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Peace and War

by EggYolk

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Owen Ephraim
Location of story: 
Bootle Liverpool
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 November 2003

Peace and War

Owen M. Ephraim Born 1929

Before 1939 – other people’s wars.
In 1936 I was 6 years old and first became aware that war was a real thing rather than the series of exciting adventures depicted in my comics and at the ‘pictures’ as the cinema was known. In those stories, the ‘goodies’ always came off best in the end. The ‘baddies’ were quickly recognised and came to a sticky end before the last page or the lights came on. I did wonder how my dad, and some of my friends dads, who I knew must be ‘goodies’, had come to have visible effects of the first world war such as lost limbs, endless coughs and an inability to run due to lameness. Then, every year we stood for two whole minutes of silence to think of those who had died - on our side. Were they goodies or baddies? If we had spent more than two minutes we might have had to think a bit harder about ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’.

Then in 1936, Italy went to war in Abyssinia and Franco invaded Spain in revolt against the elected government. Some of my classmates supported the Italians and Franco, and some supported the Abyssinians and Spanish Republicans. Looking back on it now, I suspect that for each of us it was mainly a question of supporting the powerful or the weak rather than right or wrong. Certainly the use of poison gas, tanks and bombers by Italy and Franco against spear wielding natives and women and children respectively, made the choice easier for me.

1936 was when electric lights replaced gaslights at home, and then in the streets a year or two later.

By 1938 we had rain filled ‘ditches’ in the local park on which we could sail rafts of timber against other ‘gangs’ from other schools or nearby roads. Though the ‘ditches’ were 12 feet deep and the sides shear, and many went home soaked through, nobody drowned. The ‘ammunition’ was only mud and the rafts were always there to hang on to! The main form of transport then was walking or running. Though those with bicycles could get away quicker if the odds against were too great.

1939 and Our War
In 1939 the ditches were walled with bricks, roofed with concrete and covered with earth. They were now shelters and as such prohibited to children. I suspect that the water seeped back however. I never used these shelters and knew of no one who did. We had our own ‘Anderson Shelter’ constructed in the yard behind the terrace house. That also had water at the bottom so we had duckboards to keep our feet dry. My father knew all about this problem from his days in the trenches in 1915.

The Second World War was declared against Germany on Sunday 3rd September. I, with my sister (14) and brother (11) was despatched, by bus and then train, to Wales to stay with my Grandmother and our aunts, two unmarried daughters. It was an adventure as we were on our own for the first time. No mobile phones of course and no experience of using telephones to make contact and few telephones either. Anyway, Nain – Welsh for Granny – had no phone so I had to walk to even make or change arrangements to meet friends.

We had always stayed there during the holidays and spoke Welsh so we had no difficulties in settling in to school and other activities. My sister went to the ‘Central (i.e. Secondary) School’, my brother went to the County (i.e. Grammar) School and I went to the junior ‘Central School’. Unfortunately the schools had a history of enmity and battles between pupils of different schools erupted several times a week as we made our way, each to our separate school. I didn’t have time to work out whose side I was on because after three months of the ‘phoney war’ we returned to Liverpool at Christmas 1940, so that problem was solved for me.

The ‘phoney war’ was a period of endless ‘communiqués’ about movements of troops in France, short lived battles in Poland, reports of ships being sunk with loss of life and leaflet dropping by the air force. One ship (Athenia) was sunk with children going to Canada. ‘Goodies’ or ‘baddies’? Again I wondered. The Graf Spee, a German battlecruiser was ‘scuttled’ to avoid a battle whose outcome was inevitable defeat – cowardly or common sense I wondered. Rescued and therefore captured, torpedoed merchant seamen were rescued from the ‘Altmark’ on their way to captivity in Germany, with much rejoicing and no deaths as the Altmark was an unarmed ‘merchant’ ship.

No longer a ‘phoney war’
In 1940 that all changed and the war became violent. Each Sunday we walked to chapel, listening to our father and his friends talk of the war. The main source of their strategic information was Lord Milne, writing in the Daily Express. Tactical views based on their own experiences in France in the Great War were discussed. However neither prepared us for the series of defeats before Dunkirk. After Dunkirk, which we saw as a victory when compared to the loss of our allies. One by one, after Poland there was Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France falling under German control.
My cousin, Johnny, a Welsh Guardsman, was posted missing. He had often spent his pre war leaves with us in Liverpool, taking us boys to the ‘pictures’ on Saturday mornings to see Zorro as I remember.

