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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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The Incident of the Bird's Survival

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Edith Rosemary Ingels, Beatrix La Rivierre (my mother, now deceased) Trevor La Rivierre (my brother, now deceased)
Location of story: 
Calcutta, India
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

I was 9 years old when WW2 started. Born and brought up in India, I was educated at a girls' boarding school near Darjeeling in the Himalayas.

As children, we were not affected by the European war. We spent nine months in schools (3 March - 3 December) then returned to our homes in the plains for three months. I sat the Junior Cambridge Examination in 1944. Our papers were shipped to Cambridge University for correction. During the war years all papers were completed in duplicate and each set was returned to Cambridge on a different ship to avoid loss by enemy action at sea.

My family lived in Calcutta where we had a few air-raids by Japan when Singapore fell and Burma was invaded. Due to the distance the Japanese planes had to fly to reach Calcutta. They carried fairly small bombs which, luckily, did not wreak the damage endured in London.

We lived on the third floor of an apartment block and had to go down to the ground floor when the siren went. During one air-raid we were sitting on the stairs of the ground floor when we heard a bird chirping -my mother asked my brother where the noise was coming from. He replied "I've got my bird in my pocket - well you wouldn't want it to be killed by the bombs would you?"

The main target was the dock area of Calcutta but a few bombs did fall in the city. There was slight damage in the park at Dalhousie Square - the main casualty being the statue of Lord Dalhousie himself. We later collected bits of shrapnel from the bombsites as souvenirs of our air-raid experiences.

I remember being terrified - having lost my father in March 1939, I lived in fear that my mother also would die, leaving me orphaned.

The first atomic bomb was dropped on my birthday, 6th August.

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