A Letter from Great Uncle Charles
Charles Lewin, 1875 - 1959
Some years ago, Ann gave me a copy of this letter which her grandfather had written to her mother (his daughter, Lena) describing the birth of his first grandchild during an air raid in September 1940.
My Dear La & Pete,
Before I try to tell you anything, let me say how sorry I am for not writing before, but if you had been here and seen what we had to put up with, in air raids & other things, I am sure you would understand & forgive me. But we did let you know by Phone through Ruth. I might tell you she has been a little heroine.
Well dear, first of all we had an air raid on Tuesday night & we all run over to the the shelter. Poor old Da was over as soon as any of us. Well we had to sit there until about 1.0 am. when the all clear sounded, so we thought we would chance it & go to bed. Me & Mother seemingly went sound asleep, but poor Da was in pain all the time, & she came & woke us about 4.0 o'clock. We got up again and didn't know what to do. She wanted to go to the nursing home, but it was impossible for her to walk there & she wasn't fit to go by bus. When I saw how she was I proposed sending for the doctor, then the fun started. Mother knocked on Mrs Hudson & she got Gus to get up & went off to telephone the doctor.
A lady doctor arrived in about 20 min. & we thought she was going to take her in her car. But she went off to talk to Dr Rees & came back & said he wanted Da to go to the home, but she was sorry she could not take her, as she had another call, but would we get her there as soon as possible. In the meantime Mrs Turner was got up & poor Ruth rushed to the telephone to try to get a taxi, after trying 3 or 4 places she managed to get one from Mayers & said he would be round in about 10 mins.
While Ruth was running about for the cab, things were happening at home. Gus rushed off to fetch the Dr. again, & then ran round to fetch the district nurse; while all the running about was going on the baby arrived & nobody with Da but Mother & Mrs Turner. Then the cab came and I had to ask him to stand by for a bit, as I didn't know what they were going to do about her going away, then Dr. Rees arrived & I tell you looked proper scared. Then he started to work on the baby & mother says he did work & he eventually got a cry out of her, & he said, "Thank God for that!"
Soon after he came the nurse arrived & took charge & I think Dr Rees was relieved to see her. Then it was a question whether she should go to the home or stay here. So being that it was all over Da didn't see any sense in going & Dr. agreed it wouldn't be wise to move her, so she stayed at home.
Now I want you to understand that all this happened in the kitchen. Poor old Da was laying on the settee all ready dressed for going out & the baby was born just as she was. Dr Rees was kneeling on the rug in front of the fire, working on the baby, before he could do anything for Da.
After he had got things to his likeing, the next job was getting Da to bed, he didn't like the idea of her being upstairs so he turned to & cleared a lot of the things out of the parlour & got the little bed from the back room down. You should have seen how they worked She, Ruth, & the Dr. up & down stairs with chairs, books, china & gla[ss] book case, etc. & pulling the bedspread down & setting it up again. He helped to make the bed & then rolled Da in a blanket & carried her & made her comfortable. Altogether he must have been working a good 1½ hrs. I sent the cab home again. The driver was very nice about it. He tendered his sympathy & hoped everything would be [ok?] & that it was a pleasure if he could have been of any service. He even offered to go & fetch the Dr while we were waiting for h[im] but we said that he would be on his way.
Well thank God everything has gone off alright so far & Da & the baby are doing fine.
Now I suppose you want to know about the baby & I really don't know how to describe her except that she is a sweet, pretty little morsel. She is the tiniest baby I have ever seen, she weighed - . She is laid on my armchair, rolled in a couple of blankets, which nurse says is as good as an incubator & she is not taken out unless compelled. Her little head is wrapped in a cotton wool bonnet & cotton wool gloves on her little hands. When we dig down in the blankets to find her, she looks like a little Lap-lander.
When it all happened, I was awfully upset for poor Da. as I certainly didn't think it was alive, but I am happy to say that up to now she is very much alive & now & again she lets us know it. The first two days, mother had to give her a feed every hour, one tablespoon of Lactogen, but now she feeds every 2 hrs. I think Da will be able to feed him shortly, but she is too tiny just now.Mother is just going out now to try & get a breast shield.
Mrs Meadows was here the other day & she told us that Peter was no bigger when he was born, but we must say there is something of him now.
Well dear so much for that. & I don't know if I ought to worry you, with all our worries, but the day the baby was born we had a terrible air raid & of course we couldn't go to our shelter. We pushed the armchair with the baby close under the stairs & mother sat by her & I sat beside Da in the front room. On Thursday we had another, about the worst we have had round here. The warning sounded about 7.30 pm. & with a couple of intervals of about an hour, they kept it up till 5.0 am. All through the night the din of guns & bombs was terrible & we could only sit here and wait. Then to put the finish on it, a policeman came yesterday to tell us that there is an unexploded bomb in Johnsons field, would we use the back door for going in and out & to all sleep in the back of the house. Then what are we going to do with Da.
So Ada & me had another fly round & got that camp bed of Vic's down in the kitchen, lugged the settee in the front room, lifted old Da onto it wrapped in the bed clothes, while we took the mattress off & made her a bed up in the kitchen & then we carried her carefully & made her comfortable, and there she is now, propped up reading, & looks as if she don't care if it snows, & then to crown it, last night, when we had no warning at all, & might have had a good night in bed, we were stopped by the blooming bomb in the front. But still we had a fair nights sleep, of course we had to wake now and again to see to the baby.
Well lovey, I don't know if I can say any more. I have tried to think of everything but do forgive me considering the trouble we have been in for not writing before. ......
Your Affectionate Dad.