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A night-time walk in the forest
3:38pm Thursday 7th October 2010 in The Blitz remembered
Dear Sir SEVENTY years ago I lived with my baby son and my husband near Sway. My parents lived at Exbury and my mother was dying of breast cancer.
In those days we all had to help each other. So on this September night I was packing my belongings in the bottom of the baby’s pram to go to look after my mother.
It was a noisy night, as we were near the coast and many German pilots just came over the shoreline, dropped their bombs and returned home, unless meeting our own planes.
So although in the country we had many bombs, on this night we had one just over the fence at the bottom of the garden and another in the field near the road in front of the house.
There was no bus service between Sway and Exbury and we could not afford a taxi so we walked. I think it was about 14 miles.
There was, perhaps still is, a forest track across a stretch of forest at Shirley Holmes which I took as a short cut towards a road leading to the Lymington to Beaulieu road. The track led to an opening between a high bank covered with trees so that there was only a path the width of the track to go through to the road.
Imagine my disappointment when I found a large bomb hole filling the width of the opening. I did not want to add to my journey so after some thought I could see a fairly flat part just inside the edge of the hole.
I decided to use this. It involved using just two wheels in places, but with gravel falling loudly down the hole I managed to get across to the road.
During this a loud battle was going on overhead. I did not see a plane fall but saw a number of parachutes landing, especially towards Southampton.
When I reached the open forest I felt we were, or might be, a target for the gunfire overhead as my large, white pram stood out in the darkness. Spotting a very small copse, I decided to take cover for a while.
It wasn’t long before a dozen or so forest ponies gathered round while I fed my baby.
Suddenly, I looked up to see a man on a pony pointing a gun at me. I was so scared, it left me speechless! He continued to point the gun as we stared at each other. I wondered if he might be a German but eventually he spoke and said: “Having a picnic?”
I was still too scared to answer so I nodded. He stayed a bit longer and then rode off, to my relief. I then returned to the road and saw a car. It was my doctor. He stopped and said: “What do you think you’re doing?” I said I was on my way to visit my mother.
Eventally I got to Beaulieu and from there to Exbury without further incidents.
JOAN AUBREY, Southampton.