Zorro was an expert with a whip and left us breath-bound each time as we couldn’t believe that he would escape the doom which was always imminent at the end of the instalment. As his leave had finished before then, we never saw the next episode.

The son of a family friend was also posted missing but within a day or two turned up at home in Liverpool in full military gear, tattered and torn but including rifle and bayonet. He had been aboard or about to board the ‘Lancastria’ for evacuation from France when it was bombed and sank with great loss of life. How he escaped I cannot remember but his safe arrival gave hope to many families. In due course, we heard that Johnny, my cousin had also survived and was a prisoner of war. His trials and tribulations were unknown until his return in 1945 after escaping while being marched from camp to camp as the Russians approached.

Though many foods were rationed we ate as much as ever though choice and variety were reduced. For us children, the main loss was sweets, chocolate and fruit – especially bananas and oranges which had to be imported. My mother and father found ways to obtain ‘off ration’ food and to make the rations for a family of five, go a long way.

Air Raids
By June 1941, though I was not aware that Britain stood in isolation, I was aware that we waited for an invasion, which never came. Local defence volunteers were formed into a sort of military force which later became the Home Guard. Instead of invasion, we had air attacks, first on the South of England but before long in Liverpool and the North also. The ‘Battle of Britain’ was followed each night on the radio news. The news told us that we always shot down more German planes than we lost. It was not clear why we had retreated so much when we were so good. But we half believed it anyway and didn’t complain.

Nearly all the raids were at night. The daylight raids were more spectacular with antiaircraft (Ack Ack) shells bursting quite close to the German attackers who were always single planes. None were hit as far as we could see but it was encouraging for us. Unlike the news stories from the South, I can only remember once when one of our aircraft could be seen chasing and firing at a German plane – apparently with success we were told later but not while we were watching. We always watched the daylight raids from the yard, retreating to the ‘Anderson’ only when a plane was in our vicinity. I can still see in my mind’s eye, the gull winged silhouette of a Junkers 87 as it came directly towards me as it dropped a bomb from very low level on the gasometers which were about a mile away. Fortunately for the pilot of such a slow plane, the gasometers burned without exploding.

At that time I was conversant with the silhouette of most planes in the British and German airforce. They were printed in newspapers, comics and on wall posters. I was also well informed on their detailed specification and performance and could not believe that that ‘stuka’ had the range required to get back to base. When Italy joined Germany and I learned some more aircraft silhouettes, to no purpose. The Italian names sounded a bit odd, but not to a Welshman.

After August 1940, as in the South, bombing raids were at night. This meant that the shelter had to be equipped for long nights and included 3 bunks for the children. One each side and one across the far end. The bunks were high enough to allow adults to sit on benches underneath. Gradually we learned how to deal with the discomfort, the condensation on the metal walls, the hard seats and the candle lighting. Each night we would go to bed in the hope that there would be no raid that night. The siren’s wail would however cause us to get up, get dressed, collect our blankets and go downstairs. There, my father would check that we were all together then send us out to the shelter, locking the house doors before joining us.

In one raid, early on in August perhaps, one of my classmates at school, Willy Frost, was killed. He was the first casualty in our neighbourhood. He lived in Worcester Road, the next street from us and perhaps 40 houses further along. A bomb had fallen on a house in Hawthorn Road (Our road lay between Hawthorn and Worcester) and blew a ridge tile over the intervening houses before going through the roof and killing the 10 year old in his bed on the top floor. The house was otherwise undamaged. Later on a bomb fell on another house in Worcester Road and killed mother and daughter in the cellar, leaving the son unscathed in his bed on the top floor. The house had to be demolished and for a long time appeared as if sliced from the terrace, like a missing tooth. I understood the meaning of fate!

We now took the shelter pretty seriously.

Often the all clear would sound before we reached the Anderson because planes were passing on their way to somewhere else, at other times the whistle of the first bomb would be heard before we were settled. We were a family of five and the Anderson was reasonably commodious – about 12 by 8 or 100 sq. feet - but then the old lady who lived opposite – Mrs. Manning, a Londoner, – asked if she could come over as she was frightened on her own. Still 16 square feet wasn’t too bad, it just meant we had to be in the bunks more. Then two young married couples, the Lewis’s and the Thomas’s came to lodge with Mrs. Manning. As they were Welsh, we were honour bound to help them and so a front door key was given to them so that they could come to the shelter even if the front door was locked.

