These letters belong to my aunt Joan Punter ( nee Toller ). These contain interesting home front information and political views of the war. They were written by my Great Aunt Marie to her husband George Cruden. ( both now deceased. )
In several of these letter Marie refers to George as Peter Precious- as she was a Catholic from Ireland and didn't want to introduce him to her family as George ( the English kings name ) she called him Peter.
Nov 12/1944 138 Harrow Road Wallaton Park
My Dearest & Best x
Oh, what an awful day! I hope you had a good journey yesterday & will have a better one than last on your way home tonight. Its bitterly cold today & raining hard. Well. I haven’t filed in any of the cards I have but will leave you to take your choice of cards for myself & Gidd & Bert, also for mother, & the family & I will send to my own ones. Don’t bother about dolls, you boy- I’ve got a couple — Haby Dept had a delivery of a dozen ( a prize delivery they call it ) so I was just lucky in getting one —10/= but its got a china face; not too badly dressed as things go today, so that’s that- but honestly they have had some lovely toys in their few years as children…. Kids little picture books are a price too. By the way, I went to the best bookshop here yesterday for ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Graham; they told me it is out of issue, no further publications are promised, so our luck is out there, as you say, she is so advanced in her reading that a small girls book wouldn’t seem to fit her. Still it is possible there may be an odd copy somewhere about, so you could perhaps enquire at one or two of the big bookshops your way. Here is list of my collection- 3 fancy boxes, stationary ( not super, but still paper & envelopes in a fancy box, 5 writing pens- 2 this size paper & three the small popular size. Hairnets & Grips & I’ll see about some combs- but are there those nice black ones about that you used to get? I know combs are awfully scarce, anyway- some face powder- & by the way that Lexicon game would be appreciated by Russ & Ivy I reckons. What about some Brilliantine? Brycream you could pass to one of them. They look as if they will have to be wartime parcel of bits & pieces- but the value wont exactly be cheap.
I’ll send the pencil box to Val for her birthday- with some nice color crayons to fill it up. What about you sending a 2/6 Postal Order- to buy something it will cost you more & she will do well from us all. Wish the Blinkin’ coupons system wasn’t so megre- theres quite a lot I’d like to do!!! By the way I shouldn’t tell your chaps how often you get home now, otherwise the luck of the draw will not come your way; when have your passes to go through? Went to see ‘Song of Bernadette’ again yesterday- & enjoyed it- Ger?y was quite impressed too. In a letter from Gerald? Last week she asked me to pass on all my old gloves, they would still do her for cleaning the grate & coal carrying. She little knows the fuss I’ve got to make of my gloves these days, let alone pass ‘em on for stoves!! Them days are over aren’t they? Gosh talk about gloves, I came across a list which you had made out quite seven or eight years ago- & the geol..ding always had gloves & chocolates- Oh! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a 2lb box of Lafontes now!!! Well, theres one thought- we appreciated them when we got them- what about the box I kept one year- until my birthday they would last that long now. Never mind dear the good times together again are not far distant we hope, & I hope hard times will never come back- we neeent work at all, & I still get paid for doing that sounds alright on paper- but in practice I bet they’ll be some shocks. Well, cheerio love, hope you had a nice weekend. Don’t leave that bedroom untidy will you? Cheerio for now xxx All my love & thoughts your own loving wife x Marie x
As written by my grandmother Connie Toller ( nee Broom ), March - April 2005
Mrs C B Toller.
When war was declaired in 1939, my husband was in the Terratorials. He joined the R.A.M.C. by choice. I had one daughter, one year and ten months old [ Valerie Toller ]and was expecting my second child in April 1940. When the first siren went I grabbed my little girl and sat in a cuboard. We heard a plane overhead and didnt know what to expect. We wondered if we were safe at night. Later on we were given a table shelter for the dining room which was very strong.
When my second daughter [Joan Toller] was born in April my brother and his new wife came to live with me as they had just got married. If the sirens sounded I had 2 children to keep look after and it was frightening each time.
My mother lived across the road [Oxford Road, Cambridge] and she had a big dug out shelter in the garden and we used to go over there sometimes while Mr. Legge across the road yelled " Hurry up". We sat in this dug out watching the ear-wigs walking about until the "All Clear" sounded.
