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 ) 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
About Michelle's Archives
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