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15 October 2014
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War Memories of the King and Queen

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Jean Smith (nee Butler) and Jean Mapley
Location of story: 
Balham, South London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

The author of this story has understood the rules and regulations of this site and has agreed that this story can be entered on the People’s War web site.

It was early in the war before evacuation when I was 5 years old and living with my mother and two brothers in Balham near Wandsworth Common Station. My father was away serving in the RAF.

One evening there was a bombing raid and it felt as though the very earth beneath my feet was erupting. I was terrified but at least I survived. Unfortunately my ‘best friend’ Jean Mapley was buried alive with her mother under the rubble of their house just around the corner from mine. This had taken a direct hit. Fortunately for them the rest of her family were not at home. The medical team managed to reach Jean and her mother and gave morphine to ease the pain but were unable to save their lives. When they heard of this terrible tragedy, King George V1 and Queen Elisabeth (the late Queen Mother) visited the scene of the tragedy and brought great comfort to those in distress including myself.

I learned later that Jean’s mother had bravely comforted her throughout this dreadful ordeal until she lost consciousness. After this dreadful experience I followed my mother everywhere she went in the house. It has had a lasting effect on me in that I have always suffered from claustrophobia.

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