- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Elisabeth Bertolla
- Location of story:
- Winchester and London
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 October 2004
This story was submitted to the People`s War site by Alan Magson, of Age Concern, Bradford & District, on behalf of Elisabeth Bertolla and has been added to the site with her permission.The author fully understands the site`s terms and conditions.
After the Battle of Britain my mother decided that we would have to leave London and be evacuated. My father, who by this time had a home posting (he had been wounded at Dunkirk) found us a billet in a roadside inn near Winchester in Hampshire. My mother helped in the bar and I ran wild with the host children. It was the most free and wondrous time in my life. The countryside was for me a new and exciting set of sensations: nuts that grew on trees (hitherto only seen on street barrows in the market), acorns, pale green and polished, ovals like tiny eggs. Bitter to the taste, but so lovely to hold. Someone told me that pigs grew fat on them; high ferns in the darkly gleaming woods, whipping at your arms and legs as you ran, scoring them like pork crackling. Spider webs, hung out like washing on the hedges to dry. Steaming cowpats in the field on the way to school, the feel of the stuff, warm and sloppy in your shoe. The tethered bull straining at his huge chain, rattling and snorting, his small red eyes rolling in rage... A fallen log nearby that in a certain light resembled him....
Not all my evacuations (there were at least four) were as blessed as that first one. Often I felt lonely and lost, although I was lucky to have my mother with me, I was often the only child in an adult household and had to be on my best behaviour. My mother, always homesick for London, never really settled in other peoples`homes. So we regularly packed up and returned to our flat. Each time we found it more bomb-blasted, vandalized and neglected. Finally my mother decided she could bear it no longer and declared that we would stay put in London despite the doodlebugs and later the rockets.(two of Hitler's secret weapons)... .So then began a new era of sleeping in the Underground and the Air-raid shelters.
I remember it was a sun-filled morning,a Sunday holding the promise of a golden autumn to follow. In their London gardens, neighbours were clipping hedges, mowing lawns. It seemed like any other Sunday, really.
I was playing outside our front door in the tiny handkerchief of garden. I recall the smell of hot, dusty privet. My mother came to the door and called me to her side—she grasped my hand, too hard it seemed —and I struggled to be free.
Across the road a man was frantically waving a newspaper and shouting " It's all up". Soon his voice was drowned by the wail of a siren. A strange and menacing sound, it filled me with fear, although later I came to know that particular sound as the ” All Clear".
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