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Germans Provide Seats

by cornwallcsv

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Betty Cooney (Boon)
Location of story: 
Plymouth Blitz
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
23 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Lynn Hughes on behalf of Betty Cooney (Boon), the author and has been added to the site his/her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I worked in Devonport Dockyard from 1937 to 1944, in the Expense Accounts Office and our office was split into sections and scattered about the yard. At first it seemed strange; in our small section we missed our colleagues. But we soon adjusted to circumstances and settled down.

I became friendlier with a girl called Molly who had been entered from the Exam that had been held 2 or 3 years before mine. Every one of the girls in my section lived within the Plymouth boundaries. They were able use the buses that were quite frequent at that time because of the hundreds of Dockyard workers who used to go home to lunch. They had 1 ½ hour’s break, but my friends soon found the buses that were convenient for them although our lunch break was for 1 hour only. Some of them could even walk to and fro and still have time to gobble their meals. Molly was one of these; she lived in Renoum Street. Because I lived at Plymstock, it was quite impossible for me to get home I used to take sandwiches and whatever my mother had packed for me, and I used to eat them in solitary grandeur (or lack of it!) at my desk.

One day Molly remarked that it must be lonely for me in the empty office, the next day she told me that her mother had suggested that I should take my lunch to their house. It was wonderful to leave with the other girls; I don’t know which I enjoyed more Molly’s company or the hot Cup of tea that her mother gave me. Her mother was a generous sweet matured woman and she would have willingly shared their meal with me. But my mother sent her thanks and forbade me to eat up their rations, food was very scarce, whenever possible I would be given a slice of carrot cake or such, with my tea.

I enjoyed my lunch times now and I got to spend a great deal of time with them on our free evening and weekends. Molly would come to my home when there was a village dance and she would spend the night with us. If a special film happened to be showing in the town centre, if we had an evening free from overtime, I would spend the night at her home. The Keyham area was very badly bombed, and once when the raids had been very bad, we were told in the lunchtime that the army had arrived with their bomb disposal lorries to detonate and carry away the unexploded bombs.

They had been busy all the morning we were told, and were preparing to leave will their load of bombs. We had swallowed our tea hastily and rushed off out of the door so that we would be back at our desks in time. There were a few soldiers leaning against their lorry smoking cigarettes and obviously trying to relax before starting their journey. When they saw us they brightened up and tried to joke and laugh with us. We had to tell them that we couldn’t stop talking or we would be late for work (disappointing for us as well)! They asked where we worked and when we told then “The Dockyard” they said they would be passing the Dockyard and would give us a left. We went across and looked into their huge covered lorry. It was full of bombs, incendiaries small bombs, medium bombs, large bombs and worst of all some landmines. We backed hastily away and “oh no, thank you”, they assured us that they all had been made safe. Because we had lost a few precious minutes and we had such faith and trust in our fighting men so many of them our own generation, we accepted their offer of a lift.

They helped us up into the lorry; we selected our bomb-seats, waved to Molly’s mother and were driven slowly and carefully away. I had chosen a land mine to sit on because it seemed to offer firmer and more comfortable seat. It was only a short ride and soon we were drawing up opposite the Dockyard gates. Some of our friends were also returning from lunch break as we arrived. They could hardly believe their eyes as they saw us being helped to the ground from a bomb disposal lorry by our brave uniformed soldiers. The astonishment in their eyes soon turned to envy as we told them of our unexpected and exciting lunch break adventure.

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