My husband didnt see his second daughter for at least three months, when he had a short leave. It was dreadful to wave to him when he went back. I felt devastated each time.
One night a plane came over our house making a loud noise and it crashed behind our house onto the recreation ground [Richmond Road] knocking down some small cottages. Some people were killed.
My four brothers were all away. My eldest brother [George Cruden] was in the Air Force, another in the Fire Service [Bill Broom] and 2 others [Russ Broom and Arthur Cruden] away working in special work, one in Peterbourgh and one in another town.
Food was scarce of course and we spent the coupons in our ration books, then we kept our eyes open on shops to see if anybody came out with some bananas or sweets, then we would try our luck.
My eldest brother who was in the Air Force working with some Americans was coming to mothers on leave so an American gave him a bottle of vintage port (or sherry) to give to his mother. My brother got a lift on a lorry to the station. When he sat down he relized he had left his precious bottle on the lorry. He rang the police station to see if the man decided to hand it in. He had kindly done so and the police put the bottle on a train to Cambridge and informed my brother of the time he could meet the train. All worked out well and my brother made for home with the gift for mum. She opened the door just in time to see the bottle fall from my brothers hands and smashed on the doorstep running away under his feet. I didnt ask him if he smelt it or dipped his finger in for a taste.
My husband was in France and worked in the General Hospital and was a Staff Sergeant. I went to Belfast when he was there for a time. My mother looked after my 2 daughters. I stayed with 2 lovely people and watched my husband on the route marches etc. taking charge and I was proud of him.
I had a lovely baby boy in 1945, my husband sent me a telegram to say "Nice work darling".
When my husband was on the boat [Dunkirk] crossing for home the bombs were dropping and sometimes very close. He said he kept praying "Please God let me get home to my wife and children". We were all very thankful.
He was an excellent soldier, devoted to duty and did well as he also did in everything at home and at work. Sadley he died in his sixties from Cancer. When he was dying he thought of us all and hoped I would be alright. I faced the future and am now 89 years old.
When he came home on leave one day he was carrying a big blue teddy bear for the children. He saved any chocolate and brought it home. He wrote to me nearly every day he was away during the war and we had made a sort of hidden code so I would always know where he was. I would start my letters in different words and ways, as he did, so I always knew where he was.
He told me about the time a few of the men were hidding as a plane was dropping bombs, it kept coming down low and they was on a corn field or similar. A man with real red ginger hair kept bobbing up to see where the plane was and on of the soldiers said " Get your so and so head down, they can see you."
One day someone bought a cat in the hospital as it had been hit on the road. My husband stitched its wounds after a whiff of something. It got on well and was the units pet.
When my husband came home it was wonderful. We decorated the house and put banners up etc. I had another daughter later. I've got a wonderful family and over 30 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
My husband lost a nephew and his best friend in the Air Force.
It was a welcome sight when Woolworths had sweets on the counter again. I remember buying a load of sweets which looked like different fruits and coloured. They were lovely.
After the war a dance was planned to take place in a hall nearby for all the local soldiers. They were presented with valuable fountain pens and anyone could go. So we made my dear mum look nice and I curled her hair and put a glittering chiffon on her. We hadn't been in the hall long when an elderly gentleman took my mother on the dance floor, I've never forgotton it.
P.S. My husband recived several medals.
P.S. My children went to the street party in Richmond Road, We have a photo somewhere in the family.
As written by my aunt Val Burroughs ( nee Toller ) March 2005.
During the war we didn't go away for holidays.
We used to walk from Oxford Road [Cambridge] to the 'Backs' - the backs of the collages, sometimes pushing our dolls' prams. We would enjoy the crocuses, daisies, lingcups etc. Occasionally when uncles were home on leave we would go as a family. When Uncle George was home, he and Auntie Marie would take us to the Botanical Gardens in Bateman Street.
My mother and my granny used to take us to the Folk Museum, one of our favorite places. We would admire the wax dolls in their dolls' prams especially. ( Enid Porter, the curator was a friend of my Auntie Marie in later years though, as far as I know ) We used to climb Castle Hill opposite the Folk Museum.
As written by my aunt Val Burroughs ( nee Toller ) March 2005.
