Dorothy Squires (b.1897): War and Memory

“There were so many unpleasant things that happened during those war years, that it would take weeks of writing to relate” (64)

Dorothy’s felt the full effects of war, through her husband, the loss of someone dear and illnesses that manifested in the decades after the war had ended.

Dorothy was only in love twice in her life. Her first love was in the Grenadier Guards. She tells us that at “barely 17 [she] fell in love with him.” (17) She describes him as “a gentleman in every way, and so handsome and smart.” (17) She believes it was love as she “had not kissed a boy before” (17). Sadly, this love was fleeting. In 1914 he was sent to France to fight in the first British Battle, of the First World War, the Battle of Mons as he had “already been trained” (18). Dorothy says she is “So sad to relate […] they went into the firing line trenches straight away and on their first attack was wiped out” (18). This was the first British encounter of “Total War” but they wouldn’t know it then. “The Battle of Mons was the last of four “Battles of the Frontiers” that took place over as many days on the Western Front between Allied and German forces in the opening month of World War I. The first three—at Lorraine, Ardennes and Charleroi—involved French forces under the central command of General Joseph Joffre.” (History.com, 2009). This loss to the war left Dorothy heartbroken, she used “to scan The Times […] hoping his name would be amongst the wounded, everyday for weeks.” (18). She became depressed and when meeting her husband months later she says she could not get her “1st sweet heart of the Guards out of [her] mind”. (25)

Battle of Somme

Dorothy’s husband was left badly afflicted by the First World War. On his first deployment to the front line, he was at the Battle of Somme, there he was shot in the arm. Dorothy says that “they wanted to amputate but he wouldn’t agree to it.” (26). She was glad as she believes it was “his best arm.” (26). He was deployed a second time after she had only known him for five months, but she “promised him, [she] would wait for him.” (26) Again, he was injured, this time “whilst bayonet charging, [he] was shot right through his left forearm. He was losing so much blood, he said, that he had the presence of mind, to take one of his putteen off and bind it tightly to his wound.” (27) Dorothy then gives us in an insight into the experience of the battlefield. He husband “crawled to the nearest dressing station” (27), where he was told that it “was overcrowded” (27). He didn’t make it to the next one and “must have passed out, because he didn’t remember reaching it.” (27) The doctor who tended to him said “it was a miracle to him, how the splintered bones joined up together” (27). Although he received extensive medical treatment in the field and back at home, in one of the stately homes that were turned into war hospitals, he was left permanently disabled. He “finished up with two fingers clutched to the palm of his hand” (27-28). Sadly, this was not the full extent of her husband’s injuries, he “was also badly gassed” (28). Although this didn’t affect him in the years immediately following the war he passed of a brain tumour at 72 years old. Dorothy believes that “the tumour was caused through the gas” (79).

Bomb Damage Enfield

In both the First and Second World Wars Dorothy felt a sense of community. When Dorothy’s husband was recovering in hospital in Southampton, after his second deployment to the front line, Dorothy, her sister, his mother and his sister were “put up” (30) by a local family. Dorothy says they could not make [her] welcome enough.” (30). When her husband was well enough, the family took them “out for drives” (30). During the Second World War Dorothy lived in an “industrial part of Enfield” (64). There were “munitions, gunpowder, electrical and cable works and reservoirs, and various others, which were bombers targets,” (64) so “no sooner had [they] got to bed, than the warning be sounded,” (64). When the air raid sirens were sounded, the more able in the community would help. Dorothy’s neighbours “were on reserve […] one was in the Airforce […] another was on a submarine.” (63). They would make sure everyone was in their shelters before getting into their own. During one of these air strikes, a bomb dropped at the top of Dorothy’s street. Dorothy claims that it gave her “mother such a shock she went blind” (64). This blindness remained for the rest of her life.

Old Cross Keys Search Light, Enfield

As Dorothy is writing her memoir the Falklands war begins. On the 22nd of April she writes, “I had hoped in my last sentence of 1981, that we would have peace and prosperity, but alas that is not to be for Argentina have invaded our Falkland Islands” (133-134) Peace was not to be for over two months and Dorothy’s hope that “there won’t be bloodshed!” (134) went unheard. Although Dorothy was greatly affected by war, her and her family did not let it define them. All lead happy lives and managed careers outside of war. (See post on Life and Labour)

 

Bibliography

2:735 SQUIRES, Dorothy, Untitled, MS, pp.142 (c.18,000 words). Brunel University Library

 

Secondary Bibliography

History.com, Battle of Mons, A+E Networks, 2009  https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/battle-of-mons [Accessed: 05/04/2018]

Images

Battle of Somme [image] URL: http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2016/06/hith-Public_Schools_Battalion_at_White_City_1916.jpg

Bombed House, London Road, Enfield [Image] URL: https://enfieldatwar.wordpress.com/

Enfield Search Light [image] URL: https://enfieldatwar.wordpress.com/

Shell Factory, Ponders End, Enfield [Image] URL: https://enfieldatwar.wordpress.com/

 

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