So now we were down to 10 square feet per person and I, and frequently my brother, spent more of the time on the bunks. Condensation was considerable but the drips tended to slide down the walls rather than fall on our heads or beds. The first hour or so was spent in discussion, sometimes outside with our neighbours – over the garden wall – or between the grown ups about the day’s affairs. Later we all slept unless and until the bombs started falling. Then we talked again, pausing only to check that the whistle or roar of a bomb was definitely going somewhere else.

One night a stick of bombs straddled our shelter. Conversation stopped as the first whistle started, obviously not too far away. The second started even before the first explosion. And it was clearly louder – and nearer. The third was a repeat of the second – louder still. As the third approached its crescendo we waited for the fourth in stillness. It was louder than ever and the shelter rocked slightly as it exploded but the whistle of the fifth was distinctly and immediately quieter. It was obvious that we were safe and discussion restarted even as the sixth whistled down further away.

Shelter humour
Mrs Manning was elderly and talked a lot. With my brother and I she always talked about her dead husband’s service as a signaller in the army in Mesopotamia. So many times she promised to bring over his heliograph to show us on the next raid. We looked forward expectantly. But somehow it never appeared, only an apology and another promise. I never did see it. How he sent his signals in what is now Iraq we will never know.

Mr. Lewis worked near the docks and one night he was late home. The siren went but his wife waited at their house for him. A plane could be heard droning over head and we wondered where they both were. We heard a whistle. No sooner had it started than we heard in the distance, the patter of racing feet and before the bomb landed, some way off, the door of the shelter was removed and a breathless Mr. Lewis hurtled in amongst us. He must have run the last hundred yards in less time than the bomb took to fall. Later he ‘recovered’ his wife and happily agreed that he was no hero.

On another occasion, hearing the siren he leapt from his bed and arrived in the shelter with no shoes. His wife as always, followed a little later with his shoes. He had apparently stepped in the ‘chamber pot’ when getting out of bed and sensibly did not stop to rectify the situation. On yet another occasion, he, as usual was first to react to the siren and therefore had the door key. But for some reason he failed to open the door. Rather than wait any longer he ran a good two hundred yards to get into the shelter via the ‘back gate’, tell us what he had done and my father still had time to go back in the house and open the front door before the others arrived.

The all clear signal siren was the signal for my brother and I to join other children searching for shrapnel in the surrounding roads. On moonlit nights there was no shortage from the ‘Ack Ack’ shells. A special find would be the fin from an incendiary bomb and sometimes the incendiary bomb itself, extinguished by a warden and made safe by some means and relatively undamaged. It would be taken and shown off at school. The ‘Ack Ack’ guns were mobile and would take up positions on open spaces nearby, so that sometimes the first firings would be unexpected and very loud, making us all jump.

On one occasion many houses about a mile away were destroyed in a single event. It was said to be the result of an ‘aerial torpedo’ and was certainly a very large explosion. I now presume it was a mid air explosion as damage extended over two or three streets. Normally only one street would be severely damaged at one time.

It was said that the Germans bent the fins on their bombs to give rise to the whistle. But we never found such fins on incendiaries. Sometimes the bombs made a noise like a train rather than a whistle, which may have been because of damage to the fin or it may have been an unexploded ‘Ack Ack’ shell returning to earth.

Another school building
In September 1940 I started at Bootle Grammar School and six weeks later my ‘form’ and others was moved to a site which was a little further from the main docks, but nearer to the biggest dock – Gladstone Dock. This was a four storey building with cellars converted to air raid shelters. We spent our lunchtimes in these shelters if the sirens warned of an attack. Otherwise we could attend ad hoc classes or explore the streets in the new neighbourhood. It also meant a different and longer walk to and from school which involved passing the gasometer until that road was closed, and crossing a railway line in a cutting below a road bridge. On one occasion we were fascinated to see a large ‘parachute mine’ which had landed in the cutting and been found only a few minutes before we passed. By teatime the ‘bomb disposal’ team had dealt with it and it had been moved before we could see it again. (This was the railway on which little James Bulger would be found murdered over 40 years later)

The ‘bomb disposal’ teams were much admired and indeed it is the most dangerous but unheroic task imaginable. I remember that one of the squad, apparently known to people in the locality was killed while carrying out his work.

Somehow the new school seemed like a holiday to us, and I spent several lunchtimes watching a local butcher making sausages on a simple machine. I very much enjoyed the ad hoc art classes which I would never have attended in my own curriculum. Also the teachers were much more visible to us as they had fewer ‘staff’ facilities and we could watch their adult ‘antics’ at lunchtime.

