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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Isle of Wight Libraries
People in story: 
Rosemary Stephenson
Location of story: 
East Grinstead
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
15 September 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Bernie Hawkins and has been added to the website on behalf of Rosemary Stephenson with her permission and she fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was born near the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead where Sir Archibald McIndoe performed his pioneering plastic surgery, working mainly with burnt RAF aircrew.

These men had to learn to live with very different faces, and part of the rehabilitation process was to encourage them to mix with the local community. When I was about three years old, I was taken to a fete at the Hospital and queued with my mother for a pony ride. As we neared the front of the queue, my mother bent down to me and said, very firmly, “Rosemary, you are NOT to cry at the man’s face!”

Moments later I was placed on the pony and I clearly remember smiling down at the young man leading it and thinking, “Mummy funny, why should I cry at a clown!”

It was many years later that something made me remember the incident, and I realised that what to a child appeared to be greasepaint was in fact the scars from burns.

I watch “McIndoe’s Army" each year in the Remembrance Sunday Parade at the Cenotaph and wonder if “my” airman is still among them.

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