- Contributed by
- Cumbria County Library
- People in story:
- Jane Ritchie
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 May 2005
We youngsters, three sisters, Brenda, Joy and I were evacuated to Leamingtom Spa and Derek, our younger brother went to Devon. It was not a happy expeience and we beggedour Mum and Dad to let us come home. In the meantime, Muriel, our older sister had met a nice young man called Eric who was stationed in the army in Coventry where we lived, and she was telling him about our plight and how unhappy we were in Leamington. He told her not to worry as now he and his brother, Alistair were in the army his Mum and Dad had an empty bedroom and he would have a word with her, which he did and in time we duly arrived in the small town of Atherstone and made welcome and for the first time slept in a feather bed. The household consisted of Mr and Mrs Archer (Uncle Tom and Ethel, always referred to as Mrs Archer). Their three daughters and Mrs Archer's old uncle, Fred Grubb. All went well until Muriel met another soldier, Fred Green, he was a charmer and very handsome. Eric Archer was devastated as he was very much in love with Muriel, but Muriel's feelings went very deep for Fred Green and after a brief courtship they eventually married and had a son called John.
As soon as it was known back in Atherstone we three kids were out of our feather bed and up into the attic (where Fred Grubb slept). Fred Grubb had his bed, and a mattress was placed on the floor for us 3 girls. A screen was placed between the two beds. Fred Grubb was a lovely old man, he was a catholic and every night before getting into bed he would say his prayers on his knees for a good 10 minutes or so. I always had to get up in the night to go to the toilet. The toilet was at the top of the garden. I used to go round the screen and shake Uncle Fred awake and he would take me to the toilet and stand outside in all weathers. Neither of us had dressing gowns and only dressed in our flimsy nightclothes. The attic rooms were freezing in thewinter and baking hot in the summer months. As you can imagine our lives were pretty unpleasant from then on. Fred Grubb was very kind and a lovely man but there was not a lot he could do I feel he was there under sufference.
Muriel would have known the position she had put us in and did'nt rest until she got us home. Coventry was being bombed badly but we were happy to be home. The bombing would start by incendiary boms being dropped which lit up all the areas that were targetted, it was a very frightening experience and we would scuttle down the shelters and emerge later in the morning not knowing whether your house was still standing or whether it would be razed to the ground. We did finish the war with tarpaulin flung over the roof and anchored down with bricks and many broken windows dur to the bombing.
When Muriel became ill with T.B. in those days called consuption, our world was shattered, expecially as she was only given 6 months to live.
We knew the war was soon to be over and we had been busily collecting for a bonfire as much wood, cartons and paper as we could find, which wasn't much due to the shortage of everything during the war years, but excitement was mounting as we all knew the end of the war was near. All aroung us were bombed buildings and our house the 2nd in a terrace of 5 houses and the two houses at the end of the terrace had had a direct hit.
We had built our bonfire on a level patch amongst the rubble that overlooked the main road opposite and after collecting as much as we could we were then called in for bed. Muriel was very ill and our Mum was sitting up all night with her. In the morning we were woken with the news that Muriel was very poorly and somebody had lit our bonfire in the night. We had not heard a thing. Joy aged 11, Brenda 15 and myself 13 shared the bedroom at the back of the house and we rushed to the window and miserably watched the dieing embers of our bonfire burning itself out.
Mum wanted us to go over to our eldest brother, Ron with a message, he lived on the other side of Coventry. Joy and I went and caught the bus at the bottom of the road. The conductor when he came for the fare said, "come on you kids, cheer up the war's over". But when we told him our sister Muriel was not expected to live long and somebody in the night had lit our bonfire, he was full of concern and wanted to know what was wrong with Muriel. When we got back after delivering our message we were delighted to see signs of a bonfire being built on top of the dead embers. Apparently the bus conductor had told various people that our bonfire had been lit in the night and of our sister who was not well and they had rallied round, together with the local bobby on the beat, and collected and pillaged all the broken fences and timbers from the bombed buildings. There was a large American forces camp nearby and the Yanks had contributed a lot of burning material including tyres for the fire and oranges and candy for the kids.
We had a wonderful V.E night. A friend had carried Muriel and sat her down by the bonfire. She looked ghostly and painfully thin in the light from the fire but she enjoyed being part of the celebrations. There were no street lights but the glow from the large bonfire was exhilerating after the dark days of the war years and we danced round the fire and ejoyed sharing our fruit and candy. Murield died a few days later. She was only 21 years old.
A week later we were told that the street lights would be connected in this particular road on this night and we hung around the road until darkness but the lights did'nt come on but we were rewarded with the lights coming on a few night later and it was pure magic.
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