In December my parents decided to move further out for safety. This was to be a disaster but we did not know that. I remember going to ‘house hunt’ with my mother. It started with a bus ride to the ‘Nag’s Head’ which was the route terminal and in open country at that time. A German aircraft with flying overhead but there was nothing to be done, though we later were told that a bus had been machine-gunned nearby – a rumour like so many others?
My parents chose the new house, 18 Rosemoor Drive and we moved in the first week of 1941. I started at yet another new school the next day, travelling by bus – another novelty.

Coming from Bootle Grammar, ‘Transitus’ form, a sort of 2A+ I was questioned and tested by several teachers before being placed in 2C – probably deemed safest. At playtime – now called ‘break’ – I met up with the son of a friend of my mother. He had recently been moved from the local Merchant Taylor’s school under suspicious circumstances which had not reduced his confidence one bit. He invited, even pressed me, to promote myself from 2C to his class 2B. So after ‘break’ I joined him in 2B. The change was not discovered, and I stayed in 2B thereafter.

My sister had started her job as a secretary with ‘Mr. Dinwoody’ who appeared to have no vices and all the virtues known to man. She bored us silly with her stories each night but I now know how she felt.

We now lived in Thornton, more leafy and rural than before, a semi, with a garden at the rear and less contact with our neighbours. Rosemoor Drive was not a long street and the novelty of walking and bus travel had not worn off by the time we left on March 13th 1941. I remember that the winter was cold and foggy and bus journeys home after school could be slow and sightless. One evening we waited endlessly, though not for the first time, for my father to reach home. It was of course the fog which had slowed his and all the other buses to less than walking speed. Eventually he arrived, somewhat dishevelled, muttering words I had not heard before, and carrying an egg. He had started with a dozen eggs in a paper bag and had got off the bus near home with the precious cargo unscathed. However he had tripped on the unseen pavement edge as he crossed the road after getting off the bus and only a single egg had survived.

He joined the local fire-watching team which looked after the safety of local streets should incendiaries fall amongst the houses. As he did not drink, when the team withdrew to one house or the other during a lull in any raid, he was in the habit of arriving home at odd times of the night. In general, unless there was no raid at all, or only a very light amount of gunfire, we all, including the dog, stayed up together in the sitting room until the all clear sounded and we went to bed. We had no special shelter in this house which turned out to be fortunate.

The 12th and 13th of March 1941
On the night of the 12th March, the sirens sounded about 10.30pm and a heavy raid started, concentrated on the other side of the river in Birkenhead. However there was considerable activity with ‘Ack Ack’ nearby so we stayed up. The homework I knew I had to do for the next day, came on in fits and starts between reading a comic, or drawing, my favourite indoor pastime.

At about 2 am my father appeared, the team having decided that there was a lull. He sat in his armchair and a cup of tea was promptly provided. I remained bent over the table near the outer wall of the semi, still guilty about the slow pace of my homework. The other members of the family in a semi-circle round the fire place. I don’t know if he finished his tea before the explosion at about 2.15 am of a ‘parachute mine’ which landed in the garden 30 feet from the rear of the house and just where the shelter might well have been.

Later I heard that the team had emerged from there break just in time to see the parachuting mine descend below the house roofs. In fact they saw two of them, falling in the bright moonlight. The second also fell in our garden but arriving after the first exploded, perhaps it draped itself over the fence at the bottom of the garden. Anyway it didn’t go off – another bit of good fortune!

I was never conscious of an explosion. I knew what was happening immediately and I do not believe I lost consciousness. Time was elongated and I felt as if everything happened very slowly. I had my back to a corner wall which did not give way to the blast and protected me from the debris which was blown through the house. I bowed my head onto the table in front of me and stayed like that for what seemed a long time. It felt as though someone with a constantly refilled bucket of brick dust was pouring the contents over my head in a never ending stream. Not painful but endless. It did not last long I suspect, but it seemed a long time before it subsided and I could think that I would not be stifled. I opened my eyes and lifted my head to see the moon illuminating a cloud of dust which filled the hole where the rear wall had been. As the dust settled, moonbeams sloped into the remains of the sitting room and I found that I looked through the house to the road in front. The interior wall and the front wall and windows, back and front, were gone.

