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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > July 2016 > Subscriber Spotlight

Subscriber Spotlight

Share your writing success stories. If you subscribe to Writing Magazine and would like to feature here, email Tina Jackson, tjackson@warnersgroup.co.uk

Bermondsey in the Blitz

‘How to be young in a time of war? Is a question I ask in my latest Bermondsey novel, Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys, set during the Second World War,’ writes subscriber Mary Gibson.

‘My mother was herself an ATS gunner girl, like my heroine May, and my father was a gunner armourer in the RAF. Their courtship began after an air raid, when the leather factory they worked in was bombed and Dad’s idea of a good first date was to ask Mum on a walk around the bomb-damaged streets. This incident sparked the idea for the novel. Part of my research was to read the 380 letters my father wrote to my mother when he was posted overseas. It was a glimpse of how youthful optimism can survive the harshness and devastation of war.

‘I read how my father would regularly walk through air raids in order to get to a party and my mother would spend precious off-duty hours trying to tease her ATS pudding hat into a jaunty peaked affair.

‘“How to be old in a time of war?” is the other question I ask. For answers I turned to family stories of my grandmother, who slept every night at London Bridge station, where she was on the night her house was bombed, or my grandfather, who survived a direct hit while tending chickens in the backyard. He was more worried about losing the chickens, scattered far and wide by the blast, many of which ended up in his neighbours’ ovens.

‘Many true incidents such as these have found their way into my novel and I know they will resonate with anyone whose relatives went through the Second World War. Small acts of youthful defiance or sad surrender or stubborn bravery were no doubt unremarked at the time, but in hindsight they are the stories which reveal their generation as a special breed, whose lives held a sombre beauty which should not go unrecorded.

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