Chertsey Tales Part Twenty.
Fish, surprisingly, is off the ration, and this Saturday morning, we heard that they had some fish in Proctors up near St Peters Church. This sort of news goes round Chertsey like a whirlwind—so here I am at the top of the town, I can already smell the fish and chips before I turn the corner at Agnew Nicholson the chemist. Then I see the long queue going past Mr Gibbon’s, the butcher almost to the Church. It’s only twelve o’clock and the fish shop is not even open yet. There is a lot of chatter going on—not moaning or anything like that, more remembering things that had happened just a few months ago. I have always been a good listener; some would say I’m just nosey. It is quite surprising what ladies talk about though.
The talking suddenly stops, I thought at first that we would soon be moving along. The lady in front of me started to shake, I could see her dress flapping, I thought she was having some sort of a fit.
Looking up I can see this little MG sports car that is waiting in the road next to the queue, in the passenger seat is an RAF officer, he is very young looking, I should think not much older than my brother Bernard.
He turned to look directly at me, then I see why the ladies have gone quiet. One side of his face is perfectly normal while the other side is hardly recognisable as a face. The skin is distorted and very red, he has bandages around his neck and on his hands.
Up to that moment I thought of the war as if it was exciting or even glamorous just like the films I saw in the Picture Palace. The sight of that young Airman has made it anything but.
The thought of eating fish and chips is the last thing I feel like doing. I leave the ladies still talking about the young Airman and go home. I will tell Mum that they had sold out, which would probably have been true, looking at the length of the queue.
Wounded soldiers are now a regular sight, they are back from the early battles of the war. They are kitted out in Royal blue uniforms, with white shirts and red ties, some of them are just about able to walk, but still laughing and joking despite their wounds.
St Peters Hospital, a military hospital, is about a mile away. This must have been a marathon for some of the men, but with the help of their mates and their spirit, they walked in and were met with lots of back slapping and hand shaking, every-one of them a hero to us.
The news reporter and the announcer’s seemed to give us good news first and then some bad news, like when an allied ship had been lost. The next morning my mum’s friend, Mrs Edwards, came round to tell us that her husband was on one of these ships. Everyone one was crying. Mrs Edwards just sat and stared at the floor; she said that the ship had sunk with ‘all hands’ meaning that there would be no survivors. She was the only one not crying, it was the first time that I had known of any family losing someone.
Later that week, a bomb fell near Chertsey bridge; it landed in the drive of a big house. In the lodge of this house was a family of evacuees. The mother gathered her three young daughters and fled. They had lived in London and had come to Chertsey for safety. They were re-housed in a small shop in Windsor Street next to the fish shop. She said she felt safer there and thought that Chertsey bridge was always a target for the bombers.
There seems no escaping fro this war.