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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 10-Dec-15 14:25:05

War baby

Gransnetter Susie Groom gives a moving account of the effect that war had on her family, from introducing her parents to each other, to long periods of absence on her father's part.

Susie Groom

War baby

Posted on: Thu 10-Dec-15 14:25:05


Lead photo

Susie Groom describes her life as a war baby.

My mother was escaping a failed love affair with an Icelandic man. Enough cold weather - now to the warmth of Africa. She joined the FANY's (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). She was a trained nurse, so sent out to Kenya where she was given the job of dispensing medicines to the soldiers who were sick or wounded. Better than being in SOE, possibly captured and tortured in France.

The word went round that there was an attractive buxom blonde dishing out pills and to get down there quickly. My father being one of the first, invited her to a party, of which there were plenty when they were in Nairobi and not fighting abroad.

My mother soon made friends with other FANY's and life was fun with a shortage of women to go round. Work hard and play hard was their motto. Inevitably they fell in love and got married. My father was posted to North Africa and without mobile phones in those days, contact was impossible. She would get messages to meet in Cape Town or Durban only to find she had missed him and he had been posted elsewhere.

He won a DSO for bravery in Korea. I only appreciated him when I got married. He did not like to talk about the horrors.

In 1942 I was born and my mother was told to take me to safety in the Caribbean where Father's parents lived. We had to wait for a ship in Cape Town, then a flying boat to Jamaica and finally arrived in St Kitts, where we were met by his parents with a pony and trap to go out to the sugar plantation 16 miles away. She had never met them but they all got on well in this tropical paradise. It was an idyllic childhood paddling in rock pools and riding a pony - but it all had to end.

The war was nearly over and we managed to get on a Convoy going to Liverpool. Unfortunately ours was the smallest and oldest ship and it lost the convoy, but somehow we made it. The blackout was still on and we had no contact with my grandmother. We got on a train to Chichester, then bussed it to West Wittering and asked the first house where she lived. It was the doctor and he said, right next door.

Although the war in Europe ended, my father was fighting in Burma, so I never met him until I was four when he appeared and kissed me with his funny tickly mustache. I did not like him! I now had to share my mother with him.

He was away fighting the Mau Mau in Kenya when I was sent to boarding school and only saw them once a year when the army paid the passage. Then there was Korea, Cyrpus and Aden. He won a DSO for bravery in Korea. I only appreciated him when I got married. He did not like to talk about the horrors. I saw him at RAF Lyneham hospital when he had his leg and arm up in the air attached to a pulley. They had to take skin from his leg to use in his arm which had been shot in Korea. I never liked hospitals after that.

He retired after many years of army service and at last I could see more of him, but some time later he had a heart attack and was offered a pig's valve operation. He had the operation but collapsed a week later. The surgeon said that his old heart had seen too many wars.

By Susie Groom

Twitter: @Gransnet

TriciaF Tue 15-Dec-15 18:17:16

For those of us who think they know what "Diversity " means, this beats us all.
I was 3 when WW2 started and my Dad joined up and left us,for 5 years or so. It was an anxious time, but we went to live with my grandparents, so some security, nothing like the experiences of Susie Groom.

Galen Tue 15-Dec-15 18:41:11

My father ( Dr in RAMC) was camped in a chapel type grave outside Montecasino when he heard of my arrival!

Bellanonna Tue 15-Dec-15 18:44:05

My mother went, with my brother, for me to be born in a house in Somerset in 1940. Quite brave really.

Bennan Tue 15-Dec-15 22:58:07

I was born in December 1944 and my dad told me when I was about eight that Hitler heard I'd been born and he gave up and that's how we won the war! Did I believe him? Yes!!!

annodomini Tue 15-Dec-15 23:20:13

I was born in 1940, in a small town in Ayrshire. My father was an industrial chemist - a reserved occupation - in a huge detonator factory on the coast which the Lufwaffe tried to bomb but it was built on sandhills and the bombs didn't detonate. He watched them falling which must have been scary. In our back garden, with my 'help' he grew all kinds of vegetables which kept us going through the war. My mother made all our clothes either with remnants or from my cousins' hand-me-downs. Dad was captain of our local Home Guard and I was proud to see him marching with his company on VE Day.

