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15 October 2014
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Mother Abandons the Washingicon for Recommended story

by Rosslibrary

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Michael Smith
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14 December 2004

I was very small, but I can clearly remember playing, on my own, in the front garden of our house in Three Elms Road, Hereford. A jeep came from the direction of Three Elms and stopped. The occupants spoke to me. I ran off to look for my mother.

I found her in the “wash house” at the rear of our semi, surrounded by clouds of steam and up to her elbows in soapsuds. I can say now, with complete certainty, that this incident happened on a Monday. Every Monday was “washing day” and lunch was always the cold left overs from Sunday’s mid-day meal. I assume that I told my mother about the jeep and that I conveyed what its occupants had said to me. To my surprise she immediately withdrew her hands from the washbowl and, wiping them on her pinafore, accompanied me to the front gate.

The jeep was still there. My mother spoke to the driver. I assume he asked for directions because it drove off, turning into Ferndale Road. To my further great surprise, amazement even, my mother did not return to her washing, but took my hand and we set off after the jeep. I remember we ran, hand in hand, along the left side of Ferndale Road to King’s Acre Road. I was impressed at how fast my mother ran and astounded because she was still in her pinafore. I had never seen any lady appear in public in the Three Elms Road area in an apron or pinafore!

We reached King’s Acre Road. On the other side of Ferndale Road a small group of mothers and children had gathered. There were about three mothers and five or six children, mostly girls. For some reason we did not join them but stayed, just the two of us, on our side of the road.

Then, travelling towards the city, a column of tanks approached. Not many tanks and they seemed to be moving quite quickly. There was a soldier in the turret of each one and from the radio aerials little coloured pennants fluttered. The other mothers and children waved and cheered. My mother suggested I should wave. I did so, very self-consciously. A soldier in one of the turrets looked at me, smiled and made a gesture, which seemed to be part wave, part military salute. Then the tanks were gone — down the road towards Whitecross and the mothers and children were gone too. Mother and I walked back home. She still had her pinafore on. When we got there I assume she went back to her washing and I carried on playing.

What was so special about those tanks? Military traffic of all sorts was quite common, even around Three Elms, during the war. (I remember an RAF “Queen Mary” lorry carrying part of an aircraft trying to turn out of Ferndale Road into Three Elms Road) Alas, I never asked my mother if she remembered the tanks as well as I do. But I am sure she would not have abandoned the washing and appeared in public in a pinafore for any old column of tanks. What had the jeep driver said? Were they positioning prior to D Day? (With her sense of history mother kept the D Day edition of the Daily Mirror — I have it still.) We shall never know. But I do remember the incident.

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