- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Annie Vera Kelly
- Location of story:
- Liverpool and other parts of Lancashire and Chester
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 November 2003
"I remember listening to Chamberlain on the radio on 3rd September 1939, announcing that we were at war with Germany. Little did I realise the changes and sadness that it would bring.
At 19 years of age I started as one of the first auxiliary nurses at Alder Hey Hospital (having been a volunteer helper there at weekends for a few years)helping to nurse the Dunkirk men. I remember not feeling too well one night, standing at the head of the bed of a man who had been crushed - my suffering was as nothing compared to his.
Then came the May Blitz of 1941 and a weekend I will never forget. 30 ambulances were lined up along Alder Road containing 300 casualties from Mill Road Hospital which had taken a direct hit. It was horrendous - mothers and their new-born babies, air-raid casualties including doctors and nurses, some of whom sadly died. There were also patients who had been in the operating theatre. The rubble from the raid was still on patients as they were brought in.
I had been in a shelter on the Saturday night as the bombs fell on an ammunition train in Clubmoor, so, early on the Sunday morning , I made my way to Alder Hey and didn't leave until very late on Sunday night. Our ward sister, Sister Cleator, was very good, making us sit down to a cup of tea whenever we could, not having meal breaks. The soldiers who were patients gave up their beds for these casualties and slept on mattresses on the floor.
I joined the ATS in Lancaster on 6th Feb. 1942 (No. W118133) and was sent first to Engineers' Hall, Croppers Hill, St. Helens where there were five girls among sixty men! I worked in the QM's office. From there I went to Chester for a year, working in the Linen Hall stables and living across the river. The WRVS served the best beans on toast at the Stanley Palace!
In May 1944 I returned to St. Helens to a big house in Cowley Hill Lane and then to Liverpool again. There we stayed in another big house, 'Bradstones' in Sandfield Park, which was later demolished. I became Corporal AV Bunting (583 COY RASC).
During the war, a lot of women supported the war effort by taking the place of the men who had been conscripted. Some went into munitions factories, looking after their families at home and putting up with rationing. A friend of mine worked at the pithead sorting coal and then went into munitions.
Children during the war years didn't get bananas and other foods which usually came by boat. Women were helped to feed their families by the Ministry of Food which gave out recipes using small amounts of dairy products and meat. There were dried eggs.
A lot of women did voluntary work with the WRVS and the Red Cross and were kept busy. Families who took in evacuees did a good job although sometimes the children became homesick. A lot of children kept in touch with their 'temporary' parents and some went to live near them. My father, who had served as an engineer in WW1, now joined the Auxiliary Fire Service which was kept busy on air-raid nights.
On 10th March 1945 I married my husband, George Kelly, at Clubmoor Presbyterian church. He had been serving with the RAMC in the Middle East since 1941 and was home on leave for 5 weeks. We managed a honeymoon in Wales before he had to return to Italy in early April. He had a job finding his unit but eventually met up with them. By this time, the war in Europe was coming to an end, the 8th May 1945 being VE Day.
(An interesting addition to this story is that, thanks to my wedding dress, we ended up appearing on 'This is Your Life'44 years later! Barbara Cartland had set up a scheme for war brides to hire dresses for just £1 - I think mine came from Canada. It was so wonderful to be able to have a beautiful gown and, for many years, I had wanted to write to Barbara to thank her.
My own daughter's wedding in 1989 prompted me to do so and the letter happened to arrive at the time when the TIYL team were doing their research. They thought this would be a good story so we were whisked off to London First Class, stayed in a lovely hotel, were chauffered to the TV studios for the show and then enjoyed a wonderful after-show party. We had been allowed to invite two guests so our bridesmaid and her husband came along with us. We got to meet actors Ron Moody and Gareth Hunt as well as a myriad other famous faces. It was a wonderful occasion to remember.
However, it didn't end there! We had provided a wedding photo for the programme which managed to find its way into a book called'Forces Sweethearts', compiled by Joanna Lumley. They managed to call George, Fred but we think the photo may now be in the Imperial War Museum!)
George came back to England later that year to Aldershot and then to Mollington, near Chester where I used to go over to meet him at weekends. I was demobbed from the ATs in July 1945 as I was now married. The war ended when the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on August 15th 1945. George returned to Aldershot to be demobbed in 1946."
This account of her war-time memories was written by my mother before her death in 2002. My father died in 1997.
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