M0nica Wed 16-Dec-15 18:54:22

I was born in 1943. Our family home was in South London and the Germans used to drop any bombs on our area on their way home if they failed to offload them on their targets in dockland. Later on we endured the V1 and V2 rockets. As a result of these for the rest of her life my mother never slept well. Our local primary school was deliberatel targeted and bombed and 45 children and teachers were killed and many more injured. In 1940 my maternal GM's house was destroyed in the Blitz and from then until she moved back into her rebuilt house in 1947 DM and DGM shared a house.

The one person missing from this was DF. He was called up in 1940 and began his war manning an anti-aircraft gun on the top of Fort Dunlop in Birmingham. He watched as a German plane came across and he could see that one of its targets was the building, whose roof he was on. The bomb fell - but didn't explode. Later he was then selected for officers training and was sent down to Somerset. We spent a summer there. I was under a year old at that point so do not remember it, but I have a sister born 9 months later.

By that time DF was on his way to India and the war in Burma. He didn't return until 1948 when I was 4 1/2, DS, 3. As far as I was concerned the meeting at 5 years old was the first time I had ever seen him. He had gone to India when I was 18 months old so I had no memories of him from that period..

Phoebes Fri 18-Dec-15 18:38:35

I was born in 1943. Before I was born there was an air raid and my Mum said she wanted to go to the loo but the siren had gone off and my Dad wouldn't let her go as they were on their way to hide downstairs under the big kitchen table. It was a good thing she didn't go to the loo as a bomb fell at the top of our road and the window of the loo was blown in and all the shards of glass would have cut her to bits and I would never have been born!
For a few years after the war I used to hide behind the back door whenever I heard a plane going over.

M0nica Sat 19-Dec-15 12:20:53

Phoebes I was terrfied of planes as well. I used to rush into the house and hide under the dining table whenever I heard one. My mother used to hold my hand and take me ouiside and explain that the man in the plane was just like my daddy and when he landed his plane he was going home to see his little girl who was the same age as me.

My irrational fear of watching trains come into stations lasted until I was in my mid-20s, when I mentioned it quite casually to my mother, who immediately told me that that probably started when I was about a year old and we went down to Somerset to visit DF. It was just before DDay and the railways were very busy with trains taking goods and supplies to the waiting forces. We had to change trains and sat in the waiting room on one of those platforms with trains both sides. We had to wait an hour for our connection and the sound of engines and trains rushing past absolutely terrified me. The fear immediately left me.

TriciaF Sat 19-Dec-15 18:01:28

I think some of the uncertainty and fear is still with me. And I remember still, hearing bits the adults talking about, thinking why are men always fighting? Such a waste of lives.

SwimHome Wed 23-Dec-15 22:03:42

I wasn't born until 1948 but all through my early childhood I knew I was going to die every time I heard an aircraft. I don't mean I was scared, I absolutely knew I was about to die. I would go under anything, table, shop counter, whatever the indignity. The fear must have faded eventually and I had forgotten this over the years. I remembered it suddenly in my twenties after I had learned to fly and was working in the aviation industry. However it wasn't until a year or so ago I realised where it had possibly come from - a cousin told me that my Great Aunt always ran outside in terror when she heard an aircraft after having been in a house that was hit during the war. I had lived with her for a while when I was very small and my Mother was ill! Fear can certainly be infectious.

