How My Mother-In-Law Survived The Blitz

Margaret's Story

Over 75 years ago, a young girl named Margaret lived in the city of Norwich, England, approximately 100 miles northeast of London. Since she was only 4 years old when the Blitz began in England, Margaret doesn’t have many pre-war memories.  Bombings were a common occurrence to her, and it barely seemed out of the ordinary when she and her mother ran for shelter into underground subway stations to avoid the Germans’ assault.

Due to nightly air raids, everyone was required to black out their windows to avoid lighting a path for enemy aircraft.  However, while playing during the day she recalls seeing the face of an enemy pilot when his bomber plane suddenly appeared out of the low-lying clouds – only to quickly rise again to search for suitable targets.

For the most part, the explosions were far from her family home, except one day when an errant bomb exploded in the nearby countryside, causing their front door to be blown from its hinges and sent across the front lawn.


But life went on as usual for Margaret and her childhood playmates.  She and her friends found some scenes ridiculous, such as when they pointed and laughed at a bombed-out dwelling where a toilet dangled from high above on the second floor.  After all, in their young lives they only knew images of war.

Early one evening Margaret became separated from her mother when the air raid struck.  She was playing outside and had to immediately run for cover into the subway station.  It was some time before mother and child were reunited.  But Margaret didn’t worry too much, since everyone was in the same boat (or subway in this case), and adults kept an eye on the children.

English Stoicism

The English weren’t about to let war ruin their world. Margaret recalls captured enemy soldiers were put to work in Britain’s gardens, digging and planting in the very yards of homes they had attempted to destroy.

After the war ended, young Margaret found delight in looking into her neighbors’ windows, watching them eat dinner or sit around the kitchen table listening to radio newscasts.  After five years of war, she didn’t remember a time before the conflict when black-out windows weren’t required.  She found it interesting that she could actually see neighbors at their everyday lives, as though she was catching them at their unawares.

And later when she attended high school, Margaret’s headmaster was a survivor from the Battle of Dunkirk.  He was injured during the rescue, and thereafter he lived with a metal plate in his head.

As a young woman Margaret attended nursing school in England and eventually moved to the States, married and started a family.  These days she still calls home to Norwich to check on her aging aunt and ask about the lovely gardens.

Margaret and her husband Bill

Margaret and her husband Bill enjoying an Indian restaurant in Oak Park, IL

It’s the English lavender she misses the most. To this day in the U.S. Margaret keeps a framed portrait of Queen Elizabeth over her bed.  And her steady perseverance still prevails – a classic English trait she fittingly earned many years ago.

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