“Mrs. Jones we would like to thank you for partaking in this interview. We are sure our magazine readers would be interested to read your war time memories.”
Frieda Jones was only ten years old when the Second World War broke out. She lived in part of London near the docks and knew what it meant when the planes flew over. Leave your house and look for the nearest shelter. It was dangerous to stay in a house when it might tumble down around your ears after being bombed. She was asked by a national magazine to tell her story of the time, as they were running a series of London war time memories.
“Go ahead mum” said Frieda’s daughter “I am sure you have a lot to tell and your memories should be preserved for the future.”
Frieda was now eighty years old, but she remembered the war days as if it were yesterday. The first question soon came “What is your most vivid memory?”
Without hesitating Frieda answered “The evening when our house was hit; I was lucky to have survived. My mother was out that evening at the local cinema with her sister and when the first warning came she had left the cinema and taken shelter in the local underground station. Unfortunately it was our local station and on that evening there was an accident. The first warning was only a mistake but in the panic a few people stumbled at the bottom of the stairs and there were many lives lost in the crush that followed.”
Her mother’s body had never been identified, but this happened to many in this accident. So the questions went on and Frieda told the story they wanted to hear and the story she told since that fateful day, but the truth was something different.
Frieda’s father, John, was already enlisted in the British army. He had not yet been sent to fight in other countries and was training in the Scottish highlands. The area was hilly and wild and the British found it to be an ideal place to be used as a training ground. This left Frieda’s mother, Lily, alone to look after her daughter. Lily was never a stay-at-home type and liked to enjoy life. She decided that although her husband was away, that was no reason to stop having fun.
Soon Frieda got to know her Uncle Joe. Now Uncle Joe was not a real uncle, but in the war time there were many uncles that suddenly appeared. Most of these uncles spoke English with an American accent and Frieda’s new uncle was no exception. He was a GI stationed in London. It was at this time that John was eventually told by the British army that he could take two days leave at home before being transferred to Italy. John decided to waste no time and travel down to London to spend those days with his wife before being sent abroad to fight for his country.
It was one of those foggy London evenings when John arrived at his house. He turned his key in the door and entered.
“Lily, I’m home” he called, but there was no answer.
Frieda was immediately awake after hearing her father’s voice. She climbed out of her bed and walked into the corridor where her dad was standing. He took her in his arms.
“Frieda, you should go back to bed, we will see each other in the morning. Where’s your mum?”
“She’s upstairs in her bedroom” was the answer and before Frieda could tell her father that she had a visit from Uncle Joe, John was up the stairs two by two hurrying to see Lily and being sure she was pleased to see him. The sight that met John’s eyes was not exactly the ideal homecoming. Lily was lying on the bed and Uncle Joe was on top of her, his GI uniform trousers around his ankles.
John was actually the quiet type, but when his temper was aroused, he could be a fury and this was now the case. Uncle Joe seemed to be quite a fit person as his trousers were pulled around his waist in no time and Frieda’s last look at Uncle Joe was as he passed her flying down the stairs and through the street door. In the meanwhile Frieda heard her father shouting at Lily in the bedroom. He was using words that Frieda had never heard her father use before and when she walked into the bedroom she saw that John had put his hands on Lily’s shoulders and was shaking her and shouting at her. It was then John pushed Lily away and Lily slipped, hitting her head on the corner of the bed as she fell. Lily was silent, just lay there with a blank look in her eyes.
“Mum, mum” said Frieda, but there was no answer. It was then that John seemed to have come to his senses and wanted to take Frieda in his arms to soothe her. Frieda was so shocked that she ran down the stairs again into her own bedroom. Frieda dived under the bed and John followed her. This reaction probably saved their lives. At that moment a bomb hit the house. The top floors were immediately destroyed and the house just collapsed into itself.
When the rescue teams arrived they heard sounds beneath some rubble and soon pulled Frieda out of the ruins together with her father. When John was asked if anyone else was in the house, he said that he had not seen his wife that evening and she was probably out on civil defence work. Frieda was still shocked and said nothing.
The next day in the confusion that had arisen from the bombings the evening before, decisions had to be made. It was assumed that Lily had been killed in the accident at the underground station. John left to join his regiment to go to Italy and Frieda was taken to Lily’s sister where she spent the rest of her childhood. John arrived in Italy but in the first week of his active service he was killed by a stray bullet from the other side. GI Uncle Joe was also sent to other countries to serve and returned to America as a war hero.
Some years after the war London was being rebuilt. The old flattened areas left from the bombings in the war were being removed and foundations were being made for new buildings. It was then that a skeleton was found in the remains of an old building. It was examined and cause of death was found to be a fracture of the skull caused by a hard object. It was decided it was one of the victims of the London bombings in the war.