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15 October 2014
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Without a Home and Worse

by gloinf

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs N Boulle néé Rowe
Location of story: 
Epping Forest, Henstridge Somerset, London
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 July 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Mrs Boulle with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions

It was October 1943 and I was in the 6th month of service with the WRNS.

After a brief weekend leave at the end of my initial training (the last phone call to my mother in our house on the edge of Epping Forest was a request for her lovely macaroni cheese for supper on my arrival).

I was posted to a Fleet Air Arm base at Henstridge in Somerset where I worked in a PCB — Protected Control Building, underground a few minutes from the airfield.

That night I was due to be on night watch and I was slicing bread and cheese with my fellow wrens which together with cocoa was our regular supper to take on watch with us, when I was told to go immediately to see the 2nd Officer.

She was seated, with a telegram in her hand. I believe she read it to me. It said something like “House bombed Mother in Enfield Hospital. Come to my house, signed Gran.”

I was allowed one fellow wren to accompany me to the local station, but no further. While waiting for the train I phoned the hospital. Yes they had a Mrs Violet Rowe no Mr Henry Rowe.

Why not? If my father was all right why had he not sent the telegram? If injured, why would he be in another hospital? Why did my grandmother not mention him?.

All of this, and endeavouring to grasp the fact that I no longer had a home to go back to and nothing of my childhood, going round and round in my head on the journey to London.

Brothers, one green bereted and the other red, tried to be friendly as people did in those days and I responded quietly while I really wanted to scream at them to shut up and leave me alone.

When I got to London, it was very dark, the blackout, very late and very quiet, no people about at all as I walked towards my grandmother’s road. The house was in darkness.

I knocked, and again, but no reply I turned away to walk back along the road when I stopped, leaned against a wall and sobbed my heart out, in a desperate fit of crying, noisily and uncontrollably until I felt a hand on my shoulder, a kind voice. Between gulps I told the policeman the story.

“Come along, he said “if there’s anyone in that house I shall get them up”. He did.

I was one of three sisters, the eldest teaching in Birmingham, had arrived earlier and she and my grandmother had waited until, exhausted, they had decided that I and my other sister, civil servant evacuated to the depths of Wiltshire, could not possibly arrive so late and had gone to their beds.

I think I really knew the truth about my father all along. He had been killed instantly it had been a single bomb, probably jettisoned on the way back to Germany on Epping Forest.

The following day we all went to see my mother in hospital. She was desperately upset about my father but assured us that when her injured legs were dealt with she would go to my grandmother’s (her mother) to stay.

We all three had no choice, we had to return to our duties.

Arriving back at the camp, oddly enough I was due to go on night watch again though this time I hadn’t reached the break cutting stage when I was sent for.

The 2nd Officer was standing this time. She had a telegram in her hand.

“Mother died in the night. Please come to grandmother’s house”

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