Sandi Toksvig

You can listen to Sandi Toksvig every weekday from midday on London's LBC 97.3FM on SKY Channel 927 and on the web at or download Podcasts at ITunes (Now one of the UK's top Podcasts)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Your memories of the two world wars

Hi Sandi
Never Volunteer - some of my father’s war stories
In the second world war my late father was in the
first group of the SBS (naval commando). They were up
in Scotland on a training exercise (even in training
they died). Anyway, one of the officers came up to my
father and a some of the men and asked them if they
wanted to volunteer to leave training and paint some
sheds, so of course they jumped at it. That evening
they were swimming ashore in German occupied Norway.
After the raid my father said to the officer "sod this
I don’t mind painting, but next time they can paint
their only bloody sheds"
My father hated being on leave in London as he felt
venerable and couldn’t fight back. So on one of his
leaves, he visited his mother during a bad air raid,
when he got to the house and shelter she wasn’t there.
He found out that she was in the local cinema, when
he got to the cinema, he crawled on his hand and
knees down the aisle and there was my grandmother all
alone watching the film. There was bombs all around
the cinema and the noise was horrendous. My
grandmother would not leave the cinema as she been
looking forward to seeing this latest war film.
Love J

Dear Sandi

When I was very young, my family used to spend our summer holidays with my Uncle Tom and Auntie Florence at Hove, Sussex. Every morning he would make everyone tea and wake us up with the simple
message " It's daylight in the swamp, sun's shining on both sides of the fence. " He had been a lucky survivor from the Battle of the Somme. It's a simple phrase that, I think ,speaks volumes.

Best wishes

Mike P

Dear Sandi
My mum and her family lived in Clerkenwell during the war and one night the bombing was fierce, and my mum and nan were in bed listening when there was a banging on the door "go away we're not getting out of bed for the germans" my mum shouted, " but your our ARP warden they said. She had to go out on duty she was 16 at the time.


Could I quickly tell you about what my children's school has done for remembrance - earlier this year they went to a WW2 lunch with the elderly residents of the village which my 10 year old daughter enthused about for days. Today they have all gone into school wearing the poppy and the whole shcool got together to observe a minutes silence at 11am. Their ages range from 5 to 18 years. Well done Ewell Castle School. They take this very seriously each year and my children will grow up aware of what it all means.

Lindy (Chipstead)

Dearest Sandi (Leader of the wise),
My mother, who will turn 80 later this month, was a student at
Brirkbeck College, London during the Blitz. It was then a night college
(I believe it still is) and when taking her exams often had to leave
mid-exam to head for the air raid shelters.
I have often asked whether she used the time spent in the bowels of
Goodge Street tube station, sheltering from the bombs, to consult her
textbooks about the questions awaiting her on her return to the exam
"That is not the way we did things in those days", has always been her
somewhat magnificent reply.
jim in Twickenham

Hello Sandi,
In October we visited Ypres to find my uncles name on the Menin Gate.
Of course, we went to the war museum at Ypres. One exhibit was a vast display of photos of 'Tommys' taken in the town while on a break from the trenches. These photos were never collected as none of their owners came back. This really made us realise the horror of Flanders.
Incidentally, my uncle was killed in November 1914, a very short time after war started.
Rosemary (Wraysbury

Dear Sandi,

I won one of your fleeces yesterday... Thank you.
On a more serious note. I have written a book of war / aviation poetry which i'm currently attempting to publish. Some examples if interested.

With regards

Dave Roberts

Hello death. So here you are waiting - expecting us to meet.
You used to frighten me, though now, our encounter I shall greet.
Life was good; for a while. I joked of you; laughing heartily,
But, now I need to rest, to stay; stay ever long with thee.

I have traversed the awesome sky, heaven, where the angels dwell,
Or once did! - For men are there, changing paradise to hell.
I am young you see; my journey short but cruel to find this place,
But! Was it not too soon, just yet, for me to see your face?

Welcome me; let me roam your hidden, secret bound,
Of peace and quietness, where the fallen lost are found,
For it is time; time for you to take me where they rest.
I’m honoured now to be with those, - who were the very best.

Ó Copyright D.Roberts. 2005

The Endless Sky
Chosen men, though very few
May see God’s work from heaven’s view,
To rise on high on sculpted wing,
Through paradise as wires sing;
Soaring o’er everything - free to roam at will;
Trespassing where eagle’s king - though sometimes swoops to kill.

