The sun was shining when I woke up – it was a welcome change from the violent thunderstorm the night before. The storm had not had any effect on the enemy and the nightly air raid, though. The thunder and lightning seemed to be in competition with the searchlights and tracer bullets lighting up the sky, as the big guns tried to shoot the planes down before they reached London city.
It was 1943; we were in the middle of world war 11. I lived in Kent, the south-east of England, in what was known as the ‘Garden of England’. Trouble was, we were in a direct flight path from enemy-occupied France and London. This meant the more planes we could bring down, the less damage to our capital city. They suffered badly in the blitz, but not as badly as they would have if the men of Kent had not prevented so many planes reaching them and dropping their bombs.
I would sit on my bed every night watching the searchlights weaving their intricate design in the sky, every now and then catching an enemy plane in its beam. Then the tracer bullets reached their fingers of flame upward and the ack-ack guns would aim their shells up into the beam of light fixed on the plane. We would hold our breath and waited for the explosions, which inevitably came, giving a burst of light and smoke adding to the tapestry of destruction before our eyes. A tapestry of death!
I had just started high school, and as soon as I had eaten my breakfast, my sister and I left for school.
We stopped only to call out to our friends, Myrtle and Marie, who walked with us. Because of the storm, Marie did not want to take the shortcut across the field but, being in a hurry, I said I would, and my sister agreed. Myrtle and Marie took the pathway around the field. My sister Jean and I decided to walk around the edge of the field, as it wouldn’t be so water-logged. Everything was fine until we came across some metal sticking out of the ground. Jean yelled out to me. To be careful, but I was curious and went closer to see what it was.
I stopped suddenly and froze, as I realised I was looking at an unexploded bomb! Jean screamed out my name and began to cry, as she saw the danger I was in.
“Don’t move!”, she shouted very unnecessarily, I thought. I was shaking from head to toe. Jean ran right through the middle of the water-logged field to get help. I stood as still as a statue for what seemed ages but was in reality, as I found out later, just fifteen minutes before soldiers from a nearby army camp arrived.
They approached cautiously, telling me everything would be all right. Young as I was, I could see by their faces they were not so sure of that fact. Two soldiers came close enough to take hold of my hands either side of me. They told me to take a step backwards with them. Slowly and carefully, all three of us took the first step. No big bang! I was too scared to even cry, as I took a deep breath and squeezed hard on the hands that held mine. Then we took another step and another.
More soldiers appeared, and I was lifted up into the arms of one of them, and he carried me across the field to my teacher standing outside my school.
What happened next I read about in the local papers and heard from the officer of the bomb squad days later.
All the school and local area were evacuated, as the bomb squad dismantled the bomb, which had come down in the night’s air raid. I was told it could have exploded at any time. So maybe I did save someone’s life by finding it the way I did?
I will never know. I am lucky to be alive. My life saved by those brave soldiers, who risked their lives for others.
I never did cross that field again, if one bomb was there who knows if there was another? I didn’t want to find out.
Did you ever go through the same thing as Violet? What did you see and what did you find? What interesting and even shocking childhood memories do you have?
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