MEMOIRS FROM MRS NEWMAN, OF WORLD WAR II AND VE DAY
This Friday marks 75th Anniversary of VE Day and I have been fortunate to have had the chance to talk with World War 2 veteran, Mrs Newman, a Consultus Care & Nursing client, who, despite being the great age of 100, recalls how she marked VE day. She has been kind enough to share her memories of that time and offers some advice on how we can weather the current COVID-19 storm.
I had the feeling when listening to Mrs Newman that her fortitude of spirit, like so many of her contemporaries of that era, is in part what helped her through the war. She initially joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the women’s land army), having responded to a call for qualified drivers to teach young women to drive, of whom some had not seen the inside of a car! She also volunteered to drive civil abundances in London, no mean feat when having to dodge the heavy bombing campaigns by the German Luftwaffe, which devastated parts of London. Then came the menacing daily attacks of the doodlebugs: “You didn’t know where these things were going to fall and just hoped they weren’t going to be anywhere near you”, recalls Mrs Newman.
At the age of 23, Mrs Newman received her commission as a subaltern and was transferred to the army railway headquarters where she was in charge of 23 women. When asked how tough it was to train and take on the responsibility of all the new recruits, she said: “You just got on with it”.
Mrs Newman remembers VE DAY: “I walked on my own to Buckingham Palace where there were big crowds, however, wanting to be with my family, I went home and recollect my mother saying: “The war isn’t over yet, we are still fighting the Japanese!”, which was true as it wasn’t until 15th August that victory over the Japanese was declared, marking the end World War 2, and which became known as VJ Day. I asked Mrs Newman if she celebrated VJ Day: “After 6 years of war we were all exhausted and just wanted to get on with our lives”.
Mrs Newman adds: “I don’t remember hearing Churchill’s speech on VE Day, but I did listen to many of his broadcasts throughout the war when he gave great rallying speeches, which motivated and comforted many of us.”
Before the war broke out Mrs Newman’s ambition was to become a tennis player and she was determined not to go to university, preferring instead to concentrate on her tennis career and reminisces: “My father agreed to fund me as in those days tennis was an amateur sport”. Having first played at Wimbledon as a 19 year old in 1939, she had to put her rackets away for six years as no competitions were held at Wimbledon during the war. She went on to say: “However, I got to dust down my racket and play at the famous Wimbledon courts in 1946, and yes, I did win some of my matches that day!”
Our conversation comes to a close and my gratitude to this incredible generation’s, bravery, courage and sacrifice is beyond doubt, as without their selfless fight to defeat the enemy, our lives and the freedoms we enjoy today would be more restricted than they are in this current lockdown. Our forebears built a brighter world after the war ended 75 years ago; can we do the same?
Mrs Newman’s final words of advice to help us through these testing times of COVID -19, without any hesitation are: “Think happy thoughts”, which we would all be wise to follow.