Editor’s note: The following Six Sentence Story is a true story involving my maternal great-grandmother and paternal great-grandmother, both of who were called Elsie. In the Second World War, the city of Birmingham, England, suffered 365 air raid alerts and 77 actual air raids. There were over 9,000 casualties during these raids, of whom 2,241 civilians were killed. My paternal great-grandmother Elsie Waight was among this number.
In 2010 I visited the memorial in Birmingham ‘The Tree of Life’ – a sculpture by the artist Lorenzo Quinn made and dedicated to the memory of the Birmingham civilians who lost their lives in the Blitz. After hearing the story of what happened passed down by family members over the years, it was an emotional experience for me to visit the memorial and see the name of a family member I never had chance to meet.
A Tale of Two Elsies
Some had Anderson shelters in their back gardens, while others took shelter in the nearest tube station, and others made their shelter in the cellars of their home.
Elsie Waight and Elsie Lawrence were both at home that day, while their sons fought on foreign lands and their daughters assembled rifles at the Birmingham Small Arms factory.
The two elder women were looking after my mum’s elder cousin Michael, who was three or four years old at the time (Mum hadn’t even been born yet).
When the air raid siren went off, the two Elsies took Michael down the cellar for shelter – as they had done many times before during the hellish hours of the Birmingham Blitz.
It was then that Micheal began crying and demanding a glass of water, and what with so many false alarms before, and no near-misses, Elsie Waight volunteered to go upstairs to fetch him his glass of water.
You don’t need to me say what happened next, other than only one Elsie survived that day, and that the other Elsie would become a name on a memorial for her great-grandson to one day stare at and shed a small tear.
A Tale of Two Elsies by Ford Waight. January 20. 2022. Photos of The Tree of Life memorial taken by Ford in 2010.