I looked to my right and could see the shapes of the others in the family, silent for the moment. I stood up, confident that I was unhurt and tested my ability to move away from my chair and table. I was not trapped and had to decide what to do next. I knew that I could not help anyone and decided to go to the road to seek help from anyone out there. There was no one. The neighbours, whose homes were not so badly damaged were nevertheless fully occupied within them. I tried to cry ‘help’ but shyness allowed only a squeak to emerge and I could not improve on that. I went back in and found my sister was now conscious and also walking. Together we went to the road once more. This time my voice was stronger, but I knew that the bomb would have attracted more attention than I could and in a very few minutes the tin hatted Air Raid Wardens appeared through the moonlit dust. It was a great relief to know that it was no longer just our problem.

I learned later that six houses had to be demolished, (the pictures appeared in 2002 and are available) one on each side of us and three more which backed on to ours. Other people were injured but non severely. There was one death, a baby who died of pneumonia as an indirect result of the bomb.

I went back in the house with the wardens. I wonder now if they had ever done the job before or if they had done it too many times. But at the time they seemed to know exactly what to do. One asked me who was upstairs. I said that no one was up there. Even so he clambered up over the first two or three steps and went up to check. The floor seemed (and was) intact but it was a very risky thing to do as the others were still beneath it. He soon came down satisfied and set about bandaging my throat to stop the blood which dripped quickly from my chin.

They seemed to quickly concentrate on my father who was trapped by one foot and groaning loudly. He had obvious facial injuries and the were trying to bend his leg to extricate him. My brother had surfaced by this time and was able to move about. He was trying to tell them that my father’s leg would not bend following an injury in 1915 at the Somme. Eventually another pair found a door panel and moved in to see what could be done for my mother. She was moaning a little, but had taken the effects of the explosion full in the face.

At this point an Ambulance arrived and my sister and I were asked to go out and get in the ambulance. I sat inside waiting interminably for the others. But they only brought out my mother, lying on the door, and laid her gently on the road behind the Ambulance. I looked down and could see only a featureless bloody shape to her lacerated face. The remainder of her body was familiar.

After some discussion, the First Aid man got in the Ambulance, closed the door and we moved off, we knew not where. I was confident that they all knew what they were doing and that was enough for me. I did not know that I would not see my family, apart from my sister, for several days and my mother for many weeks. At that meeting, though some hope was expressed that they could save one of her eyes, after many more weeks even this hope was lost. My mother would see none of us again.

However, thanks to the persistence and craft of the surgeons, including McIndoe at East Grinsead, doctors and my father over the next two years she did recover and was able to play a very full part in all the family activities for 26 years.

After a drive of about 10 minutes my sister and I arrived at the First Aid Post and were hustled inside the well lit school hall with the chairs, tables and stretchers which I somehow expected. They put me on a chair and a quick inspection detected that my wound was at the back of my head not my throat. The original diagnosis resulted from the blood flowing under my neck and dripping from my chin. They removed some pieces of glass and brick and bandaged it again, this time under my chin and over my head. Two pieces of glass and a piece of brick came out over the following weeks and months but after hospitalisation and 24 hours sleep I was up and about once more.

My sister was not so lucky. Her wounds, brick and glass again, were many times more numerous and extended over her back from shoulders to waist. I could see her on a table on the other side of the room, face down while they searched for and removed the debris. She winced from time to time but we could smile encouragement to each other.

Soon after that I was taken by saloon car round the outskirts of Liverpool to a hospital. I remember looking at the distant illuminated scene of fires, searchlights and flashes of bombs or gunfire from a distance and in complete silence. My transport arrived at the same time as the Ambulance carrying my father and brother and a neighbour I think, directly from the bombed house. I could see them being carried in on stretchers and was told that they were my family. I did not ask about my mother but learned later that she had been taken to another hospital entirely - Broadgreen.

The dog somehow escaped uninjured and was found by an ‘uncle’, the relationship escapes me, a few days later wandering near the house. He looked after the dog for the next few months until it rejoined us ‘children’ at my grandmother’s house in Wales.

Once in Hospital I could walk around and was given the job of egg collector and distributor. Anyone lucky enough to have an egg would write their name on the egg and I would take them all to the kitchen. At mealtimes I would scrupulously deliver each egg to its owner. This meant that I soon knew all the others in the ward and some of the work of the staff. One of the boys in the ward was a sixth former from my school, a victim of another incident. He had been head boy or a potential head boy and was visited regularly by members of the staff. As I remember it, one of them always came to talk to me, but as a first former of only a few weeks standing, there was not much to talk about.

The ‘head boy’ was flirting with the nurses and on one occasion, used a pipette to fill a liqueur chocolate with castor oil. I never did hear the sequel, but one day I might try …...

