Blackberry Lane – Episode 09

September, 1940

JEANIE swung the bus into the top of Palmerston Road, and drew up at the first stop where there was quite a throng waiting to board. She hadn’t driven far when, all at once, her eyes were drawn upwards. What in the world?

There, on the skyline, was unmistakably a skein of black sinister aircraft. All at once the terrifying sound of explosions reached their ears, and the ground underneath the bus shook.

Jeanie’s heart was in her mouth, her mind filled with thoughts of her boys.

Much as she wanted to rush off to her sons, she had this bus load of people to dispatch. With a resounding crunch, she engaged her gears and pulled away.


Over the next few days, the city dusted itself down and took a deep breath. Had it been just an isolated attack, everyone speculated, or would they be back? The answer came just four days later. This time there were more of them, maybe as many as 20, and it soon became clear that they had one target in mind − the aircraft factory just outside the city.

As had happened in London, notices were sent out advising parents to send their children to the countryside.

Jeanie’s heart hit her boots when she received the news. The idea filled her with dread. She tried very hard to sound cheery as she told the boys, and to make it sound like a jolly adventure.

The whole conversation was reminding her of what she’d told Ray. But six months on and he was still not home, and from what she heard in the news it didn’t sound like this war was going to be over any time soon.

“You two will stay together,” she stressed. “I’ve told them you’re not to be separated.”

Marty was looking up at her, his eyes big and round, and her cheery resolve almost weakened. She swallowed again.

“Now, I’ve packed your clothes into your cases, and I’ve left a little space. You pop upstairs and decide what you most want to take with you.”

As she heard their feet climbing the stairs, Jeanie scrabbled in her pocket for her hanky and allowed herself a quiet weep


In the farmhouse kitchen, Annie was vigorously turning the handle of the new washing machine as she rattled on.

“I saw Doris after church yesterday, and she told me that Violet Knights told her that Fred Norris has been had up. He’s been using bread to draw the red dye out of farm issue petrol then selling it on.”

Kate took her eyes from the stew pot which was bubbling fiercely on the range, and turned to speak to her companion.

“Well, he should be ashamed of himself. It’s one thing to be a rogue in peace time, quite another when there’s a war on.”

Annie snorted disdainfully.


Archie gazed down the length of the field, mopped his brow and sighed with satisfaction.

They’d done it! Two days ago the field had been full of sugar beet. Now the crop had all been lifted and the tops cut off and carted away for silage − and all done in record time, too.

That would cheer Ted up. The poor old boy was carrying a lot of worries on his shoulders these days, but at least the investment he’d made in new machinery was now paying dividends.

Stella and Maureen were coupling the beet lifter to the tractor and preparing to tow it back to the barn. With the prospect of a rest and a good meal in the offing, everybody seemed to find second wind, and worked with fresh heart.

Once everyone had finished they all trooped off to the farmhouse. Kate looked round as they entered the kitchen.

“Boots!” she cried out, and everyone stopped short, pulling off their muddy footwear and leaving it by the door. “Did you manage to get the whole field done?” she asked Ted.

“Aye, the crops are all topped and ready to be taken away,” he confirmed.

“I never want to set eyes on another flamin’ beet,” Stella commented.

“I’ve got a treat for you all,” Kate announced. “There’s a stew been cooking all day. It should be tender as you like by now.”

The contents were ceremoniously ladled out on to everyone’s plates, as Kate exchanged a meaningful look with Ted.

“Aye, go on. You’d best tell ’em,” he said, giving a brief nod of agreement.

Everyone’s ears pricked up.

“I’m told that Millicent Gosling has been appointed billeting officer for the village, and children from the south coast are due to be evacuated here any day. I reckon we can take a couple of youngsters in, as we’ve got that spare bedroom at the back.”


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!