These letters belong to my aunt Joan Punter ( nee Toller ) and were given to me to copy onto this site. 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.
Thursday, the 24th. 1941.
My Own Dearest Peter Precious.x.x.x.
Was most pleased to get your letter this morning, and to know that you arrived at the old spot safely, and carrying on with the mess work. Was the M.O trying to be funny, regarding your promotion, and also if you want to carry on with the mess job to have a medical? Darned funny they were glad to let you go to Hatfield without a medical, wasn't it. I do hope your promotion gets through, it seems to silly to advise you that you've got it and then take it away. Cant your officer help you? Perhaps you might all get drafted away en bloc ( The Hatfield crowd I mean ) to another little place on the pioneer stunt. It would be nice now the better weather is coming wouldn't it. I have sent some socks on to you to-day and also a letter but I think I have forgotten "officers mess" on it, so if there is a delay you will know the reason. I also enclosed in the socks the bottle of Lavander oil. Be on the lookout for some more of it - In London according to rumour, there seem to be most things about to be had. Nottingham is without cigarettes again - although I personally have plenty just now, but one of the girls here, whose husband is on war work, says they cant gat one anywhere. Of course they are rationed just now, and if you're not there just when they're about, you're unlucky for the rest of the time.
I got your parcel which you sent from 95 alright, and I take it that you are sending another. Thanks awfully boy, and I'm risking a five bob postal order in the hope that it reaches you so as not to spin you out with the different postages., plus the cost of the parcel.
We are having a "gas attack" tonight, so hope we'll get through it alright. It's been a lovely day, although this morning, it was a real north-east wind. I'm sorry that you still have the long days work to do, but still if you like it, and find things not so much of a rush, no doubt it helps the day through.
I did some digging for Mrs. Wilde the other evening. A nice square bit at the end of the garden where for the whole of the winter there have been the remains of some tall popular trees, which Mrs.W thought she would have cut down a bit. Everybody wanted them for beansticks, and they were ideal for that purpose, but no one wanted to take them until they wanted to put the beans in. Therefore she decided that she would get rid of the whole lot, and not put up with the untidiness. So she told her son-in-law, and the girls next door, and they soon put a move on and got their share. John burnt the rest on Sunday afternoon, when he called, and then on the Monday I had a 'go' at digging. Moved four hugh paving stones which were part of a 'crazy gang' business, and made some steeping stones with them to the air-raid shelter. We may be glad to get in there soon, if things go on as they are. However, it has been too cold to continue, and we have found ourselves during the past three nights hugging the fire again.
The holiday list is now out and this weekend commences the first week. April 28th to May 12th. I was wondering if I should go on May 12th- just to make sure of getting a holiday, but really I am undecided as to wether to go to Devon. I'd love too, of course, but things are so very very indefinate, and I wouldn't like to be caught out down there if ther was an invasion. What do you think, dear. Guy is going the first two weeks in July. Her people have been very nearly bombed again, so they are leaving the house on the 30th of this month, and moving lock stock and barrel to Little- hampton.
There is no alternative to my going to Devon but Cambridge of course, as I couldn't bear to see London so badly knocked about, and I'm really scared stiff of being killed up there with the perpetual raids going on.
Anyway love, perhaps you could offer some suggestion of what you think I ought to do. Thought perhaps ( if it wouldn't cost too much of hopping up to see Marie Wilson in Blackpool. It would be some seaside air, anyway.
Well, now darling, there is some more work, to get on with, so to make sure of this going off, I'm closing now, but hope you will keep well, and don't go westwards or Citywards, in case there is a raid. Cheerio darling, write whenever you can, all my love kisses, hugs, and everything else,
Always your own
Written by Joan Punter (nee Toller) – my aunt – transcribed by Michelle Bullivant Dec 2010
When I was born on 16th April 1940 my father, Eddie, was away in the War. He came home on leave from time to time but I didn’t really have time to get to know him and I apparently got really cross if he and mum danced to the radio together, or kissed and cuddled. We had Russ and Ivy [Russ Broom & his wife – Joan’s uncle, my great uncle] living with us at 100, Oxford Road, so Val [Joan’s sister, my aunt] and I had a lot of attention, games played with them, books read to us and plenty of fun in spite of hours spent under the metal air-raid table, in the cupboard under the stairs (taking turns to sit on the gas meter of all places), and under the piano across the road at No.95.
No.95 [Oxford Road] was of great importance in our childhood. Gran, [Ada Broom, formerly Cruden, nee Hatchman, my great grandmother] was there, cooking wonderful old fashioned meals, cakes and pies as did all of her generation. She had also been a kitchen maid, then cook, in service in London as a young woman. It was there she had met her first husband, Cruden. They had George, Arthur and Elsie, then when her husband died of pneumonia in his 30’s, she had to come back to Cambridge where she had support from her mother and sisters, especially Laura and Phoebe.
