Chapter 9, Pt 1 of 4
COMING OF PEACE
Thence came the Flying Bombs, Doodle Bugs, we called them. They flew across the sky with great speed and plenty of noise. So long as you could hear their engines running you were quite safe. We even stood outside and watched the bright red taillights of these bombs. They seemed like angry demons rushing across to do their worst. Most of these Flying Bombs were heading towards London, and every day we listened and read about the destruction and chaos they caused there.
Undoubtedly one feels these tragedies much more when they befall on one’s own friends and relations. We had a telephone message from London to say that our cousin, Dr Kaushal, was in trouble. A Flying Bomb had done intensive damage to his house in Bethnal Green, in the East End of London, and it was a miracle that he had come out alive from that ordeal. At the moment he was living in a flat near there and would very much like to see us.
We ventured to go to London by train that morning we hadn’t been there for weeks or months. It was a completely different city to what we had known it. Around Fenchurch Street Station, the destruction of property had been catastrophic, and in every nook and corner we found the huge buildings, which used to be landmarks, shattered and ruined, beyond recognition. Here and there the charred and ugly-looking walls were kept standing. The streets seemed deserted and uninteresting; it was depressing to walk through them. We eventually got a taxi to our cousin’s flat, and found him badly shaken up and reclining on a divan bed, his huge black mongrel, “Chum” sat on his haunches quite near him.
Dr Kaushal was delighted to see us and was most eager to tell us all about his experiences on the fateful night. He gave an affectionate pat on the back to “Chum” and admitted that he owed his life to him.
“I know now that his instinct in an emergency is much superior than mine. I had just returned from my duty in the underground shelter, it must have been about 2 a.m. I didn’t feel like going to bed just then and as I had a lot of paper work accumulated in my consulting room, I sat down to tackle some of it. Chum, who usually settled down in front of the gas fire near me, was very restless. He stood near the door whining to get out, I opened the door for him but he refused to go out. ‘What is the matter with you tonight, you are a nuisance’ I said, but he still stood there looking pathetic and rather agitated. I put down my papers and his tail started to wag in anticipation. ‘All right YOU want me to go up to bed, is that it?’ I opened the door and he preceded me up the stairs pleased as punch. We settled down, and as usual he slept over the quilt at the foot of my bed. He kept my feet wonderfully warm with his body.
“It couldn’t have been very long after that when the bomb dropped so near us. When I opened my eyes, all I could see was the huge window frame on top of me. I nearly got choked with dust. Then I heard the heavy footsteps of the rescue men coming up.
“ ‘ Where is my dog?’ I managed to say.
“ ‘ He is outside in the van, Doctor, he wouldn’t rest until you got out of here, too.’
“They helped me down and I happened to glance in the direction of my consulting room, which now was a mass of rubble. That part of the building had had the full blast of the explosion. I could see that if I had not taken Chum’s advice I would have been dead and buried there.
“Just outside my house all along the road I saw some injured people, waiting to be taken away. ‘They are my patients,’ I said. ‘I must attend to them first.’ I told the men where to find my medical bag and was able to give a few injections of Morphine before they took me to the hospital.”
“That was a very brave act,” I said to him, “you ought to be rewarded for it.”
“I only did my duty,” he said, “and if you ask me, it is Chum who deserves a reward.”
After the Flying Bombs came the V.2s, the rockets, and we considered them worse than the Flying Bombs. You had no warning, no noise or light of any kind. They simply came on you and you had no escape. We had one drop not far from us. It destroyed a whole row of bungalows. Many people received serious injuries, but fortunately there were very few killed.
As I walked past the Food Office the next morning, I noticed a line of homeless persons standing or sitting outside it. I spotted a few acquaintances among them and went over to speak to them. If they looked rather solemn before, they changed their expressions immediately. They even tried to smile a little, and before I could ask or say anything about their loss, one of them came forward and popped the usual question to me. “How are the children Mrs Chowdhary?”