Vera’s Life: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

That summer, letters continued to be exchanged between Vera and Les. She allowed herself to become increasingly romantic in her replies, and started to sign them ‘With love, your little Vera’. Albert had to attend more and more meetings at the Civil Defence, and even got allowed time off from the Iron Works to go to them. Then one Saturday afternoon, Vera got back from an overtime shift at the jam factory to find her sister Vivian at the house in floods of tears. “It’s Roy. he reckons they are gonna bring in the call-up, so he’s only gone and joined the Army. Says he will be a driver and mechanic, bound to be, ’cause of him being a car mechanic. He’s sold the motorbike and waiting for his orders. He says I’ve got to stay at home and look after his mum”.

Vera told her that Janet’s Frank had been saying the same thing only last week. Better to join up than to wait and be called up. Viv snapped back at her. “S’alright for him, he ain’t got two kids and a wife to worry about, has he?” Deciding not to get involved in an argument, Vera went up to her room and wrote a letter to Les.

Near the end of August, the reserves got notified of the call-up for them, and Albert had to go to a meeting where the Civil Defence was placed on full alert. He came home looking glum, no longer able to keep insisting a war wasn’t going to happen. That night, he spoke to Elsie and Vera about preparing the Anderson Shelter properly, and how they would have to glue strips of brown paper to the windows to stop being injured by glass when the bombing started. He also told her they would need thick black curtains for the windows, so as not to show a light at night.

Elsie was made of strong stuff, and just nodded. “I can get some nice material down the market next weekend, and ask Mrs Ryan to run up the curtains for me on her sewing machine”. Albert shook his head. “You have to do it sooner than that, love. The orders will be broadcast soon”. Vera didn’t want to let them see she was worried. “I can cut the paper strips up, dad. And there’s glue at work, for the labels. I’m sure they will let us have some”.

Three days later, a letter arrived from Teddy. They had received war orders, and he didn’t know how often he would be able to write, or where he would be. He said not to worry if they didn’t hear anything for a while. So of course they immediately worried. The same day, Roy came round to say his goodbyes. He had received orders to report to the Royal Artillery barracks in Woolwich, and looked pretty fed up about that. “Typical, ain’t it? Here I am, a car mechanic, and the Army sends me to learn how to fire cannons”.

On the radio, and in all the newspapers, there was nothing but war. Vera got fed up listening to all the war talk, knowing full well that Les would be involved, whether she liked it or not. She hadn’t had a reply to her last letter, so was sure that Les would have already had orders and probably couldn’t tell her where he was being sent.

On the first day of September, the Germans invaded Poland. Elsie and Vera were hanging the blackout curtains as best they could after work, as Mrs Ryan hadn’t had time to use her sewing machine on them. They were using tacks, and nailing them to the window frames. Albert came home from work, holding a newspaper. “It will be war this weekend, Elsie love. Mark my words. That Hitler’s gone and done it, so he has”. Two days later, Britain declared war on Germany, and they listened to Mr Chamberlain on the radio, remarking on how serious and upset he sounded.

Elsie was crying quietly as she peeled the potatoes in the scullery, and Vera went in and cuddled her. “It will be alright, Mum. We have each other. We’ll get through this”. Then she went upstairs and thought about Les.

Moments later, she was crying too.

28 thoughts on “Vera’s Life: Part Fifteen

  1. Elsie was made of strong stuff. I love that straightforward description of her and the way she just sets about work. I remember my mother telling me of being with her parents around the radio hearing about the invasion of Poland. She said it was horrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My female family members and all my female neighbours were ‘Elsie’s’, both during and after the war. They made the best of things, and you never heard them complain about their lot in life.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All caught up just as war is imminent…I like how you have depicted one family and how it impacts on them 🙂 I remember my mum telling me about the air raid shelters and the blackout curtains …Always told so matter of factly though people just got on and did what they could …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was young, many people still had Anderson shelters in their back gardens, and the air-raid shelters built by the government were everywhere, marked by a large ‘S’.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  3. A war truly impacts everyone one way or another, hard to imagine, but you have conveyed this well and I’m sure there is more to come.
    I think comparisons between war and the pandemic are way off the mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree about the comparison being wrong. The pandemic doesn’t drop bombs from the sky, or force a huge percentage of the population to travel away from home for five years. No real food shortages in western countries, or compulsory service in the armed forces.
      Glad to hear the serial is working for you, Eddy.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. (1) Vera and her Spanish friend, Penélope, got fed up listening to all the war talk. They decided to Doddge the war situation by signing up for a cruise to Veracruz.
    (2) Naamah got back from an overtime shift at the ark factory to find her sister at the house in floods of tears. “Please, sis, don’t make matters worse than they’re already gonna be!”
    (3) That night, Albert spoke to Elsie and Vera about preparing the Animal Shelter properly for stray German shepherds.
    (4) Albert also told Elsie they would need a floodlight in case Vivian flooded the bomb shelter with tears. “A regular light might short out.”
    (5) Vera thought black curtains were tacky. She suggested splattering the windows with blackberry jam.
    (6) The same day, Royal came round to say his goodbyes. He had received orders to report to the Roy Artillery barracks in Woolwich.
    (7) Elsie was crying quietly as she peeled the potatoes in the scullery. Vivian went in and gave her some onions. Together, they flooded the scullery with tears.
    (8) Vera went upstairs. Moments later, she was crying too. She wondered if the house would be washed away by all the tears before the cruise ship arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

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