A little girl’s memories

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

Josephine Mosdell was just 5 years old when World War II began in her home country of England, but even now the memories are as clear as yesterday.

She recently compiled those thoughts into a book, The World War II Memories of an English Child, which features not only stories of her time growing up in World War II-era England, but also colorful illustrations she drew in a “child-like” style.

“I hope people who read the book will understand that it’s the adults who fight the wars, but the memories are just as strong in the minds of the children,” said Mosdell, who moved to Andalusia with her late husband, Ernest, in 1977. “I was lucky, because we grew up in the country and weren’t hurt too bad. There are kids who grew up in the English cities in that time who can’t talk about it anymore, because they’re shell-shocked.

“I hope people will understand that war is not something to be glorified.”

Mosdell will be holding a book signing for her new book today at the Andalusia Public Library, from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. The book is $10, and there will also be refreshments including tea, crumpets and cookies.

Mosdell grew up in Cox Green, a small village southwest of London. Shortly after the start of World War II in 1939, Nazi Germany began to unleash an onslaught of bombing raids on England. Mosdell said most of the major damage occurred in English cities, but people in villages had to remain alert as well.

“My father was an air-raid warden,” she said. “He wanted to be a fighter pilot, but he had health problems and they wouldn’t take him. So, he worked as an air-raid warden and one of his responsibilities was to make sure everyone in the village was doing what they needed to do to keep safe, especially the older people.

“When we heard the sirens, we had to make sure all our lights were covered and we got in a safe place. I remember a few times my father locked us in the cold storage, and I was always worried about who would let us back out, if something were to happen to him.”

Although none of her neighbors were bombed, Mosdell does remember one house that was hit by incendiary rounds. That memory serves as the basis for one of her stories in the book, titled “The Hero.”

“I remember there was a house on fire and the mother was outside trying to protect her children,” she said. “But there was one still inside. A man was passing by and he went into the house and saved that child, but then he disappeared. Nobody knew where we had gone. We found out later that he’d actually managed to get to a bus and get himself to a hospital.

“His hands and arms were burned all over, but he eventually recovered. He was really a hero.”

Mosdell also explained that it was so dangerous that children were not allowed to play outside and were not allowed to touch anything strange they found. She even recalled once that an unexploded bomb was found on one of the village roads.

“We were silly kids and we wanted to get close enough to see it, but the adults wouldn’t let us,” she said. “I remember one day when the bomb squad came and they had a huge crane and carefully lifted the bomb before taking it away on a truck. I guess they exploded it safely, later on.”

Mosdell said her village had a great celebration at the end of World War II, which included a ceremony where they turned the streetlamps on for the first time since the start of the war. Her most vivid memory, though, was of two Jewish girls who attended the same Anglican school as she.

“These two young girls had family members and they didn’t know if they’d ever get the chance to see them again,” she said. “They eventually got news that their families were alive, and they started to dance and sing ‘Hava Nagila.’ It was a wonderful, happy time.”