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.
These letters belong to my aunt Joan Punter ( nee Toller ). They contain interesting home front information and political views of the war. They were written by my Great Aunt Marie Cruden( deceased ) to her husband George Cruden( also deceased ).
Marie refers to George as Peter Precious in many of these letters, this was because she was a Catholic ( originally from Ireland ) and when they first got together she didn't want to introduce him to her family as George because that was the Kings name! Some of these letters are written from London and from Nottingham where she lived at one point and also from Cambridge where they finally settled.
138 Harrow Road
Wollaton Park. Nottingham.
Wednesday. the 16th.
My dearest Peter Precious,
Had a splendid journey back, and got to N. at 7.45. But talk about "no travelling at Easter" gosh there were crowds of people even after the holiday actually finished, as Tuesday was. Still, there was no waiting for trains. Stepped from one train to the other on the other side of the platform, without rushing over bridges, etc to trains at the other side of the stations. Getting quite a hardened traveller these days, and getting to know the ropes a bit. In fact I'm almost a Cook's Tour Agent by the questions I get asked. Sometimes I fall flat and have to say I dont know.
There have been high jinks by Jerry- especially on the Thursday I left. They dropped four H.E's about a quarter of a mile from the back of the house. Several people killed, and many houses demolished. I reckon- with others, that they are after the new Rolls-Royce place they are putting up in Wollaton so fancy we are in for a warm time from now on. Especially as they have the big searchlight unit in the Estate grounds. However...... Mrs Wilde was all alone all the holiday, and strange to relate, she didn't even get out of bed. But when the bombs went off she said all of the doors banged open, and the house shook so much that she felt she had to go downstairs- gosh I bet she wished more than ever that we were there.
Lumme, how my back and shoulders- not to mention me feet- ache---- I'll give the lot of you "dig for victory" I feel as though I've dug up all the blokes allotments instead of a couple of spades full. However, as long as those carrots come up, I'll feel that I've helped Bill in his national effort. Phew, and the work that's piled itself up on my behalf!!!!!
RWB returned to-day, hoped I had a nice holiday, etc, and was pleased when I told him that you only just got Home (?) He did not add "you need not have returned" and seeing that I'm already here, its just as well.
Have you taken the snaps to be developed yet? It's a nice day, so hope you have finished the film. Wonder if you were able to get a snap of the baby. I say what about the dreadful raid on Northern Ireland last night. Really, it is a terrible business.
Don't forget to give Arthur's mother five bob before you go away tommorow. It would then save the poundage on a postal order for a week.
By the way, those shoes which I ordered came during the holiday. They are an awfully nice shoe for 16/9, but my stars, size 4 & half it would not fit anyone with a size 2!!!!! So therefore I must send them back, although I don't like making returns.
Well, love, it was such a lovely thing to see you again and of course to see you looking so much better. Take care of yourself, and don't work too hard. I will get those socks finished and sent off as quickly as I can. Hope someboby doesn't take them as a packet of toffee and sticks to them. You will be in a mess, them won't you. Good job the better weather is coming on now, it will give you a chance to get quite right again. It's hateful to leave you, you know. I like to be about and just watch your every bloomin move like a cat watches a mouse- and then I'm satisfied that you are doing what is good for you- not wandering round without a pullover or a hat during the cold windy weather, etc, you know all about it dont you, you've heard of me before. What happened about the old clothes?.
Well darling, ther's still something to get on with for the present, so I must away to the land of my fathers, and get down to it.
Cheerio sweetheart. thank mother for the good time she gave us together, its a pity we have to turn her out of her bed, and tell her I will write her a letter a little later on, but you can pass the news of the safe arrival, etc, now you are there.
All the very best of love, and all my thoughts, sweetheart and you know that I think of no one else but you always and at all times. Peter Precious.
About Michelle's Archives
This is a blog page for the archives in in my own collection. It includes many of of my personal family archives, tales and scrapbook items to all kinds of general archive items mainly from around Cambridge and East Anglia but some even more further afield. Search for items or subjects of interest under the categories below, by date or keyword, name or place etc or keyword search in the search box above. Any problems finding something or if you've any questions or comments please do get in touch by using the 'Contact' page on this website.