audnay Thu 07-Jan-16 15:26:09

I suppose I was a war widow, differant to above. I had been married 3 months when My husband went to war in the Falklands. I was going out with him when he was sent to Northern ireland twice with my brother, their were the best of mates. I wrote a bluey everyday when he was in ireland bothtimes. That was hard for the wives left back home. No-one knew what I was going through or my brothers girl friend. We didn't get to know anything, because we were only girl friends, and it would be they parents that would get told, well my dad would have told me, but I wasn't on the phone, and I only rang my dad when ever????
When I got married, I was in Married quarters then, so it was a bit differant then, because we were in quarters, and we had officers who stayed behind, all the officers wifes, who were in the know all the time. We as an army wife not so much in the know. I watched the ships getting blown up on the TV, I watched it, and you half expected a knock on the door. You knew what was going to happen if your hubby was injured or worse a black military car would park outside the house and 2 officers would go in to the house. You got a lot of support, and things moved quickly once you hadn't got a hubby, they worked with you and the family to get you off the barracks, nothing worse for a grieving wife, to be in the quarters when the men came back, its was done in the nicest possible way. My brother managed to fall of the side of an argy bargy wagon, only him would go 8,000 miles to fall of a wagon, he didn't get sent home, light duties, funny I wasn't told about him, theye told his wife and she didn't live on the camp quarters, she had stayed in her own house when they got married. So I heard, when I rang my sister, and she said oh have you heard about Les Nope why? and then I got the tale of him falling off the argy bargy wagon, it sounded funny typical of my brother. I went to wave my brother and hubby off at the camp but coming home, my brother came home about a month before my hubby, so I didn't go and meet him on the coaches, because, my hubby could have been on the next flight, and I would have been on the coach coming back with my brother, when the coaches went down to meet my hubby. The time seemed endless, but the fighting had finished so then it was different it was like hubby going away in peace time, but still we didn't get to know anything like they will be home on the ?? you just waited until the squandron land rover came round and knocked on your door, hubby due home day after tomorrow coaches leaving at ????? to meet the plane. My hubby came back into Brize Norton so we went down to meet them, once back you look at the mountain of kit I had to wash, you knew he was home in more ways than one, the girls were asking, daddy did you get shot at cos so and so from school said you did and you were going to die., No not me said daddy, I was to quick for the argy bargies, and I didn't fall of the wagon like your uncle Leslie, wasn't he so silly, subject changed again. Children at school didn't really know or mean when he was telling the army children, your dad is getting shot at? did you see that boat last night, your dad was on there. Kids can be hurtful. It was peace time in UK, the war was on the Falklands and the above stories are the WW1 and WW11 and it must have been awful living with the bombs dropping.

Conni7 Sun 24-Jan-16 12:54:38

I vaguely remember being carried to air-raid shelters in the street during WW2. Later, we had an indoor shelter, which we used as a coal shed after the war. My father was an air-raid warden, so often was up all night and then went to work next day. We moved just before the war started, and the house we were in before was bombed. I still wonder how our mothers fed us on the meagre rations of the day, as I never remember being hungry. I often wish I could have her back to say thank you.

Maywalk Fri 05-Feb-16 06:30:09

I was born in 1930 and went all through the London Blitz. I was 10 years old then. My family were bombed out twice and I was machine gunned twice, once in the hop fields and the second time on the evacuee train.
I wrote a book about the first 20years of my life and all proceeds went to my local children's hospice.
I also have a WW2 website that has gone worldwide and I have had many folks coming back to me through that who emigrated after the war to send me their tales that were put on my site.
It's been quite a busy time since I first put the site together and had many invitations to talk to schoolchildren about my experiences plus BBC and ITV contacting me over the years. As you can see from my birth date I will be 86 this year but still mentally alert even though not steady on my legs.
God bless all.

Irenelily Thu 11-Feb-16 10:47:39

Pleased to find a "twin" Maywalk! I, too, was born in 1930 and lived in South London during the Blitz. What I remember is the great spirit that prevailed and how everyone was helpful and cheerful despite the terrible things that were happening. Often think that gave me my attitude to life - whatever comes, face it and get on with it. My father was a postman and often joked that he'd been into all the air raid shelters in the district while delivering letters! He was too old to be called up, having been in the RAMC in WW1! I have been into schools to talk about being a child in the blitz and the children are fascinated - and busily working out my age! I often think that rationing - which restricted sugar, butter, red meat and even bread and being given cod liver oil (ugh) contributed to my good health today.
Unfortunately lessons have not been learnt from those years and there is still war going on around the world.