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Extracts from the Relative War Time Memories 1939-1945 by Miss Ethnee Wallace.

 

The phoney war.

At last the snow went, and never was spring more welcome to we, who had never been exposed to hardship before. The majority of us had been ill and we found that we had said goodbye to comfort and ease. The war seemed to have come almost to a standstill. It had entered a phase we had all come to call the phoney war. How we were deluded.

The bombing begins.

Each night there were sirens and gunfire. At that time, Jerry seemed to be concentrating on laying sea mines. One rather bad night, when they were overland, and we were all huddled in a makeshift shelter, the tension was eased suddenly by Charlie, who said, "Never mind Miss Nickie, another few months and we'll be gannin ower, like a swarm of bumblers." We all laughed. They were weary nights but there was worse to come, had we but known it.

Charlie used to hold parties in a small wooden hut in the grounds. The dish was always the same, cooked by Charlie. "Sheep’s heid broth". (Sheep’s head broth). Tommy supplied the vegetables and heaven knows from where Charlie got the 'Sheep’s heid'. The broth was delicious, but always when I was really enjoying it, Charlie would say to me, "If you find owt hard, just spit it oot, it'll only be a few teeth left in the heid."

Lest we forget.

At Easter, it was our turn to be savagely attacked and the twin towns took everything Jerry had to send. What missed us one night caught the other town the next, and the attack lasted eleven nights. Amongst the devastation was our hospital. A landmine had dropped on the garage below the windows of the station waiting room, to which we were by this time quite attached. Two thirds of the first aid post was down, burying some of the nurses beneath the debris.

My section was on duty and as the raid was increasing in intensity, the casualties were heavy. It was necessary to call upon a neighbouring unit for help. The first ambulance arrived driven by a girl, and she her attendant alighted as the land mine dropped. They had made a dash for the shed, and the whole lot came down. They were killed.

The next morning, Jane and I, quite by chance saw her body being extricated from the debris, and put on a stretcher and reverently covered. It was more than we could stand. Jane brokenly said to me, " It should have been one of us." I replied, "She gave her life for others."

British Women.

We service girls are about to turn a page in our lives and go our various ways. The youngest are anxious for their fling, others want to go back to their civvie jobs, other to start a career and many have married. It is almost like leaving school again, and as we go our various ways, we will take with us a discipline and training we had not before the war.

I spent the eve of VE (Victory in Europe) day with a group of Wren friends. One of them said to me " Five years ago I was pretty snooty." I said to her, weren't we all?" We are not today. ..... We must not fail them. When we tell them of the courage and gallantry, we must remember also to tell them why it all happened.

"Teach us the strength that cannot seek.
By deed or thought, to hurt the weak;
That under thee, we may possess
Man's strength to comfort man's distress.

Teach us delight in simple things
And mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And love to all men 'neath the sun!

Land of our birth, our faith, our pride,
For whose dear sake our fathers died;
Oh motherland, we pledge to thee,
Head, heart, and hand through years to be."

Rudyard Kipling, May 1945.

 

With thanks to Miss Wallace's family for allowing us access to her memoirs.

© The family of Miss Wallace 2007-8