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The Southgate Christian Fellowship

SCF True Stories

 

Edie Parr

Bombs and Miracles

As TV brings the wars and conflicts around the world into our living rooms the remoteness of it all leaves us largely untouched. For Edie, however, war was all too real.

How many of us would remember the last war (1939-1945)? Edie finds it hard to forget. Living with her family in London's East End she has vivid memories of the horror of it all. She lived with family in Bromley by Bow; a stones throw from the London Docks. Street after street of houses was surrounded by factories and all the fringe activity of a busy port.

 

A day to forget

Edie was nine at the time when, on Saturday 7th September 1940, the German bombers came over East London. It was reckoned to be a mistake at the time as their target was supposed to be the airfields used by the RAF. But mistake or not, this was a day to change Edie's life.

It was 1.00pm, just after lunch, when the bombers came, and Edie and her family stayed in their shelters till teatime.

 

All Clear

When the 'all-clear' sounded she went with her mum and other family members to see the damage. Her brother was with the wardens helping put out fires, and she and mum talked to neighbours and friends, checking to see if everyone was alright.

 

No School!

There was damage everywhere, but one thing thrilled Edie - the school had been totally flattened! Edie didn't like school and she was overjoyed at the thought of no more school.

She remembers standing on the edge of the kerb, holding her mother's hand. As she stood there she lifted each leg and looked at the back of each one. Little did she know that that would be the last time she would see her legs as they were meant to be.

 

The return

At 7.00pm that evening the bombers came back. Many family members and friends had gathered earlier to check on each other and discuss the earlier raid. Now they couldn't get home and so eleven people had to crowd into the small 'Anderson' Shelter in the back yard of Edie's home. She was there with her mum and two of her aunts, together with cousins and friends. In addition, five others sheltered inside the house, including one of her brothers.

 

Disaster

Disaster came in the form of a direct hit on the house, with the debris falling on the shelter in the garden, barely ten feet away. The bomb demolished the house and burst a gas main resulting in fire raging through the remains of the building.

Of the five family members in the house only one survived, her cousin Charlie. He was badly burnt and was blown through the air by the force of the blast to land on the roof of a house four streets away. The others were so badly burnt the hospital couldn't even cover them with a sheet, and they died of their injuries.

 

The Lord's Prayer

Edie and her family in the shelter were buried under the rubble of the house, and it was eighteen hours before they could be rescued. Everyone was crying and shouting to be rescued. Then Edie's aunt, also called Edie, said to Edie, "say the Lord's Prayer out loud". So nine year old Edie began to say the Lord's Prayer, and suddenly a hush and peace came upon those in the shelter.

All this time they were breathing the gas fumes and, says Edie, they all looked like daffodils when they eventually came out.

Of the eleven people in that shelter only four survived. Edie survived but was badly injured and her right leg was crushed under the weight of debris.

Of those who died in that street that night, eleven people died in Edie's house and shelter alone. Today there is memorial in the street, placed in memory of the many who died that night.

 

New shoes

The day before Edie had �worried the life' out of her mum to buy her a pair of blue patent shoes, and because her brother was home from the navy on that Saturday she was allowed to wear them. As she was carried out of the shelter she looked down at her shoes and saw that one of them was bent over in half.

In her horror at seeing her new shoe in this state she forgot her foot was still in it! "Oh", she said to the ambulance man, "Look at my shoes, my mum won't 'arf jaw me". "No I won't", replied her mum who was also being carried out - her last words to Edie.

 

Hospital

Edie was rushed to the local hospital in the ambulance along with her mum, and taken straight to the operating theatre. The bombs were still dropping, and as she lay on the table the staff were diving under it for protection.

 

Goodbye

Edie and her mum were taken from there to Highlands Hospital, then called The Northern, where her mum died of her injuries a few days later. Edie remembers hearing her say to the Sister "please, Sister, kiss my little Edie for me because I can't." As the Sister wheeled her away on the trolley she lifted her mum's arm in a wave. That was the last she saw of her mum.

