When Gladys and Audrey Rogers’ parents saw the pile of rubble on their daughters’ bed the conclusion was inevitable – their girls were dead.

Their house in Cromwell Road, Southampton, had not sustained a direct hit but a nearby blast had caused the roof at the back of the house to cave in, showering debris into the teenagers’ room.

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The seconds between hearing the deafening noise of the bomb dropping and feeling the house shake and taking the few steps from their own bed at the front of the house to their daughters’ room at the back could not have prepared them for the shock of what they saw. And the moments between the shrieking horror of realising their children must be dead to discovering that they were, in fact, unharmed would have felt like a lifetime.

Gladys was the younger of the two sisters and sometimes indulged herself in being the baby of the family. On the night in question she had needed to go to the toilet but hadn’t wanted to go to the outside lavatory in the dark by herself.

As the girls lay in the double bed they shared she pleaded with her sister to go outside with her. “I kept saying to my Audrey, ‘I want to go down to the toilet’ and she kept telling me to go back to sleep,” said Gladys Jackson.

“I managed to get her round so we went downstairs and she stood outside the loo waiting for me. All of a sudden there was this almighty noise – I’ve never heard anything like it. The whole sky was lit up and the ground shook. I just sat there screaming.”

Gladys’ insistence on a late-night trip to the lavatory had saved both her and her sister’s lives.

And it wasn’t the only time that Gladys had had a brush with death.

A few years earlier, when she was a 12-year-old pupil at the Central District Girls’ School, Gladys had felt too ill to go to school.

At the time she must have felt very sorry for herself. Not only was she sick but she was also going to miss out on a trip to the Art School at Southampton Civic Centre.

Little did she realise that morning that being poorly was going to save her life. Gladys was off sick on November 6, 1940 – the day that Southampton Art School was bombed, killing 18 people, 15 of whom were her classmates.

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“It was terrible,” said Gladys. “Afterwards we went over to where it had happened and it was horrendous.”

Having come so close to so much death, VE Day was a huge relief to Gladys and her family.

As they went about their daily business they were no longer at risk from attacks from above.

By the time VE Day came Gladys and her family had moved to Middle Street in the Inner Avenue area of Southampton.

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“It was about one o’clock in the morning and my dad came home from fire watch and told us that the war was over.

“My sister and I were in our pyjamas and we went out into the street. All our neighbours were out in the road too.

“But the next day I got up and went to work. I worked at a draper’s in St Mary Street. All of us girls wore red and white ribbons. We had lots of customers come in that day and had a joyful time because it was all over.”

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