The varying tone of the bombs whistling overhead gave Mavis Randall and her family an indication of how close they were coming to their London home.
Eighty-nine-year-old Mavis lived three train stops from London, in what she called “the blitz area” during the Second World War.
The theatre of war was unrelenting and intense, forcing Mavis and her family into a bomb shelter every night.
“We had every kind of bomb that came,” Mavis said.
“They all had names. The people seemed to give them names, you know? Some of them were scary. Sometimes you could hear the whistle bombs. If it stopped, you knew it could hit you. But if you could hear it you were all right. But if you could hear the swish of of the bomb, you’d duck down below the ground level because you could lose your hearing.”
Shrapnel shattered windows and every night, the family’s home would lose roof tiles.
The sidewalks were constructed from the wreckage of bombed homes.
“That’s the thing that made you feel sick,” Mavis said.
“Now I realize they all had mortgages on their houses, and yet we were using their bricks. We had to get permission to get these bricks from the bombed-out houses to make a sidewalk down to the shelter because it was too muddy.”
Even living in a war zone, Mavis said the people “still got on with it.”
The family did their part with the Allied forces. “My twin sister and my eldest sisters, they were called up at 17. So there was two in the army and one in the airforce.”
Taking the bus to work could be a frightening ordeal. Mavis said, “the machine gunning would start when you got off and you still had to get from the bus stop to home.”
Mavis’s husband Leslie died in July at age 95. During the war, Leslie did four-and-a-half years of active service in Canada and England, and drove truck for RCASC, from England through to Germany.
“Some days they’d be carting groceries and bread, and other days they’d be taking people to the hospital,” Mavis said. “They used their trucks for everything.”
Mavis said she met Leslie through a young pen pal.
“I was with the Salvation Army, and we ended up with about 17 Canadian soldiers come into our home,” Mavis said.
It was a scary time for Leslie. He told Mavis that on one occasion, “he had a gun stuck up his nose,” by a wary Dutch citizen.
“You only had little lights on a bike, or a car, or a bus, it was only the size of a fingernail,” Mavis said.
“If trucks are coming along, they can’t see who’s in there so they’ve got to stop you to find out who you are. I can’t blame them.”
Out of eight children, Mavis was the only one to come to Canada to live. She and Leslie arrived in Ontario where Leslie worked for the Johns Manville asbestos company.
He followed the company to B.C. but after it left Canada, they stayed — Mavis has lived in Langley for the past 47 years.
This will be Mavis’s first Remembrance Day without her husband of more than 70 years.
“We’ve always been in the parades from the time we came to Canada,” Mavis said.