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Mary Pattle Hover


from:Stowmarket, Suffolk

I grew up in Stowmarket, Suffolk, just a few miles from Gt. Ashfield, where the B-17's were stationed. My brother and I soon adapted to wartime and, in fact, when peace was declared, I came downstairs after a night of no air-raids and said, "Well, if this is peace, it's not very exciting!" My parents would take us out in the garden to watch the 'doodlebugs' go over, hoping the engines didn't stop while close by. If they did, you never knew where they were programmed to go.

At times we'd go camping with our big Bell tent in my Grandad's fields at Braham Hall Farm, Brantham. My Dad cleared the stinging nettles out of the ditch with a sickle in case we needed to get in the ditch for protection during air-raids. I remember all the windows at home had to have specially-made shutters put up on the inside, every night, so not a chink of light showed. Food was rationed severely. An infrequent square of chocolate at bedtime was a real treat. My Grandad would hold back a few eggs (they had to sell them to the Army I believe) & slip them to my mother, saying "For the little ones, m'dear, for the little ones."

Then there was the day that the Congregational Church in Stowmarket was bombed. I have a booklet comprised of reports of many including myself, who remembered that day, Friday Jan. 31, 1941. I was only three but I remember. I said the men in the planes waved to me when in reality, they were machine-gunning the street & market-place. A friend of ours who was very deaf, had been looking after me in my push-chair. She didn't hear the siren. Someone made sure we went into Aldis the butcher's shop & got down on the floor until the all-clear siren sounded (an unwavering tone as opposed the wavering warning sound). Eye-witnesses to the bombing of the church couldn't decide, was it a Junker? Was it a Dornier? (nobody noted the twin tails of a Dornier).

My Dad worked as a foreman at ICI Paints Division just down Takers Lane from our house (The Chestnuts). We had an allotment for growing vegetables down the lane also. My grandparents used to go out with pony & trap on Sunday afternoons to the local airfields, to see the American planes. I sometimes went with them, complete with sunbonnet. My Grandad would tickle 'Rufus' the red roan pony, with the whip (he never used it any harder than a tickle). I'd scold "Don't 'cockle' him, Grandad!".

Another 'fun' item we children had was the steel-topped wire-sided Morrison Table issued to families with children, to protect from falling objects, ceilings, etc. My brother & I invented all sorts of adventures while spending time under the Morrison Table, or sleeping all night there. I wish I had the photograph of my brother and I riding on the Red Cross float in a Stowmarket parade, he in his soldier's uniform (my mother made it, as she did mine) and me in my nurse's outfit with the big red cross sewn on the cap. We shook our collection cans for donations as we passed the people. If anyone is reading this, remember, never never ever give or throw family photographs away!

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