When I was 4 years old I started at Richmond Road school [Cambridge]. The building was partly a school- partly a church, St Augustines. Sliding doors concealed the church part and the stacks of chairs. Miss Chandler was the dearly loved and respected Headmistress; Miss North was the Infant teacher. They ran the school between them, helped by a monitress, young teen-age girls and the lady cleaner, care-taker and general assistant Mrs Mansfield. When we arrived in the morning, Mrs Mansfield would help you hang up your coat; she always seemed to be avalible to wash hands or knees, to deal with grazes, fasten shoes and cheer you on with her cheerful smile or grin. She wore a cross-over apron and I think had a few missing teeth that was obvious when she grinned at you.
I remember her holding up the school pet rabbit, by its ears, unfortunately, as climax of a poem we recited at the concert, " There once was a rabbit, developed the habit of twitching its nose".
At Christmas one year each child was asked to take a toy to contribute to a collection that was set out on the 'stage' a small platform at one end of the infant room. Then one, by one, Miss Chandler sent us to go and choose a different toy to keep for ourselves. I was too shy to search for onr I really fancied, I grabbed the nearest item, a worn tennis ball and took it home. I remember my mother saying " You've got balls already, why didn't you choose something nice?"
On May Day, we would celebrate in Mrs Golding's garden which was at the corner of West Road on Huntingdon Road. A cripple girl in my class was the May Queen. We all wore pretty clothes and bonnets and danced around the Maypole, sang songs like " Oh dear little buttercup, sweet little buttercup, bloom round the throne of our queen." We carried flowers and decorated the throne.
Sometimes we would go to play in the hay in Miss Salters land at the corner bend in Storey's Way. Miss Chandler would lead us all in a crocodile down to Mrs Salters. I remember our parents taking us home after an event at Mrs Salters and, one boy messed his trousers on the walk back. a soldier dad in uniform helped him out by wiping his legs with long grass plucked from the road-side!
As written by my aunt Val Burroughs ( nee Toller ) March 2005.
Toys, Games and Occupations.
As my mother was into toys herself, she would be on the look out for any toy that she could obtain second-hand. She was delighted with a pedal-car she found in a second-hand shop in Bridge Street [Cambridge] and we would visit Shrives the toy shop near Christ's Lane and Eaden Lilly's basement toy shop. I remember going with my mother to an art shop in Trinity Street and buying watercolours in the four primary colours. Coloured pencils were restricted to those four colours. After the war I remember being just thrilled to have a wider range of colours. A girl in my class at Cambridge High School for Girls arrived at school with a packet of about a dozen coloured pencils and we all clamored around her asking where she'd obtained them. She told us a shop in Newmarket ( Woolworths I think ). Then Derwent pencils came out in Heffers and my friends and I used to go there each Saturday to choose another colour to add to our collection at 9 pence per pencil, which was quite expensive.
My mother used to take us to a shop at the corner of Bermuda Terrace to buy colouring books or magic painting books.
My uncles used to make me toys like dolls houses, monkeys or clown acrobats that swung between two sticks you had to squeeze; a balancing parrot.
We used to spend our time on the allotments- so many of my memories are of playing there and on the local Rec. in Richmond Road, where there were swings, a long rocking horse with a row of seats behind the horse's head and a really long swing with handles all along for several seated children- an older child would stand each end to keep the swing momentum going. Miss. Chandler used to take us onto the rec' sometimes towards the end of the school day. Then we would gather by a tree for the final afternoon prayer before being collected by our parents.
Mum went to Belfast for three weeks holiday to spend time with dad who was a Sergeant in the Army. When she came home she brought a baby doll for my sister and a white fur dog with lead weighted feet. My auntie used to knit dolls clothes for us.We decorated twigs with sealing wax-"blossom".
When my dad was due to come home on leave I remember drawing a picture of him in his uniform using the 'khaki' chalk.
When I'd been to the dentist in Newnham, mum took me to the toy shop there and brought me an orange pop-gun. The same shop sold us a toy sewing machine on another occasion. It did chain-stitch.
I remember tracing outline pictures from the newspaper using toilet paper as tracing paper as it was smooth, shiny and transparent.
Val Burroughs ( nee Toller )
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