Before V E Day, 7 May 1945
By: Janice Rosser
Barbara Murphy wrote this article for me a few years ago and I have now re published on ReviewSpot.
My wartime memories are still vivid: On 6th June 1944 rumours bounced around the Pharmaceutical Company that paid me the princely sum of one pound four shillings pw as filing clerk. The News at Six was exciting. We had invaded France. It really was the Beginning of the End but, with many cousins in uniform, my prayer list was full.
I hoped the Germans would surrender immediately, but no such luck. Exactly one week later, I was wakened by the blood-curdling sound of 'Hitler's Secret Weapon'. The first, but not last, V1 hurtled across the sky like a miniature plane, its tail afire. Names like buzz-bombs and doodlebugs fitted the spluttering engine, but I hated them with a passion.
The Blitz became a bad memory and V2 rockets too fast to fear, but flying bombs terrified me - no pilot, highly explosive, and unreliable flight-path. Once out of fuel they either fell straight down or silently glided on. Night and day, they were relentless
Fighter planes attempted to tip them away, and at work we were told to stay put until Hornchurch aerodrome warned one had slipped through. I was upstairs when our red alert sounded and I saw the V1 - it seemed to be alongside me. Suddenly the engine stopped and it U-turned. I sprinted downstairs and out to the shelter where my boss held the door but the blast lifted me from my feet and I virtually flattened the poor man.
My I D Card
Later I learned that the doodlebug had crashed onto empty drums! At last Mum agreed I could be killed as easily in Essex as in London.
One of the first junior-secretaries to register with Brook Street Bureau, I was sent to an advertising agency in Dorland House just as another flying bomb landed nearby (didn't tell Mum)
Four floors is no hardship to walk at 16 and was more than compensated by my new office window overlooking the second floor, where Norwegian Navy staff manned a radio. Some were members of Milorg Resistance Group, rescued by British commandoes. One 'mumsie-looking' lady always carried a shopping basket. It looked odd with her officer's uniform, but in Norway a knife hidden beneath eggs disposed of guards, enabling bridges to be destroyed!
Unfortunately, my first teenage 'crush' on a handsome lad was hampered by language problems and limited to shy smiles and greetings
As we destroyed the V1 launch-pads, V2s arrived, but the battle was beginning to swing in our favour. On 7th May 1945, the Norwegians listened excitedly to their radio until a tremendous cheer erupted. Racing down the stairs I met them coming up to tell us the wonderful news. 'It is over,' they shouted. 'We can go home. First let us celebrate.' They must have been saving every known alcoholic beverage for this moment.
After a heartfelt toast to PEACE! I managed to slide my glass towards someone else. One sip was enough!
Knowing there would be little work done we were sent home and joined the Norwegians on the longest conga ever around Piccadilly Circus. By the time Winston Churchill made his announcement at three o'clock there must have been thousands of people of all nationalities singing, dancing, climbing lamp-posts, hugging - a gloriously manic scene that I shall never forget.
Eventually I arrived home and told Mum to put her hat on. We left a note for Dad and joined the throngs 'up West' again. Our Royal family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace were cheered and the Prime Minister in Whitehall, especially when he announced two days public holiday. A few tears were shed, mainly joyful, and I guessed the Norwegians would not be the only ones with sore heads tomorrow.
Although blackout regulations had eased, now we really could light up London again after six years of tripping up kerbs, bumping into things, no street or station names to show us where we were
Better still, now we could sleep without listening for the siren or trundling down to the shelter. The Japanese war wasn't finished of course, but the Europe one certainly was. No-one knew what the future held nor that rationing wouldn't completely end until 1954.
I looked forward to seeing my friends and sharing anecdotes from the two days. Certainly lots of dictation to make up for lost time.
Perhaps go out with the blond Kristen before he returned to Norway?
The sight of an empty room on the second floor was totally unexpected. No desks, chairs, radio set. No male or female Norwegians in naval uniform. During the last two days, they must have gone - home.
N B The main photo was taken on Dad's old Brownie Box camera (purchased in New York in the 1920s for one dollar, about 25p then, I believe. It was taken in July 1941 when I was 13 and the worst of the Blitz was over. After that we just had intermittent raids on London until the V1's and V2's, which were continuous. Later in 1941 Hitler attacked ports like Southampton and Plymouth.