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The Day Before Yesterday: 58 – Death On The Home Front

Gladys Schofield tells of a tragic mill fire.

To read earlier chapters of Gladys’s life story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_day_before_yesterday/

I must have written daily and the replies came as often but no leave was allowed in those early days. Alan was walking by twelve months and loved to visit the ducklings who by this time had grown and changed colour to a fawn shade. The drakes, more colourful than the ducks, had shades of blue and green on their necks. They had long since abandoned their clucking mother, for every time they saw a puddle, in they would wade to have a nice swim.

The silly mother would panic and make such a fuss around the edge of the pond. I cut her motherhood short and put her back behind the fencing with the others. They imagined Alan was their mum, as he toddled unsteadily around the spare ground, the ducklings followed in a straight line. More green necks than brown I'm afraid, only three were ducks. The drakes would increase the meat ration later but I couldn't kill a fly. I would have to leave that to the lads.

I took my small son with me one morning to town. It was a dull, dismal day about October. Some passengers were talking about a fire that had burned through the night before. "Look" said one lady, "there it is".

I looked in the direction she was pointing. A large grey smouldering building came into view, it was a factory. Every window had gone, just a hollow shell remained. I learned later forty seven employees had perished in that blaze. No, it wasn't caused by enemy aircraft, it was caused accidentally. They had no fire escapes fitted to the upstairs windows and workers were trapped. This accident was not mentioned on the radio. You were not encouraged to spread bad news, "Not good for the morale" they would say but it all leaked out anyway from person to person, the same way we would hear if anyone was missing or killed 'serving their country'. News travels quickly.

The young boys of our childhood, who helped out at the local fish and chip shop and shared the spare chips and fish with us, had very short lives. They had always been friends and one didn't even reach the war years. He lost his young life quickly, while following a lorry full of metal on his bike. The lorry braked suddenly and the boy did not, he was sixteen.

His friend joined the Air Force at eighteen, eager to get the war over as soon as possible. He trained to be a Rear Gunner in one of our bombers and soon afterwards was said to be missing, presumed killed. So many were left wondering yet never really knowing what had happened to their loved ones.


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