Muriel's story

The Return to Birmingham-and the postscript

In 1941 my brother returned home. June and I stayed on. Then in 1942, the bombing in Birmingham having abated, my parents decided they wanted us home. My father arrived one Friday to take us home the following day. On arrival he said my brother was very poorly with tonsilitis. So on the Saturday we departed by bus to Newport then train to Birmingham. Some distance before the train reached Gloucester we noticed a single aircraft descending and approaching the train. As it swooped towards us there were cries of "It's a German". We were in an open carriage with seats round fixed tables. Dad pushed June and me under the table as the plane homed in on us and machine gun bullets rat-a tatted on the roof. This seemed to go on for an age but fortunately we entered a tunnel and the train halted in there for sometime. Some people were wounded and they were taken off the train at Gloucester. As a result we arrived in Birmingham where, to our surprise, we were met by two aunts and two uncles but no mother, and the news that my brother had been diagnosed with diphtheria and was in Birmingham Isolation Hospital. That was where mum was and dad and an uncle went off to join her. We were not allowed to go home until the public health people had fumigated the house, so we stayed with an aunt. My brother died the following Tuesday so our coming home was not what we had expected it to be and with the loss of my brother our family life was inevitably different.

There were more air-raids on Birmingham after our return and on one occasion our house was set alight by incendiary bombs. Whilst the adult fought the fires, the local children were rounded up by the Air Raid Warden and taken to shelter in the cellar of a local pub.

My evacuation story does not end there. Having initially exchanged letters, in course of time we lost touch with Cwmbran. In the late 1970's my husband had occasion to visit someone in Cwmbran and persuaded me to go with him. I was very reluctant. I didn't want to see this busy new town, which was what Cwmbran had become. I thought all trace of my life there would have been obliterated but, to my surprise, we found a sign to 'Old Cwmbran' and the old village centre was still there. We took a nostalgic walk along the canal - now turned into a linear park. On the area where the raspberries had been grown was part of a fire station but amazingly Oakfield House was still there and so was Mrs Paling (I had thought she must surely be dead). She greeted me as if it was only yesterday she had seen me and produced from a drawer in the Welsh dresser, which stood where it had always had, a photograph of us three children taken soon after we arrived there. She was in her 90's and still a very commanding figure. We went over the house and I realised what I had been too ignorant to know in my youth, that the furniture and inlaid tables would not be regarded as very good antiques. This encounter was a real "raise the hairs on the back of your neck" experience. We kept in touch until she died a few years later.


Click here for Muriel- we are sent away to wales
Muriel Cope
September 2007

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