Edie had been put in a ladies ward, in a bed next to her mum, as there wasn't a children's ward available. Each night Edie followed her aunt's advice and said the Lord's Prayer out loud. This blessed the other patients, and they would remind her if she forgot.

About a year later Edie came out of hospital. Just as they left Highlands a British Spitfire pilot and a German pilot decided to have a 'dog-fight' in the sky above, and the sound of the machine guns terrified her. In a tree close by was a crow. "Look at that crow" said her dad, "I wonder what he's saying?" Whatever it was it was enough to distract Edie from the 'dog-fight' above.

 

Permission?

For the next few years Edie was in constant pain from her right foot which was bent and crooked.

Then, in 1944 her dad began to write to the authorities to gain permission for her to have an operation, but no permission came. Eventually he took her back to Highlands and spoke to the surgeon himself. He said he would write on their behalf and suggested they come back in three weeks time, but still no permission. After a further visit the surgeon said he would take the matter into his own hands and do the operation anyway, even if it cost him his job.

 

No toes?

The operation was a lengthy business and at two in the morning Edie's dad was woken by a policeman with a form requiring his signature giving permission to remove all the toes from that foot. All the nerves in the leg were broken and the toes were crushed and dead. By a miracle, however, they never did remove her toes.

Even though Edie wore a calliper for many years after that, the operation has held good to this day.

 

Further damage

Edie's body suffered severely from that bomb blast, as she was to find out some years later. She had always known what a miracle it was that Gillian was born but the truth came out five years ago when she had a hysterectomy. The Gynaecologist said the operation took him twice the time as would normally be the case. He said "I don't believe it! When I looked inside I couldn't see how you ever had a baby."

 

New life

Edie was brought up by her Aunt Edie who set her a godly example, but it wasn't until 1979 that Edie became a Christian. She was invited to one of our meetings, held at the time at Fox Lane Congregational Church. As she sat in her seat listening to the speaker her heart was beating so fast and she had this overwhelming urge to run to the front and give her life to Jesus. She didn't, but from then on she was constantly hearing God talk to her as she lay in bed each night.

One night she distinctly heard him say "I want you to be baptised." "Well", said Edie, "If you want me to be baptised you will have to make the way because I can't do it". The next day a letter came from her friend Jenny to say that we were holding a baptism service on the 29th July in the swimming pool at Ashmole School, and would she like to come and watch. Edie didn't need to be convinced further that this was God and phoned Jenny to say that she would come and that she wanted to baptised. She had a visit from our pastor at the time, and the rest is history.

 

A miracle

Though the operation has enabled Edie to walk reasonably normally for the last 59 years she none the less has considerable pain from time to time as her good leg seeks to compensate for her damaged one.

In 1981 she was going through one of these times of pain and called for John to pray for her. John took Don, one of the elders at the time, and they went to the house, anointed her with oil and prayed. Edie remembers how she felt the power of God go right down through her body. She describes how she suddenly felt life come back to her toes and found she could move them for the first time since 1941.

 

Feeling and movement

The feeling came back, the numbness went, and the circulation improved in her leg. Stan, her husband, wasn't a Christian at the time and I never forget the look on his face, says John, as he returned from an errand. He went white and just stared in amazement.

 

All over?

When Edie became a Christian she thought she had left the war and its memories behind her until, that is, we had a visit at church from 'Vinesong' a worship group from South Africa. They had visited us a number of times but on this occasion a German young man was part of the team. As Edie looked across at him she thought to herself "you're a German". With this, all the memories of that night came flooding back, the bombs, the shelter, the burning bodies of her family. She could even smell the shelter. She realised that she wasn't free from the resentment she felt towards the German people, it had only been buried in her subconscious.

 

All over now

After the service she went to the young man and poured out all her resentment. "But I forgive" she said. Tears flowed, and that was a moment of release from it all as she and the young German embraced and he later prayed for her.

Though she only became a Christian in her late forties, Edie has been conscious of God working in her life in tangible ways from her early childhood. Her life is a miracle.

 

You can contact Edie by e.mail.

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