. Poetry became a great solace to me. My poem "Stars of Burma" is held in the archieves of the Imperial War Museum as a tribute to the forgotten army.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.