- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Olive Cooke; Leslie Hussey-Yeo
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- 07 May 2005
The casing of an incendiary device, which I now use as a vase for daffodils! It came down on my bedroom windowsill - I've kept it as a souvenir!
I was 17 when the war started. It was very sad when the Second World War was announced, as my dad fought in World War 1. We were a very close knit community, and nieghbours used to join us in the air raid shelter.
I met my future husband - Leslie Hussey-Yeo - in October 1939. He only had a year left in the Navy when the war started, but he ahd to stay on. So we married a year later - i was 18 and a half. He had ten brothers and sisters. He and two brothers went to Greenwich Naval school. The eldest brother was killed on the Royal Oak.
We just had two and a half years together when he was killed on the HMS Thunderbolt (previously the Thetis, it had been lost in trials in Liverpool bay in June 1939). It was lost in the Sicily invasion, March 1943, by depth charge.
One other brother was a Naval Commando who survived the war but became mentally ill, i think as a result of the loss of his two brothers who he went to the Naval College with. He later died in Fishponds mental hospital.
I had to continue working in Wills Factory in Bristol, just making the best of life. We worked in the warehouse, doing the men's jobs, such as hammering the boxes to transport cigarettes to the forces. The men took the jobs when they returned at the end of the war. Women had to go to other departments. I moved to the next factory in the cigarette department in Ashton.
We had to live with our parents during the war, as we had no homes of our own. If you were widowed during the war and had not children, and your husband wasn't an officer, you only received £1 a week pension. (I later remarried seven years later and had three children).
I still think of the blitz and can see the flares that were dropped. You knew you were in trouble and it was going to be a bad night. An incendary device exploded in the garden and damaged my bedroom window. The shell then landed on my window sill. The next day, the local school children queued up to come and see it.
In the air raids, the school opposite had a large air raid shelter. Along with our neighbours, we took our mattresses down there until the raid was over. Our community was very close knit!
At the end of the war, we had a big street party in one of the bigger driveways in the street.
My brother was called up to the army in the first year of the war. He served in Ireland and Normandy, ending up in Berlin. He survived the war. I had an eighteen year old cousin who died the first day of Normandy (June 6th). I was able to see his grave on a coach trip to Normandy, and laid a spray of poppies on his grave and took photographs.
My main interest following the war was to join the Royal British Legion and i became their standard bearer in the Bedminster Down Womens section and took office of secretary and later chairman. I'm now the Bristol chairman, as there are only three branches in Bristol. I carried the standard for 54 years until 1998. I sold poppies every year and was given a special medal from the Royal British Legion for 66 years of continuous selling. I still sell them now on Park Street and the Cathedral porch throughout poppy week.
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