LCN Article
Women at War

September / October 2012
Woman To Woman

Shirley Young (1938-2014)

I was a child growing up during World War II, when our county in the southeast corner of England—only 21 miles from France—became known as “Bomb Alley.” Throughout the Battle of Britain, our small market town sustained many direct hits with a number of houses flattened and whole families wiped out. A little girl in my sister’s class at school was among those who lost her life. As I sit here thinking, many memories flash through my mind of what it was like to be a young woman in a time of war.

Nearby was a small airfield—Detling Aerodrome—situated on the top of the North Downs. One day, the German airplanes mounted an attack on that airfield in order to shoot up the planes sitting on the ground. My mother recalled hearing the bells of ambulance after ambulance ringing as they sped up the hill to the burning airfield. Civilians in the nearby town of Tonbridge would stand up on a high hill and watch the horrifying red glow that lit up the night sky—it was London burning! The fires could be seen for miles.

The stark reality was that the very existence of our nation was threatened.war torn town

The first German raid on London took place around 4:00 p.m. on September 7, 1940. The German Luftwaffe made a blitzkrieg (lightning) attack, sending 348 bombers escorted by 617 fighters over the English Channel from France. London’s docks and streets were bombed for 57 days and a third of the capital was destroyed.

The frightening banshee wail of the sirens eerily announced each attack. Soon we would hear the heavy drone of Heinkel 111 bombers. This would be closely followed by the answering womp-womp! of the anti-aircraft guns. Few could sleep. Barrage balloons hung everywhere in an attempt to cause the German planes to fly higher and so miss their targets.

When the air raids came at night, my sister and I would be rushed out of bed and down into the cellar or under the dining room table. We would hear the terrifying scream as bombs whistled down followed by that inevitable sickening thud! Then we would all wonder who had “copped it” (been hit or killed) this time.

There were times when “dog fights,” as they were called, raged overhead, with German and British planes “going at it” head to head. People would often stand out in the street shouting and waving their fists in the air, as though encouraging our smaller number of fighters to see off the enemy with their larger, more powerful air force. This they did, because of God’s faithfulness to His promises (Leviticus 26:7–8).

Towards the end of the war, when I was a little older, Hitler decided to send over the V-1 rockets or “flying bombs.” They became familiarly known as “Doodle Bugs.” The distinct noise of their jet engines would cause us to rush out into the garden and watch them go over. They were unmanned vehicles with vicious-looking flames shooting out the back. We would sigh with relief if their engines were still throbbing because they were only set to fly a predetermined mileage. Their engines would then cut out, causing them to fall and explode.

Royal Air Force planes would scramble to meet them and fire at them, or try to tip them over with their wings in order to bring them down in open country before they reached London. Of course the anti-aircraft guns also thundered away. Many of them were able to be brought down into the sea off the southeast coast, but hundreds fell in our county of Kent. Today, there are still maps of Kent with all the myriads of black dots representing every “Doodle Bug” that came down.

Many evenings, at 9:00 p.m., people would huddle around their radios to hear the gravelly voice of Winston Churchill rallying the British people, his own bulldog-like stature epitomising the determination to never give in. Blackout after dusk was rigorously enforced. Food was rationed and people were encouraged to “dig for victory.” However, had it not been for the courageous sailors who braved the German U-boat packs in the Atlantic, bringing generous food aid from America, Britain would undoubtedly have been starved out.

Food was strictly rationed, and on one occasion—when one of my uncles was home on leave (he was in General Montgomery’s tank corps)—he came walking through the town to our house carrying a rabbit, and told me later that one or perhaps two people had stopped him and asked if they could buy it. Meat was very scarce.

My father took very seriously the admonition to “dig for victory” and rented a piece of land to grow our own vegetables. One Saturday afternoon when we were all there (we were not in God’s Church), we heard a German plane coming. We dashed for a small copse nearby and flung ourselves down in the grass. Even now I vividly recall looking up through the undergrowth as a German plane swooped low overhead. Fortunately he did not fire, and did not return.

Often my father was not present. He had been excused military service as he had what was called “a reserved occupation,” but he would still do fire watching duties at night and was in the Home Guard. Consequently, my mother would take charge, telling my sister and me to bow our heads, place our hands together and ask for God’s protection. Thankfully, He graciously heard her prayer!

Since all eligible men were called into military service, older men served in the Home Guard or performed other duties. The absence of men inevitably left a vacuum that only women could fill.

Women joined the Land Army. Some drove tractors, harrowed, planted and reaped the crops. Others worked in munitions factories or drove ambulances, and elderly schoolmistresses kept the schools running for the children who came carrying their obligatory gas masks.

At that time, it was God’s will to give the victory to the Allies, but men nevertheless had to fight and often die for freedom. In that great battle, women too were part of the equation.

At War Today

But what has all that to do with us?

Before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He gave His Church a commission to fulfill—to preach the Gospel to all the world as a witness, and to teach and baptise those whom God is calling. So, much like those who were “called-up” to military service, we Christians who are “called out” by God have a big job to do today.

Perhaps as women we unconsciously think of this as “men’s work.” After all, it is men who present the telecasts, do the preaching and conduct the baptisms. Yet, as Dr. Meredith has stated: we are at war. It is a case of “all hands on deck”—and that means us, as women, too.

Since we live in a Satan-driven world, our adversary naturally does not want the gospel of Truth being preached when he is busy and successfully deceiving all the nations (Revelation 12:9).

Therefore this “little flock” (Luke 12:32) has a titanic job to do—a job that can only truly be accomplished by God’s Spirit. Nevertheless, we all have our part to play, no matter how small.

Even in the time of Christ and the apostles, many women aided and supported their work (Luke 8:3; Romans 16:3, 6, 12).

Although this 21st century is a very different world to that time, we still have a veritable army of dedicated ladies tirelessly working in Church offices around the world. Ministers’ wives go visiting with their husbands. Younger women teach their children the value of following God’s way. But, what about the rest of us? What can we do?

In particular, we can pray. Pray in a refined “beaten fine” manner about every detail of God’s Work and His people (Revelation 5:8). As we have often heard, the Work of God’s Church moves forward on its knees. We must not underestimate the value of prayer!

We can also stay in touch with new lady members and maybe answer their questions. We can phone, write letters or send e-mails to those who are sick or going through trials, giving encouragement and comfort.

We can be hospitable in our homes (health allowing) or prepare food for the Holy Days and after Sabbath services. We are all part of the Body of Christ and each of us has a part to play. We are engaged in a mighty battle to get this Work done before the return of Jesus Christ.

However, unlike the allies in WWII who were never completely sure of the outcome, we know we are on the winning side.

Jesus Christ will return and then some words from a famous WWII song will be truly realised:

“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see,

There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow, when the world is free.”

Free... in Tomorrow’s World.