WW II, a British focus  



Memories of Doreen Joyce

I cannot write about all the behind-the-scenes logistics of war, but I can write about what I experienced as a little girl in the big war.

I was eight years old when the war started and I lived halfway between two towns -namely Dunstable and Luten -30 miles north of London.

By the time I was ten years old, Canadian and American forces had arrived in Britain and I remember well how happy we were that they had come to help us. The road I lived on now became one of the main routes used by the British, Canadian and American forces for movement of their convoys across Britain. It was a very common sight to have convoys of armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft gun carriers and huge tanks rumble past our house.

As children, we watched and listened for these convoys to come, and when they did we waved and cheered -these men were our heroes! They would throw candy and gum to us and, oh, that wonderful thick, dark, army ration chocolate! We soon learned that the Americans had better rations than the British troops.

On one occasion that will stay in my mind forever, we saw a convoy approaching in the distance and word spread quickly among the children. This time however, the convoy slowed to acomplete stop in front of my house! It was a large convoy and as far as we could see troops were walking towards us. To say that we were excited is an understatement. We soon found out their reason for stopping.

Just down the street from my home was an English Pub. What else would you expect? It has been said that on every street corner in Britain there is a Pub. This may be slightly exaggerated, but nevertheless, this was a very nice Pub. It had an enclosed courtyard at the front and sunken gardens at the back. It was called "The Halfway House" because of its location between two towns.

The troops packed into the courtyard and were made most welcome by the proprietor who served them sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee.

This was the most excitement we children had seen in a long time so we all went down to the Pub and mingled with the troops. They were so nice to us, they teased us, played games with us and asked us our names and told us their names.

There was one soldier I will never forget, his name was Jack. He said to us all "I would like to hear you sing, I hear that British children sing very well." We were all very quiet and rather shy. No one volunteered. Finally wanting to make Jack happy, I said, "I can sing but I only know hymns". "That's OK" said Jack, "sing a hymn for us". Without hesitation I stood beforeall those soldiers, but mainly for Jack, and sang as best I could, "Have you any room for Jesus". I knew it well, all four verses and the chorus by heart.

As I started to sing the soldiers started clapping and tapping their feet, but before I reached the end of the first verse they gradually became very quiet and stopped clapping. A hush seemed to pervade throughout the courtyard until I sang the last chorus:

"Room for Jesus
King of Glory
Hasten now His Word obey
Swing your hearts' door widely open
Bid Him enter while you may."

Then they all clapped. Shortly after that the convoy started to go on its way and we waved goodbye to these wonderful men until the last armoured vehicle was out of sight. I ran home to my mother and said, "You'll never guess what I just did. I sang "Have you any room for Jesus" to all the soldiers down at the Pub." She said, "You what?!!!"

The only reason I can give for my unusual bravery that day is that many parents back home in North America were praying for their sons, many of whom did not return to their homeland. Only Heaven will reveal the rest of the story. I also know that for a moment in time, in the midst of a raging war an American soldier and a little English girl faced each other and God was there!

**Doreen wonders if Jack, or any of the other soldiers who were there that day, are still alive. Please contact her if you were there.
Doreen Joyce, 8 Macefield Cres., LONDON, Ontario, CANADA N5V 1N1.