World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                      Josephine Collie 

A Blissful War

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Josephine Collie
Location of story: Elie, Fife, Glasgow, Firth of Forth
Background to story: Civilian

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Josephine Collie.

A Blissful War

Josephine Collie

When war was declared I was just a year old. My Father went into the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and was stationed in Fife in Scotland. My Mother and I were evacuated to a village called Elie, Fife.
At the beginning of May this year (2005), I returned to Elie, having not been there for sixty years, anxious to follow up my little splinters of memory, which made up my war experience. It was like walking back into a dream, and though perhaps strangely, it didn't bring back any more memories, it helped me to realize what a wonderful free war I had had. The flat that we lived in had a garden gate, which opened, straight on to the beach, and I remember the sand coming into the garden. Miles of golden sand without a stone or a rock to be seen. In my memory the sky was always blue and I had playmates, and I am told that I went out there everyday. Indeed a blissful war.
Amongst the positive splinters of memory were the Polish soldiers stationed nearby. Receiving peppermints from them being a very clear memory! Another memory I have is at the age of three staying with my Father in a hotel in Glasgow, and playing a game which involved watching someone going out of the hotel revolving doors (which were covered in blackout material), and then guessing who they would come round as, when someone else came in. I also remember travelling on the underground in Glasgow, and being fascinated by the colours painted on the walls of the stations indicating the destinations, as I believe that the names were blacked out.
In my blissful war, there were only a few negatives. I am sure that I missed my Father, but as I only remember the joy of him suddenly appearing, I can't count that. I am to this day, unreasonably afraid of tanks; this is explained by the fact that soldiers used to learn to drive them down our village street! Barrage balloons also made me afraid, I felt that they were horrible monsters suspended in space. I also remember very clearly the instruction never ever to touch light switches. I understood that this instruction was very significant though I never knew that living on the edge of the Firth of Forth, meant that our blackout was exceedingly important to our safety. I still can feel the seriousness of that instruction today.
When I was two or three yrs old, I was in Leeds during the only night that it was bombed, but I can't say that it was a negative experience, as the only thing that I can remember was wondering why so many grown-ups were under the mahogany dining table with me! That I was under the table was not odd, it was the sort of place that I might play, but I do remember finding it odd that grown-ups were there also! I recounted this memory to my parents years later, and was told of the Baedeker raid.
The war ended with a special treat, my Father said that we could have a dog when that happened. I remembered my Mother cycling down the road with a golden cocker spaniel buttoned into the top of her coat. What joy!
So for me the war enabled me to have a very free, open-air healthy existence, which perhaps I would not have had otherwise. But of course, it deprived me of some time with my Father, in common with a great many others, although I was exceedingly fortunate that mine came home.