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Sally Ross

This story is submitted by Don McGinnis of the District Office in Thunder Bay. The story is from Sally Ross.

"There are things a person remembers but doesn't talk about very much as they are painful to recall but are in your memory forever, such as burying my cousin's cap and badge. He was a bus conductor and his bus was hit and that's all we could find belonging to him.

I lived in Clapham Junction in London and they tried to bomb it many times and missed but all the streets around it were bombed, including my street half blown away. The air raid wardens were digging people out of the rubble including a neighbour pulled out by the legs and that's all there was. My Dad, a former Royal Air Force member in the first war was an Air Raid warden as were my sister and brother, but my brother joined the Royal Ulster Regiment after a day of digging up bits of bodies of little children. He couldn't stand that any more. He felt he had to go and fight to help to end this carnage. One morning I awoke to hear the news of a shelter in Chelsea being bombed by a direct hit so I hurried to the shelter because I knew that my friend and her children went to that shelter. There were many dead but I tried to find out where the injured had been taken. I remember going to schools as they were used to give people who were bombed out a place to sleep and food to eat. I must have looked for three days because all I remember after was I was at Clapham Junction and a young soldier home on leave saw me and said "Where have you been? Your mum and dad have been looking for you for three days," and he said "Where are your shoes?" I still can't remember anything of those three days. My friend and children were killed and her husband got compassionate leave and the last I heard of him he was in the insane asylum. All these things pass through my mind as I watch the Remembrance Ceremony from Parliament Hill along with many other memories too numerous to mention here.

I joined the army soon after that, so all in all three of my brothers were in the army, one in the navy, two who were evacuated in Devon later served in peace time, and one brother was lame, lost his leg to polio. So six of my seven brothers served our country and one sister and Dad an Air Raid warden. Mum had the children in the shelter. My Dad built a bed in our Anderson shelter but he would never go there. He used to say Hitler wasn't going to make him leave his bed but one day a buss bomb took the roof off our house and knocked him out of bed. He called old Adolf every name he could think of so he fixed the roof and we had tar paper for windows until the end of the war. That was his job – fixing houses. One night my young sailor brother brought some of his friends home on leave as they lived too far to go home for the weekend and my Dad heard them singing that night after a few beers "Deep in the Heart of Texas the stars tonight are big and bright." They could see the stars through the roof once again blasted by buss bombs.

I had joined the army by then because I too thought I had to do something to help get rid of Hitler. One day I was going to work a dive bomb zoomed down over the bus I was in and the driver said run for the shelter. It was in a little park in Sloane Street going up to Hyde Park Corner and as we all ran a lady in front of me had on fox fur like they used to wear, fastened by the head in front and the tail hanging at the back. So, for something to hand on to I held on to the tail and the lady ran on and I was left holding the fur. When we got to the shelter she said she had had enough and was going to a place in the country to live. Then, I joined the A.T.S. at Croyden and after my initial square bashing learning to march etc., one day on the square the drilling sergeant looked us over and was heard to mutter "Good job we've got a navy." Very encouraging I must say. One night on maneuvers I and my friend were stretcher bearers and in the outfit who were wounded were two Joes, one a strapping fellow who had worked at Covent Garden as a porter carrying all those bushel baskets on his head, and one who barely made 5' 1". We came across the big fellow. He had a sign saying he had a broken leg and little Joe had a broken arm, so there and then we switched the sign on account of we couldn't lift big Joe.

One day when I was home on leave I was going for a walk with one of my brothers also on leave and some incendiary bombs were being dropped. My brother said "Lay down by the sand bags." "No way"

I said. "This is the only pair of silk stockings that I have." "You'll look real good" he said "round the mortuary, silk stockings and no head."

I remember the Canadians coming into my office to get indents for the Quarter Master's store telling me tales of gopher farms and fur lined houses. I thought it would be lovely and warm. You see I never thought of fir as wood. Anyway it gave them a laugh and they were nice fellows giving us chocolates and cigarettes. One day after Dieppe I met a young Canadian soldier and we went for a drink with all our mates. I married the Canadian soldier and came over in 1945 on a transport ship. I shall never forget making my first stew and dumplings (flour and water – like golf balls). My husband said "How much baking powder did you put in?" Well, I didn't know you didn't have self-raising flour. I never heard of baking powder. I have come to an end else I'll write a whole book.

Some songs were parody's during the war. One was "Arm in Arm Together." The parody went as follows:

Arm in arm together to the shelter we will go

Dodging lumps of shrapnel as the sirens go.

Dodging the incendiary's and the high explosives too

Arm in arm, just me and you.

We never looked for time bombs when we were side by side

I never stepped in craters cause you were there to guide.

Cause if we stepped upon a landmine then all the world would see would be little bits of you and me."

Sally Ross
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