a scrap of a memoir

Escape to the Country Soon after the euphoria of D-Day, my family was having a difficult time. Dad was still away in the RAF – an older volunteer compared with the fly boys, so the chaps called him Grandpa. He worked as an airfield controller, a pretty tough job. My Mum, was a delicate flower, in poor health and had been cosseted tenderly by Dad ever since the time he had come in and found her scrubbing the floor while weeping into the bucket. She was not up to coping with life at the best of times, and the early 1940's could hardly be so described. We'd somehow survived the Blitz intact – just a few of the quaint diamond paned windows blasted and some interesting maps to be made out of the cracks in the ceiling. There had been a lull in the bombing which had probably caused the fear to recede. But then, seemingly out of the blue, the V1s started. Flying bombs, buzz bombs or doodlebugs they called them. Ghastly things. The bangs were bigger than the bombs we had grown used to, the damage greater, the casualties more numerous because the whole caboodle consisted of explosive with an engine. A clanking drone announced the passing of one of the pilotless aircraft overhead. If the noise stopped, everyone held their breath and waited for annihilation. The cessation of noise meant that the thing had run out of fuel and was falling out of the sky with its load of explosive Hell. Then, if we were lucky, came the bang – a very big bang – which meant that someone else was getting it and not us. That sounds incredibly callous now, but truly, I remember people saying that at the time. We were used to ordinary bombs and could handle that fear. But these new monsters were like a science fiction fantasy, something we had no way of coping with. Soon after that, an even worse 'Secret Weapon' arrived to terrify us – V2's, rocket-propelled bombs that arrived without warning. The much-vaunted Blitz spirit seemed to crumble. Dogged putting up with it was replaced with anger. That, as far as Mum was concerned, was more than flesh and blood could stand. After a couple of nights with me waking in her bed screaming blue murder, Mum had had enough. Soon the three of us were on a slow train to Suffolk to stay with my Great Aunt and Uncle for the duration. This exodus was fraught with anxiety for us girls. Hadn't Dad insisted that we must look after our mother? Everyone thought her incapable of managing such a journey. Had she enough money for the tickets? My sister would find out about trains while I was to stand in the queue. There were no seats to be had on the train, which was packed with servicemen, so Mum was persuaded to sit on the huge suitcase which theporter had carried for us for sixpence. The journey was interminable – no reason was ever given for the lengthy stops between stations. After a while I, who had not previously travelled on a train, asked plaintively why all the stations were called Ghent-lee-men. A cheery airman bent from his considerable height to explain that all the station names had been removed so that spies or invaders wouldn't know where they were. 'But won't the engine driver be lost as well?' I asked. 'Why are they called Ghent...' 'That's enough dear.' Mum whispered something in my ear and I was suffused with scarlet embarrassment. At last the train drew into Newmarket station and Uncle Bim, of the kind face and crinkly greying hair was helping us to lift down the heavy case, which was left with the stationmaster to be brought to the house later on a horse-drawn cart. We were delighted to find ourselves walking down a pretty country lane, to see the brick and flint schoolhouse ahead. Aunty Hilda (known as Tante for no known reason, as she was certainly not French) was on the doorstep, arms out ready to sweep us all into one big hug. Tempting smells wafted from the big country kitchen which was to be home until it was safe for us to return to London. There followed a period during which the war receded a little. Freed from fear of flying bombs, and living what could have been termed an idyllic country life, we started to breathe again.

About https://vivinfrance.wordpress.com

All poetry, prose and pictures posted here, except where otherwise stated, is my own, and may only be used elsewhere with my expressed permission. Please don't be inhibited from correcting my bloopers and making suggestions: Most of what I post here is instant, ill-considered and off-the-cuff, in serious need of editing.
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21 Responses to a scrap of a memoir

  1. Nancy says:

    Viv, what an elegantly written piece. I was born well after the war ended but your description had me almost as terrified as you must have been – having seen various war documentaries, the V1’s and V2’s truly were the most devious instruments of death – like the IED’s in Afghanistan. But I don’t think that any country can take the moral high ground when it comes to war either before, then or since. Beautifully written.


  2. Rallentanda says:

    Why not serialise it on your blog? A lot of your readers would like to read the whole story. Very interesting and enjoyable.


  3. Jingle says:

    recalling family history is cool,
    it could be bittersweet, it could be fun…

    you did it vividly.


  4. pieceofpie says:

    thank you for sharing your story… it is hard to imagine where one’s mind would be in circumstances such as those… bombs overheard them or us… we are so spoiled here in america…


  5. First time reading about the snapshot of history and let me tell you it been a wonderful moment while reading yor work =D and thank for sharing ^^~


  6. brenda w says:

    Viv, Thank you for sharing a piece of your story with us. This is an engaging read, and a beautiful gift for your grandson. I’d love to read it in its entirety. It opens up history from your perspective, and that is so very interesting.


  7. wayne says:

    nicely written Viv…snapshots of history always a good read…thanks for sharing this


  8. systematicweasel says:

    This is a wonderfully written snapshot of history. Terrifying memories, yet fluently written. Thanks for sharing!



  9. Marianne says:

    Incredible and frightening memories, Viv. You have written of them so eloquently.


  10. 1sojournal says:

    Viv, until now, you may have thought of me as a poet who used to be a writing instructor. But, before I wrote poetry, I was a History major, and that’s the place from which I both read and am responding from. This is Wonderful! Oral and personal History is a particular favorite of mine and this is a hell of a shining example of it. Such incredible detail so easily gets lost in that more formal ‘History’, and this definitely reclaims the ‘Herstory’ part of that lop-sided creature. You make it come alive, live and breathe again. And I know how very difficult that task can be.

    I definitely want more, Viv. I know that I have stated somewhere that I devour fiction. But this is better than fiction because it is not. The incredible recall is astounding, and yet full of emotions that are accessable and easily related to. Bravo, and one hell of a great job!



  11. pamela says:

    Viv that must been a horrible time for you and your family and you written it so well describing the details.
    Nice job!


  12. Mary says:

    Your words bring this period of time to life. I cannot imagine what it must have been like living amidst all the bombings. These must have been really scary times for a six-year-old to endure, but undoubtedly not as scary for you as for your parents who understood more of the horrors of war. I am glad to see you are writing a memoir of this time for your grandson.


  13. vivinfrance says:

    I had my 7th birthday in Newmarket, and lost my first tooth. I thought you’d seen this before – I wrote 20,000 words on this period of my life for my grandson, so that he would know what it was like “Sleeping Under the Stairs”


  14. tillybud says:

    Viv, what a wonderful snapshot of history. Do you mind if I print this out for my notebook?

    What made it stand out for me was that I never before heard anyone dare say that the Blitz spirit crumbled. The only thing I knew about V1s and V2s was their name.

    Thanks for sharing this moment. Would it be rude of me to ask how old you were?



  15. Stan Ski says:

    It reads fluently, and although wartime must be an unforgettable period of your life, you describe it all in incredible detail.


  16. vivinfrance says:

    For some reason, every time I tried to post this, WordPress extended each line so much that half was lost. I hope it’s OK now, but I didn’t put in the Writers Island link, prompt 14, in case that was what was causing the problem. Fingers crossed.


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