- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Marion Williams
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 01 December 2003
I was born in March 1939, and brought up in a small market town in rural Suffolk. I don’t remember much of the war, fleeting memories of being woken up when there was a ‘doodlebug’ (V1) raid, sitting under a kitchen table when we visited a cousin’s house near the coast and there was a raid on, an uncle (who was in the Home Guard) standing at his back door shooting rabbits with his rifle (well, that’s how I remember it). But the biggest event in my life was starting school. I cried on the first morning, but my mother promised me a doodlebug for lunch and that was enough – this doodlebug was a boiled suet pudding with jam inside, one of my favourites. I remember air raid drill at school, we all had to get into the central corridor, and sit on the floor, but I also remember the corridor as having a glass roof – could that really be right? The school is gone, so I can’t check it up.
Having started school, and loving it after that first day, the other momentous event came in December 1944, when I developed scarlet fever. Apart from anything else, my father was a baker, and there was the possibility that he would have to close down as food was being prepared and sold on the premises. In fact, it was decided that I should be sent off to the isolation hospital at Colchester, 15 miles away, and my bedroom had to be fumigated by ‘council officials’.
I was five years old, it was coming up to Christmas, and there was petrol rationing, and I have memories of snow being involved. So there I was in hospital, with no hope of my parents visiting regularly, in fact they only came three times when they had to hire a local taxi as they had no petrol for the visit, and even then they were not allowed into the hospital, but could only see me through the window. There was another girl called Yvonne, (although it was a very long time before I discovered how to spell her name), there was a Christmas tree which was a novelty, and I discovered sewing cards. These were cards with a simple design on them, with holes punched through the design so that you could go round the holes in back-stitch and finish up with a picture. These must have kept me busy for a long time, as they have always been part of the hospital memory. I was due to spend four weeks in quarantine at the hospital and must have been due out about January 4th. Remember, it was an isolation hospital, so nothing could be brought in or out, so I had had no Christmas presents.
Then on the day I was due out, I developed chicken pox, and had to stay in for another two weeks. I don’t remember whether or not I was upset, it has just become part of the family story that I had to stay in for the extra time. What I do remember is having my Christmas presents on January 20th, and there was my much-wanted dolls pram, one of those high coach-built ones, with a false bottom section, that made it possible for toddlers to sit up in them, or special things could be put underneath the doll for safety. I certainly had it for quite a while, as it features in an adventure with flood water in the winter of 1947-48. I also had a kaleidoscope which fascinated me, though I don’t know how long that lasted. I suppose that there must have been other Christmas bits kept for me, but the pram is what I really remember. I suppose that I had missed some time at school, but nothing else sticks in my mind. The fact of being ill doesn’t come into the episode at all.
After that great adventure, life must have settled down again. The tanks still came through the main street on their way to the Thetford battle training area, making their distinctive rattling metal noise on the road. A ‘Spitfire’ (later thought more likely to be a Mustang) dropped one of its auxiliary wing-tip fuel tanks and it landed in the yard of the monumental mason a few doors down the street, and started a fire. On VJ Day (it just might have been VE Day) I sat on my father’s shoulders in the market square so that I could see what was going on, although I can’t remember what was going on. We watched American bombers taking off and landing at the nearby airfield – the road was closed by gates when this happened, - and last time I went past, one of the concrete gateposts was still visible. A bit further away, on the way to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, we saw other American bombers on the ground from the ‘new road’ which had been cut through when the airfield was built. As far as I know, it is still called the ‘new road’ sixty years on. For a time my parents had a tandem cycle and sidecar for these Sunday visits to family, with me in the sidecar, and protesting loudly when forced to get out and walk up the one steep hill on the way. I discovered many many years later that the disappearance of the tandem was due to its being stolen, then we had to use the bus which had slatted wooden seats. On the bus my parents started talking to one of the American servicemen, and he became a friend with whom they kept in touch for many years. He took me to the local swimming pool, which I loved, especially as my parents rarely had time to take me.
Other little memories – of lots of planes and gliders going over, seen from my grandmother’s garden, it must have been Arnhem, or could it have been the Rhine landings in March 1945? – my mother’s diary isn’t helpful. The longer I think about it, the more little bits come back. My aunt’s wedding day in Oct 1943, I was a bridesmaid with a white satin dress and a red velvet bonnet. I’ve just discovered that it was on a Sunday, the only day people had free then, for such events.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.