Things were tough and she was very poor. Finally her milkman [Arthur Broom], giving her extra milk and butter for the children, courted her and they married. They had William Hardwick (Bill Broom) in Hardwick Street, then Russell in Russell Street, followed by my mother [my granny] Constance Beatrice. Ada was never one to live a quite life, and she always worked when she could fit it in with her children. I think what caused the most upheaval in the marriage was where she worked at the Globe [pub], Hills Road and started socialising, leaving Arthur minding the children (remember they were not his, and the other three were still very young).
There is a true story, told to us by Ada’s sister, Ethel, that one evening when she called at the house, Ada was late coming back from the pub. When she eventually turned up my grandfather said “See, she told me one hour, and it has been three”. With that Ada hit him over the head with a bottle of beer! My grandmother was all heart. She would give her last shilling to a tramp in the street and she loved her children and grandchildren with a deep and protective love; but she had a temper that sometimes frightened people to death. She had had a very hard life and had no time for anyone who was lazy or useless. The stormy marriage ended when our mother [my granny] was 3, so she never had a father figure after that, apart from older brothers of course. The one blessing, I think, that all of my mother’s family had was closeness and support for one another. Ada was always outspoken, even critical, to everyone, though, our mother had to make sure the house was clean when Gran popped over as she might say “What’s that stink in here? You will get the fever!” if something smelly had been left in the kitchen. She had suffered Typhoid Fever and Rheumatic Fever when a young woman so she was very health conscious.
Mum remembers, when they lived up Russell Street, if any of them had an accident, Gran would say “Quick, up the “orspidal”, as fast as your legs will carry you!” As Addenbrookes was in Trumpington Street then, it wasn’t far to run. Gran had worked for Turner the magistrate (who officiated at her divorce from ‘Broomy’ as they affectionately labelled him) so on the break up of her marriage Mr. Turner kindly housed them at no.95 Oxford Road “for as long as she lived”! (On her death the house was bought (very reduced in price) by Bill.)
So at last, when I was five and starting Richmond Road Infants School, the war ended and my father came home a hero, with his medals and stick with the silver knob on top. We used to play with gas masks on our faces, pretending we were Mickey Mouse, now that they had no use for gas attacks.
I don’t want to just record facts and dates in this essay but I would prefer to write a piece with the portrayal of the memories and atmosphere about this time. I sometimes drive down Oxford Road, Windsor and Richmond Roads. I immediately feel the security of the happy years of my childhood. Our house at 110 [Oxford Road] , called ‘Fredaville’, was a usual bay-windowed one, with the ‘front room’ kept tidy and the best furniture in it. We sat there in the sunshine and never messed it up. Our play area was the ‘back room’. It had no bright sunlight streaming in the windows; old chairs, brown worn lino on the floor, and a big old radio by the window in a cupboard. This was our only means of keeping in touch with news, music and comedy and I remember the feeling of dread shown by the grown-ups listening for news on how the war was going. We could be taken over, (with the rest of the world) by the evil dictator, Hitler, our fathers killed , our houses bombed and all of us blown to pieces.
However the spirit of our people was always victorious; our father, with his men, would destroy the Nazis forever and we would be safe. Mum was terrified, though, of the planes going over nightly, and the doodlebugs droning over, then exploding. She would drag us shaking, in the stairs cupboard, pitch-black everywhere of course in the black-out, or over to 95 [Oxford Road], making us a fortress under furniture while Gran made cups of tea. You would think Val and I would grow up afraid to leave the house, but it seems to have done us no harm in the long run, for we are both outgoing and confident mothers; so perhaps all our fears were finally put to rest with the jubilation of victory celebrations and seeing our menfolk return, marching proudly and in step along the streets of Cambridge, Union Jacks flying like mad from every house. We seemed to always have a little flag to wave in those happy days. Daddy put away his big kit-bag for good, with his khaki uniform and sergeants badges; Uncle George [Cruden] would no longer be seen in the air force blue uniform, nor Uncle Bill in his firemans one.
Everyone was now in ‘civvy street’ and Bill was a grocer again, George was in Mackintosh’s shop in town and our daddy went off every morning on his bike to the Cambridge University Press as a clerk.
We now had a baby brother, David, to add to the excitement too, so mummy was always happy and busy, the frequent visits across to Gran’s were now peaceful and jolly, laughter, singing and drinking by the adults at weekends, when Charlie from the Dolamore’s Role on his three-wheeled cycle, puffing and blowing up Castle Hill to bring bottles of booze and lemonade clinking in the enormous metal basket on the front, poor man!
We became good friends with Edgar Fletcher, the milman and his daughter. She always seemed to have interesting pets. He had glass tanks in the garden containing butterflies, I think, also snakes. His daughter told us to come over and see her new baby golden bears. They were actually hamsters, but we had never seen any before, nobody had.
Part 2 to follow........
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