Other visitors from chapel called but they were nonplussed by my questions which must have seemed silly to them, especially as they had really called to see my father. I was obsessed with details of the damage and whereabouts of the clock or other minor articles which I had seen before I left the house. The obsession arose because at some point I was told, with the best of intentions or to save time or because the matter was indeed trivial, something that I knew was untrue. I spent time then trying to think of questions which would check out the real story but of course it was generally in vain.

One neighbour from our previous road brought a selection of ‘rock cakes’. If she had called them scones, I would have had no problem, but ‘rock cakes’! I hid them in my bedside table for days until disposing of them. This was not so easy as there were enough ‘rock cakes’ for the whole ward, but I didn’t dare offer them to others in case they didn’t know that ‘rock cakes’ were either.

After a few days I was taken to another ward to visit my sister. She seemed abnormally quiet but otherwise quite well though bandaged and in some pain if she needed to move. After a fortnight I went to see my brother and father who were in the same ward but on different sides of the corridor. I had been told early on that they were recovering and though bandaged, they were able to talk a little and take some interest in their surroundings which of course, being mobile, I knew more about. There was complete silence about my mother though I sensed that she was alive and that had to be sufficient.

One nurse annoyed me by repeatedly mentioning a chocolate wrapper found on my bottom when being cleaned up in the theatre on the first night. She mentioned it every time a visitor came to see me. I just hope she got that chocolate with the special filling …

Out of Hospial
After another week we could all visit each other every day with the exception of my mother. My sister, brother and I then went to stay with my father’s boss in his house. They were a richer family and had a large house ‘in the Wirral’ on the other side of the river and well away from worth while targets. They made us welcome and we settled in quite well, but slowly friction grew between their three sons and our selves.

After a week or so my father joined us in this house and we were able to watch the bombing and fires in Liverpool with the adults. He and his boss returned each day to work as usual, until one day the workplace was hit and burned down taking with it everything that had been save d from our original home. My father never seemed to me to be put out by this and all the other arrangements he had to make. He slowly put it all together again and looked after us as if he’d done it all before.

We boys slept in bunks, in two tiers of three bunks, in an indoors shelter – a strengthened room. The younger son’s bladder was not yet completely under control, causing opposition to sleeping below him. This was resolved on the basis of ownership which meant that I was the unfortunate. We played together and even performed a play together but it was inevitably on their terms. This meant that the best parts i.e. carrying their air gun, were shared somewhat unevenly. These difficulties were resolved eventually with a fair fight and the situation improved thereafter. The Irish cook/maid tried and succeeded in keeping the lid on things, but after six weeks we, or at least I, were glad to leave and return to ‘Nain’s place in Wales, while my father want as a lodger to another distant relative in the Wirral.

Before we went to Wales, we were taken to Broadgreen hospital to visit my mother. I was shocked to see her swathed in bandages, though what remained of one eye was uncovered, presumably to allow it a chance to recover. She could embrace us in turn, talk to us and reassure herself that we were largely intact, but that was about all. She was obviously very tired, but we in turn were reassured that she was still available. She was never told, but we all knew that she eventually knew, that my brother had lost an eye as a result of the bombing – there perhaps was never a right time to deal with every single thing.

Thereafter my father visited us each month in Wales. A considerable journey in those days, particularly as it was interspersed with visiting my mother who was later moved to Bridgenorth for convalescence. We eventually visited her in Bridgenorth about a year later and found her chatting and joking with her blinded and semi blind fellows.

She was living in a different and distant group now, but had the will and ability to start interacting with that group. When she returned to be with us all in a new home in 1943, she once more soon integrated with her old friends and never refused to take up any challenge, be it from family, family friends, travel to new places, a speaking engagement or dealing with pain and loss.

For me it was once more a new school in Wales in September 1941, a schizophranic evacuee/local for two years and then a change back in 1943 to my previous school of 9 weeks in Waterloo. The war continued and I remember getting my first bike which had been the bike of an only son of a family friend. Glyn returned from Canada, where he had been training RAF pilots, unable to accept any longer that he was sending them to their deaths. He and his crew died over their own base, unable to land because of the many returning planes, before their fuel ran out.

The rest of the war, VE and VJ days came and went in their turn with relief to be alive rather than celebration in my case.

The pictures of the bombed houses came to light in 2002 and are available.

Owen Ephraim
50 New Road
Great Baddow
Essex CM2 7QT
01245 471288

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