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Granny's War

By Phyllis Grainger
September 2002, Pillgwenlly
A digital story from Capture Wales

Growing up with Granny

Phyllis Grainger portrays her love and appreciation for her grandmother following tragic circumstances at the outbreak of the Second World War.

"Life for the Grainger family changed that day. It was the 3rd of September, 1939, when my mother, Rene, died and Britain went to war. Every able-bodied man was needed.

Albert, my father, asked his widowed mother, Kate Grainger, if she would come and care for us when he went away. My Granny had already raised 11 children of her own and lost one son, Elma, in the First World War. Yet, here she was, nearing eighty, at the outset of another war, with three more children to care for.

To me, the war seemed remote... far away, until the air raids. Life seemed safe and secure with Granny. Despite the blackouts, sweet rationing and my father's absence - thanks to Granny - it was an idyllic childhood.

All my memories are of sunny days, except for one.

In February 1946, only months after coming home from the war, my father died. I was ten. Granny, though tiny in stature, was a tower of strength and continued to care for us.

After big sister Jean left to get married, we moved to a new house down Ely racecourse. I was 13.

I remember sharing a bed there with my younger sister Dodo and sometimes lying awake listening as my Granny fervently prayed in an audible whisper from her bed on the other side of the bedroom.

'Dear Lord give me the strength to see these girls grow up'.

Her prayer was answered. She did. Granny's war was won."

Phyllis Grainger

Phyllis, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a woman who's lived a life of challenges but a very rich life of learning experiences. I'm a grandmother myself now and I've got a passion for creative writing. I read poetry to seniors and love to travel, meeting people from different walks of life.

What's your story about?
I spent the early years of my childhood growing up in Ely, Cardiff, with my two sisters. During the war years I was brought up by my grandmother, Kate Grainger, who stepped into the breach when my mother died on the day the Second World War was declared.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
Because of the great sacrifice my grandmother made on behalf of my two sisters and I. She devoted the last 18 years of her life to single handedly caring for three children, for which I'm eternally grateful.

What was the experience of making your digital story like?
Challenging, enriching, a new life learning experience albeit stressful. Just the one day on which I felt information overload regarding technology! But I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity.

Your comments

"My mother Phyllis wrote granny's war I grew up in Nottingham until we moved back to her 'beloved Wales' when I was 15 and my parents separated.As one of three children (I have a younger sister and older brother) I think Granny Grainger's spirit and courage still lives on.My mum has raised the 3 of us on her own during some difficult and dark times. One of those times was when my daughter developed schizophrenia at 16. She is a wonderfully compassionate and caring mum and nan.She continues to support us all and my daughters stability and wellness today is due in part to her unwavering support I am sure Granny Grainger would be proud her grand daughter Phyllis - has the same Grainger spirit and courage." Gabrielle Ward from Newport, May 2009.

"I am the Great grandson of Granny Grainger.My mother Valerie Grainger Yates is also small in stature, but a very strong and decent woman. She raised 6 children on her own,( 3 rowdy boys )and never bitched or moaned about her plight. I met my Grandfather (John Grainger) a number of times, and He was a great man!! ( not to mention a "Bad Ass"!!!!I would really like to find more relatives in the Grainger clan, as my namesake (Carey) was a family not of blood that raised my grandfather Charles Carey in Ely, Wales. Peace out! Stu." Stuart Carey, Reno Nevada, U.S.A. May 2009.

"Kate Grainger was my great grandmother. My grandfather was John Grainger,one of her sons, whom I loved dearly. I did enjoy this story especially because of my personal connection. The presentation was very nice and well put together. I think I may have met Phyllis in Wales. My mother is Valerie Margaret Grainger-Yates." Valerie Gildone from Winnemucca, Nevada, Apr 2009.

"This is amazing, I'm looking at the scrapbooks my Nanny Valerie {my grandma} made my father, Thomas Henry Grainger married Frances Marion Kate Cutland in 1884, Which my Great Grandfather John Richard James Grainger {son of theres}, then had My grandmother Valerie Margaret, Im trying to find out all the info i can about my family, I know Thomas Grainger was born in Bristol and my great grandfather in Cardiff! This is an amazing story from my ancestors!" Ashley Carey Reno, NV, US, Sept 2008.

"My late father George Grainger was the grandson of Granny Grainger. I want to thank Phyllis Grainger for her touching story.Although I never knew Granny Grainger my father always spoke about her with such admiration and love.I also want to thank Phyllis for sharing her photographs. It was great to see what Frances Marion Kate Cutland- Grainger really looked like. After two years of tracing the family tree that was an amazing bonus." Georgina Grainger Cardiff, Jul 2008.

"Granny Grainger was my Great Great Granny, My Grandfather qas Thomas Grainger. My Mother is Christine Grainger, she was brought up in Ely Homes. My mother fell to peices on reading this story. She has always wanted to find out about her family. Thank you Granny Grainger." Donna O'Brien, Gabalfa Cardiff, Apr 2008.

"Thank you Phyllis for sharing your Granny's sacrificial story. It is indeed a wonderful inspiration for those nurturing children in 'non-conventional' circumstances. I was particularly touched by your Granny's prayer and the sensitive way in which you presented it. I cannot help but feel the presence of a great faith in God in many traditional Welsh people whose inner strength led them to go beyond what we would consider the 'norm'. The story reminded me of my great, great Grandma who at the premature death of her elder sister dutifully and lovingly responded to her brother-in-law's request to become 'mother' to his children. She bore him a second family which included my great Grandmother who in turn, as a widow, brought up my father. He, too, had an idyllic childhood. I am in awe of these women." Pauline Thomas, Kent, Sept 2007.

"I am a member of this family, my grandfather John Grainger was one of many sons to Kate Grainger. I was very touched by the short documentary made. And very proud of Phyllis for showing how heart breaking the war was and the courage of a grandmother." Angela Grainger, Llanharan, Wales, Sept 2007.

"Phyllis Grainger's story was poignant. I enjoyed listening and reading about it. It will be a reminder to all those who listen that, we can never repay the sacrifices made by the families of that terrible time. Wartime is very bad for family life." Kay Jenkins, Blackwood, Gwent, Sept 2007.

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