I walked into the Headmistress’ office, not sure what I was wanted for. Had I done something wrong, I wondered. The sight of my two friends crying and cuddling up to their big sister was something I could never have anticipated. The look on their faces scared me. The headmistress walked over to me and placed her arm around me.
“Violet is not going to cry, are you?” she said. I replied that I would not, but I felt the fear tightening in my stomach.
I had spent most of the day in the underground air raid shelter. The whole school had made our way into the shelters as the bombs fell on our town that morning. Our class was the last one to file down the steps. One loud blast, as the bomb fell close by, blew the teacher from top to bottom and she hit her head hard on the concrete floor. Seeing the fear on our faces she started to sing.
“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun …” she sang and soon we had all joined in, our fear subsided. The bombs continued.
Enemy aircraft above our heads, but our schoolwork was to be done and soon we knuckled down to it. Hours later everything had quietened and we breathed a sigh of relief. It was some time after that my teacher told me the headmistress wanted to see me in her office.
After my friends and their sister went home, I went back to my classroom. An hour later I was told I could leave school early and go home because my home had been bombed.
I ran! Not knowing what I was going to find. Not knowing if my mother, Gran and Granddad were alive. I knew they were at home! Had they survived? Thoughts raced through my mind as I turned into the street.
Utter chaos faced me. One side of the street was now a huge gaping bombsite. My home was gone! Where was Mum? Tears streamed down my face as I clambered over rubble toward the place where my home had been just a few hours before.
Then it hit me! By now I knew where the bombs had fallen that day. The school where my brother, Bert, and sister, Jean, attended had been hit. The factory where my sisters Rose and Joan worked had been hit. My home was also a casualty of the day. However, the primary school where my youngest sister, Mary’ was attending had not been hit! Where was she? Were we the only two members of the family left?
I had cuts on my knees from scrambling over the rubble and blood was running down my legs. My hands were sore and tears streamed down my face, as panic welled up inside me. It was then I saw Mary! She was sitting in the seat on the back of her teacher’s bicycle. I shouted and waved and the teacher waved back. Relief washed over me.
The teacher told me my mother was at the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) van getting a cup of tea. She had been digging through the rubble helping get people out. Gran and Granddad included. They were both in the hospital, they had survived, but Mum’s friend and her young baby had died.
We made our way to the NAAFI van and found my mother. She looked so tired, but held out her arms to us as we approached. Mary and I cuddled her as if there were no tomorrow. Yet there were no tears!
A strange acceptance came over us all, as we were escorted to a temporary shelter. It was a hostel where we would spend the night. No one asked about the rest of the family, our thoughts were too horrific to be put into words.
One hour later Bert and Jean arrived. They had been looked after until word had been given that Mum was alive and where we were. We had to wait three more hours before my two sisters Rose and Joan walked in. Both had been hurt, but were allowed home from the hospital when the family had been located. We had all survived!
Unbelievable as it was, we were all safe! I said my prayers that night in a room so full of beds it looked like a dormitory. I thanked God for saving all of us and asked him to look after my father in the prisoner of war camp in Germany.
No, Violet was not going to cry! There was so much to be thankful for. The events of March 24, 1943 would be engraved in my mind for the rest of my life!