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15 October 2014
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Letter to My Grandson Ben From Granny Eileen Crane.

by thameacl

Contributed by 
thameacl
People in story: 
Eileen Crane
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2691632
Contributed on: 
02 June 2004

Typed when Ben was 10 years old on 8th May 1986.

Today brought back many memories to us and we thought you might like to share them. We hope you will never know war. Can you imagine your grandparents very young and frightened of the future? I was twenty years old when war was declared, single and living at home- that was the rule in those days, to help support your parents. You never knew your great grand mother (Leakey), but if Hitler had landed I'm sure war would have stopped there and then : as she was frightened of nothing and nobody!
Some funny things happened at times, Mr Chamberlain, the prime minister, declared war on 3rd September 1939 at 11am. We had been issued with gas masks and warned of possible gas attacks, so by 12 noon there was Auntie Peg, mother and myself sitting with our gas masks on, because Great Grand ma could smell gas, (and who were we to ague?)The alarm had gone on as a practise.

Granddad and I had planned to marry in November 1940. Great-aunt min said she would make my wedding dress and as we were on clothing coupons, I had to save them to get enough for the material. By then the war had been on for nearly a year and Hitler was well into bombing. I arranged to meet Greataunt Min in Oxford Street to buy material, but that night Hitler decided to bomb Selfridges, so both ends of Oxford Street were blocked. So I thought I would buy the material and bring it to her;I'd only been to her house once, but I thought I'd find it. What I didn't know was her part of Kent was clled Bomb Alley. She was in a state when I knocked at the door- so she quickly measured me and cut out the dress. The rule was that by 8pm everyone was in Andreson shelter in makeshift beds, and then the bombing started. I must have fallen asleep with fear; when I awoke I was wringing wet and no Auntie Min- she had gone up to the house as soon as morning came and the dress was ready for fitting. That night three houses in her street had been bombed, so she sent me home.
Before the war I worked in a shop and joined the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) and we were taught to put out incendiary bombs by shovelling them up quickly and putting them into a bucket of water - that was all we had for putting out firebombs at the time.

As soon as war was declared your Granddad and his two brothers volunteered, but Granddad was rejected on workgrounds, which upset him, so he joined ENSA. This was the Entertainments National Service Auxiliary, attached to the hospoitals, which meant he sang to all the injured armed forces. You can imagine men who were pilots in the Battle of Britain, badly hurt. He sang for the men called Mackindoe's Guinea Pigs - men who received the first skin grafts for burns. Granddad's singing gave them pleasure as many of them couldn't see. Great Grandmother worked in Lonon for the American Red Cross and they gave a big party one Christmas for the employee's children. I took Auntie Patricia who was only three years old. She got up and sang a song for the soldiers so she got another present. She told them she would sing another if they would give another present for her baby brother, they thought that cute so she got her extra present.
We were lucky because I had a cousin ib Connecticut called Auntie Bessie. She hd a nephew called Charlie Scott who came to visit us. When he saw how short of food we were he wrote home. I had been having trouble with your father and bottles, (milk not beer!)- you couldn't buy rubber teats. So One day a big parcel arrived with fifty teats - half of them black rubber! Needless to say the clinic I went to were pleased. We had to use ration books for nearly all our food, and there was very little of it indeed. So when I received a food parcel from Auntie Bessie I would invite all my friends who, like me, had no husbands at home, and I would share out the parcel - great celebrations! A big treat would be when the butcher had sausages and whale-meat (yes whale-meat!) We used to have whale steaks with lots and lots of onions to get rid of the horrible fishy taste. Most of your father's toys were home-made and second-hand- you just didn't buy new toys and sweet coupons were saved for birthdays, Christmas and Easter.
The day your father was born he came with a big bang. A doodlebug dropped in the hospital grounds. It was hitler's secret weapon - pilotless aeroplanes; when the engine stopped, it exploded. This one stopped over the hospital grounds, and so did the nurse who was washing your father. She wrapped him in a towel and put him in bed with me, covered us with bedclothes and dived under the bed. The windows blew in, but we were sfe. The nurse came from Kent- she was a wonderful cheerful person.
Well I hope you like my little story and sharing my memories today
Love Nanny Crane.v

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