A Child’s Wartime Memories

Annie Didcott

We lived in a 2nd floor flat very close to Putney Bridge in London throughout the whole war:

Dread noxious clouds mask
Lost promise of sun’s comfort;
Sweet scent of wallflowers.

Rushing indoors from the garden as the air raid warnings sound:

Safe home, blessed peace
Shut out rage, noise, violent pain.
Mummy, where… are… you…?

In the blackout the Lancasters follow the stars’ reflection in the waters of the Thames. The child does not know these are friendly aircraft:

Fearsome low groaning
Pathway of stars up the Thames;
Will we be dead soon?

Warfare is dreadfully loud:

Thunderous crashes
Terrified children scatter.
Oh, where is my boy?

Noise, fear, sirens, stench
That’s this child’s normality.
What is a sunflower?

Fire sirens, loud bangs,
Adrenalin – heart pounding.
Never can forget.

The innocence of children is so badly betrayed:

My darling sister
Sweetly smiling, innocent babe
Asleep in her drawer.

Wartime separations and losses can be deeply wounding for children:

A stranger! Daddy?
Tall dark bearded stranger? No,
He’s just a sailor.

Off to hospital –
Scarlet fever stalks the land;
Can’t take my doggie.

Back from hospital
Black scottie gone, bed all bare;
My heart dies within.

My brother was just a toddler:

Wrenched from downy nest
Now locked in a vast white cot;
Damned fever germs.

M-u-m-m-y! Such wailing
Makes the gods in heaven weep.
Who is my family?

The confusion and chaos gets unbearable:

Black doom, no reprieve
All noise, fear and dread of pain.
How bright the night’s stars!

Sirens howl, bombs scream
Oh no, that shelter again,
Hated concrete stench!

With the arrival of the deadly V2s we are evacuated from our home:

Off to the country!
Swinging on farm gates we watch
Soldiers throw Hersheys.

It’s all so different,
Past fields with lambs, off to school
Down strange country lanes.