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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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"THE LEG O' ME DRAWERS"icon for Recommended story

by patandbill

Contributed by 
patandbill
People in story: 
Patricia Baughan, William Baughan, Arthur Manning, Dorothy Rowan
Location of story: 
Cricklewood, London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2713484
Contributed on: 
06 June 2004

My parents Patricia and William Baughan, were married in 1942 shortly before my dad was sent to Egypt, where he was a sergeant in the Royal Artillery.

As a young bride living in a ground floor flat in Cricklewood, north west London, my mother was scared both for my dad and for herself, but had the comfort of living with her aunt Dorothy (known as "Doll")who was to remain with us until her death in 1969.

One evening, towards the end of the war, my mother's brother, Arthur, had come home on leave. He was a tail-end Charlie in a Lancaster bomber and had seen action several times. He came to visit my mother, and to see Doll, who was in bed unwell.

As they spoke together in the kitchen, they heard the unmistakeable drone of a V1 "doodlebug", and held their breath hoping it would pass them by. Suddenly the engine cut out and they knew that this would be close, as afterwards, they recalled the whistling sound getting louder and louder as the rocket fell.

My uncles first thought was to protect his sister, and he pinned her against the kitchen wall with his arms and legs splayed out like a starfish. When the rocket hit the ground, there was a tremendous explosion and the kitchen window blew in showering them both with glass, small shards of which embedded themselves into his neck. Miraculously, my mother escaped any injury due to his foresight.

Coming to after the initial shock, they saw that the kitchen had been wrecked. Only the cooker survived - an old blue/grey enamel stove - although the 4 cast legs had been twisted in the explosion (we used the cooker until well into the 1950s). In the dust and confusion my mother's thoughts turned to Doll who was in bed along the hall, and going through the door heard moaning coming from the bedroom. "Doll, Doll" she called out in fear, "Are you alright?"

Doll then appeared from the bedroom looking very pale faced, saying "I think they got me" and then started to hobble slowly down the hall towards my mother. She and my uncle rushed up to her and were immediately relieved to find no blood, "I can't walk properly " said Doll and sat down heavily.

My mother soon discovered that in her absolute panic to get up, Doll had put both legs down one side of her knickers and could barely put one foot in front of another. The laughter which followed, when they could all see the funny side of the situation was turned to tears, when they found out that two of their neighbours four doors away, had been killed by the rocket.

By a real coincidence however, my father had had a trauma of his own that same day in Egypt. Driving a jeep down into a dry wadi, he misjudged the slope on the other side and went into it, rather than up it. The collision resulted in the loss of a front tooth - a terrible thing to happen, as that afternoon he was having an official photograph taken to send back to my mother. A visit to the dentist confirmed his worst fears, that a replacement tooth could not be made in time.

Not to be outdone, he fashioned a tooth out of an old white toothbrush handle and had his photograph taken with the replacement jammed in place.

These stories were handed down to me when I was old enough to understand after I was born in 1946. I have passed them on to my daughters as a record not just of the horrors that people had to endure during the War, but also the courage, fortitude and humour that finally won the day.

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