This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 823 words.
Within a few months of her birthday, so much was happening that the family sat listening to the radio every evening. Teddy had written to say he was now on one of the big battleships, and doing well. But of course he couldn’t say which one, or where he was. The RAF were hitting back at Germany, much to the delight of Albert. “Give them some of their own medicine, see how they like that!” There was no more from Les, but Vera felt calmer now she knew he was safe in the POW camp.
At least the Russians were counter-attacking, and it looked like the Germans had indeed made a big mistake invading that country. Albert had something to say about that too. “Told yer so, didn’t I? Old Joe Stalin will give those Jerries what for. They didn’t think it through, don’t you see? The Russkies just retreated to regroup, now they will show those bloody Krauts!” Vera and Elsie sat quietly, letting him go on about it. He seemed to revel in the ups and downs of the war. For their part, they just wanted it all to go away, and life to get back to how it had been before.
Almost everything was being affected by the rationing. There was less coal, and even the gas and electric was erratic. When soap went on the ration list Vera felt like crying, as her hair was so dirty and greasy. Without telling her husband, Elsie got involved with some local black market characters, so she could get some decent soap for their hair-washing, and weekly bath. She traded jam that she stole from the factory, knowing full well Albert would go mad if he knew. Sharing the hot water for three baths made Vera upset. She felt dirty after using the same water as her mum and dad, and sometimes cried because she never felt really clean. Even though she was now a young woman, in every respect, she had real problems understanding what the war was about, and why they had to suffer so.
It developed a real hatred of the Germans in her. She could never work out why they had done all this, and she thought that if she ever met a German, she would bash them hard, or worse. The thought that they might invade and be walking along the main road, drove her crazy for revenge.
The worst thing that happened was that the Japanese captured Singapore. Albert went into a slump after that, as it was the biggest surrender of British troops in history, so he said. Vera saw about it on the newsreels, and knew it was getting her dad down. But all those prisoners, and without much of a fight too! He was very quiet for a long time after that, and he seemed to have lost all faith in the army, and the empire.
Then there was all the news about the German submarines sinking ships in the Atlantic, and in the Arctic convoys too. Some nights, Albert would throw the paper onto the table and slap it, as if he could slap some sense into life. Vera read it after he had finished, and was surprised to see that all the Nazi subs were called ‘Wolf Packs’. Considering the damage they were doing at sea, she thought Shark Packs would be a better name for them.
Janet was still obsessed with the newsreels, hoping to see Frank in the desert. But they never did.
Then in the summer, there was big news in the papers, and on the radio. There had been a raid on Dieppe, on the French coast. The Commandos were involved, and it had supposedly been a great success. Albert finally cheered up. “Well look at that. We can do as we please on the French beaches, give those Jerries a good hiding, and then come home again”.
It wasn’t that long before the family found out the real truth.
Vivian turned up one Friday evening, and Roy was with her. Vera hardly recognised him. He looked so tough in his uniform, and so much older. And he had a large bandage covering most of the left side of his face, which he told them was because of more than thirty stitches, from his mouth almost up to his ear.
He told them that the raid was a complete mess. Half the force had been captured by the Germans, including many Canadian soldiers who had been used without enough training. He had been lucky to get away, according to him. He had been hurt by a German soldier who had hit his face with an entrenching tool. But Roy lit a cigarette and smiled. “Got the better of him though. Stabbed him in the neck with my knife, then shot the bastard with my Thompson”.
Vear had never imagined battle being so personal. It made her shiver.