Chapter  8, Pt 3 of 6

WAR TIME INCIDENTS

“We desperately needed more volunteers and a First Aid Point, and I set to work at once. I canvassed from door to door and eventually held a large meeting in my garden. I made sure to invite the officials of the Air Raid Precaution from the neighbouring towns. We opened classes for training volunteers and within a week or two we had eighteen of them ready to do part time duties. My large shed at the back was turned into a temporary Air Raid Point.

“I took charge of the Night Duty myself, which was far from easy. Every time the Alert went, I had to run down to the telephone kiosk and report on duty, and to wait there until the All Clear was sounded.

“Then came the night of this terrific raid, and we lost everything in a few seconds. Now we have to start from scratch once more. Even the personnel we had trained have moved away from the area with their families. But I would not be beaten, Mrs Chowdhary. I have been given a small requisitioned bungalow, not far from my old home, and I would not rest until we re-establish our Point and start work again. There is just one compensation I have got.

Here is the letter I received from the Essex County Constabulary (Air Raid Precaution):

Dear Madam,
I enclose herewith a copy of a letter we received recently from Dr W. Boul, the Thurrock Medical Officer of Health, respecting your conduct at the scene of air raid damage at Dunton on November 8th, 1940. I should also like to add that I endorse his remarks and hope that every warden in the Thurrock Area will try to act up to your standard of duty.

Yours faithfully,

W. A. FORDON,                                                                                                                 Instructor, L.A.R.P.”

“You are proud of this I am sure.”

“I am. I will treasure it and show it to my grandchildren. Also when I am old and tottery I shall read it and feel rejuvenated by it.”

“I cannot imagine you becoming old and tottery, Mrs Newbury,” I said.

Mrs Burningham is one of the most thorough and skilful seamstresses I have come across in Laindon. At first she seemed rather shy and distant as if she was wondering in her mind, “Now let me see, am I going to like you or not.” I have learnt by experience that there are many English people who like to watch you and your general behaviour for a while before they even give you a friendly smile. When Mrs Burningham came to me the second time she was at ease and smiling. We became very good friends as the time went on. I needed her help quite often. She not only made small garments for our children, but also did all the mending and renovating for me. I soon found that she had a real sense of humour. She saw the funny side of everything. It was a joy to talk to her.

She was a widow and the time came when her only son Cyril had to join up. He decided to go into the Royal Marines and soon she was waving farewell to him at the station. After all, she wasn’t the only one who had to send her son away to serve his King and Country. She believed in doing one’s duty to the State and felt proud to see her son in uniform. Fortunately her widowed brother shared home with her, so that she wasn’t left entirely alone. She received letters from Cyril regularly and everything seemed to be going well with him.

Mrs Burningham was still as humorous as ever. She still made jokes about herself. She fell down in the snow and really hurt herself as she was coming to see me one day.

“Fancy me sitting down in the middle of the road. I should have known better. I didn’t look very elegant either. I was showing my legs too much.” She laughed as she related this to me.

It was always the same; she took all her troubles and trials in her stride.

But then came the real test. One morning when I opened the door to her, she looked solemn, her greying hair was unkempt, and her eyes were puffy. I sensed some real trouble. I had never seen her like that before and didn’t know how to approach her. I said “Hallo” and beckoned her to come into the house, which she did quietly. Though I had known her for some time now, yet she never entered the house without being asked to do so. She was typically English that way.

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