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.
Written by my aunt Joan Punter ( nee Toller )whilst attending Miss Winnie Chandler's infant school, Richmond Road Cambridge. c.1940's
Do you remember a red roofed school
A handful of shell for your sums?
They gave you a Mickey Mouse gas mask
And a pack of American gum.
Do you recall when your dad was on leave,
Dancing around like Astair?
They dressed you up like Shirly Temple
With a big ribbon bow in your hair.
At night sleeping under the table
While bombers droned over your heads,
And granny said "Won't it be lovely,
when we can sleep safe in our beds",
One day they said " The War's over!"
Grannie sang of the Alley and 'Sal'.
When Vera sang 'White Cliffs of Dover'
And the bells rang 'for me and my gal'.
2nd Letter from my great grandmother Ada Broom (formally Cruden, nee Hatchman) to her son George Cruden.
95 Oxford Road
Feb. 28th 1941
My dear son,
Thank you for your nice welcome letter, thought I was never going to hear again from you, Arthur [Cruden] said once you start that you would not be able to get away from it. It’s a shame you have to work so many hours and others are walking about doing nothing but God knows best you are safer there I should say. George and Louie? Was at Pheobe they said London had had a lot of bombs; we have had a lot here lately and a lot of deaths, poor Mr Britton was killed with a bomb and Mrs Peck’s shop down to the ground and also Louies boot shop so that is down for now. 52 bombs they dropped in the night. This last 2 nights they have been quieter. There is no sign of a house anywhere only a sumphj shop and I’m afraid your clothes will be spoilt. You ought to of sent them home because they can’t look after them in a stone place like they have got. did you get back alright it must have took all your time to write letters the few hours you got off but it was a change to get away from the work a bit. I had a letter from Marie [Cruden] she seems to be getting on all right. What time do you get to bed? Connie [Connie Toller- George’s sister] and the baby are well.
Eddie [Ed Toller] is supposed to come home 12th March if leave are not stopped we are expecting anything these days. We can only trust to God that things will soon be settled. It’s dreadful the suffering; these days and dear people being killed daily and everywhere take care of yourself George and I do hope you will soon get some more leave. How do you keep in health? Has your cold quite gone. I am beginning to feel better now, 2 months of ups and downs in bad health.
I expect you have plenty of snow drops about and crocuses this time in the year if you have more time to enjoy the country ..to the.. and send love and down your handkerchiefs I sent them off with this letter I have done the woolies and will send them on Monday
Love from us all
your loving Mother xxx
P.S So sorry were all broke this week George but mum and I will send you some fags in a few days Con. [Connie Toller]
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