Stories of Survival: War doesn’t
just impact on the men serving their country, SHTF.
By Harriet, Editor-At-Large Australia
No 4. Daisy & C.
While Ted (Story 2 and my mother’s father) was serving in the Army, wife Daisy became a camp follower. Wherever they sent him in the country, she would follow with their three young children. They slept in some weird and wonderful places, mostly more weird and run down than wonderful. Ted, of course, had to sleep and work at the Army base. Daisy did the best she could with what she had. It was a difficult time with children aged 1, 3 and 5, no toilets and no running water for the most part. My Mother, aged under two at the beginning of the war, suffered nightmares from the bombing and its thunderous noise for the rest of her life. She also had a social anxiety that she attributed to her early childhood.
Mother and Father went through both the Great Depression together and the Second World War. During the Depression, father studied medicine while working almost full time. Mother scrimped and saved so they could live on as little as possible as women weren’t paid enough to live on during the Depression and Dad not only didn’t earn much but had to pay huge university fees (one examination alone was 900 pounds). The family entertained themselves by walking the streets and trying to identify the age and architects of all the buildings where they lived in London. They also went to the art galleries and museums, which were free, and gained an education in various areas of interest.
Mother used to talk of hanging out of the top window of her house during World War II to see which suburb was being bombed that night. She seldom went to the bomb shelters as they were dirty, noisy and smelly. She said she slept much better in her own bed and she developed a fatalism about the possibility of being a victim. She did however start to wear a nightdress to bed in case she had to flee in the middle of the night. She did not connect her nightmares about thunder with the bombing during WW I until years later.
One night Mum got a telephone call from Dad’s boss to tell her he was all right and had survived the direct bombing of the hospital. He had been the surgeon operating in the hospital basement. The ceiling caved in and Dad had to cover the patient with the open abdomen with his own body to stop the cavity filling up with concrete debris, but after rigging up a sheet to divert any further dust and small bits falling on the patient, he finished the operation by the light of a kerosene lantern before going on to his next patient who needed his help.
It was difficult coping with rationing of food. Many times the food was just not available and the cooks of the families just had to make do with what was available. Many children felt deprived and Mother had to cope on one occasion when her first born, at the age of two, stole and ate a jar of raspberry jam from the landlady. Mum had then to find another place to live after being given notice to leave immediately. It was a terrible crime to steal someone else’s sugary treats, even if you were only two years old.
Grandmother Daisy and my Mother C were much more reactive than proactive in their lives. There are times when this is necessary. They were flexible and kept their values at the forefront of their minds. During war everything is in flux. As they were in rental accommodation and people were always on the move during this time what they did was not unusual. Life was difficult, but they survived.
To be Continued… Stories of Survival: Part 5—Rex and Tony, Society Changed.
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