As the dying coals in the grate flickered, father tuned the wireless to the BBC Home Service and it crackled into life. The inevitable broadcast that the family had been dreading had finally begun.
Neville Chamberlain’s solemn voice announced the terrible news: “I am speaking to you from the cabinet room at 10 Downing St…”
Arthur and Jimmy, sitting side by side on the cramped, threadbare sofa, stared aimlessly at the wireless while Patricia sat opposite them, chewing her nails, anxiously. Camberlain continued:
“… The British amabassador handed Germany an ultimatum, that unless they withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us…”
Mum sat in an armchair by the fireplace, in an absent minded daze; she knew what the Prime minister would say next and she hated him for saying it:
“… I have to tell you that no such undertaking has taken place and as a consequence, we are now at war with Germany.”
‘Not again,’ she thought, ‘how can this happen again?’ She remembered all too well how the last Great War had torn her family and her country apart. How her father had been killed and her mother had struggled to raise her young family on her own, and she remembered the terrible hardship that followed. Her thoughts now turned to her own children: what would become of Jimmy? If the war went on for as long as the previous one, he would certainly be drafted. And what about Arthur? He was too old now to join up, but what if Hitler started dropping bombs? Arthur was an ARP and he’d be in firing line. She stood up and walked to the window, looking through he leaded panes at Avril and Patricia, who were playing innocently with their dolls in the bright September sunshine. She knew that these peaceful childhood games would soon come to end.
The familiar drum roll of the National Anthem disturbed her from her reverie. She wiped a tear from her face, straightened her apron, and turned to towards the wireless, beside which, father and Jimmy were already beginning to stand, tugging at their tank tops and arranging their ties. They began to sing God Save the Queen, but all the while, Chamberlain’s words rang in her mind: ‘There will be dark times ahead…
The National Anthem finished and the wireless fell silent. A eery quiet filled the parlour. “Turn it off now love,” mum said softly to Arthur, as she pulled her handkerchief from her apron pocket and walked, head down in the pantry.