War time stories

Picked up B this morning to bring her to church. B is in a nursing home since her husband died earlier this year and as she was once a nurse herself is keeping them all organised. I asked her if she had ever driven and she said, “No, my husband once tried but that way led divorce.”

I commented that a few women I knew of her age had learned to drive during the war. “Oh no,” she said, “I got to ride in the back of ambulances. The worst time was during the Clydebank blitz. I got to sit up the front then with my tin hat on!”

It occurred to me again that these little old ladies that sit in church Sunday after Sunday (and at weekdays too) who look so sweet and innocent have very scarey stories to tell. Recently I took my mum for an appointment at the new Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. Along one corridor there are magnificent texts carved into large pieces of wood and they contain memories which nurses and doctors have of the old Royal Infirmary at Lauriston Place. They speak of draughty corridors, and ghostly presences, and camaraderie in the nurses’ home. They are a wonderful way of incorporating the old building with the new.

We must listen to these stories before they are forgotten. Perhaps we should have a project at church (or wider?) to get these war-time memories written down and maybe use them for Remembrance Sunday. They have far more to say than I ever could. Any volunteers?

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