The large shipping repair yard at Chatham was only three miles away from our home. It was continually pounded every night. I clearly remember my mother jumping from the bed; grabbing me, a blanket and pillow and running down to the home-made air raid shelter at the bottom of our garden. My little legs were just pulled along, my feet hardly touching the ground. Terrifying sounds of bombs hitting homes and the surrounding city. Flames, illuminating the dark skies. Sometimes others were there already, and had lit the underground lamps. We were four households to one shelter. Folks made room for me to lie down on the bench and I would fall asleep again, not really understanding what it was all about.
Nothing else could be done but wait out the raid, hoping our homes would be spared. The morning would soon reveal whose home was still standing, but see the destruction of other homes – reduced to smoking piles of bricks and mortar. Some friends and family would no longer be with us.
Even though I was very young, those early years are etched in my memory. I still see my mother’s concerned face, trying to keep me safe from what surrounded us every day.
As the war ended, many trains brought returning troops back to England. My mother and I walked home alone many times, having hoped that my father would be on one of them. But the day came when I answered the knock at the front door. I asked the tall stranger in uniform who he was. He easily recognized me from the photographs my mother had sent him.
“I am your father”. My mother came running to greet him, overwhelmed with joy.
“Eddie, this is your Dad!”
My mother had spoiled me as I suppose all mothers did in those very long, lonely war years. Now my Dad was patiently “re-aligning” my thinking, I was learning who would take charge … and it was not me!