I have two particularly clear images of 70 years ago. May 1944 was a hot drought month in London and the South East (though the weather worsened in June and continued miserable for the summer). I was almost 6, and I remember on the way to school with my mother standing in the High Street waiting to cross as tanks ground by. The road was part of Watling Street, the old route to Dover, and I assume the heavy metal was on its way to the coast; though the military buildup around Dover was a feint to mislead Rommel. The memory is sharp with the smell of warm tar and gravel, and the deep track-marks in the road surface lasted for months.
July 19th 1944 was my sixth birthday and I was at school. The air-raid warning siren sounded early and we spent most of the day in the shelter: a thick brick building in the yard, not underground, but better than nothing. The V1 (doodlebug) rocket attacks on London had started the week after D-Day. The only light was from candles and I remember holding a stump in my hand so tightly it began to melt, and to amuse myself I moulded the wax into the shape of a small mouse. That image, too, is sharp with the scent of warm wax. The street pictured in the V1 link above is two away from where we were living then.
Shelters, candle-light, the amber glow of the wireless dial, food queues, sirens, explosions: but no misery and much interest. D-Day. Introduced by Verlaine; or, rather, Verlaine through Charles Trenet.
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