Loud engine’s choir, in perfect time;
‘midst the angels’ blue sublime.
Death hunts on high, and stalks below,
Clouds’ wraith ravines of drifting snow.
Dizzy battle to be fought; kill - or be the prey;
For the able foe - no thought - no time to hate today.

No galleried damsels seated nigh,
As, at full tilt, their heroes vie.
Not jousting over verdant grounds,
Unseen from heaven’s eternal bounds;
No contest of mere vanity, no measured, even duel -
Victory, the prize to be, for either just or cruel.

Most know not this field of battle;
No bugle - calls nor sabres rattle;
No colours fly, no mire, no blood;
No dying oaths sworn in the mud.
No staring on the lifeless eye, no ailing hand to take.
Here in the endless, empty sky. No hollow pledge to fake.

Dying here, in God’s domain;
No hostile shout, no cry of pain.
No witness, but one’s maker near.
No eulogy, no welling tear.
No grave to dig, for me to lie, no tombstone yet to make.
Brief epitaph etched in the sky, a fiery, falling wake.

Ó Copyright D.Roberts. 2005

Forgotten Fields

Beyond the rambling hedgerow, where nettles stake their claim;
Buttercups and sedge grow, where once, youth’s finest came.
They laughed here and they sighed here. Some loved here for a while;
Liaisons grew and died here - a half-remembered smile.

Beyond the rambling hedgerow, where snatching seagulls fray,
Weathered concrete strips show, where virtue flew away.
They drank here and they played here, their spirits high and free.
They cursed here and they prayed here - for danger they could see.

Beyond the rambling hedgerow, where frost blown billets stay,
A glassless metal window, keeps watch on sad decay.
They joked here as they clowned here; they flew into the night;
For when the sun went down here - they had to go and fight.

Beyond the rambling hedgerow, where Ivy sets its claw,
Discarded plastic bags blow, where engines used to roar.
They hoped here, as they waited here, ‘til some came home again.
They grieved here and they hated here - the suffering and pain.

Beyond the rambling hedgerow, lie evening’s misty skeins.
Drifting on the dewy flow, the drone of distant ‘planes;
They lived here, and they died here, they climbed towards the stars;
Though, all that now reside here are burnt out stolen cars.

Ó Copyright D.Roberts. 2005

Dear Sandi,
I was listening to the show and it reminded me of something I saw during the Rememberance Sunday Parade after the September 11th attacks.
If you read all the names of everyone who died on September 11th, it would take around 2 hours.
If you read the names of all the people who died during both world wars and you started on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, without stopping, you would finish somewhere during the week between Christmas and New Year.
I thank God for all those who gave their lives so I am free to sit here today and send this e-mail.
Amanda, Old Woking

My late grandfather was an ARP warden, and he frequently had to go out
fire-watching without his tin helmet, because his kids, my dad and his
brother, had nicked it to use as a handy container to take out and
collect shrapnel in.
Love, Linda

To Sandi Toksvig

From Vaughan-Spruce, Cheltenham

I remember a story, apparently true, told me by my Uncle Dudley who was part of the army of military engineers maintaining our radar defences. Serving near Portsmouth, the division were
billeted in a field in heavily camoflagued tents. With leave due, they all went up to a local village pub about five miles away, leaving behind a handful of guards. A few miles away was a trainee battery of anti-aircraft gunners. That evening an enemy aircraft was apparently spotted and the battery leapt into action and opened fire with extreme enthusiasm. When my uncle and his companions returned, they found the guards hiding under hedges and every tent completely demolished by a rain of shrapnel from the battery who'd been firing all their efforts in completely the wrong direction. Thank goodness for British humour in adversity.

Kind regards


Hi Sandi, it's ricki from St. Albans. My mum worked on Mosquito's during the 2nd WW at Lebus Furniture factory Tottenham, North London. She also worked on the Horsa Glider. Mum is alive and reasonably well - 81 and fitter than i. People like mum often get over looked and on their behalf I would like to say "thankyou for all you and many others done on behalf off England" God bless you all, regards ricki.

Dear Sandie
Finding your programme today very moving. I have not heard any one mention
the poor soldiers who were shot for cowardice during the first world war. Is
it not time they were all posthumously pardoned as they were anything but
David Smith


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